$50 plus subscription
Most trackers like Tile or Chipolo communicate through Bluetooth. That’s great for battery life and size but terrible for finding your lost thing more than a room or two away. GeoZilla’s GPS tracker uses 3G service to contact you anywhere—well, almost anywhere.
If you’re prone to losing your keys or your dog is an escape artist, tracking devices sound nice. Most of them have a laughably short range, though, usually no more than a room or two. And though they boast crowdsourcing to expand that range, the truth is there aren’t enough trackers out there for the guaranteed coverage everywhere you go. Whether or not it will help is a game of luck right now. You might have lost your tracker near other people with compatible trackers, but it seems just as likely that it will be somewhere alone unable to communicate.
GeoZilla is trying to solve that with a sensible approach: a combination of GPS and 3G service. You buy the $50 hardware and subscribe to a data plan to activate the 3G service. You can choose $5 a month, $50 a year, or $99 for three years. Given that spread, three years makes the most sense. Once you have a plan, the tracker pings at set intervals so you can find your lost widget anywhere. Mostly it works well—when the app doesn’t let the hardware down at least.
Simple Effective Hardware
Generally, trackers should be small, unobtrusive, and lightweight. This GPS tracker is larger than Bluetooth trackers like Tile or Chipolo, but that’s understandable given the extra radios it contains. It’s about the size of a keyfob, though, so it will still fit in your pockets or most other places you’d want to stow it away.
The face has three buttons—one for SOS and two that don’t do anything currently. I’m not sure what they’re for, as none of the instructions or the app mentions them. Pressing the SOS button for four seconds sends a text message to chosen contacts with a google map location link, while anybody with the app installed and linked will also receive a similar notification.
It’s simple hardware, but that’s all it needs to be. Josh Hendrickson
The tracker itself has small holes for the included lanyard but won’t fit a standard keychain setup. It comes with two cases that will take care of that. The first is a hardshell case that adds to the overall bulkiness of the product. It is satisfyingly solid, though, and seems like it’ll protect the tracker form any hard drops. The other is a soft case with a belt loop, perfect for attaching to a dog collar, purse, or even a kid’s belt. The soft case also adds a loop you could connect to the included lanyard.
All in all, it’s fine hardware; the tracker is everything it’s needs to be and not an inch more. And I prefer that to something over-engineered and complicated—like the tracker’s app.
A Dual-Use App With Unnecessary Subscriptions
Unfortunately for the GPS tracker, GeoZilla’s app (available for Android and iOS) needs work. Instead of creating an entirely new app for the GPS tracker, GeoZilla folded it into the company’s existing app. Think of GeoZilla’s app as a cross-platform Find My Friends on steroids. Unfortunately, the very first thing the app greets you with on the first launch is a premium subscription offer and trial.
That premium subscription is not necessary for the GPS tracker, but that fact isn’t apparent. This premium plan is solely for the Find My Friends features. Worse yet, on iOS, the free trial the app offers auto-subscribes you into a $50 quarter plan, which works out to be $200 a year. What you can’t see here is the company also offers an $80 a year plan. These kind of dark patterns aren’t a great look.
Oddly, on the Android side of things, you do get similar unnecessary Premium offers, but strangely the cost is different. Whether you pay monthly or yearly, it works out to $50 a year. It seems strange they charge a different price based on platforms. But none of that matters, because once again, these premium features aren’t necessary for the GPS tracker. They don’t do anything at all for the GPS tracker.
Once you get past all that, the app works mostly as you’d expect. You can set up geofencing spots and create triggers to notify you when the GPS tracker passes into or out of the area. The app shows a familiar map showing where you are (from your phone’s location) and where the GPS tracker is.
An App That Works, Except When It Doesn’t
I’m even pleased to say the GPS tracker is more accurate than my phone. Generally, the app showed my phone at a location three homes away. But, the GPS tracker not only pinged to my home, when I zoomed in it accurately pinned to the correct portion of my house. It was surprisingly spot-on.
Among the tests I did, I strapped the GPS tracker into my son’s backpack. As the bus traveled, it usually pinged me when it passed through the halfway point where I create a geofence. And it always pinged me when he arrived at school.
That accuracy came in handy when I drove to the school to pick up my son. He was at an after school event, and I wasn’t sure which of the three buildings he was in at the school complex. The tracker pinpointed him to the degree that I even knew what entrance to use to get to the right class.
The downfall of using the GPS tracker this way is battery life and frequency of pings. To maximize battery life, I set the GPS tracker to update its location every five minutes. That means I don’t always get notified when the bus travels through my halfway point geofence. It simply passes through too quickly. Still, every five minutes is enough to find lost keys, or perhaps even a lost dog.
With that five-minute interval setting, I get about two days’ worth of use out of the tracker before I have to recharge. You can increase the interval, but you’ll lose battery life for it. The app has an option to warn you when the battery is low, but for some reason, that’s not on by default. I wasn’t paying enough attention and went to track location only to find a dead device on one occasion.
Another issue is, of course, signal. The GPS tracker communicates its location over a 3G signal. If you lost it in a dead zone, then you won’t get any location updates from it (at least until someone takes it into an area with a signal).
I also ran into another major issue with the app: stability. I experience multiple crashes during my test period. And on several occasions, the app wouldn’t update the GPS tracker’s position. Despite using a five-minute interval, the app would admit it was a half-hour or more behind. There’s a handy refresh button, but it didn’t help. Usually, when this happened, I had to force close the app multiple times to get it to refresh the location.
If you’ve lost something important, those precious minutes may make a huge difference in finding it. It wasn’t very reassuring.
The Company Is Working on It
What was reassuring, on the other hand, was the company’s willingness to listen to feedback. I initially had more problems when I first started testing. I let the company know about my issues, and eventually, they updated the app to address them.
In a lot of ways, GeoZilla is in an excellent position to improve its tracker. The hardware is good, and it does the job well. The app, on the other hand, is unstable. That’s fixable, and they already seem to be hard at work at it.
Should you get a GeoZilla GPS Tracker? Yes, maybe. For $150, you’ll get the hardware and three years of service. If you travel a lot or you have pets that escape your yard routinely, GeoZilla’s tracker is farther reaching than any Bluetooth tracker you can find. And, so long as the app is working at the moment, it’s incredibly accurate. I have no doubt you’d find your lost item, so long as the battery is charged and the tracker has a signal. Just be aware of the app instability, and skip the premium subscriptions you don’t need.
$50 plus subscription
Here’s What We Like
- Small and unobtrusive
- Reasonably priced 3G subscription
- Included cases are useful
And What We Don't
- Unnecessary premium subscription offers
- App crashed or refused to update more than once
- MicroUSB instead of USB-C charging