Don’t Lose Anything: Pebblebee Tracker Review and Giveaway
I lose my keys, my wallet, and my phone, at least once a week. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes to find them, sometimes I’ll be panicking for upwards of 15 minutes. The point is, it happens a lot. If you’re anything like me, the Pebblebee Honey may be the solution you’ve been waiting for. It’s a small white disc to track anything, which interfaces with your phone.
We’ve got TWO sets of 3 Pebblebee Honey trackers to give away to two lucky readers; each set is worth $75.
The Pebblebee Honey is a round white disc, exactly an inch and a half in diameter, and 5mm thick. It’s designed to fit on a keychain, but doesn’t come with a metal ring. Inside the pack you’ll also find a small plastic thing for unscrewing the battery compartment.
A rubber strap (“Honey Gear“) is also available separately for fitting to pet collars, or as a wristband for children. Here’s my absurdly good looking dog showing off the Pebblebee fitted with the small gear strap around his collar.
Each Pebblebee costs $25, available in single packs or a 3 pack, though there is no difference in price. They compete directly with Tile, also $25 each – we haven’t directly compared the two, though from what I can tell the app interface for Tile is a little more aesthetically pleasing.
Ease of Setup
Once the app is downloaded, adding a Pebblebee to your account is ridiculously easy – just hold down the single button for 5 second to activate it, then press once to “claim” it as your own.
Pebblebees can be individually named, and the main screen of the app is designed to view the status of multiple Pebblebee trackers at the same time. Unfortunately, this was where my first errors started, as some devices displayed as grey (inactive), while clicking on them showed the correct details. This was probably a delay in establishing a connection over Bluetooth, but mildly irritating for a feature designed to give you an at-a-glance look at the status of your multiple trackers.
So how does the Bluetooth tracking in work? The Bluetooth signal is used to create a kind of location based fence around your mobile device. Though marketed as a “tracking device”, it’s more akin to a range finder. The Pebblebee is a Bluetooth beacon, which your phone can display the signal strength of (and hence hone in on), but only when in range.
Though a map button is provided in the app to show the current location of a Pebblebee, again: this isn’t a real time tracker which gathers location from the Pebblebee. Instead, it’s a last known location, which is to say the last place your phone was when it had a connection to the device.
In practice I found it lost connection constantly, and the delay on the range finder resulted in doubling-back on myself – watch the review video to see an example of what I mean, where I attempted to find my keys hidden in the garden. Once a connection was made, the alarm sound was the most useful way of finding something.
As someone who regularly loses their keys – I’m talking at least once a week – I found the core functionality of finding them to be really useful. Being able to sound a little alarm to give me some idea of what room they’re in does work in a relatively quiet environment of my home. But then, that isn’t new technology – we’ve had keyring fobs with remote alarms for a long time, and they don’t cost as much as a Pebblebee does.
I was also worried about losing my phone: if the tracker requires a phone to work, it obviously can’t help me find a lost phone! Not the case: the button on the side of each tracker is configured by default to activate a find phone feature, a simple notification sound. If the app is running in the foreground, you’ll get the alarm sound you’ve chosen. But if it’s locked, you just get a normal notification message on the home screen, which is completely useless. Perhaps if you were able to set a custom notification sound instead of just the standard iPhone trill, it might be more useful. But you can’t. It’s as easily dismissible as a spam email. You can also configure the button to act as a camera remote, which might be good for those selfies .
Then there’s the range alarm, for when a Pebblebee is moving out of range or completely lost. Again though, unless you’ve got the app open and in the foreground, the notification is just too easily missed. If you leave your keys at the restaurant and get a buzz in your pocket as you walk to the car, it’s not going to be immediately obvious. To avoid false alarms at home, you can set up a safe location where an alarm isn’t triggered.
The final feature Pebblebee offers is a lost mode. When a device is set as lost, all active Pebblebee users will be called upon to help find it. Once located, you’ll be notified and the location map updated. The utility of this is difficult to judge accurately, but of course it depends very much upon the number of other active Pebblebee users. If you live in a built-up area and think you might be likely to lose something at Starbucks, this is probably going to work well for you should the need arise. In my area of remote Cornwall, it’s essentially useless.
In practice, I had more problems than I did successes.
On one occasion, I attempted to find my phone by pressing the little button, but was met with silence. Once I had finally found my phone the old fashioned way, I launched the app to figure out what was wrong. My Pebblebee on my keys, now sitting right next to the phone, but were displaying as inactive. I cycled the Bluetooth; nothing. I tried waking it up by sending a lost mode signal; nothing. I tapped the side button; nothing. Finally I tried holding down the button for a few seconds; it woke up. Was it in sleep mode before? Not intentionally, I can assure you. Had it been accidentally turned off while jostling around in my pocket? Probably.
Other times, my configured alarms would trigger to say something was out of range; it wasn’t, it had just lost connection.
Then there was the fact that I often power cycle my iPhone completely, either to fix some unresponsive app or just because it’s run out of battery during the course of the day. The Pebblebee doesn’t launch automatically, so unless I’ve remembered to turn it back, nothing works. This is a quirk of the phone, rather than a fault with the app, but nonetheless it’s a limiting factor in its usefulness.
Thankfully, the Pebblebee app was updated during the course of writing this review, and I’ve experienced less problems since. The delay inherent with the Bluetooth protocol is still present though, and that’s something that simply won’t be fixed – nor will the unnoticeable notification sounds.
The overall implementation of the Pebblebee is somewhat lacking: it kind of works, but not all the time, and isn’t so much a location tracker as a short range beacon. The range of the Bluetooth signal just isn’t very good, the connection takes time to establish, and sometimes it just doesn’t connect at all. I suspect this is the fault of Bluetooth rather than their software – it’s just not what the technology was designed to do.
And yet: it has proved useful to me. The Pebblebee has saved me time when searching for my keys, and for that I’m grateful. Despite the many quirks and iffy technology, it offers a tangible benefit to someone as forgetful as myself. It might do the same for you, too.
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