Product Review: Vinli

Photo by Matthew Shelley.

So this is Vinli, a small, aptly sci-fi-looking little Lord Vader head that is supposed to turn my car into a vessel of wifi wizardry and connect my transportation center to the rest of my tech life.

This may just be the final frontier of smart living, and the minds behind Vinli may just have their finger on the big red button.

But what is Vinli exactly? Well, according to the folks at Vinli, it “brings an endless range of apps to your car, from safety to entertainment to onboard wifi.” We can all dig that. Vinli is meant to turn that otherwise primitive automobile that’s dragged behind for too long up into the ranks of mobile world convenience. This may just be the final frontier of smart living, and the minds behind Vinli may just have their finger on the big red button.

How does it work?

Vinli plugs into your car’s computer through its ODB-II port (Onboard Diagnostic System). If your car was manufactured after 1996, you have one. The mere mention of an ODB-II port might scare you into signing up for an advanced car tech class at the local community college, but thanks to a set of simple instructions, it can be easily found, and victory is literally within reach. Once your device is plugged in, sign up for an account through the Vinli app, name your device and wifi signal, and off you go—streaming, sending, and sharing to your heart’s delight. (Please be sure to be parked though. Crushing the wifi world during a drive is detrimental to everyone’s safety.)

Out of the box, Vinli comes equipped and ready to pair with apps that truly make the most of your ODB-II port. Information gathered here is what repair shops use to make critical (and often-mystifying) diagnoses of what’s ailing your vehicle.

Now it can be all yours. Remember to harness the power for good. Apps like Beagle can track your teen’s movements and alert you even when your smartphone is not in the car, if perhaps they venture into the forbidden zone. You’ll always know where they are, or at least where they left the car. Mile tracking is made easier through the Drive app, diagnostic and mileage saving data from Dash can help alleviate your devastating carbon footprint, and the Lock & Key app will track your car if it’s ever taken without your permission. Hopefully thieves won’t realize they need to check ODB-II ports for tracking devices any time soon. The Home Connect app can connect to your Samsung home security and smart devices (and soon Nest) to adjust the thermostat, control the lights, and lock doors. And several other apps are coming soon that will allow you to stream music through your speakers, find the best food trucks, and challenge your mileage-saving prowess.

Vinli lets you into a previously untouched landscape of data that can talk to your car like you never could.

What Can You Use It For?

For kids on a long road trip in the back seat streaming entertainment, it’s absolutely awesome. Tracking and monitoring diagnostic info for your car, as in why that pesky check engine light is on or how you can better make use of your gas, is cool. If you’re interested in keeping location tabs on your children or finding a repair shop nearby, this is for you. Want the A/C to kick on when you’re 10 minutes from home? Vinli has your back (at least as long as you’re willing to spend another $300 for the Samsung SmartThings system).

Is It Worth It?

It all sounds great, and for many people, it is. With so many competing systems vying for a piece of your smartlife pie, things are getting crowded. It’s sometimes difficult to understand just where to invest. Maybe you’re just looking for the peace of mind that comes with a little device watching over your vehicle. This is your champion. Vinli has many effective features. It lets you into a previously untouched landscape of data that can talk to your car like you never could.

Vinli is still new, and the opportunity for apps is yet to be seen. How many cotton gin and steam engine iterations lived before the most prolific versions changed the world? For many of you, that final version may already be in Vinli’s arsenal. For others, we may just have to bet $200 (plus the Vinli data plan) that it’s coming.


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