With each passing year, Bluetooth finds its way into more products which never seemed to need Bluetooth before. Sometimes Bluetooth functionality is beneficial, or downright innovative. Other times, we’re left wondering what the point is. Vicks has introduced its SmartTemp Wireless Smartphone Thermometer ($25), a Bluetooth body temperature thermometer which requires a smartphone and the company’s free app to take readings. The app does more than that, of course — it can set up individualized profiles for family members, save a history of temperature readings, and set up reminders for the last reading or dosage. SmartTemp takes its readings in 8 seconds, which isn’t the slowest thermometer out there, but it’s certainly not the quickest, either. Vicks claims the thermometer has “professional accuracy” as with its other, non-Bluetooth thermometers.
SmartTemp is 4.5” long, which is pretty much standard thermometer size. There’s no actual screen to read the temperature on the thermometer itself — that’s done on the app — all you see is a glowing light that only tells you if the device is on and connected, or that a reading is being taken. A small power button is located on top of the thermometer, and the tip of the thermometer is flexible, which is nice. Like many digital thermometers, SmartTemp can be used orally, under the arm, or rectally. Our professional advice is to pick one method and stick with it…especially if you’re opting to use it as a rectal thermometer. An inexpensive CR2032 coin cell battery is used to power SmartTemp, and it can be swapped out on the back of the thermometer. A plastic cap is also included for storage.
SmartTemp’s app is the biggest reason to buy the thermometer — it has to be, considering you can get quick readings directly on competing thermometers. The app’s history feature stores the last readings taken by the thermometer, either as one list, or by family member. Users can store temperatures for weeks, months, or years, though that likely won’t be necessary to most people. You can also add notes, or symptom and medication info to each reading. Other useful options include the ability to set reminders for temperature readings, and to check the thermometer’s battery life from within the app.
The most important factors with any thermometer, however, are accuracy and ease of use. While adults may find SmartTemp easy to use, those with kids may prefer a different, quicker thermometer. (We got a number of “invalid measurement” readings when SmartTemp was tested on a 3-year-old.) In our experience, using SmartTemp orally got us the best readings. When compared to a more expensive ear thermometer, SmartTemp’s oral readings were within .1 to .3 degrees Fahrenheit. The underarm temperature readings appeared off by comparison. As we didn’t test rectally, we’d recommend it for oral use. One welcome touch is that you can take temperature readings while the app is closed, and once the app is re-opened, it will alert users to any new readings taken during that time. Note that the thermometer turns off on its own after a few minutes of non-use.
SmartTemp is an interesting case. We don’t think most people need these extra app features, and some thermometers already store a number of previous readings. Also, while some may understand why Vicks wouldn’t include a simple screen for temperature readings, it does seem a bit silly. We think that most users would be better off with a cheaper standard thermometer or an ear thermometer — SmartTemp is near the price range of lower-end ear and forehead thermometers. Not to mention that SmartTemp creates an extra step of sorts — you have to have a connected iPhone nearby to actually see the readings, and sick people don’t always want to deal with extra steps, needless to say.
That being said, if you’re comfortable using the thermometer orally and don’t mind using an iPhone for readings, the added features may provide some value to specific users — mainly, adults who frequently have to take body temperature readings, or families with multiple children (though probably not very young children). SmartTemp could also find use as a travel thermometer. Vicks’ Bluetooth thermometer won’t be for everyone, but it’s intriguing enough to earn our limited recommendation.
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Compatible: iOS 7.0-or later iPads, iPhones, iPod touches