Review: BungeeAir iPhone security tether cases
You can use Apple’s Find My iPhone to locate your precious device should it go missing. But what if you want to know the moment you and your iPhone 4 or 4S become separated? That’s where Kensington’s BungeeAir line can help. I looked at two models: the $60 BungeeAir Protect, which pairs a rubbery case with a remote tether, and the $80 BungeeAir Power, which employs a battery case instead.
The Protect—that’s the one that uses only a rubbery case—wraps snugly around the iPhone. At the base of the case sits what Kensington calls the leash, which is the dongle that plugs into the iPhone’s dock connector port. (You can use the dongle without keeping it in the Protect case, but it’s far more conspicuous that way.)
The case itself is light gray, with a nice, silicon-like feel. It includes the expected cutouts for the rear camera, headphone jack, and Ring/Silent switch, though that last is a bit tougher to slide back and forth with the case on. The case provides button overlays for the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons, making those buttons a smidgen stiff to operate. All the controls are manageable with the case in place. Since the leash uses the iPhone’s dock-connector port, the case sports a Micro-USB port on its base, through which you can charge or sync the iPhone.
To work its magic, you use the Protect case in tandem with two other elements: the included keychain fob, and the free BungeeAir app. The fob and the leash connect to each other over radio frequencies. When they get too far apart, the fob warns you.
Here’s how it works: You turn on the fob with its sliding switch, and it vibrates and beeps to indicate that it’s paired with the leash. Within the BungeeAir app, you can Arm or Disarm the leash. When it’s armed, the fob starts vibrating and beeping anytime the iPhone gets too far away. By default, you get about 50 feet before the alarm sounds; if you enable the Long Range option within the app, you get about 75 feet before the fob alarm rings. (Those ranges, of course, are variable, and depend on a slew of environmental factors.)
Should your iPhone get too far from the fob, the fob starts beeping and vibrating, and also locks your iPhone if it’s still within range. Kensington urges you to use its BungeAir system in conjunction with your iPhone’s passcode lock option. (You set a passcode in Settings -> General.) That way, if you do become separated from your phone, the system automatically locks it immediately if needed.
That functionality works only if the system is Armed. Even when it’s set to Disarm, however, you can use the BungeeAir to page your iPhone by pressing one of the fob’s two buttons. One silences the fob should it start beeping; the second instructs your iPhone to start playing music—assuming you have some loaded on the device. The music will play for 15 seconds. It’s not a very secure way of finding your phone, since a rogue thief could turn down the volume even on a locked iPhone, but it’s a quick way to find your phone when calling it or using Find My iPhone aren’t easy options.
The fob has its own switch, meaning you can turn it off when traveling on an airplane or in other situations where radio signals are prohibited. From within the BungeeAir app, you can disable the radio on the leash; the other option, of course, is simply to disconnect it from the device. Should you (or someone nefarious) remove the leash from your iPhone when the fob is powered on, the fob’s alarm sounds.
The BungeeAir Power works quite similarly, with some notable differences. Chief among them is the fact that the Power can also serve as a battery case for your iPhone. The black rubber and plastic case consists of two parts: There’s the base, which your iPhone connects to via the dock connector port, and then a slim rim that snaps onto the phone afterwards. That rim provides the expected cutouts and its own buttons atop the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons; these buttons are far more responsive and tactile than the Protect’s. Getting the phone in and out of the case is simple—you slide a small switch on the bottom of the case to remove the rim. As with the BungeeAir Protect, the Power case includes a Micro-USB port for charging (both the case and your iPhone) and syncing.
A single press of the button the bottom rear of the case indicates its current charge level. Pressing and holding that button for three seconds toggles the 1500 mAh battery on and off.
The back of the Power case features two other noteworthy elements. The first is a thin slot about as tall as a credit card. Stick the included Kensington card in that slot—or, if you lose it, an actual credit card—and the case can angle your phone upright in either orientation. The second noteworthy element on the back of the case is a small speaker of its own; when you press the fob’s button to page your BungeeAir Power-clad iPhone, it beeps through that speaker in addition to playing whatever’s queued up in the Music app.
Note that just as my Honda Accord key fob won’t unlock your Honda Accord, BungeeAir fobs aren’t interchangeable and won’t interfere with one another.
They might, unfortunately, interfere with you. I found that both fobs made a faint, though audible, clicking sound. Such sounds drive me crazy. It’s quiet enough that you may not hear the sound at all in a room with ambient noise, but I certainly heard it in softer spots. I also noted that the power switch on the seemingly identical fob included with the Power case was much harder to slide than the switch on the Protect’s fob.
I like the concept of the BungeeAir system. As Kensington notes, it can serve multiple purposes: With your keys on the fob, you can use the BungeeAir app to page your fob and locate your missing keys. If your keys are in your pocket and your iPhone is not, the fob will remind you by buzzing and beeping so that you don’t forget your phone. And, of course, if someone takes your iPhone and you have the fob on your person, you’ll be alerted to that pretty quick, too.
I’d prefer if the Power’s leash would beep when the phone got separated from the fob, not just when paged. That would mean both the phone and the fob would start beeping, helping you avoid forgetting either. I thus also wish that the Protect had similar beeping functionality; merely paging or locating your phone by playing easy-to-silence music on it seems silly.
That said, it’s a clever concept and a reasonable approach. If you’re in the market for this kind of security—or keychain-finding utility—both BungeeAir systems get the job done.