Every day as I head out the door, I peek inside my handbag and do a quick visual checklist. Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. iPhone? Che…er, where’d my phone go? That, inevitably, sparks a frantic room-to-room dash as I try to retrace my steps and recall where I put my phone down. Is it still on my iHome alarm dock? On the kitchen table? Shoved between the couch cushions? Inside my closet? Ugh.
I know I’m not alone on this one—I’m willing to bet that you misplace your phone at least once a day, too. You put your phone down for just one second, and then poof! It’s gone. Save yourself a few minutes of panic and install Marco Polo, an iOS app that responds to your voice to help you find your phone faster.
Remember the classic pool game, Marco Polo? This app works exactly like that. You shout “Marco!” when you can’t find your phone, and your phone will shout back “Polo!” All you have to do is allow the app to access your iPhone’s microphone and leave it running in the background, and it will always listen for your cry for help.
Marco Polo gives you a few different customizable options. To start, pick your response voice. The app has 30 different “Polo” voices to choose from. If you don’t want to shout “Marco,” you can change the input phrase and shout anything else you want—a lengthy string of curse words, perhaps. (Mine now responds to “Accio iPhone!” in case anyone was wondering.) Unfortunately, it can only respond with “Polo,” no matter what phrase you’re yelling.
You can also turn on push notifications, which will light up your screen when you yell to make it easier to find your phone in the dark. A super handy feature is the app’s volume boost, which makes the “Polo” response super loud.
Marco Polo is truly a “set it and forget it” app: Once you set it up, it’s good to go. It will respond to your shouts when your phone is muted or asleep, and it works completely offline—it doesn’t require Wi-Fi or a data connection at all. The only requirement is your voice.
I do have a couple of gripes with this otherwise hilariously clever utility. For one, it is kind of a battery killer. The app does have a control that lets you toggle off the listening feature, which renders it useless, but keeps it from draining precious battery life. So you could, for example, turn it off at night when you’re asleep, or when your phone is safely tucked away in a travel bag, but then you have to remember to turn it back on later.
Its response can be temperamental at times as well. Sometimes, it will randomly shout “Polo!” at me without my preemptive cry for help, typically when I raise my voice to respond to someone else. I’ve also found that it responds more accurately to harsh commands and voice inflection—a demanding “MARCO!” versus a more inquisitive “Marco?” makes all the difference.
Despite its quirks, Marco Polo is a helpful little app that actually feels more like a game. Though you might feel a little silly shouting at your phone for help, the app typically responds almost instantly. Who knew losing your iPhone could actually be kind of fun?
Marco Polo is available now in the App Store for $1.
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