TrackR Bravo review

Bluetooth tracking gadgets can be a big timesaver. With the TrackR Bravo, you attach it to something valuable to you: your house or car keys, your bike or your wallet. When you can't find the item, you check the app to see where it was last seen and when you're in that location, you can activate a siren to make it easier to find. See also: Tile (2nd-gen) review

The Bravo was funded to the tune of $1.6m on Indiegogo and is now part of Amazon Launchpad in the UK. However, it has been available to backers since January 2015.

TrackR Bravo review: Price

You can buy a Bravo from Amazon for £24.99, although other sellers are discounting it by a few pounds to £19.99. There's a choice of black, rose gold, blue or 'steel'. You can also find them at Argos and John Lewis.

Although a pack of four exists it's almost impossible to find in the UK. No pun intended. This is cheaper than buying them individually, but the cheapest we could find - on ebay - was £75, so hardly a saving at all.

The Tile costs £19.99 from Amazon, but is readily available in multipacks. A pack of four costs £49.99, which makes each one £12.50.

TrackR Bravo review: Features and setup

I've already reviewed the Tile (gen 2) which is very similar, but the Bravo is smaller and has one extra feature: separation alerts. Unlike the sealed Tile, the Bravo has a replaceable C1616 battery - said to last a year - but the trade-off is that it's not waterproof. It's a little over 30mm in diameter and a bit thicker than the average house key at 3.5mm. Certainly small enough to attach to your keyring, and there's a double-sided adhesive sticker in the pack so you can attach it to a flat object.

The setup process is similar to other Bluetooth gadgets: you turn on the Bravo for the first time using the button and wait until it appears in the list of Bluetooth devices on your phone, then tap and wait for it to pair. Using an iPhone 6S Plus, I had no problems at all and didn't experience any dropped connections.

Crucially, it works when you need it to: I have already used it twice to locate lost house keys. You simply tap the speaker icon in the app, assuming that the TrackR is nearby and connected to your phone via Bluetooth, and it will emit a high-pitched alarm which should help you track it down.

It isn't as loud as the Tile's buzzer, but as long as it's relatively quiet it's audible. The pitch goes up and down, a bit like an ambulance or police siren, so even if your hearing won't allow you to hear the highest pitch, it should go low enough to fall into your hearing range. Still, I prefer the second-gen Tile's louder alarm.

TrackR Bravo review

The Bluetooth range may depend on which phone you have (there's Android and iOS support only), but with the iPhone 6S Plus the app was only able to communicate with the Bravo up to around 50 feet with line of sight. However, brick walls and double-glazed doors seems to be a bigger obstacle for the Bravo than the Tile.

The Tile's stronger signal meant the app could 'see' it 70 feet away, and still 50 feet away when inside a house and we stood outside. With the Bravo, the connection was made only when we were inside the house.

In theory this shouldn’t matter too much as the TrackR app lets you configure separation alerts. There are two options: your phone can ring when it moves away from the TrackR and / or the TrackR can beep when it is separated from the phone.

TrackR Bravo review

In my tests, the phone rang reliably when the keys were left behind (it started beeping at about 70 feet) but the TrackR wouldn't emit so much as a peep when taken the same distance from the phone. However, both the phone and tracker would randomly beep and ring even when they were together, either sitting in separate rooms of the house or being carried together while walking around. This proved too annoying, so I ended up turning it off.

There is one saving grace: you can disable separation alerts for 'safe' networks. Add your home and work Wi-Fi networks, for example, and you won't get alerts when your phone is connected to those. But it also means you won't know if you accidentally leave your phone or tracker behind when leaving those 'safe' places.

The alarm that rings on the phone is the same tune that plays (even if you've put it on silent mode) when you press and hold the tiny recessed button on the TrackR - a handy feature for finding your lost phone. But if you prefer, you can set it to play a song from your Music library, and you can set the duration to just a few seconds.

The final feature is crowdsourcing, which TrackR calls 'Crowd GPS'. As with Tile, TrackR can use all the other people running the TrackR app to keep tabs (anonymously) on other TrackRs. So if you drop your keys and somehow miss the separation alerts, there's a chance another TrackR user will come within range of your Bravo. If that happens, you'll get an alert showing its rough location.

UK coverage seems to be good (this map is from TrackR), but whether there are other users near where you might lose things will depend on exactly where you live. There's a far higher chance of finding something in a big city, and much lower if you live in the sticks.

TrackR Bravo review

When it comes to actually finding a lost item, the app will let you know when the Bravo is in range. When it is, you'll see 'nearby' or 'far' labels as you move around. These aren't particularly useful as the update rate is too slow. You're more likely to hear the 85dB siren than find the tracker because of the getting Far / Near / Close By messages.

Also read: Tintag review

TrackR Bravo: Specs

  • Diameter: 31mm Thickness: 3.5mm Battery Type: CR1616 Max Battery Life: 1 year Bluetooth Type: 4.0 Bluetooth Range: Up to 100ft Crowd GPS Range: World Wide Device Ringer Volume: 85dB Materials: Anodized Aluminum, Plastic Safe for Pets: Yes Works World Wide: Yes
  • Diameter: 31mm Thickness: 3.5mm Battery Type: CR1616 Max Battery Life: 1 year Bluetooth Type: 4.0 Bluetooth Range: Up to 100ft Crowd GPS Range: World Wide Device Ringer Volume: 85dB Materials: Anodized Aluminum, Plastic Safe for Pets: Yes Works World Wide: Yes

OUR VERDICT

Choosing between the TrackR Bravo and a 2nd-gen Tile is tricky. The Tile is a disposable gadget: you can't replace the battery. But it has a better range than the Bravo and a louder, easier to hear alarm. It's also waterproof so won't stop working if left outside in the rain. But the Bravo is a bit smaller, has (unreliable) separation alerts which should help prevent losing items in the first place and you can replace the battery when it runs out. The latter point makes Bravo better value, but the waterproof Tile might - just - be a better bet for finding your lost items.

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