A few weeks ago i had a look at the new Tile Pro trackers and while I thought they were great at what they do and look pretty good, I did lament their lack of a replaceable battery - a criticism that Tile responded to. Chipolo offers an alternative with the Chipolo Classic - a round tracker that is about the same size as the Tile and offers a user-replaceable battery.
Chipolo offers a number of different trackers. There's the Chipolo Plus, which doesn't have a user replaceable battery (making it similar to the Tile - a subscription service disguised as a piece of hardware) but is water resistant, the Chipolo Card which is designed to slip into a wallet (again, lacking a user-replaceable battery) and the Chipolo Classic.
The Classic comes in a variety of colours and gets about nine months of use from a single, easily replaced CR2025 battery. I also tested a Chipolo Card and Chipolo Plus.
Before getting started, it's worth noting the Classic might look like a brightly coloured toy to young children. So, you'll need to make sure that don't grab your keys and chew on it. Button batteries can be really nasty if ingested.
Setting up the Chipolo trackers was straightforward and took less than a minute for each one. Once I'd installed the Chipolo app, it was a matter of tapping the "+" sign in the top corner of the app (I used an iPhone running the most recent version of iOS 11) and following the prompts to press the Chipolo's button.
Although the Tile Pro trackers are far more elegant, having trackers with different colours makes them easy to identify in the app. From the app, I can make the Chipolo ring or see where the device last was on a map.
One of the other handy features was the ability to use the Chipolo as a remote control for my iPhone's camera. Instead of having to hold the camera for a selfie and manoeuvre the phone so I can press the shutter button without sticking a finger over the lens, I can double-press the Chipolo and use it as a remote control.
Interestingly, the Classic, which uses a CR2032 battery is actually thinner than the Plus by 0.9mm. So, the Chipolo Classic, at 5.0mm is thinner than the Tile Pro, which is the same 5.9mm as the Chipolo Plus, and slightly thinner than the Tile Mate which is 4.65mm thick. All of that suggests fitting a small battery in does not have to compromise the thickness of the tracker. Mind you, we are taking of differences of less than a millimetre on something hanging from your keys. A millimetre here or there is unlikely to make a material difference to the device's utility.
The Chipolo Card slipped into my wallet easily. It's smaller than a credit card at 37mm x 68mm and about the same thickness as two cards stacked onto each other. However, that thinness means the battery can't be replaced. There is a replacement program that Chipolo says reduces the cost of a replacement by up to 50% and they supply a pre-paid envelop so you can return the dead Card or Plus for recycling.
However, Once the Chipolo Card was in my wallet, finding it was not quite as easy as my keys. Even though the Card plays its melody at 95dB, once my wallet was closed it was hard to hear. Of course, that's understandable but the Chipolo Plus is rated as being louder at 100dB and remember that each increase of 10dB is significant as the scale is logarithmic.
If this was a beauty pageant, the Tile Pro trackers would win hands down. They are far more attractive, in my view, hanging from my keys. But I have a real problem with tech like this being designed to be disposable after just a year. That also means that while the Chipolo Plus and Card pass the "usefulness test", I have a hard time recommending them. Even though being sealed units they are water resistant, I'm pretty careful with my keys as the remote control for the locks isn't water-resistant so that feature isn't a big deal for me.
But the Chipolo Classic looks pretty good to me. I received one a couple of years ago. It's been through three battery swaps and is still going strong.
The Classic sells for US$25, or you can get four and six packs that bring the price to between US$15 and US$20. Finding local sellers is a little challenging. The more expensive Plus can be found at local retailers for around $40 each. The Chipolo Card costs US35.