True to its name, the $59.99 Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer is just like a standard thermometer, only smarter. You can use it to quickly and accurately read in-ear temperature, which appears on the built-in display. Hook it up to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and it provides real-time medical guidance based on your temperature, age, and symptoms. Better yet, it shows nearby illnesses reported by other Kinsa users, which helps you determine whether it's time to take some ibuprofen, or call the doctor.
Design and Features
Made of BPA- and latex-free blue plastic with white trim, the Kinsa measures 5.9 by 1.8 by 1.0 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.0 ounces with batteries installed. It uses two standard AAA batteries, which come in the box. You install them by sliding open a compartment on the bottom, where you'll also find a toggle for Celsius or Fahrenheit measurements.
On the top half, you'll find a 1.2-by-1.0-inch monochrome screen, something you don't get with the Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer. It displays Bluetooth pairing status, battery info, and temperature, accompanied by an appropriate smiley or unsmiley face icon. Above the screen is a power button, and below is a Kinsa logo. A small Bluetooth button sits on the side, and the thermometer terminates in a flat metallic tip—this is the part that goes in the ear. It comes with a plastic protective cap that snaps over the tip.
Once in the ear, the thermometer beeps to indicate a temperature has been recorded, which takes only one second. It displays temperatures from 93.1 degrees to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, or 34 to 42.4 degrees Celsius. You can record up to 50 temperatures, which you can later sync with the Kinsa app (more on this in the next section). By comparison, the Vicks SmartTemp records 10.
The thermometer is water-resistant, but not waterproof, so you shouldn't boil or submerge it in water. However, it's OK to clean the thermometer with soap and water after each use, and dry it with a clean cloth. It should also be noted that the thermometer only works in ears. If you have a child who is sensitive to this, this might not be the thermometer for you.
Pairing, App, and Performance
To pair the thermometer with your phone, you need to download the free Kinsa app on your Android or iOS device. Once downloaded, make sure Bluetooth is enabled, open the app, and follow the prompts. I connected the thermometer to an Apple iPhone 6 in under a minute.
Once paired, you can add multiple user profiles so you can keep track of several different family members. You can enter the name, age, gender, and assign a color for each user, but there's no option to attach pictures like you get with the SmartTemp.
After taking a reading, you can open the Kinsa app to view the temperature and log symptoms, add notes, and get advice on what to do. The app takes temperature, age, and symptoms (that you select from a list) into account, and pulls treatment suggestions from Mayo Clinic and WebMD to help guide you. For example, it might tell you to take some cold medicine if you are experiencing cold symptoms with minimal fever. You can also sync your information with Apple's HealthKit.
When you take your temperature, it is transmitted to the cloud and aggregated anonymously via geo-location. This allows Kinsa to tell you if there are certain illnesses popping up nearby, which could help you get a better idea of whether you should be seeing a doctor.
Another cool feature is Groups, which is currently in beta. It allows you to search for a location nearby, like a school, and join it to share temperatures, symptoms, and notes with other users. Your can use your profile to join the group, or contribute anonymously. One thing to keep in mind is that these location-specific features depend on a number of Kinsa users nearby to gather useful information.
The Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer is fast and accurate, and the actionable health advice it provides can be very helpful. The Vicks SmartTemp is only a fraction of the price, and can be used orally, rectally, or under the arm, but it lacks a display, which makes it useless for a quick reading when your phone isn't on hand. If you have children in school, or you simply want a better idea of whether or not it's time to call the doctor, the Kinsa is a great choice.