ProsHandy gadget for anyone who regularly misplaces their keys or phone around the house; neatly organizes keys
ConsLocation capability somewhat hampered by limited range of Bluetooth; useless flashlight; doesn't fit all keys
Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we receive e-mails every day from companies trying to get coverage for the "next big thing." A lot of these products are in pre-release, typically as part of a crowdfunding campaign, and most of them are clearly (from our point of view) over-promising in order to pull in pre-sales. But from time to time, we see companies making creative "why didn't I think of that" products, and we'll reach out to learn more.
One such company is KeySmart, based in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded on Kickstarter in 2013 with a simple goal: to design a better keychain. Now, while that's a worthy goal, it's not quite the type of "tech" we review here on The Tech Buyer's Guru. Luckily, KeySmart chose to expand its reach in 2017 by releasing the KeySmart Pro, which was outfitted with a Bluetooth chip to allow it to interface with the popular Tile protocol for locating lost items (keys, tools, cats, pretty much anything...). And in September 2018, it released the black version of the KeySmart Pro (the original came only in white, likely due to limitations in KeySmart's production capacity).
Because we really do love when small companies do big things, or even when they do small things that can have a big impact, we just had to try out the new KeySmart Pro Black to find out if it really is a game changer. So let's see how it works, shall we?
Thank you to KeySmart for providing a sample of the KeySmart Pro Black for review.
Description and Features
The KeySmart Pro is about 4" long, 0.6" wide, and 0.75" tall. It's about the size of a small utility knife, which isn't too surprising, given that it likely takes some inspiration from such products. It comes pre-assembled, and to insert keys, you actually need to disassemble it first. That's a bit of a hassle, and since no screwdriver is supplied, you'll need to find your own. Or you can just use a penny, if you happen to have one around. One slot in the KeySmart Pro is taken up by a key loop for an external key like a car remote, and this loop has a can opener on the other side, just in case you find yourself in a bind at your next beer night. You can fit about three standard keys into the KeySmart before it starts to expand in width simply by removing pre-installed spacers. Once inserted, the keys flip out like a tool in a utility knife, which is pretty handy. It keeps the keys from jingling or scratching you while in your pocket. Alas, the one key we regularly use at this point actually wouldn't fit. The hole in the key was smaller than the rather robust peg that the KeySmart uses to mount keys to. In the end, that didn't affect our review too much, because what we were really interested in was the "smart" aspects of the tool, rather than the key aspect, but it's still something we were a bit surprised hadn't been sorted out yet.
As with any good piece of tech, the KeySmart Pro has some buttons to push. As shown in the accompanying photo, it has a "tile" button, as well as a second button that illuminates an LED (which you charitably refer to as a flashlight, but that's going a bit far, as we'll show on the next page). In any event, Tile is an established player in the smartphone app world, and markets its own tabs that can be attached to keychains, backpacks, pets, and even kids. KeySmart is simply tapping into this network (and likely paying a licensing fee for use of the app and Tile's servers). In a sense then, the tech we're reviewing here isn't KeySmart's IP, but rather Tile's.
With that said, KeySmart clearly had to reinvent its keychain to incorporate a Bluetooth transmitter and battery. The keychain itself is manufactured from plastic, rather than the machined stainless steel that made the original KeySmart so well-liked. We imagine this has a whole lot to do with the fact that metal does a fairly good job at blocking low-powered radio transmissions, like those emitted by a tiny Bluetooth transceiver. In any event, the plastic seemed to be of good quality, although it will pick up some smudges and knicks a bit faster than steel, we'd figure. On the plus side, it's undoubtedly lighter, which in part offsets the weight of the electronics inside the KeySmart Pro. Ours weighed in at 1 ounce, which is totally reasonable from our point of view. If you have more than a couple of keys, they'll certainly weigh more than the KeySmart Pro.
The KeySmart Pro has a micro-USB port built into the side, which allows you to easily charge it with typical accessory chargers, or a computer's USB port. Alas, as the smartphone industry has moved to other standards (Lightning on iPhones, USB-C on Android phones), micro-USB chargers are going to become a bit less common, but for now, it's a pretty ubiquitous standard. While we couldn't test the duration of a single charge, it will last anywhere from 45 days to 90 days, depending on which of KeySmart's claims you want to believe. The box says 3 months, but the instructions say charge it every 45 days to be safe. With a device that you won't use until you really need to use it, we'd err on the side of caution and just charge it at the beginning of each month, to keep it simple.
So, that was a lot of description for a pretty simple device, and you're probably wondering how it works at this point. Well, flip to the next page to find out!