I can't tell you how many times I’ve searched high and low for my iPhone and my keys. Apparently that’s a problem many of us have, but one that technology has yet to solve.
Or has it? Hippih, a Danish company, introduced its new product called hipKey at CES, which claims to keep track of our iPhone, iPad and keys, and prevent us from leaving them behind.
HipKey is a 2-inch-diameter disc that attaches to your keychain. It's about the size of a small cookie with a bite taken out. It’s solidly constructed out of aluminum surrounding a black soft-touch enclosure, and works in conjunction with the company’s free iPhone app.
The hipKey uses the new low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 to wirelessly connect to the iPhone (or iPad), much like a Bluetooth headset. It has an on-off button and a second multi-use button, as well as a micro USB connector for charging its internal battery. You need to pair it just once to your phone. From then on, it automatically connects. It works on all models of iPhones and iPads, but only the iPhone 5 can simultaneously connect to the hipKey and a Bluetooth headphone.
As long as the HipKey and the iPhone maintain their Bluetooth connection, all is well. However, should the phone and hipKey become separated, such that the Bluetooth connection is severed, an alarm sounds on both the phone and the hipKey, warning you that you've left one of the devices behind.
You can also use hipKey to find your keys or phone. Touch a button on one device and an alarm will sound on the other. Of course, you can also call your phone and listen for the ringing.
There are settings in the app to prevent the alarm from going off in specific zones that you can define, such as your home or office. The hipKey app is used to create this safe zone using the iPhone's GPS. When entering the safe zone, hipKey will mute all alarms.
However, even while in the safe zone, the hipKey is on alert; the hipKey will sound a few short beeps if it is moved. This is a reminder, should you be leaving the safe zone without your phone. That turned out to be one of my favorite features, with the beep going off when I exited the house, but before getting to my car.
You can also adjust how far apart the two devices need to be separated before the alarm goes off, using a short, medium or long setting. These are relative and vary considerably based on the environment. I found the distance varied from 15 feet to about 70 feet, dependent on whether there was a clear line of sight, a wall or my body in between. That's just the characteristic of wireless technology.
When I first started testing the product I found it would go off for no apparent reason, even when it was close to the phone. That was caused by the metal case I was using that interfered with the Bluetooth antenna in the phone's top left corner. When I changed to a plastic case the problem went away. The manufacturer recommends not using a metal case including those with metalized coatings. That’s probably good advice in general with phone cases.
I tried the hipKey for more than two weeks and it worked well. On one occasion I left the phone on the table in a restaurant and the beep went off as I started to leave. A few other times I left the phone in the car, only to be reminded to go back and to get it.
The additional battery drain of the iPhone with Bluetooth always on was barely perceptible. I needed to recharge the hipKey just twice. On a few occasions I dropped the hipKey and keys on the driveway, and another time in a puddle, and it continued to work.
The product comes with a small pamphlet containing user instructions in multiple languages. It hardly did justice to the hipKey's numerous features. The company said that it will be posting a more comprehensive user guide shortly on its website.
The HipKey has additional modes beyond this Alarm mode. A Child mode alerts you if your child wanders too far away. The child carries the hipKey in her pocket and, should she stray too far, your phone alarm sounds. In the Motion mode, you are alerted if your bag, with the hipKey inside, is moved. All of these modes, combined with many settings in the app and its unusual interface, required about an hour for me to learn how to use it and learn its features. After that, I just kept it on and the app running.
So is this the product that will prevent us from losing our keys or phone? Based on my testing, it is. It's a thoughtfully designed product that’s technologically quite advanced. And it can bring some peace of mind and make it less likely that you’ll lose your phone or keys or leave them behind. Now if they could just prevent me from losing my Bluetooth headset.
The hipKey costs $90 and is available from the Apple online store. (hippih.com)