I’m the boring sort of person who doesn’t get out much but that’s because I generally can’t remember where I put my keys and wallet. While this is a great tactic for saving money and petrol, it’s not so fantastic in terms of being social. So when the Chipolo Bluetooth locator tag showed up at Stuff, I finally saw a way out of my stuck-at-home predicament.
The Chipolo is quite a simple little gadget, a little plastic circle with Bluetooth that is designed to hang onto your keys or anything else you might lose, like a significant other in a shopping centre. Hit a button on the smartphone/tablet app and the plastic tag will chime if it’s in range. Shake the tag and your mobile device will make a noise. Originally conceived as a Kickstarter project that was looking for $15,000, the Chipolo was funded at the end of 2013 with a grand total of $293,000 and some change being contributed to the project. And now, after a bit of a wait, they’re here. Without having to import one, I mean.
Easy enough, right?
Setup is extremely simple. Disgorge the slim plastic tag from its equally skinny packaging. Remove the little plastic doodad keeping the internal battery from going flat while the Chipolo is on the shelf (don’t worry, there’s a second battery in the packaging. You’ll need it in about six month’s time). Then, download either the Android, Windows Phone or iOS app to move matter along. From a local perspective, you’re better off using the Chipolo with an Android device, you’ll need to access the overseas stores for Windows Phone and iOS at the moment to get the app.
That said, there are some flavours of Android device which won’t play nice with the Chipolo. You have to have Android 4.3 and Bluetooth 4.0 LE on your device for compatibility – Most Samsung, HTC and LG headliners will work, you’ll probably have luck with a few others as well. I used a Galaxy Tab 4 7-inch tablet for this review and it worked without issues, despite not being on the local compatibility list. Just keep your hardware and software versions in mind before buying.
Once you have the app installed, the Chipolo needs to be set up. Through the app, not through your phone’s Bluetooth pairing option. I made that mistake at first. Users need to sign up, verify their emails and then sign in before syncing the Chipolo to the mobile device. This part is quick and easy, as long as you’re going through the app. Just hit the + icon, give the Chipolo a name and you’re locked and loaded.
The Scientific Method
It works. What more do you want? Okay, fine… once you have the Chipolo synced, taking your [insert easily misplaced item here] out of range of your mobile will result in a chime coming from the Chipolo tag. So you can remember that you’re moving away from whatever it is you’re prone to losing. Bring the pair back in range and another chime, from both the app and the tag, will notify you that you’re getting warmer.
Which is all well and good but how do you find your item if it’s buried under a mound of unwashed socks somewhere in the place that you live? Just hit the extremely prominent button on the app and the tag will make a noise, allowing you to home in on it. In reverse, you can shake the tag and your device will warble, even if the sound is muted, so you’re always going to know where your phone is, assuming you have your car keys.
As for range, I used the incredibly scientific method of walking as far away from the Chipolo as possible while holding the test-tablet with the app running. By my count, the distance it’ll track locally is about 17 metres (or ‘steps’ to use a technical term) but that’s without walls in the way. This isn’t a great test to do in a parking lot, by the way.
But you can also use Google Maps to track your Chipolo, though it’s going to be a little inaccurate or, possibly, won’t work at all if the distance is large enough. Still, having a ballpark position is enough to let you play a solo game of Marco/Polo with the app trying to find your keys.
Oh, and there’s a blink-and-you’ll miss-it feature. The Chipolo comes with a temperature sensor. What you do with that information is up to you. It… seems accurate enough, it’s certainly been quite hot in Johannesburg of late.
If you’re habitually losing the same item, like your keys or your cat, then spending R400 for the ability to locate it again (or at least determine when it’s gotten up and walked off – the cat, I get. How my keys do it, I’ve got no idea) for the rest of the year isn’t bad going at all. The Chipolo works as you’d expect and it’s accurate, simple and compact. Do you need one? Perhaps. If you don’t remember why you might need a Chipolo, you probably could do with one. Just don’t lose if before you set it all up.