As far as technology has come, and despite all the modern day conveniences we have, there are still those age-old problems that continue to haunt many of us. The sort of problem that, when you run into it, you think "how has nobody solved this yet?" One such problem that still haunts many of us is losing stuff. Misplaced keys, a lost wallet, a wandering phone — items we have with us quite often, and when they can't be found in their usual locations, we start a household search & rescue. Checking under the seats in the car, flipping over couch cushions, going through every pants pocket in your laundry. Searching for these lost items is never fun and often occurs at very inopportune times - right when you need them. That's the problem Linquet has tried to solve. So, did it?
Linquet markets themselves as "the first cloud-based anti-loss solution". Linquet offers small Bluetooth dongles that connect with your iPhone, Android phone, Windows Phone, or other smartphone. Using their free app you can connect, configure, and locate your Linquets. Once connected, if a Linquet gets too far away from your phone, the Bluetooth connection will be lost, setting off an alarm on your Linquet and your phone. Of course there are some additional settings, but that's the basis premise. It seems like a pretty ideal solution in theory, but what about in practice?
I first heard of Linquet on The Loop when they started a crowdfunding campaign for their new Linquet Mini. I was in a vulnerable state at that time, my wife having recently left her iPhone at a post office. We tracked it down, thanks to Find My iPhone, but Linquet would have prevented the loss in the first place. We wouldn't have made it out of the post office parking lot without being alerted that her phone had been left inside.
So I pre-ordered. For $45, I had signed up for 2 Linquets and a year of their cloud service. A couple of weeks ago, my Linquets finally arrived and I couldn't wait to try them out.
My initial thought after opening the Linquet box was "they're bigger than I thought they'd be." To be fair, I had seen pictures on the website, but Linquet had said "slightly larger than a quarter", even going as far as saying you could fit one into a wallet. Saying "slightly larger than a quarter" is one way to put it.
A more accurate way of putting it would be "roughly the size of 6 quarters".
Another, more accurate way of putting it would be "roughly the size of 6 quarters". The Linquet is about as wide as a single quarter. But it's as long as two quarters. And it's thicker than three quarters. You technically could shove one into your wallet, but it's about as thick as 6 credit cards, and given its form, it's likely to stretch your wallet in a weird way.
But that's okay. It's not humongous. I wasn't planning on putting mine in my wallet anyway. It adds a little more bulk to my keychain, but as long as it works well, I can overlook the size.
The closest thing to instructions Liquet provided was a quick reference card in the box that said "Hold the button for 4 seconds to turn ON" and a few other notes for how to use the Linquet once it was connected. Working on mobile apps for a living, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but the card left out one very important step that could have saved me a few minutes of confusion: "Download the app."
The card left out one very important step that could have saved me a few minutes of confusion: "Download the app."
Maybe it was conditioning from connecting my iPhone to my car's Bluetooth, or maybe I'm just not very smart, but when the card's first instruction was to hold the power button on the Linquet, I immediately tried that – I didn't even think to go search the App Store for an app first. Trying to fill in the gaps, I opened iOS' Settings app and navigated to Bluetooth to try and find the Linquet, but it wasn't listed. I tried turning the Linquet on a few more times without luck. Finally I went to their website to look at the FAQ and quickly realized I needed to install their app.
Last year I ordered an Automatic for my car. It was another crowdfunded, smartphone accessory that connected via Bluetooth. I didn't remember having frustrations getting it setup, so I decided to dig out the box, and see how they had handled setup instructions.
The box had Apple-like instructions for just opening the box to get the product out. Inside the box was a small "Welcome" manual that had two instructions: download the app, and launch it to get started. Simple. Elegant. Easy. Regardless, now I had the app. I had pushed my feelings of foolishness aside and was ready to get started.
After successfully logging in, I was taken to a mostly blank view.
The first screen of the app is a sign-in screen. Having created my account when I preordered, which was a long time ago, I was thrilled to find a Linquet login in 1Password. Otherwise I would have had no clue. After successfully logging in, I was taken to a mostly blank view. There were a few icons at the top and my best guess was to tap the + to add my Linquet. After doing so, an animation popped up indicating I needed to hold the button on the Linquet to turn it on, which I did after dismissing the animation.
Within a few seconds, my Linquet appeared in the previously blank view with a spinner to the left of it. The view was empty before and now my Linquet was showing up. Tapping on the Linquet pulled up a detail view with various bits of information, including a cell that said "Linquet already connected". I took these to mean that my Linquet was now connected to my phone.
The Linquet app is bad in every way. Bad design. Bad implementation of the bad design. Buggy, confusing, frustrating, insecure kind of bad. As best as I can tell, Linquet asked a bad Android designer to design an iOS app.
