Review: TrackR

It’s the Bluetooth-powered tag you see in social media adverts! We actually bought one and so far, so good.

I gotta admit, this thing was advertised so well that it actually managed to get through me and my family through social media. That goes for my adblockers, being constantly nagged by family AND having said family shipping said product all the way here without my help. That’s a first!

It was really that tempting to buy. Now that I have one of these, I might as well review it!

Summary

tl;dr 7/10

TrackRs are simple beeping Bluetooth tags that you can attach to missables and forgettables. It makes things easier to locate with your phone with a helpful beep.

  • Tag simply does its job and it works. Press to beep your paired phone, and it beeps if you press the app for it.
  • Tag’s battery performance is unknown for now, but it’s expected to work for a year
  • All things rely on Bluetooth, and Bluetooth isn’t as powerful as most people believe. It’s good enough, but it’s no Android Device Manager or Find your iPhone, of course.
  • The app works decently. Mandatory registration sucks, but I guess it’s necessary for the crowd-location features.
  • The app uses location services far too many times than I had hoped. I wish it used low-power Google Play Services instead while on the background.
  • The app incorrectly uses Android’s sound system – it does not override connected headphones, so it’s not going to play sounds on your phone speakers.

All in all, it’s great, but NOT a necessity unless you’re really misplacing your stuff often. Even then, you’re better off building better habits to keep your stuff in the right place. It’s good for security and unexpected situations though, so it has its merits.

710

What’s this all about?

TrackR’s selling point is very simple – it’s a simple token / tag that you can attach to your valuables and you can choose for it to beep whenever you’re having a hard time finding those valuables. It’s appealing to solving the typical household problem of losing your keys or your wallet right before you leave for work. This works the other way around too. If your phone’s missing and it’s configured to use your TrackR tag, you can press the button on the tag to make your phone beep so it’s easy to find.

All of this works on Bluetooth 4.0 LE, so the tag has enough juice to run for a year with a replaceable coin-sized battery.

Oh and there are some other nice extra features too. It’s a crowd-powered system, so other TrackR apps or tags can report their locations if any of them go missing beyond your smartphone’s range. That depends on how many people also got convinced to buy this product though so its efficiency depends on what country you’re in or how popular the TrackR is in that place.

How’s the TrackR Bravo?

It does its job very well. It beeps as far as Bluetooth can muster and it’s good enough to hear and isn’t too annoying when it’s played around. Plain and simple. It has a button to pair up with a device, and that same button is used whenever you need to find your paired phone.

I cannot rate the battery though, although TrackR claims that this tag can run for a year before it needs replacing. Fair enough, and it’s pretty good considering that it’s pinging Bluetooth LE right when you need it.

So far the tag itself appears to be durable enough. I’m going to report any of my findings in the future if I find out that it breaks when wet or if it can’t beat the crazy toughness of my keys and my Yubikey.

How about the app?

The app is simple and straightforward. Pairing is a no-brainer once you have Bluetooth on. You’re forced to register as soon as you do though, but I guess that’s an acceptable step to perform if the service wants its crowd-powered features to work.

Once paired, the app shows your TrackR in a map, lets you configure some basic settings and lets you tap to toggle beeping and a somewhat nifty distance indicator between you and your TrackR tag.

Any additional thoughts?

So far, the app has been doing well over the day. I’m surprised that it works through Apple’s somewhat strict sandbox, and it also works through Android’s doze features without any persistent notification banners or an accessibility service that needs to be on. It’s good to know that it does work even in these situations since it’s the expected state for your phone if it goes missing.

The tag doesn’t have problems either. Bluetooth LE seems to work super well and it’s good to see it in action for the first time on my end.

I do have two issues to raise though:

First: The app constantly nags the phone for location services, and it really shows on my status bar. I wish the developers didn’t do this too frequently, or at least have it work with the less-accurate power-saving mode provided by Google Play Services. Either that, or have it use high accuracy in the backgrond only when you’re charging. Because of this, I’ve rejected its location permissions in Android.

and Second: The phone app does not override connected headphones. For some odd reason, they didn’t implement the notification tone (in Android) as a normal ring and uses the media stream instead. This is quite bad if you misplaced both your phone and headphones while it’s attached to each other.

Oh and of course, Bluetooth always has to be on for it to be useful. Then again, it’s not a bad thing nowadays. If a tiny tag of a device can last for an entire year with its low-power pinging, then I see no reason for a strong battery impact to a smartphone as well.