Feature-packed security device, but not infallible. The GPS tracking means that, unlike cheaper Bluetooth devices, you're not relying upon proximity to a mobile phone. However, combining the alarm with the GPS function means that a thief is likely to have a pretty good idea of which component to remove before making a get-away.
GPS tracking doesn't rely on phones or other trackers being nearby
Combines several functions in one device
Subscription needed on top of up-front cost
Short battery life of tracking device
Easy for a thief to spot and dispose of
Vodafone's marketing team are unlikely to be keen on making the Curve Bike Light and GPS Tracker's name any longer. It's not exactly catchy as it is. A more accurate but even more long-winded description would be Vodafone Curve Bike Light, Brake Light, GPS Tracker, Alarm, and Accident Alert Device. To put it another way, you get a lot of features for your £79 / $110.
As a bike light, it's decent enough rather than outstanding. You get three modes (solid, blink, and pulsate) with a 25-lumen output, increasing to 40 lumens under braking. Small slits in the side of the light increase side-on visibility.
If you want the Curve to be more than a very pricey bike light, you'll need to pay a SIM subscription. This will set you back £3 per month for a minimum of 24 months, or £4 per month for a minimum of 12 months.
The SIM is necessary to connect to the Vodafone network, which the Curve uses to send you (and potentially others) updates on the bike's location, and warnings if you don't get up after a fall.
Getting set up with the Vodafone Curve
To get started, you'll need to pair the Curve with a smartphone (it doesn't have to be on the Vodafone network). The first Curve I was sent to review refused to pair, but the replacement linked up immediately.
The Smart App shows the Curve's location, battery health, and more. You can add more Curve trackers if you want to keep tabs on other belongings, and check their location through the same app.
There are a few quirks and foibles to get used to. For example, the screen which shows the Curve's state of charge suggested the bike light would last for "0 min" even with the battery fully charged.
On the other hand, there are some clever features. My favourite allows you to set 'zones', and receive alerts when your bike enters and leaves. I set this up to alert me by text whenever the bike left my house. Sure enough, at the start of every ride I'd get a text to confirm my bike was on the move, and another when I came home.
This is much more useful than it seems as it reduces the chance of user error. You see, to turn on the security and alarm functions of the Curve, you need to remove the light part of the device (it twists on and off). It's easy to forget to do this, and so by setting up a zone you get the security benefit of the Curve even if the light is still attached.
You'll need to take the light off to recharge it via a USB cable, and the light's battery then recharges the GPS battery. It's a neat solution which means your bike isn't more vulnerable to theft while the device is charging, as the GPS remains in place.
Finding a bike with the Vodafone Curve
So, what happens if your bike is stolen? Well, assuming you have remembered to remove the light, an in-built 107db siren sounds. I tried moving my bike with the Curve in security mode, and the alarm sounded within a few seconds of me wheeling the bike away. You can imagine false alarms if someone shifts your bike to get to theirs at a café stop, but the alarm can be turned off quickly via the app.
Assuming the thief doesn't run off and choose an easier target, the GPS should help you track your bike. This is where I'm not so sure that the Curve's multiple functions do it any favours. If I were a bike thief and the alarm didn't attract attention, my next move would be to get the tracker off the bike. While the Curve's seatpost mount tightens using an unusual hexagonal bolt, a regular Allen key will undo most seatposts, and the thief can still get away with your bike, minus the saddle and seatpost. Or assuming they have the tools to break a stout bike lock, it won't take them long to turn the Curve into a broken mess.
Some rival devices take a different approach. The Sherlock Tracker doesn't have an audible alarm, but it's hidden within the handlebar where a thief is less likely to notice it. The SeeSense Knowhere also lacks an alarm, but it's more discreet than the bulky Curve, similarly, the AlterLock we tested might be more difficult to locate.
I like the idea of having both an alarm and a GPS tracker on the bike, but would prefer them to be separate devices – a deterrent should be visible, a tracker should be hidden.
Setting this issue aside for a moment, I tested the Curve's location accuracy against an Apple AirTag (£29) and a Tile Sticker (£24.99). In a low-budget recreation of the Hunted TV show, I went on the run with my bike, with my daughter playing the role of hunter. Once every 10 minutes she tried to locate the bike using the three security devices.
In two out of five locations, the Curve found my position with great accuracy, so much so that my daughter could name the exact café I was stood outside at the second location. However, the GPS didn't give a location at the other three places. One was the ground floor of a multistorey car park, which I expected the GPS to struggle with, but the other locations were outdoors, albeit with buildings close by. Given that Curve tracker also uses wi-fi and the cellular network to find it's location if it can't get a GPS fix, I was surprised it didn't track more accurately in town.
Perhaps the device was having an off day, as the Curve also records bike rides, and infallibly showed the route I had ridden every time. However, the Apple AirTag was able to find the bike while in the high street when the Curve couldn't, and the AirTag is a fraction of the Curve's price.
My other problem with the Curve is the battery life. I'm quite happy with the light lasting 10 hours in flashing mode (Vodafone claims up to 7.5 hours), but the claimed life of tracker's battery is just 4.5 days. Go on holiday for a week, and if a thief breaks into your bike shed on day five, the Curve is no use. An Apple AirTag has a claimed battery life of a year, and the See.Sense Knowhere is claimed to last for three months.
Despite these reservations, I'd be happy to keep the Curve on my bike, and would be even more keen if I regularly left the bike locked in the street or outside an office. If the alarm and tracker elements were kept separate, with the tracker well hidden, I'd rate the Curve more highly.
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