The iPhone 4S and 5 use Bluetooth version 4.o. This enables them to talk to Bluetooth Smart devices, devices that can communicate with the iPhone via Bluetooth for months or years without a recharge, instead of just hours for traditional Bluetooth devices. Ever since I purchased an iPhone 4S in 2011 I've been curious to try out a Bluetooth 4.0 device, and thanks to Kensington, we now have a pretty useful one on the market. Today at the big CES convention in Las Vegas, Kensington is unveiling a $60 device called Proximo. Proximo uses a small fob that you add to your keychain. If you cannot find your keys, just launch the free Proximo app on your iPhone tap a button, and your iPhone helps you find your keys. It works in reverse too; lose your iPhone and you can use the fob on your keys to find it. Kensington sent me a free pre-release review unit a few weeks ago to start testing it, and it works quite well.
Find your Keys, or Find your iPhone
The most basic, and perhaps most useful, feature of Proximo is that it can help you find your keys. Just attach the fob to your keychain.
Then, to find your keys, just launch the Proximo app and you will see a row of icons that correspond to your fob. The last icon will display "Find" if your fob is within range — which can vary quite a bit, but in my tests corresponded to about two rooms apart or about 40 feet apart. If you see the word Find, just tap the magnifying glass to switch to the Find mode. The fob on your keychain will start to play an alert so that you can find it by hearing it, plus you will see circles surrounding an icon of a person indicating how close you are to the keys. You can almost imagine someone telling your "warmer" as you get closer and "colder" as you go the wrong direction.
If the fob is not within range, the last icon will instead say "Last Seen" and display an outline of a pin. Just tap the pin to see a map. A red pin will drop on the map where and when your fob was last in range, and a blue dot will show your current location. Just head towards the red pin — walk in whatever direction you need to in order to get the blue dot closer to the red pin — to find your fob and your keys. The map even tells you approximately how many feet you are from the fob's last location. When you get close enough to get in range, the Proximo app tells you and will trigger the alert sound on the fob.
The whole system works in reverse too. If you have your keys with your fob and need to find your iPhone, just press the button on the fob. In a second or two, your iPhone will start playing an alarm. Your fob doesn't indicate how far away the iPhone is located, but at least you can listen for the alarm to try to hunt it down.
Find anything else with tags
The $60 Proximo Starter Kit comes with one tag in addition to the fob. Tags are similar to fobs, but they are a little smaller and only work in one direction. You can use your iPhone to find a tag, but there is no button on the tag to help you to find your iPhone. The idea is that you connect the tag to something else that you don't want to lose, such as your briefcase or purse. If you ever lose it, you can use the app to track it down.
Indicators in the app always tell you how close you are to your fob and your tag.
You can purchase additional tags for $25. The Proximo app can work with one fob and up to four tags.
If you have your tag on your briefcase and then get home and realize that you forgot your briefcase, you can tap the "Last seen" icon to quickly learn that you were last close to your briefcase X minutes ago when you were at the office, in court, in the coffee shop, or wherever else. Fortunately, I haven't had to use this "for real" yet, but it doesn't take much imagination to see how useful this could be.
You can name your fob or tags whatever you want, and you can replace the default pictures with something else, such as a picture of your keys or your briefcase. You can also select from a variety of different alerts to be played by a fob or a tag (or the iPhone itself) if it is lost, and can control the volume of the alert.
Let's stay together
Finally, you can activate an Alarm mode for any fob or any tag. When activated, if your iPhone and the fob/tag are too far apart, both will start playing an alert. For example, if your iPhone is on the table of a coffee shop and you get up and start to walk away, alarms will go off to let you know that you are forgetting your iPhone. Or if you start to walk away without picking up your briefcase, you'll hear alarms go off. You can adjust the sensitivity to Highest-High-Medium-Low-Lowest. Highest is essentially useless because the two items have to be ridiculously close to each other or alarms go off. Lowest will let you get about 30 to 40 feet or so away before the alarms go off, although this distance varies greatly based on walls and other interference.
As I tried out the Proximo over the last few weeks, I didn't find this mode to be very useful, but I can imagine times when I might turn it on. Perhaps I would turn it on before starting to charge my iPhone on a wall outlet at an airport. That way if I walk off to go to the restroom or to board the plane without thinking about it, the alarms will go off once I start to walk away. Under those circumstances, it would be nice to know that I was about to walk off without my iPhone. Of course, when all of those alarms go off, I'll also attract attention from a lot of other people as well.
As I think about it, though, for some people this could be the most valuable part of the Proximo. Apple's Find my iPhone service can already help you track the location of an iPhone that you lost, and can even make your iPhone play an alarm sound, just like the Proximo fob. But Proximo's Alarm function aims to prevent you from leaving the iPhone somewhere in the first place. Finding what you lost is nice; not losing it in the first place is better.
Kensington says that the batteries in the fob and tag will last about six months. It is a CR2032 Lithium Coin Battery, so you can easily buy replacements for just a few bucks. This is the key to the Proximo working at all. Without the long battery life that comes with Bluetooth 4.0, this product would be too much of a hassle to be worth it. I'm excited to see what additional Bluetooth Smart products come out this year, and I'm sure that many are being announced this week at CES.
I like the Proximo. I haven't yet had a real-life situation where I have had to use the Proximo to locate, or safeguard against a real risk of losing, my iPhone or briefcase, but such a loss would be VERY BAD. If nothing else, the Proximo has helped me to find my keys when I cannot remember where I left them the night before. Perhaps it isn't worth $60 just to help your find your keys, but if the Proximo prevents you from losing an iPhone, briefcase, purse, etc. just once, then it would certainly be worth it. Like any insurance policy, you just need to weigh the cost versus the benefit — a benefit that you hope you never need. I like that Proximo is a product that you can buy and then largely forget about until you need it ... in which case you'll be thrilled that you have it.
I don't yet see a link to purchase the Proximo, but I'm sure that Kensington will soon add a link to this page on their website.