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Should a pocket breathalyser be your drinking buddy?

Amber Bouman | July 3, 2014
Drinking and driving is obviously a terrible idea. But are pocket-sized, smartphone-connected breathalyzers a good way to tell if you're too buzzed, or just a silly toy that will make your friends drink more?

When you see Ready on the app's homepage, you can tap the owl to begin taking a reading. The app counts down, then will tell you to blow into the blue LED lights on the breathing ports until the device vibrates. It calculates the results then displays your BAC, the time, and the result on a graph.

A pop-up box over the BAC tells you what your reading means; tapping on the graphed result allows you to add a note to the reading. Tapping the alarm clock icon will set a timer for the 15 minute wait period required before you can take a BAC reading.

Smartphone Breathalyzer Tip #3: All breathalyzers require you to wait 15 to 20 minutes after eating, drinking, or smoking in order to take a reading. The sensors in the breathalyzers measure your BAC by taking the amount of ethanol in your breath--and since ethanol tends to linger in the mouth and throat, results will skew abnormally high if you don't wait. However, because your body can take 30 to 60 minutes to process alcohol, readings done 30 minutes after drinking can be much higher than readings done after the 15-minute wait period.

This 15-minute wait period is annoying during sober testing, but it's even more of a challenge after a few rounds when you're inclined to reach for your glass or a snack without thinking about it. While it wasn't impossible to keep the Test Group in line, using the devices more casually out in the field resulted in dozens of obviously incorrect readings because no one was adhering to the wait period.

In addition to providing you with a reading, and a graphed result, the app will let you set a "SmartLine" on the graph to indicate your BAC goal. While it's neat to see the graph, I wouldn't have minded a way to graph my friends results versus my own, or a landscape mode, or even the ability to see more than one day at a time. However, the option to grab an Uber, Lyft, or taxi from within the app is a really nice inclusion--a map feature also shows restaurants within walking distance. Alcohoot will even ping you the morning after drinking activity, so you can report back on how you're feeling.

The Frozen Daquri: the Breathometer

A frozen daquri is made with a lot of slushy ice; the Breathometer is made with slushy data results.

The Breathometer is the smallest of the three devices we tested; like the Alcohoot, it works via a 3.5mm jack that despite being "extra long" did not fit through any of the cases I had for my phones (an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 5s). Smooth black plastic, the Breathometer features the breathing port in the upper left; like the Alcohoot the port glows blue when the device is ready. It weighs less than a full ounce and is the only Breathalyzer we tested that doesn't use a mouthpiece--you simply place your mouth near the port and blow into it.


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