Weather apps are a dime a dozen, but what do you use when you want to know the exact temperature where you are right now? That’s the question that drove app company Robocat to make Thermodo, a small thermometer that plugs directly into a smartphone’s headphone jack.
Works With: iPhone, Android phones
What makes Thermodo incredibly unique is the overwhelming amount of support it received on Kickstarter last year. The project raised over 10 times its original goal of $35,000. People clearly loved the idea of a portable thermometer for the iPhone, as over $336,000 has been pledged by backers.
Now that Thermodo is shipping and out in the wild, does it live up to the all the hype?
At just 1.5-inches long and 0.4-inches wide, the Thermodo is itty bitty. It only weighs 0.2 ounces and comes attached to a keychain ring. The actual sensor and headphone jack snap out of the larger capsule. The build quality is sturdy, so no need to worry about it getting banged up alongside all your keys.
The Thermodo itself is a pretty basic temperature sensor built into an audio jack. Since it sends the temperature info through an audio signal, you’ll need to unplug the sensor before talking a call or playing music.
What makes the hardware cool is how it interfaces with the free companion app. You can see live readouts of the current temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit. A recently-added history feature lets you look back at your past readouts.
There’s a Thermodo app in the Google Play store, so the device also works on most of the popular Android phones out there.
The sensor is far from perfect
I found Thermodo to be pretty accurate most of the time, but the sensor is far from perfect. A mere touch from your hand can cause the temperature to spike or drop rapidly. Heat from the iPhone itself can also be an issue, and that’s why Robocat has included some manual adjustments in the app.
You have the option of toggling between “regular,” “warm,” and “custom” device heat. It’s hard to judge what qualifies as “regular” or “warm,” but I found that keeping the setting on warm usually got the most accurate results.
To help compensate for varying device heat, Robocat recommends using an audio extension cable to physically separate the Thermodo from the smartphone. I found that using a cable provided more consistently accurate readouts, but the obvious tradeoff is that you have to deal with the bulk of carrying an extra cable.
In terms of how quick the Thermodo is at getting the temperature, most readouts only took a few seconds. My app got hung on the loading screen once or twice, but a quick replug of the sensor fixed the problem.
Room for improvement
Since the Thermodo sits so close to the iPhone by design, it also doesn’t work with pretty every case imaginable. When you’re out in the wilderness, that could make taking off an Otterbox quite a pain. Since the extension cable is necessary for so many circumstances, I think Robocat should include one with each Thermodo purchase.
My biggest qualm with the Thermodo is that it only reads the temperature. I can see it being a lot more useful for more people when sensors are added for things like humidity and air quality.
Robocat has a couple of successful weather apps already in the App Store, so they clearly have a passion for the market. It’s amazing to see how a small group of app developers in Denmark successfully made and shipped a piece of hardware like this, but I’d like to see something more ambitious down the road.
I couldn’t think of many scenarios where the Thermodo would prove useful in my everyday life
Admittedly, I couldn’t think of many scenarios where the Thermodo would prove useful in my everyday life. I don’t frequently climb snow-laden peaks or deal with other circumstances where a portable thermometer would be handy. But for those that do, I can’t think of a better accessory to put on their keychain.
The Thermodo is available in black or white-coated aluminum for $30. An anodized aluminum version sells for $45, which I wouldn’t recommend unless you just feel like splurging.
As a Kickstarter success story, the Thermodo is unequivocally amazing. In actual use case scenarios, it’s a cool gizmo that most people don’t have a use for.
The Good: Cool idea. Works as advertised. Nice companion app. Very portable.
The Bad: Sensor can be unreliable. Extension cable not included with purchase. Doesn’t work with cases.
The Verdict: Not a bad gadget to have on your next wilderness expedition.
Buy from: Robocat