Health-App-Compatible Kinsa Smart Stick Thermometer Review

While surveying the iOS health device monitoring landscape, I came across an inexpensive and somewhat compelling body temperature thermometer from Kinsa. Called the Smart Stick Thermometer ($19.99), this non-Bluetooth-enabled device uses the audio port on pre-iPhone 7 iOS devices to capture and record temperature.

Related: How to Sync Fitbit (Jawbone Up, Misfit, & Withings) to the Apple Health App

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Before using the thermometer, users must first download the Kinsa Smart Stick Thermometer & Health Tracker app. Run the app and calibrate the thermometer by plugging it into the phone or tablet's headphone jack via a separate audio adapter included in the package. The calibration process only needs to be performed once and takes just a few seconds to complete.

The device itself is somewhat similar to the standard thermometers sold in pharmacies. In order to accommodate the audio cable that attaches to the rear of the unit, the Smart Stick Thermometer has a somewhat flimsy base. Of course, this can be a benefit of sorts if your patient happens to be a child who may not be cognizant of the potential injury caused by sticking solid pointed objects in their mouths (or elsewhere). This coincides with the app itself, which includes icons of Sesame Street characters used to identify the user and condition of the patient.

Once calibrated, remove the calibration plug and reconnect the Smart Stick Thermometer with the standard headphone cable extender included in the package. Select the intended method with which to record the reading (oral, underarm, or rectal) and your temperature will be displayed in a few seconds. This value is then stored within the app and can be optionally synced to the Apple Health app's temperature history. Unfortunately, this sync is one-way only, so if you happen to remove the Kinsa app and reinstall it, the app can't restore temperature history from Apple Health's app. That is not a big concern since the data is already stored elsewhere (and backed up to iCloud if enabled).

The Kinsa app also asks for location permission to help crowdsource geographic body temperature details for community illness monitoring purposes. It's an interesting concept, though one likely not to be too useful unless a large population of other Smart Thermometer users live in the same community and are willing to also share their location and temperature readings.

While I like the novelty of the Smart Stick, I kept thinking it might be easier to buy an inexpensive thermometer at the local pharmacy and record readings into Apple Numbers instead. Since the Smart Stick does not contain a battery or display, its readings can only be captured and viewed on an iOS (or Android) phone or tablet with a headphone jack. For what it does, the Smart Stick is useful in that it makes temperature capture easy and may even help briefly preoccupy a child who is not feeling well. However, its lifetime usefulness may be limited now that Apple has removed the headphone jack on new iPhones. Kinsa has stated that it is working on a new model that will be Bluetooth enabled, but it does not yet have any release dates to share. Coupled with the fact that the Smart Stick Thermometer does not do much more than a standard "dumb" thermometer, it might be best to hold off on the current generation until Kinsa reveals what it has in store to make its product even smarter. Personally, I would like to see the thermometer capture additional measurement statistics if possible, like saliva acidity, halitosis levels, and temperature-monitored ovulation cycle estimates. Until then, the current model is best for those who have an older iPhone and really prefer to include as much of their health statistics in Apple's Health app as they currently can.


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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.