Breathometer personal breathalyzer review: iPhone breathalyzer fun, but prone to mistesting

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MSRP: $49.00

The Good The Breathometer's app interface makes it easy to start testing for blood-alcohol content. The color-coded graphic results also show at what time sobriety will be attained.

The Bad The design of the device allows for mistesting and germ-sharing. The app does not let you share results on social networks.

The Bottom Line The Breathometer makes for a fun party game and a potential way to meet people in bars, but its testing results should not be taken as proof of driver safety.

5.3 Overall

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The police use breathalyzers to test drivers' sobriety, so why shouldn't you have the same capability? That's the thinking behind the Breathometer, a personal breathalyzer device that determines your blood-alcohol level, showing if it's safe and legal to get behind the wheel after a night spent staring at rows of half empty bottles behind a bar or confessing your deepest desires to just-met strangers.

Actually, personal breathalyzers are not uncommon -- during a quick search on Amazon I found a variety, ranging from keyring-size to handheld models similar to the kind the police use. Breathometer's gimmick is that it turns your iPhone into a breathalyzer, putting a high-tech spin on drunkenness.

iPhone topper
The Breathometer device is small, about the size of an airplane bottle, making it easy to carry around in a pocket. A flap conceals a AAA battery, which provides enough power for 250 tests, according to the company's Web site. A hole through one corner makes it possible to attach a keychain. Another hole, near the opposite corner, glows like a bottle of Blue Curacao when the device is on. That's the breathalyzer part, where you blow out your rum-soaked breath and broken dreams.

A retractable 1/8-inch plug attaches the Breathometer to an iPhone's headphone jack. The Breathometer device seems designed for the iPhone 4 and earlier, where it will attach to the top-mounted headphone jack and line neatly up with the iPhone screen. The bottom-mounted headphone jack of the iPhone 5 makes for a clumsier fit with the Breathometer, and after the fifth Jack and coke users might find it difficult to piece the two together and use.

The Breathometer attaches an to iPhone's headphone jack. Josh Miller/CNET

Breathometer requires a free app be installed on its associated iPhone. Neither is much use without the other, just like gin and dry vermouth.

With the device attached to my iPhone, I found the app easy and intuitive to use. Once it recognized the hardware hook-up, the app showed a blue button large enough to defy double-vision. After running a test, the app displays results in equally large, color-coded graphics. Green meant I was clean and could easily read the .00 result shown in the middle of the circle. A yellow circle meant that the night was starting to get interesting, while red suggested driving would be a very bad idea, and that I had ceased to be the most fascinating person at the bar.

Popular at parties
Likely a comment on the quality of my friends, but when I pulled the Breathometer out at a bar, all were eager to give it a try. I had earlier attached it to my iPhone, launched the app, and breathed, as the app suggested, for five seconds into the glowing, blue ring. The result, .00 and green, proved the baseline accuracy and hinted at a lack of real spice in my life.

After a whiskey and a beer chaser, I waited Breathometer's suggested 20 minutes and gave it a blow. The result, .03 and a warning yellow ring seemed to comport with my alcohol intake. A friend who got an earlier start gave it a run, blowing a .06, again seeming to be in line with the amount of drinks drunk.

The resulting data includes what time you would be sober if you stopped drinking then and there. At .06, according to Breathometer, it would require four hours of sitting around and realizing that your drunk friends are all rather boring before the demon alcohol had left your system.

The Activity menu item shows your history of drunkenness. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

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