Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

TrackR by Phone Halo

_DSC9073My TrackR device from Phone Halo is here! I’m really excited to review this product. It’s a Bluetooth tracking device, about the size of a S$1 coin (26 mm diameter), which you can use to tag items, and then track it with the TrackR mobile app on a smartphone device. Never struggle to locate missing items again!

I first learned of this product when it was crowdfunded on Indiegogo. It was called the StickR TrackR then, and it was developed by Phone Halo. This isn’t the company’s first tracking device, having previously also crowdfunded Wallet TrackR on Indiegogo too. Unlike other similar Bluetooth tracking devices, I thought TrackR stood out for a few reasons.

First, the device is really small, at 26 mm in diameter and 5 mm in thickness. This makes it easy to tag items unobtrusively. You can either stick it on the item with double-sided tape, or you can tie or hang it using the cable loop.

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The TrackR is powered from a removable CR2016 coin cell battery that’s rated for 1 year. When the battery runs out, just replace the battery, not the entire device. There are some other tracker gadgets in the market that actually expect you to replace the entire device when the built-in battery runs out.

By using Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, the TrackR minimises its power consumption. Otherwise, it’s battery would not be able to last one year. Equally important, the smartphone that tracks the TrackR will likewise minimise power consumption because of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. It’s just as important that your smartphone doesn’t take a major power consumption hit because of the tracking device!

Other features of the TrackR include a built-in ringer, so that your smartphone can cause the TrackR to sound off a shrill alarm, making it easier for you to locate it. There’s also a button on the TrackR which you can press to cause your paired smartphone to ring. Yes, if you lose your smartphone, the TrackR can also help you find it.

I contributed to the TrackR campaign, putting in US$95 for 10 pieces of the TrackR device, plus another US$10 for shipping to Singapore. That works out to be just S$13.13 (based on today’s USD to SGD exchange rate) per piece. It’s quite a good price.

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Not unsurprisingly, the project hit some road bumps. Shipping finally started in January 2014. By some really bad luck, my shipment got trapped somewhere in the postal system before it finally showed up last week.

The TrackR mobile app is available on both Android and iOS. Just download via their respective app stores. I use an Android smartphone, so I’ll talk about the Android app.

The app is largely simple and straight-forward to use. To begin, you’ll need to add a device. Once it’s been added, the app will begin to track the TrackR device. The main screen shows you an indication of the device’s proximity.

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Bluetooth is not radar, so there’s no accurate and foolproof way to give a distance reading. The TrackR app does give you a cold/hot indication so you know if you’re getting nearer or further away from the device, so that’s still quite useful. Don’t forget you can still activate the ringer on the TrackR device so you can just listen out for it.

The TrackR app lets you name each TrackR device. You can also choose from a selection of icons to represent the item associated with that device, or you can use a photo of the item. This will be useful when you have a few TrackR devices.

I mentioned earlier that the TrackR device has a button that, when depressed, sounds an alarm on your phone. You can configure different alarm tones for each TrackR device. The TrackR features separation alerts. Unfortunately, it is a global setting that applies to all devices. I would have much preferred to have individual control on each TrackR device.

In my experience, the separation alerts work reasonably well. That’s assuming that your smartphone’s Bluetooth is turned on all the time, of course. It does take the TrackR mobile app up to about a minute to alert you that your TrackR device has gone missing. It would be nice to have a single page overview of all TrackR devices so that I can see at once which items are with me.

Overall, the TrackR is nice. The app can be improved, and that’s easy to do since Phone Halo can just update it. What’s important is that they have a great piece of hardware. It’s small yet packs all the features that you’ll need. The KickStarter price was great. The retail pricing now is more costly, at US$24.95 per device. If you’re interested, you should get the 2 device pack though, because it’s just US$29.95. (Oddly the 10 device pack sells for US$149.95, which is 20 cents more than if you had bought 5 of the 2 device packs!)

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