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The idea of Bluetooth trackers, conceptually, have always struck me as a great idea, but I’ve never had a need for them. I have always been fairly good at keeping track of the items most important to me; my phone, keys and wallet in particular. I don’t often lose them in my apartment, and I rarely leave them in an unsafe place. I have been known, however, to leave the house without one of the three, most likely my keys or wallet, leaving me stuck to face the day without some essential items.
The O is a Bluetooth tracker that looks to remedy this. It’s primary feature is to alert the user when an item they’ve deemed important is left behind, whether it be the keys that fell out of your pocket at the grocery store or the wallet you left sitting on your nightstand at home. The first thing you notice about the device, besides the brow-furrowing name, is its fashionable look. As opposed to Tile, which has a sleek and modern but very “gadgety” look, this tracker opts for an aesthetic that doesn’t draw attention to the fact that it’s a piece of technology.
The O is available in packs of four for $79, either in vibrant pastel colors (known as Tukano) or more subdued shades of grey (Aerolito). You can also add on different accessories that jazz up the design even further, like luxury and premium holders. I’ve been testing several of the trackers in the simple Aerolito colorway and found there’s a lot to like about the hardware. It’s small, thin and light, meaning you can attach it to almost anything without much worry. I used two of the trackers for my keys and wallet and found in both instances The O goes largely unnoticed. It doesn’t add considerable bulk to either, keeping my keys light and my wallet svelte.
The tracker also doesn’t draw much attention thanks to it’s size and egg-like shape. It looks like a standard keychain on my keyring, and is completely hidden within my wallet. This, of course, would change if you opted for the brighter colors, so if you don’t want the tracker to stand out go with the grey variants. You should know, though, that the app uses the various shades of color to visually differentiate which tracker is associated with which item, and the Aerolito colors can sometimes be tough to discern. This is mostly only an issue at setup, or if you reprogram one of the trackers, but if you don’t want to get stuck uncertain if the right tracker is paired with the right item (which did happened to me at one point), the brighter colors may prove the better option.
The clean, unfussy design reflects the device itself. It’s about as simple as a tracker can get. There is no two-way communication, like with Tile, so you can’t use it to find your phone. It also doesn’t have a speaker built-in, meaning it can only give you a general GPS location of the item it’s attached to, and not help you pinpoint it in a room. But neither of those things, while useful, are what The O is here to do. It is not meant to blow you away with features, but instead calm the voice in your head wondering if you left your keys at work.
Sadly, as much as I like the hardware of The O and the idea of its primary objective, my experience using it has been a lesson in frustration. Setup was incredibly simple and the app is easy to use and move around, but I found the claims it makes mostly ring false. Let’s start with the prime feature. Not once has The O actually saved me from leaving my keys or wallet at home, a designated safe space, and the times it did alert me it was usually a false alarm. I got so frustrated with it, in fact, that I removed the tracker in my wallet and left it in my apartment for the last week, and still nothing. Thinking it may have been an issue with the fact that my keys were in a safe zone and thus the app didn’t realize it should alert me, though it is supposed to, I took the tracker out into the world and left it in areas that weren’t deemed safe. Still, the app failed to notify me on a regular basis and, when it did, it was often so delayed that had I been in a car I could have been miles away before knowing I’d left without it.
The app is also supposed to check in and make sure you have everything you need before you leave a place that hasn’t already been deemed safe during setup, like a friend’s party or the office. I have no idea how this is supposed to work, because I never got any sort of indication it was happening.
Several times I got an alert while at work about one of my items. When this happens, you can either tell the app the item is “safe for now” or that you’re going to retrieve it immediately. If you select safe for now, the app is supposed to check in later to make sure you don’t forget anything when you do leave at the end of the day. The few times I got an alert and told the app the item was safe for the time being, there was no follow-up later on.
The O also seemed to have trouble simply updating the location of various trackers unless I specifically opened the app to do so. Though ideally it would work in the background, and it is supposed to, to get the most out of these trackers you should be in the habit of opening the app every morning, with your trackers in close vicinity, so that their location can be updated. But even that method isn’t foolproof. On several occasions, I opened the app and waited for 20, even 30, minutes for the app to update a tracker’s location only for nothing to happen, and no notice from the app saying a tracker wasn’t in range or that it couldn’t find it for some unknown reason, just silence. In my few weeks with the gadgets, their usefulness quickly eroded, and eventually they became little more than a keychain and a small lump in my wallet.
The O is a classic example of tech with a lot of promise, but not enough execution. I love the idea here, and normally I would be the perfect consumer for a tracker like this. I don’t need anything incredibly robust, because I generally do a good job of keeping track of my essential items, but every once in awhile I leave home without something I need. But so much of the experience of using the trackers felt like I was completely in the dark. I had no idea when it was or was not working, or what to do to improve the situation. The O should have been that extra pair of eyes for me, making sure that every day I have the items I need, even if my brain isn’t on the ball. Instead, it proved to be even less reliable than a sleep-deprived mind at seven in the morning.