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Today, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig reviews Bluesmart, a carry-on bag with a companion smartphone app.
Bluesmart bills itself as the world’s first smart, connected luggage. It’s a compact, moderately durable four-wheeled bag with more technology than I ever thought I’d need in a carry-on — and it’s priced like a Rimowa, at $399. Here’s what you get for your (nearly) 400 bucks:
– An app-controlled digital lock
– Two USB ports for charging up gadgets
– GPS tracking with SIM coverage in 100+ countries
– Proximity alerts to notify you if you leave your bag behind
– A built-in scale
– Lost luggage recovery via Uber
First and Foremost, It’s a Bag
Size, storage and construction are by far my top priorities when shopping for a carry-on bag, so I’ll dig into those departments first. Bluesmart looked a little flimsy when I first unboxed it. It clearly isn’t designed to survive hundreds of trips, though it did just fine on a weekend jaunt from New York to San Diego.
The shell is a solid piece of plastic with a soft front compartment — I didn’t have any concerns about it tearing or getting dented. The wheels are especially thin, and I can definitely see them wearing down over time, though I didn’t have any issues on this trip. The zippers also held up, as did the locking mechanism (it’s controlled by your smartphone, or you can use the included key).
Does it fit?
Most important for a carry-on bag, Bluesmart fit in the overhead bin on each of my four United flights, including two 757s, one 737 and even an ERJ-175 regional jet (pictured above). However, based on United’s carry-on bag policy, Bluesmart is too large. The bag measures 22.4 inches high, 14.4 inches wide and 9.8 inches deep — by comparison, United’s limits are 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, so Bluesmart missed the mark in every direction. This is bad news if you’re asked to use a bag sizer before boarding, which United agents have been known to require.
Tools and Tech
Perhaps my favorite feature was the laptop storage compartment in the front. I left my backpack at home and my girlfriend and I traveled with only the Bluesmart bag (she also brought a small backpack). While it looks like you’ll have plenty of room when the bag is empty, once you load it up the inner compartment puts pressure on the front pocket, making it very difficult to slide in even a thin MacBook Air. I managed, though.
There are two USB ports — one in the front compartment (perfect for charging a phone or tablet) and a second below the handle. In total, you have 10,000 mAh of capacity, which Bluesmart says is enough to charge an iPhone six times. Also keep in mind that the battery needs to power the bag’s tech features, including the digital lock, luggage scale and GPS tracking. After charging the bag overnight (using a standard USB adapter) the app said I had 82% battery capacity remaining, enough for 24 days of regular use (without charging any gadgets).
I tried out the GPS tracking, which didn’t work very well (the bag only sends out its location periodically), and mine didn’t update at all after our departure from JFK. The built-in scale is kind of neat — it’s built into the handle — but the weight varied quite a bit, from 24 to 27 pounds, even with the same contents. The digital lock is also temperamental — my bag locked automatically a few times when it dropped the smartphone connection, even when I was only inches away. The USB charging worked as advertised, though it’ll likely take several hours to charge your smartphone.
Overall, I liked Bluesmart, and I’ll keep using it. The tech features are lost on me, unfortunately — by definition, a carry-on bag will likely always be by your side, so the locking and GPS tracking aren’t terribly useful (and they’re buggy, though I’m sure the team will work out those kinks soon). I’d love to have a checked bag with GPS tracking and a built-in scale, and as a proof of concept, Bluesmart is pretty solid.
If you’re in the market for a new bag, this is a good choice, though your $400 will probably be better spent on a Tumi or Rimowa. Be aware that Bluesmart is technically too large to be a carry-on bag on major US airlines, including American, Delta and United. You’ll be fine as long as you can avoid the bag sizer, but I’m not confident that this carry-on will hold up nearly as well once subjected to luggage handlers. If you do end up having to check the bag and your airline misplaces it, Uber will deliver it free of charge once it turns up (airlines often offer a similar service, though you’ll probably get it faster via Uber).
Update: Following this review, we received a hostile email from Bluesmart’s president, with an aggressive follow-up from the CEO. Bluesmart executives accused us of bias against their product, criticized us for “promoting competitive products” and demanded an “explanation ASAP.” They did not, however, address the issues outlined in the review, such as the faulty GPS, the temperamental self-activating lock and inconsistent weight measurement. If the Bluesmart team interacts with product reviewers in this way, we can only imagine how they treat individual customers. Therefore, we cannot recommend purchasing this product.
Update 2: In an attempt to discredit this review, the Bluesmart team quietly updated their website, changing the bag dimensions to exactly match the airline requirements we listed above. This is how the page appeared on September 30, and here it is on October 1.
Update 3: We re-measured the bag based on Bluesmart’s diagram (bottom of wheel to top of handle, widest point to widest point, deepest point to deepest point), and the dimensions matched the previous specification: 22.4 inches high, 14.4 inches wide and 9.8 inches deep. The new dimensions posted today are not accurate.
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