A bit of a different product being reviewed this time, and it’s one with a very particular customer-base. The product is called “Beeline” and is a marketed as a “smart compass” for bikes, but is it really that smart and is it worth your hard earned £99?
In all honesty, the concept behind this device is incredibly simple: provide navigation to your destination, but without a designated route. This allows you to almost “adventure” your way to wherever you are going – whether it be work, the pub with your friends or riding to a family member’s house. By not providing a static and optimised route (similar to the way Google would navigate you), the Beeline provides an “in a beeline” route (more commonly referred to as “as the crow flies“) to your destination. This leaves you with a rough idea of how long it will take you to get to wherever you’re going as well as a rough idea of how far you need to go!
- Can be mounted on either your handlebar or stem
- 350mAh battery, with maximum use time of 30 hours or a standby time of 2 – 3 months
- Charges via micro USB
- Memory-in-pixel LCD screen technology (comparable to e-Ink) with 240 x 240 resolution
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Built in Accelerometer, Gyroscope & Magnetometer
- Made of silicone rubber, nylon, ABS and glass (screen)
- IP66 rated when installed on your bike!
Installing the Beeline on your bike is extremely simple. As you can see in the image below, you simply wrap the Beeline around either your handle bar or stem, using the silicone rubber strap. There are settings to vary the orientation of the device, dependent on the location in which you’ve installed it, which can all be changed via the Beeline app (iOS/Android).
Once you’re in the app, you configure the waypoints to which you’d like to cycle/your route to take. You can add as many waypoints as you like, or you can add as few as you like!
The app is very simple, showing you only the key information you require. You can see the details that will show on the Beeline’s screen (which you connect to via Bluetooth) and you can even configure what is shown on the Beeline’s screen (speedometer – based on GPS, navigation – also based on GPS, or even a clock/timer). These screen views can also be changed using one of the 4 buttons on the device itself, meaning you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket to find out how fast you’re going.
Maps/waypoints are stored “offline” and only utilise a GPS connection, therefore this device can be used anywhere in the world! As long as you’ve set your waypoints when you’ve had some degree of connection (to place the waypoints on the map), you’re set! It also means that you don’t need to keep stopping your ride, or need to have your phone in hand to work out where you’re going.
Using the Beeline
Navigation while you’re on your bike is exactly as described. The device simply points you in the direction of your next waypoint without giving you turn-by-turn navigation, therefore completely freeing up your route! Get stuck in traffic – not a problem, go another way and then head back in the general direction of your destination. This can mean your route is longer than one provided by, say, Google.
The battery in the Beeline can last for up to 30 hours if you don’t use the backlight. If you do use the backlight, the battery life drops of fairly sharply, to 10 hours. Blend both backlight and no backlight together (backlight at night, no backlight in the day?) and you can expect a maximum of 20 hours of usage. The Beeline utilises a type of LCD technology called “Memory-in-pixel”, which is commonly compared to/mistaken for e-Ink display technology. This tech is actually used in the Pebble Smartwatch, which has always received a huge amount of praise for its battery life! You can read more about the screen technology here, but to give an overview/idea:
First off, the display features a newly-developed scattering layer making it highly reflective and visible without the need for a backlight which usually accounts for about 80 percent of an LCD display’s power consumption. And secondly, like an e-ink display, the unique Memory-In-Pixel—or MIP—structure of these new LCDs allow them to display a static image indefinitely without the need for additional power. So only the portions of the display that are changing—like say the time on a smartwatch’s face—need to be updated.
So – who is this device for? Realistically, this device could be for everyone and anyone! It’s a very clever, simple design & concept and has been executed very well and installs on any bike. The Beeline doesn’t add a significant amount of bulk to your bike, it gets you to your destination without the requirement to repeatedly drop your head to follow turn-by-turn directions or have headphones plugged in to listen to those annoying “take the next left then bear right” directions.
If you’re in a city centre and aren’t the most confident rider but want to cycle to work, this device may be a good idea for you! It allows you to take the less frequently used routes/back roads, but still head in the correct direction. You can glance down at the arrow, but keep your eyes on the road in front of you and cars around you.
You don’t have to worry about when you use the device either, the IP66 rating means that rain, snow, mud, dust and dirt can become a second thought! You can still get directions in the worst of weather – I’d like to see your phone do that in such a minimalistic manner 😉