What is the TrackR pixel?
A little key ring device designed to help track down your keys, phone, wallet, backpack or even pet. The idea is that you attach your TrackR pixel to an object and then connect the device with the app on your phone – and then when you misplace or lose the object, BAM! All you have to do is use the app to make the pixel start beeping. (Or if – god forbid – you lose your actual phone, you press a button on the pixel to make your phone start ringing.)
What does it look like?
The TrackR pixel is about the size and shape of a £2 coin and comes on a key ring. Mine is black with the company logo on one side, but for the fashion-conscious user it also comes in colours including red, purple and a very fetching aqua. Overall it’s pretty lightweight and unobtrusive.
What can it do?
Here’s how it works: first up you attach the TrackR pixel to something – in my case keys, because mine are always hiding in jeans pockets and handbags and coats while I run around my flat swearing and getting progressively more late for work.
Then you download the app, and give it an extraordinary range of “permissions”. The app wants me to turn on location sharing and notifications and bluetooth, and then make my data available to nearby Bluetooth devices even when I’m not using the app, and it wants to know the name of my first childhood pet and what I had for breakfast (a couple of those things might not be true).
With all of that approved, you can do a dummy run and pretend you’ve mislaid your keys/phone/pet. Oh no!
Luckily it’s TrackR pixel to the rescue. When I press the sound button on the app it lights up blue and rings reasonably loudly, and when I press the little button on the pixel itself, my phone starts making a jolly little tune.
A couple of caveats: the phone-finder only works if you’re willing to keep the app running on your phone at all times, alongside bluetooth and location sharing.
Also, the device only works up to a certain range, officially a 100 foot radius but in practice much less. This is because it’s using bluetooth rather than GPS, and bluetooth only extends so far.
To get around this, the inventors of TrackR – a couple of Californian buddies named Chris and Christian who once lost their car keys on the beach and then had a revelation about making sure no one ever loses their keys again – have a thing called “Crowd Locate”.
Crowd Locate kicks in when an item has been well and truly lost: you’ve gone out and left your phone at a bar and you don’t know where it is, or you dropped your wallet in the park. So when another TrackR app user is within bluetooth range of the item, you will receive an anonymous location update which should help you find the item on a map and then go and retrieve it in real life.
There are apparently 4402 TrackR devices “nearby” in my area so in theory it should be easy to find my keys if I leave them lying around just about anywhere: someone is bound to pass by eventually. That’s in a crowded urban area, though. If you lose your keys while hiking in the countryside you’ll really have to hope that other hikers have embraced the TrackR lifestyle.
What’s the verdict?
A major sticking point for me is that I don’t want to keep Bluetooth on, Location Sharing enabled, and the app always running in the background – after all, I have an iPhone which means the battery lifespan rivals a mayfly’s. That pretty much rules the TrackR pixel out as a device for finding the phone itself if it ever goes missing.
It also seems a bit of a reach to say this is for pets. Sure, you could put it on Fido’s collar, but if you’re within a 100 ft (30m) radius of your dog and you’re using an app to locate him via bluetooth, you probably need better glasses. And what if your pet goes properly missing? Sure, the “Crowd Locate” idea might possibly be more helpful than the traditional missing poster if Fido did ever take off into the distance. But I would be very nervous relying on the pixel to locate something I cared about so much. While the battery is easily replaceable, it is not particularly long-lasting.
As for user experience, the app is pretty easy once you’ve got the hang of it. There are also options for family sharing (when everyone wants to be able to summon the shared car keys) and there is Alexa integration, if you want to get really fancy (“Alexa, where’s my wallet?”).
Still, it’s pretty good for keys and wallets and other small items that like to go missing around the house. The noise is reasonably loud and the flashing lights also make this grown-up game of hide and seek a lot easier.
For this function alone it could be worth the money to save yourself a frantic few minutes.