Review: This smart luggage might not be so smart after all

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Is smart luggage a smart choice for you?(Credit: Michael Franco/Gizmag)

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If you follow the world of crowdfunding, chances are good you've heard of the Bluesmart One carry-on luggage. It raised over US$2.2 million on Indiegogo at the end of 2014 and has gotten some pretty high praise in the press since its release at the end of last year. But is the hype – and the hefty price tag – really smart for you? Gizmag got its hands on one to see.

The first thing that should be said about Bluesmart is that it is indeed a really well-made piece of luggage. The materials are premium, the zippers work as though they were recently oiled, the handle slides up smoothly and is super sturdy, and the wheels glide like a dream.

But there are plenty of premium carry-ons out there. What really sets Bluesmart One apart are its – naturally – smart features. By connecting the luggage to an app, you are able to do four primary things with it. The weigh feature lets you see how heavy your luggage is by simply picking up the handle; the location feature tracks your bag should you get separated from it; the light feature turns on a nifty blue glowing beacon on the front of the bag; and the lock feature lets you activate and deactivate a TSA-approved locking flap at the top of the bag.

The app can also be used to ensure that your bag automatically locks when you get too far from it and unlocks when you come back – a feature that worked beautifully in our tests. It can also alert you when you're about to leave your bag behind.

In our tests, these smart features all worked smoothly, although we're not sure how accurate the scale feature is. According to Bluesmart's own specs and our handy little luggage weigher, the bag comes in at 9.4 pounds, or 4.3 kilograms. Using the app to weigh an empty Bluesmart though, gave a weight of 10.2 lb (4.6 kg). When we packed it up, the app said it weighed 29.4 lb (13.3 kg), while our luggage scale said it was 25.4 (11.5 kg).

These aren't huge discrepancies, but if you're going to spend $449 on a piece of luggage based on its smart abilities, you probably want it to be as accurate as possible. Then again, airport personnel aren't really weighing carry-on bags anymore, so it's debatable just how useful this feature is in the first place.

Speaking of accuracy, the tracking feature nailed the bag's location on the second try, but the first time out, it indicated the luggage's position a few houses away. In an airport, we imagine that kind of margin of error could mean the difference between finding someone who'd taken your bag, or being just far enough away to never see your stuff again.

Lastly, in terms of smart features, the bag is supposed to be able to to charge your devices from one of two USB ports – one inside the front compartment, one on the outside – but in our tests, the ports only worked some of the time. The bag itself is charged from the external port and is supposed to contain enough power to juice up a smartphone six times.

So the smart features of the bag left us feeling smart that we hadn't paid actual money for our review sample, which will soon be on its way back to Bluesmart. What about its less-smart features?

To test out the bag's carrying capacity, we compared it to another identically-sized carry-on, and loaded them up. Our packing list included three pairs of jeans, five t-shirts, three dress shirts, five pairs of socks and underwear, a belt, a toiletries bag, an extra pair of shoes, a MacBook Pro with charger, and an iPad.

In the first bag, everything fit. It was snug, but there was no issue packing it all in. With the Bluesmart One, we could only manage to fit the clothes. The toiletry bag and extra pair of shoes didn't make it. That's because the Bluesmart bag gives over a hefty amount of space to the laptop and tablet storage compartment at the front.

While it's a very nicely padded and protected compartment that allows easy access at airport security checks, it does mean that instead of a two-sided bag, like most carry-ons, you wind up with only one side to store your clothes. To fit as much in as possible, we crammed our socks, underwear and three t-shirts into the laptop compartment, but this was an impractical move, as it interfered with getting the laptop in and out. So really, we would have left those items behind as well.

So the bag is clearly not a luggage replacement, but more of an enhanced rolling briefcase. If you were traveling with it and a large backpack or duffle bag, you'd likely be fine for a trip. But that brings up another issue.

If you're going to use the Bluesmart One to hold your electronics, but then you have to place it in the overhead bin on the airplane, how smart is it really? That means you either have to get your laptop and/or tablet out before you sit down (and you know how much people like waiting in the aisle while you do that), or you have to just do without on your flight.

For our traveling preferences, we'd rather get a rolling carry-on that can hold as much as possible (the one in our test cost only $100), toss in a portable battery pack and a Tile tracking device, slip a briefcase over the handle that can slide under our seats once aboard, and travel in a truly smart way.

If you disagree and want to give the Bluesmart One a try for yourself, the company does offer a 100-day money-back policy so you can get your $449 back if you're not happy. And if money's not really much of a factor in your luggage purchasing decisions, the company is now offering its Bluesmart Black edition, which upgrades the materials a bit, for US$549.

Product page: Bluesmart

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