REVIEW – This winter, my gloved hands, a dark sky, and a loud snowblower meant that I didn’t know I dropped my keys . With the Chipolo ONE Bluetooth tracker, I could have known they were lost and had help finding them. Now I have one to review. Read on to see what I think!
What is it?
The Chipolo ONE is the latest fob type Bluetooth tracker from Chipolo. The Chipolo ONE uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to create a virtual link between a mobile device and the tracker. While the mobile device and tracker have an established Bluetooth connection the mobile device may be used to trigger a piezoelectric buzzer in the tracker to play a song. The device may also be used to cause the mobile device to play a tone as long as there is a BLE connection between the devices. If the BLE connection is broken the tracker and mobile device may optionally alert that the connection is severed and a device has been “left behind”.
I previously reviewed the Chipolo Plus Bluetooth tracker and I make several comparisons to the Chipolo Plus in this review.
What’s in the box?
- Chipolo Tracker
- Instruction Manual
- Technical Specifications
- iOS devices (running version 10.0 and later) with Bluetooth 4.0.
- Android devices (running version 5.0 and later) with Bluetooth 4.0.
- List of supported devices available at www.chipolo.net/devices
- Range: up to 60 m (200 ft) on a line of sight
- Temperature range: -15 °C to +50 °C (5 °F to 122 °F)
- Modulation method: GFSK
- Antenna power: <1 mW
- Operating frequency band: 2402-2480 MHz
- Thickness: 0.25 in (6.4 mm)
- Diameter: 1.49 in ø (37.9 mm ø)
- Ingress Protection rating: splash-proof (IPX5 Standard)
- Battery Life: Up to 2 years, replaceable battery
Design and features
The Chipolo ONE comes in a matchbox style cardboard box. The top of the inside box is covered by the instruction and specification pamphlets wrapped in a cardboard sheath. The Chipolo is securely surrounded by foam packaging. The Chipolo plus came with a keyring but there is no ring included with the Chipolo ONE.
The Chipolo ONE has a similar size, function and looks to the Chipolo Plus but the design has been re-engineered to provide the ability to change the battery. The Chipolo ONE has a circuit board welded into a flexible plastic clamshell similar to the design of the Chipolo Plus but the new Chipolo ONE also has an external battery compartment that is held in place by the edges and kept from rotating by four prongs that fit into the rear.
The cover has a soft, styrene-like gasket. The battery is the only thing that is exposed but the circular outline of the buzzer is visible when the battery cover is off. You can see it below the writing on the black half. It doesn’t look any bigger than the one used on the Chipolo Plus but it is rated at up to 120 dB versus 100 dB. Personally, I never thought the sound four times louder when comparing the two. Chipolo has re-designed the buzzer port on the Chipolo to come out a slit on the side of the disc instead of the large flat side, which is where it was on the Chipolo Plus. This design may lower the chance the port is blocked, considering that given the shape of the unit it is more likely to be lying flat against the flat side than the round edge.
From the pictures below it is obvious that the plastic will pick up some scratches and scuffs. I also found that the Tile trackers picked up scuff marks from being carried with my keys. I generally carry my keys in my front pants pocket. In almost three weeks of use, I have never had the tracker accidentally cause my phone to start playing its “find me” tune. Even when the tracker is kept between keys it was not accidentally triggered.
The Chipolo ONE isn’t 100% waterproof, but shouldn’t fail just because it gets wet. Actually, I bet my key fob would stop working before this tracker would.
It is available in yellow, red, blue, green, white, and black.
The Chipolo ONE comes ready to use out of the box but setting this up with your mobile is still required. Note that the mobile application that you use to connect your Chipolo to your phone is only designed to run on mobile devices running iOS and Android. Pairing the Chipolo to the mobile phone is easy as pressing a button on the app and pressing the Chipolo when instructed.
After the Chipolo ONE is paired it will show up on a screen listing all your tracked devices.
there are various settings on the app which can be used to customize it.
