React Mobile Sidekick – Hands-on ReviewBy - 02/20/2016
This isn’t my first rodeo with the React Mobile Sidekick. I tried v1 last year, and I liked it. But it had one minor problem – connectivity. The Sidekick is a wearable panic button that connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth. In the past, turning your phone’s Bluetooth on or off would disrupt the connection, but no more. The latest Sidekick features improved connectivity, improved performance, and new color options (Red, Green, Black or White). Improvements plus moving beyond pre-sales means that the device is slightly more expensive than it was last year, but at $79.99, it may yet be a steal.
How it Works
The Sidekick is a small device that you can clip to your clothing or bag. It pairs with your smartphone – iPhone 4s and newer or Android phones with LE Bluetooth 4.0. – using Bluetooth and has two primary safety features. The first is called “Follow-Me”, a mode which lets you share your location with your trusted circle. If you are taking a run or plan to walk somewhere you don’t feel comfortable being alone, this is the feature for you. The second is panic mode, aka “Help-Me” mode. By pushing the button on the face of the device, you can bypass app usage and head straight to “Help Me” mode. An alert can be sent to all of your emergency contacts with a link to your exact GPS location. Also, if you choose, React can dial the local authorities, 9-1-1, or even post to Facebook and Twitter.
All of this happens automagically, so long as you and the device remain within 30 feet of your phone. And for added kicks, Sidekick is water-resistant and offers a 1 year battery life.
Setting Up, Specs, and Using the React Mobile Sidekick
To be fair, setup was extra easy for me because I’m a current Sidekick user and both v1 and v2 use the same app. To setup Sidekick v2, I unboxed the device and paired it to my smartphone through Bluetooth. However, if you have a new device, you will first turn on your phone’s Bluetooth, select “Setup Sidekick Device” from the mobile app, and then select “Pair Sidekick Device”. The setup process takes minutes.
Once set up, you are ready to use the device. While it’s fairly easy to press the button in a panic, setting up “Follow-Me” mode takes a little more finesse and it isn’t always a graceful process. My most recent “Follow-Me” endeavor played out like this: Sent random request for a follow. Waited. Nothing happened. Skyped friend to check his phone for my request, friend wrote back said he already accepted my request to be followed. Checked Sidekick. Sidekick still said request “pending”. At this point in time I had two choices:
1. Trust my friend and assume Sidekick was protecting me.
2. Annoy my friend and demand that he accept my tech support expertise.
I decided to assume option 1. So as a test, I hit the panic button, which swiftly changed my status from “Follow-Me” to Help-Me. Then I waited. And waited. And then I texted my friend.
Me, “What does it say now?”
Friend, “Can I screenshot it and text it to you?”
React worked worked perfectly. The screenshot he sent clearly showed that I had requested to be followed and then requested help. It included a link to my exact location and everything was as it should be. That’s when I had a Déjà vu moment, because I was where I was when I tested the device last year. If I had followed my own advice, I would have realized that the biggest obstacle in using React Mobile’s Sidekick isn’t the technology, it’s making sure that the person on the other end understands what’s happening and how to handle it. My advice to you is to practice with those you place in your trusted circle. Make sure they know what a “follow-me” request looks like, how to handle a request, and how to handle and recognize a “help me” request. With your team on fleek, you will be protected.
Tips for call 9-1-1
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Sidekick is the ability to call 9-1-1. There are similar devices on the market, but I do not know of another that can do this. However, it’s not as simple as it seems.
I truly wanted to test this feature for you. I even got permission from my local emergency dispatch team to do a test call. I set up my camera, opened the app, and realized that you can’t change the preset emergency number from anything other than 9-1-1 or other country specific emergency options. However, when I first got Sidekick, I pressed the panic button without realizing it was automatically setup to call 9-1-1. Thankfully, I hung up before they sent in a swat team – saving myself from major drama and embarrassment, but at least I can say it works. I pressed the button and my phone called 9-1-1.
The catch to all of this is that not all 9-1-1 calls are created equal. If you press the Sidekick button, your phone will call for help. But if the emergency responders don’t hear anything on the other end of the call, they may not treat the call like a real emergency. Yell for help and yell out your location if you can. Make sure they can hear you. Make sure they know you need help.
React Mobile Sidekick Gotcha and Final Thoughts
When I tested last year, Sidekick nailed performance on every feature less staying paired via Bluetooth and notifying me when the Bluetooth connection was lost. With the updates in place, it now stays connected even when I turn my phone’s Bluetooth on or off. However, I’m still not getting a notification of lost connection. While I’m not sure this was ever a promised feature, it doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. If I’m relying on a device to protect me, I want to know when it isn’t properly connected to do so. My suggestion to avoid this gotcha is to always check your connection. If you plan to use the device, open up the app, and make sure your phone and device are successfully paired.
While using Follow-Me can be a bit cumbersome, knowing that I can press a button for help is comforting at the oddest times. React needs to clean up their app to make it even more user-friendly, but they have a good device and it works. I’ve gifted one to my niece and to my REALTOR. Yes, I trust it enough to protect people that I love.