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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Connects to your smartphone
Boasts numerous useful features and information
Compact and easy to stow away in a purse, bag or pocket
Clunky app interface, frequent crashes
Bluetooth connectivity issues
More inaccurate than other models
While the BACtrack Smartphone Breathalyzer might be the most attractive to a casual user thanks to its phone connectivity, the clunky app and inaccuracy hold it back compared to the more traditional models of the BACtrack family.
As technology continues pushing forward at a blistering pace, the market for personal breathalyzers has moved with it. That explains BACtrack’s Smartphone Breathalyzer, which essentially does exactly what it says, connecting the breathalyzer to your smartphone with an included app and Bluetooth connection. While innovation in the space is nice to see from manufacturers like BACtrack, this one might be a little bit too soon, sacrificing accuracy and ease of use for connectivity and gimmicky features.
Something we’d like to make a quick note of is that when determining whether or not you should get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you should not trust these devices 100 percent. Personal breathalyzers like these can be great little tools for many while making responsible decisions, but you’re better off using a rideshare service or cab if you’ve been drinking. While the accuracy of these devices can deliver quality results when used properly, it’s always better not to take the risk.
Design-wise, the Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer is as compact as they come. About a third the size of your smartphone itself, the breathalyzer is comprised of white ABS plastic with a transparent section of plastic that reveals the internals and sensor inside. It’s extremely lightweight, but also fits fine in your hand when using it for testing.
While innovation in the space is nice to see from manufacturers like BACtrack, this one might be a little bit too soon.
On the side, you’ll find the usual port for the removable plastic mouthpieces (which appear to be proprietary, unlike other breathalyzers) and a small silver button for all operations and functions. The bottom of the unit has a micro USB-B input for charging the internal lithium-ion battery. While a rechargeable battery is nice, if you find it dead when you need it most, you don’t have the option to pop in a fresh set.
BACtrack also provides a little polyester carrying case to store your breathalyzer and any extra mouthpieces you want to carry. This one comes with three extras and also a charging cable (though no wall outlet). Unlike most other breathalyzers, you can also use this without the mouthpieces, blowing directly into the porthole. The build on the Smartphone breathalyzer isn’t anything spectacular, but seems sturdy enough as long as you don’t drop it from any considerable height or accidentally sit on it.
Using your new “smart” breathalyzer isn’t quite as easy as most other standalone devices, but it’s nothing too difficult. First, ensure you’ve juiced up the battery by letting it charge for a bit and also make sure you’ve got the BACtrack mobile app downloaded on your phone (it works with both Android and iPhone).
Once you’ve got the app and your Bluetooth is enabled, open it up and it’ll then prompt you to turn on the breathalyzer. Simply hold the button on the device for a couple seconds and it’ll illuminate with a blue LED to let you know it’s on. The app should automatically find the breathalyzer and connect, but this part can be a little finicky. We found that the devices needed to be quite close to each other in order to connect. The app also crashed a few times, requiring a restart. Unsurprisingly, the app has a rather dismal rating on both app stores.
You can also call an Uber directly inside the app if you’d like to do so.
Now that the app and device are connected, you’ll see a prompt to begin BAC testing. Tap the dark blue circle and you’ll then see the app letting you know it’s warming up. On this screen, you can also guess your BAC (this is optional) to see how close you are to the real thing, and the app also records and tracks your guesses for future reference. Next, it’ll notify you to take a deep breath, so inhale, place your mouth on the mouthpiece and begin blowing steadily into the unit. Keep an eye on the app while you’re doing this, it’ll show a circle that fills up after you’ve successfully blown. A cool little feature here is the internal air pump will audibly click to let you know it’s collected the proper sample.
A few seconds later and your BAC results will pop up alongside a suggestion to how the alcohol may be affecting you. Tapping “OK” will then show you the apps interesting ZeroLine technology that estimates when your BAC will return to 0 percent. Swiping to the right gives you three more screens with various info about your current BAC and it’s estimated effects on you.
This is also where the app throws in the slightly weird option to post your location, pictures, and drink info. You can even share it to social media and compare yourself to others to see their BAC results. We’re not sure why you’d want to have all these abilities, but perhaps it appeals to some people who are more interested in playing around with a breathalyzer for fun, rather than necessity. By default, sharing is disabled, so at least you won’t accidentally let everyone at the office know you’re getting wasted on your lunch break. You can also call an Uber directly inside the app if you’d like to do so.
Quirky features and in-app data may be fun to play around with if you’re just looking for a personal breathalyzer, but the test results leave a lot to be desired. We tested the Smartphone breathalyzer and compared the results to other models using a BAC calculator for measurements. In our testing, the breathalyzer was consistently off the mark. Typically, it would give us a reading that was about 0.02 off of where it should be. This isn’t anything horrible, but it’s definitely not as good as other BACtrack breathalyzers (like the S80) using the same fuel cell sensor technology. We’d also be leery of trusting the ZeroLine tech, though we cannot comment on its accuracy. If you’ve been drinking, just get a ride home.
The Mobile comes in at a fairly competitive price matching up with most other units, but does require the use of a smartphone to work. Typically you can snag this device for right around $100 at MSRP, placing it next to BACtrack’s Trace. For the price, you get everything you’d find with the Trace, along with the added functionality of the app and its info (although some of it feels completely unnecessary and downright creepy). What the cost of the Smartphone really boils down to is if you want a device that works alongside an app, or one that is standalone. The preference will largely depend on your personal needs, but you can get even more accurate units for a minuscule increase in cost, which seems like a better tradeoff than the connectivity features.
This device is more suited to those who just want to mess around for fun or to be a little more informed about their drinking habits.
While we’d like to compare this device to other brands that also make smart/mobile breathalyzers for personal use, there really aren’t any decent alternatives out there. The Breathometer Breeze, which was featured on “Shark Tank,” was recalled and the rest are so inaccurate, they’re pretty much irrelevant. So the best competition for the Smartphone breathalyzer is BACtrack’s even smaller, more portable Vio.
The Vio can usually be had for about half the price, is a bit smaller, uses the same app, but is nowhere near as accurate. In fact, if you’re looking at any of the “keychain” breathalyzers available, it’s a mistake. They all use an inferior sensor with a much larger margin of error, and we simply cannot recommend any. If you want ultra-portable connectivity to your phone, the Smartphone Breathalyzer is the only real answer.
Browse our list of the 8 best breathalyzers available to consumers today, including our top choices for each based on various categories and features.
Smart features, but too much uncertainty.
While the BACtrack Smartphone Breathalyzer has lots of nifty features and info you can’t get with other standalone breathalyzers, it’s not as accurate or easy to use. This device is more suited to those who just want to mess around for fun or to be a little more informed about their drinking habits. For serious users, we’d recommend a more accurate device like the S80.