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Thursday, October 10, 2019

The GeoZilla GPS Tracker Will Find Your Stuff Nearly Anywhere

A GeoZilla GPS tracker hanging from a backpack.
Josh Hendrickson

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

A dog hopping a fence while wearing a GPS tracker.

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.

The GeoZilla tracker, hard case, soft case, and lanyard.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

The Premium messages, showing 7 day trials, for GeoZilla services.
Really not a fan of these (unnecessary!) premium messages you can’t avoid.

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.

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