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Chipolo One Spot review: A strong AirTag alternative with one big advantage | CNN

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Apple’s AirTag isn’t the first item tracker — Tile and Chipolo have been helping us find our things for some time. But the AirTag was the first to leverage Apple’s Find My network, meaning it didn’t just utilize Bluetooth to play within-range audio alerts; it also provided step-by-step directions to the Starbucks we left our keys at.

The Find My network is no longer exclusive to the AirTag, though, and other companies can now offer their own takes on the tech. And that’s exactly what Chipolo’s done with its Chipolo One Spot tracker, an impressive AirTag alternative that, in some ways, surpasses the Apple-made tracker.

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It’s all about the hole

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The Chipolo One Spot’s subtle design and tiny hole make it incredibly practical. It’s also super loud, features good range and works seamlessly — from setup to tracking — with Apple’s Find My app.

The who, what and how:

Who it’s for: People with lots of Apple devices seeking a simple, intuitive way to track everything from their lost keys to their wandering cat could benefit from the Chipolo One Spot.

What you need to know: Chipolo’s One Spot is currently the closest third-party alternative to the AirTag. Each tracker sports its own differentiating features, but they largely serve the same core purpose: keeping track of and locating your misplaced and lost stuff via the Find My app.

How it compares: The Chipolo One Spot compares quite favorably to its closest competitor, Apple’s AirTag. There are some clear differences in terms of technology, functionality and aesthetics, but these will largely boil down to personal preference. The biggest is a built-in key ring hole that makes it easy to attach the One Spot to anything. You also won’t need to spend money on an accessory to attach it, like you have to do with the AirTag. The One Spot is missing Apple’s Precision Finding functionality, which provides step-by-step directions to your lost item.

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Chipolo

The first thing that strikes you when using the One Spot isn’t the incredibly cool technology ensuring you’ll never lose anything ever again, but…a hole. Yes, the tiny hole drilled through the top of the poker chip-like tracker is a bit of a game changer. This point will hit especially hard for AirTag owners who’ve had to pony up for an extra accessory to hold their tracker.

Where an Apple-branded key ring or loop costs as much as the $29 AirTag itself, the Chipolo “hole” is built right into the device at no extra charge. Thanks to this simple, practical inclusion, it not only fits easily on a keychain, but, with a bit of creativity — or twine — can be fastened to pretty much anything. We used a paper clip to connect it to a money clip for a no-frills but effective way to track our credit cards and cash.

Of course, Apple’s AirTag accessories also bring some significant style to your tracker game. If you’re an Apple loyalist who loves sporting the Macintosh logo, or you want to add some personalization with an engraved emoji or initials, the One Spot won’t cut it. If you favor functionality over fashion, and don’t want to invest more coin to connect your tracker to your keys, Chipolo’s the clear winner.

To that same point, the One Spot is much more inconspicuous than the competition. Where the AirTag’s flashier, premium design might catch an eye or two, the One Spot’s matte black, plastic build will blend right into your cluster of similar-looking key holders, car alarms and remote starters.

This all isn’t to say the One Spot is cheap or flimsy. Its build is lightweight yet solid, and it showed no signs of damage or even cosmetic wear after being shoved into our pockets and smashed against all the other (mostly metal) items on our key ring. Complementing its functional design, the One Spot also carries an IPX5 water resistance rating and one-year battery life.

Seamless setup, loud alerts and good range

Regardless of where you stand on not needing an accessory to hold your One Spot, there’s no arguing against how easy it is to set up. Simply fire up the Find My app, select “Add New Item,” then give the Chipolo a click. Once Bluetooth pairing is complete, you’ll give your new toy a name and assign it an emoji. And that’s it! You’re now free to begin losing your stuff without worry!

The One Spot’s 120-decibel volume is just as impressive as its seamless setup process; in other words, it’s loud. Play it right in front of you and you might even find its chirping tone pretty annoying. You’ll appreciate it, though, when your misplaced item is hiding in the pocket of your jeans stuffed in the hamper upstairs. We tried this specific test, as well as many others in a two-floor home with a basement, and always came away impressed by how the One Spot called to us.

It could be heard from pretty much anywhere within the house’s two floors. Burying it under a couch cushion, sticking it under the dog’s blanket or placing it in a drawer or cabinet would obviously muffle the alert, but it was still audible. With the house quiet and our ears perked, we could even hear it in the basement from the upstairs bedroom. We could also detect it from right outside a closed-up car and from our front porch to the back deck with all doors open. These latter two tests offered reduced but still easily detectable chirps.

In terms of range, the One Spot also impressed. In a wide-open backyard, the Bluetooth remained reliably connected within 35 to 40 paces, while 40 to 45 was a bit spotty. Fifty and above, meanwhile, was generally a no-go. As expected, these distances were reduced when objects such as trees and an outdoor shed stood between us and our lost goods.

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Chipolo

Of course, the big difference between the One Spot and Chipolo’s previous One tracker is revealed when you leave Bluetooth range and the Find My network kicks in. This network is comprised of hundreds of millions of Apple devices out in the wild and acts like a large crowdsourced ecosystem to track your One Spot on the Find My app map. Additionally, this feature includes Lost Mode, allowing you to designate the Chipolo as lost and request a notification when it’s found.

We hid our One Spot in a variety of locations, from the Dunkin’ down the street to some friends’ and family members’ houses and yards. Once in range, we had to play some “hot and cold” to nail down its specific location, but overall the directions led us right to where the One Spot was left. And while we didn’t activate the sound when in close proximity to test accuracy, triggering the chirp obviously eliminates any need to hunt or guess. Better yet, all of this is done from directly within the Find My app on your iOS device.

This is also a great time to mention One Spot’s tracking isn’t aided by Precision Finding. Specific to AirTag, this feature uses Apple’s U1 ultra-wideband chip to further pinpoint locations with more specific directions and Siri voice assistant. Having previously tested Apple’s tracker, however, we can’t say we missed this feature as much as we expected to. It’s certainly a cool inclusion, one we’re happy to use with AirTag, but the difference it makes in actually finding your stuff ultimately feels pretty minimal. During all our testing, we never came to the conclusion that locating items would be significantly faster or easier with Precision Finding.

The Chipolo One Spot doesn’t quite carry the cachet of the AirTag — it’s not as shiny or pretty, and it doesn’t dangle from a stylish holder or keychain. But its subtle design and, more so, tiny hole does make it far more practical. It’s also super loud, features good range and works seamlessly — from setup to tracking — with Apple’s Find My app.

The AirTag’s big advantage over the One Spot is its U1 chip-enabled Precision Finding. That said, we didn’t miss this feature as much as we’d expected once we switched to the Chipolo, as the One Spot’s loud alerts and solid range consistently led us right to its location without the benefit of pinpointed, voice-assisted steps.

In terms of cost, the Chipolo edges out the AirTag slightly — or more significantly, when you factor in the price of an Apple accessory. At $28, a single One Spot is just a buck cheaper than the AirTag. You’ll save nearly 10 dollars, however, if you go with the Chipolo four-pack ($90 versus $99 for an AirTag bundle).

If you’re already using an AirTag, there’s little reason to switch to the Chipolo One Spot. If you’re in the market for your first tracker, though — and like the idea of being able to attach it to your key ring right out of the box — Chipolo’s compelling alternative is hard to beat.

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