On its Web site, Breathometer asserts that it is FDA-registered and boasts an accuracy of plus or minus 0.01 percent blood-alcohol content at 0.02 percent blood-alcohol content.
However, knowing how I was supposed to use it, I figured out how to trick the Breathometer as well to show a high blood-alcohol content. Being that it was the middle of the day and I didn't want everyone around the office to smell booze on my breath, I got CNET's product photographer, Josh Miller, to take a swig of Irish whiskey, swish it around in his mouth, then forcefully blow into the Breathometer.
The result was an impressive red ring and .20 alcohol content, meaning he was technically dead.
Further in my extensive testing of Breathometer, I gave it a try after about five drinks, just when I was starting to lose count, and got a .05 result. I was actually feeling pretty buzzed at that point, and wouldn't have gotten behind the wheel even though Breathometer said I was legal. I suspected that I didn't breathe enough of my alcohol-sodden breath into it during the testing, but there was no alert from the device to suggest it had not gotten a good reading.
As Breathometer does not have a replaceable, sterile plastic nozzle in its breathing hole, as professional breathalyzers do, germophobes will shy away from taking part in the testing, especially after seeing the device covered in the breath, perspiration, and saliva of the crowd down the bar.
If you're relatively sober, you can find the menu icon in the upper corner and discover a few more options available in the app. The Activity item brings up a history of test results, so you can relive that night you got epically drunk. The Call a Cab menu item uses your location to bring up a list of cab companies from Yelp. When I tried this option in San Francisco, it showed five results for cab companies I had never heard of. I assume it merely grabs the first five from Yelp's search results. It would do better to show the five top-rated cab companies.
I was a bit disappointed with the Tell a Friend menu item. It gave me options for sending a text or an e-mail, or posting to Facebook. I expected it would let me impress my friends and disappoint my family by sharing my scientifically confirmed inebriation with the world. Instead, it merely worked as a marketing tool for Breathometer, recommending this wonderful device to all and sundry.
No proof of sobriety
At $49, the Breathometer rings up a bit higher than many stand-alone breathalyzers but comes in substantially cheaper than the only other smartphone-connected breathalyzer CNET has looked at, the BACtrack. The BACtrack is a larger device, but it includes replaceable nozzles to prevent germ-sharing and can post results to social media.
Because the Breathometer's design does not ensure uniform testing, I would not recommend it as a means of determining if you are safe to drive. More inebriated folks tend to lose some hand-eye coordination, so are less likely to breathe directly into the Breathometer device, skewing the results.
However, it proved very popular when I showed it to a number of alcohol enthusiasts. As a party piece, it is a fun conversation starter and should also get people thinking about the dangers of drunk driving.