Item trackers such as those from industry-leader Tile continue to grow in popularity, so much so that Apple is likely to release its own later this year. While the world waits, those companies already in the market are releasing new products. The latest is the Chipolo ONE from Chipolo, which was announced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
For the past month, I've been using one of the colorful circular trackers before its official release. Here's what I think of this useful product.
Price: $25 each, discounted when you buy extra
Bottom line: Item tracking has never been easier or more economical than with the all-new Chipolo ONE. And just look at those FREE features! Still, Apple could soon join and dominate the market.
- Great price
- Many color choices
- Long battery life
- Mostly loud alarm
- Weaker range than some competitive products
- Limited ecosystem
- Difficult battery removal
The same, but different
What is the Chipolo One?
Last fall, the tech world received word Apple was about to launch a Tile-like item tracking device. Months later, the product remains stuck between here, China, and a yet-to-be-announced Apple event. Meanwhile, one of Tile's main competitors, Chipolo, is out with a new product it hopes will make a splash in 2020. The inexpensive Chipolo ONE looks a lot like the two products it's replacing. However, the device offers one key feature that Tile customers must currently pay extra for as part of a premium subscription.
Beyond this, the Chipolo ONE successfully checks off most of the feature boxes one would expect from the current crop of item trackers. Easy setup, long battery life (and the ability to change those batteries), loud enough sound alerts, suitable water resistance, and other points are well covered. Things like range and ease of battery removal are less successful but not necessarily deal-breakers.
Easy setup, long battery life
Chipolo ONE: What I like
Misplacing or losing items like a set of keys, or your wallet or purse can quickly turn from a frustrating, temporary experience to something much more that requires replacing your banking cards and protecting your identity. Products like the Chipolo ONE add peace of mind for just pennies a day. With that said, item trackers are expected to work in the background with little human interaction, beginning with a carefree setup process.
Using the Chipolo ONE requires simply downloading the free Chipolo app for iOS or Android, then pairing it through Bluetooth. For even the most technically-adverse, the process takes less than a minute.
When (not if) you misplace your important item, you can look for it using the Chipolo app. From here you'll find the item's most recent location and whether it's currently in range or not. If it is, you can tap the "Ring to Find" button, then listen for the Chipolo ONE ringtone. You can change the sound from a list of six ringtones from within the app.
The Chipolo ONE is noted for being much louder than previous versions, up to 120 dB. During my tests, I had no trouble hearing the device chime in my quiet home. However, even in a mostly quiet restaurant (where machines were humming), I had difficulties hearing it. I've had the same problem with various Tiles over the year, so perhaps I need my ears checked! Luckily, the Chipolo app does a great job of pinpointing the tracker's exact location, assuming it's in range.
The Chipolo ONE also supports the company's Community Search feature, which lets you mark your item as lost so other trackers can find it. Once another Chipolo user comes near your item, you'll receive a location update.
Users can also add Siri commands from the iOS app, such as "Ring Keys" and "Stop ringing keys." The feature is awesome to have, but playing nice with Siri is the last thing I want to do when I'm in a panic looking for my keys in the early morning hours.
Premium feature without paying more
This brings us to the main reason you should consider buying Chipolo ONE devices or ditching the trackers you currently own from Tile. Unlike the market leader, Chipolo offers out of range alerts for free. The feature kicks in whenever you leave your keys or any other item behind. In other words, when the tracker is not near your phone. When this happens, you'll receive a notification on your phone. Tile offers a similar feature called Smart Alerts. However, Smart Alerts is part of TIle Premium, which costs an extra $30 per year (and also includes free battery replacement for supported trackers).
Humbly speaking, charging extra for out of range alerts for products that are supposed to keep us from misplacing valuables is nonsense, so making it free on the Chipolo ONE was a great move. Making the software-enabled feature available for current Chipolo Card users moving forward was another brilliant decision on Chipolo's part.
The Chipolo ONE has two unique features. First, it can act as a remote shutter button for your phone camera. You can also share the device will someone else. For example, perhaps your friend is using your car this weekend. By sharing the Chipolo ONE (both physically and through the Chipolo app) each of you can keep track of the keys in real time.
Price and battery life
Finally, the Chipolo ONE scores highly on price. At $25 per device, it's $10 less than the Tile Pro and the same price as the Tile Mate. The Chipolo ONE's battery lasts up to two years, however, versus the one offered on the Tile Mate. Coupled with the free out of range feature, this makes the Chipolo ONE a great choice.
Chipolo One: What I don't like
Over the years, Tile has remained the market leader by regularly introducing new trackers for various needs and by offering its technology to third-parties, such as Skullcandy, Sennheiser, Nomad, and others. Chipolo, by contrast, only offers two products at this time, the Chipolo ONE and Chipolo Card. Two other trackers, the Chipolo Plus and Chipolo Classic, were discontinued following the release of the Chipolo ONE. According to the Chipolo website, there's only one third-party product available, a leather Pilatus laptop sleeve, which has a built-in Chipolo Card.
The disparity between what each company offers is important if you'll looking to move beyond securing your keys or wallet. For example, only Tile offers the tiny Tile Sticker finder that attaches to things like small electronic devices and outdoor gear. It also makes the Tile Pro, which is more durable than other trackers and offers a better range.
And speaking of range, the Chipolo ONE offers an optimal range of 200 feet (60 meters), which equals that of the Tile Mate and Tile Slim, and bests the Tile Sticker. However, it's 50 feet less than the Tile Pro, which costs just $10 more.
Finally, there's a minor issue I found when replacing the Chipolo ONE battery. The CR2032 battery is removable by prying open the tracker using a tiny slit on the side. Those with smaller fingers can probably do this without a tool. However, I needed a flat-head screwdriver to part the tracker in two. Unfortunately, in the process, I scraped it, which left a mark.
With a battery life of up to two years, I understand that many might simply ditch the Chipolo ONE once the battery stops working. However, for those who plan on keeping the tracker for many years to come, the somewhat difficult-to-remove battery process is something to keep in mind. Hopefully, Chipolo will make the process easier in a future product release.
What about Apple?
Finally, it's important to at least mention Apple and how its possible entry into the item tracking market could affect companies like Chipolo and Tile. Make no mistake, almost overnight Apple would become the one to beat in the market. To survive, everyone else will need to compete by offering more products or features, or better prices.
Where things stand now, Chipolo is competing very nicely with Tile on price and features. The company's product line-up, unfortunately, is lacking. My best bet is that Apple's would-be product will compete aggressively out of the gate on features, but probably not on price. Unfortunately for Chipolo, and to a lesser degree Tile, Apple rarely competes on price and that doesn't seem to matter with the masses.
Consider it, but ...
If you're looking for a low-cost item tracking device or system, you can't go wrong with the new Chipolo ONE. Being low-cost and available in multiple colors, the Chipolo ONE offers great features at an awesome price.
If you're currently using Tile or another type of tracking device or want to wait for Apple's so-called "AirTags" to arrive, the Chipolo ONE might not be for you. It has limited uses because of its design and a smaller community footprint when the time comes to find a missing item. Plus, despite its mostly lower price per unit, replacing all of your TIles with Chipolo ONE devices could prove cost-prohibitive, at least in the short-term.
My advice: Invest in one Chipolo ONE and take it for a test drive. You have nothing to lose.
A budget-friendly choice.
Never lose your keys or wallet again thanks to the Chipolo ONE item tracker, available now in various colors, including black, white, blue, red, green, and yellow.
Have any questions?
If you have any questions or concerns about the Chipolo ONE or smart home products in general, let us know below.
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