You can rename the tag to what it is attached to. This will help when this is used in combination with the Google Assistant on Android or the Alexa app. Instead of asking Google or Alexa to find your Chipolo you can ask these services to find your keys or purse or whatever else you are tracking. You can also change the picture icon to one of the options below:
Another option is setting the out of range alerts. I suppose the idea behind this is that the app is supposed to alert you when the signal between the mobile phone and the item being tracked is poor or lost and that is supposed to give an indication that the item is being left behind. I’ve had mixed results with this and it is definitely something I’d expect more fine-tuning and personalization to be made available. The implementation I see is that the feature only works if the connection is severed, but that may be too far for some items. It would be great to be able to customize the signal alert threshold and how long the signal is at this level before a notification is made. Even if this were an “advanced setting” it would be great to see.
There is also an option to share the Chipolo between different users. This feature will allow multiple mobile devices to connect to the Chipolo in turn and will allow multiple users to monitor the location of the tag.
The third major feature of the Chipolo ONE is that the device can be programmed to play different melodies when it is being activated. There are seven options – about half are tunes and half are trills. The tunes happen to be all Christmas themed, and I have chosen to have Deck the Halls played because it has the longest-held notes as part of the tunes and may be easier to hear over other noise. There’s also a Morse code version that spells Chipolo.
The last major feature is that the Chipolo can be used as a Bluetooth remote shutter trigger for the camera on your mobile phone. The pictures are taken in the Chipolo app and have dimensions different than the native dimensions of the device.
The Chipolo ONE supports some of the same features that the Chipolo Plus supported. These include being able to locate the tracker and the phone it is paired to on the web at https://app.Chipolo.net/signin. Marking an item lost with the app or on the web makes it possible for anyone running the Chipolo app to be an access point to locate a lost Chipolo. When the lost Chipolo establishes a Bluetooth with any phone running the Chipolo app, the owner will be notified of the approximate location of their lost Bluetooth tag.
Like its predecessor, this version of the app supports named locations. This feature allows you to set a quiet zone so that out of range and in range notifications and alarms are not triggered in the selected region. On iOS you can set the quiet zone on a map and on Android you set the quiet zone by binding it to a WiFi SSID. I found that the out of range and in range notifications can be a nuisance if, for instance, you leave your keys in a known place in your house but have your phone away from the keys. Setting up the named location is a practical necessity if you are going to use out of range notifications.
I couldn’t see that there is a way to opt-out of Community search. This is the feature that allows you to participate in a community of Chipolo users who use their devices as sentinels for lost Chipolos and notify the rightful owner of the lost Chipolo’s location. Note that another Chipolo user will never know that they are in the vicinity of your property, but your app will show that your property is in range of it’s lost location.
Chipolo is still aggressively building its foundation of worldwide users. They are encouraging this with a “Get a Free Chipolo” program. Whenever 3 people buy Chipolos using a web address the app provides then you will qualify for a free Chipolo tag. As a benefit, the people who use your code get 20% off the purchase price of their device.
I tested the range of the key by dropping them outside and seeing how far away I could hear them and how far away the BLE connection persisted. I dropped my keys along the side of the road and walked away at a normal walking pace with the Chipolo app running. I could tell that the connection was severed at 205 feet. I walked back about 10 feet and the connection was restored. I started playing the tones on the finder but I couldn’t hear it until I was about 130 feet away. The line of sight BLE connection was a lot stronger than the Chipolo Plus, which was tested in about the same conditions (but with a different phone).
What I like
- replaceable battery
- relatively inexpensive
What I’d change
- Out of Range Alerts settings
- More tunes available online
The Chipolo ONE and Its competitors may soon find some stiff competition from Apple if rumors are correct. The ultimate success of these trackers in the market place will be how well each implementation meets all of the buyer’s needs. For now, Chipolo ONE hits most of my needs. A more waterproof or robust unit with better out of range customization would be great, but for now, I’m happy to have my keys rescued from the driveway and where I know that they’re safe.