Choppy images throughout the app, elements that overlap each other, tappable cells that do nothing, an inconsistent navigation bar, confusing lists... nothing about this app makes it enjoyable to use. I could rip through the app view by view, but the bottom line is the app needs to be completely redesigned.
The app needs to be completely redesigned.
In terms of functionality, my Linquets would appear in the app for a few minutes, but then suddenly disappear. The features for interacting with the Linquet appeared to work, but inconsistently. To Linquet's credit, they try hard to solicit helpful feedback.
They fully acknowledge the product has kinks to be worked out. They encourage users to send them helpful feedback and bug reports, offering 1 month of free service for every helpful piece of feedback they submit. So I started writing up my bugs. I sent them an email with 15 bugs total. They responded in about an hour thanking me for my feedback and letting me know that they would pass the feedback on to their technical team.
It wasn't long after that both of my Linquets starting going off. I pressed the button on each Linquet to silence them. A minute later, they started going off again... and again, and again. They wouldn't stop. They wouldn't shut up. Per the instructions on their quick-start card, I held the button down on each for 8 seconds until they turned off fully, but now I had a new problem. Neither of them would turn back on. I reached out to support again. The tone of the email seemed slightly less friendly this time:
We assume you've already all the steps mentioned in our FAQ section, please try them in the following order...
Of course, I hadn't tried their steps yet because nothing in the FAQ covers Linquets that won't turn back on after be powered off. Regardless, I followed their steps (which involved removing and reinserting the batteries) and it worked. My Linquets came back on.
The next day their support got back with me regarding my first email with the list of bugs. They said it sounded like my Linquets had not properly linked to the app and provided the following instructions:
- log out of your app
- reboot your phone
- log-in to your app
After these steps I could try linking the Linquets again. I did, and their support was right, this fixed a few of the bugs I had reported. The Linquets stopped disappearing from the app after a couple of minutes. Features that previously didn't work, or worked inconsistently, started behaving more as expected. So I decided to leave one of the Linquets on my keychain and see how it worked throughout the week. I lasted halfway through Monday.
The Linquet seemed to become disconnected from the phone at random times and both the Linquet and my phone would start going off. This happened in meetings. This happened in an interview. Throughout the day I would be sitting in a room with a few people and hear something start beeping in my pockets. Every time this happened my phone and the Linquets were less than 2 feet apart.
I would pull my phone out of one pocket, pull my keys out of the other, set them both next to each other on a table, and explain what they were to the other people in the room while they continued to go off. By early afternoon I just had to turn the Linquet off.
There are some features that do work. If you leave a Linquet behind, the app can pull up a map showing you the location of your Linquet item the last time it was near your phone. If you're in the proximity of your Linquet and just can't find it, the app has the option to set off an alarm on any of your Linquets so you can hunt around and hopefully track down the source of the beeping. Similarly, by holding down the button on your Linquet for 2 seconds, you can set off a notification on your phone.
There are a couple of other neat ideas that Linquet has implemented, but that didn't seem to work very well. Each Linquet can report the temperature, which I've wished my phone could do on a number of occassions, but when I looked, my two Linquets' readings were 13 degrees Fahrenheit apart, making it a pretty rough approximation.
You can also use the Linquets as a remote trigger to take a picture, though you have to be in Linquets app and there's a bit of a delay. I can see the feature coming in handy in certain scenarios, but not something I'd be likely to use on a frequent basis. With all of the additional features in mind, the false positives still make Linquet more irritating than useful. Its basic functionality works so unreliably that I would never carry it with me to make any of the other features useful.
I contacted Linquet last year asking them about the security of their products and service. They were reluctant to reveal any details, but reassured me that they followed industry standard practices. So after receiving my Linquets I checked all the basic stuff. Do they use SSL/TLS? Yup. Do they check that the SSL/TLS certificate is valid? Yup. Do they securely store user credentials? Nope.
Do they securely store user credentials? Nope.
Unfortunately Linquet appears to store your username and password in a plist file. This plist file can be ready by anybody with physical access to your unlocked device. With your username and password, a person could log in to your Linquet account and track your whereabouts; or at least the whereabouts of your Linquet.
Of course storing sensitive information this way is a big security no no. Instead they should storing your credentials in the device keychain. I can't speak to the security of Linquet's cloud service or their servers, but this mistake certainly makes me reluctant to trust them.
The concept of Linquet is great, but its delivery leaves a lot to be desired. From the confusing out-of-the-box experience, to the poorly done app, to the flaky hardware, Linquet fell short in every way possible. Even as Linquet acknowledged needing polish and asking users for feedback, it seems like it was a mistake to launch a product in this state.
Hopefully as Linquet receives feedback from users, they're able to polish what they have and make a more successful product. However, sometimes companies have good ideas that they simply aren't capable of executing well enough to make successful. I think Linquet is one of those companies.