If you need to keep track of somebody you love — kids, elderly parents, pets — you can usually do it via a smartphone. But if they don’t have one, you can do it with a device such as the Geozilla GPS tracker.
The Geozilla is a small black gadget with white trim that measures 1.8 x 1.6 x 0.7 inches and weighs about an ounce. Three small LED lights on the front indicate power and connection status; it’s charged via a Micro USB port on the side.
The diamond-patterned front has three well-disguised buttons, but weirdly, two of those buttons have no real use. If you press the left button, it sends a message that the left button has been pressed; the same goes for the right. The center button (which is marked “SOS”) can send an emergency text alert to a predetermined number. So, for example, your child can use it to send a quick text that they need help.
The tracker costs $49.99. To use it, you need to subscribe to a data plan for $4.99 per month, $49.99 annually, or $99.99 for a three-year subscription. With any of the plans, you get the first month free along with a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you time to try it out. The device comes with a small soft case, which can be hooked onto a lanyard or a backpack, and a hard case that can be used for a pet or for any more possibly damaging circumstances.
The tracker works in concert with a free Geozilla app (iOS or Android), which started as an independent tracking tool. While it can still be used on its own, it now also works with the Geozilla tracker.
The Geozilla app uses Google Maps to show your location, that of the tracker, and of everyone else who is included in your “circle” of family or friends. The tracker will ping your phone for set intervals, ranging from every five minutes to every 30 minutes, letting you know its location. You can also set the app to alert you if the tracker leaves a specific area within a circle with a diameter measuring from 500 feet to three miles. So, for example, you can label separate areas for home, work, or school and have the tracker notify you when it leaves or enters those areas.
Setting up the tracker takes a little preparation. First, you need to create an account. During that process, you’ll be faced with a full-page ad urging you to purchase a premium subscription. In fact (and rather annoyingly), the app makes it difficult to figure out how to get past that page and set up a free account. You need to either close the premium offer via the arrow at the top left corner (for iOS), search for the text that says “Continue with limited version” (for Android), or if you don’t see either, hit your back button.
You then need to associate the app with the tracker using an ID number on the back of the device. Geozilla has a responsive support team, which is a good thing since I had a bit of trouble associating my tracker with the app. I had inadvertently registered with a typo in my email, and after that, it was impossible to re-register the device or reset it from my end. After several days of back-and-forth, the support tech gave the device a new ID, and that fixed the issue.
You are also advised to have the tracker sit outside for about 15 minutes in order to make sure the GPS works properly.
Once all that was accomplished, I found that the Geozilla tracker worked pretty much as promised. I created a 500-foot area around both my home and my workplace, and the app notified me every time it was carried outside or back inside those areas. When I pressed the SOS button for a couple of seconds, the tracker beeped, a blue LED lit for a moment, and about 15 seconds later, I received an alert on my phone. You can also send an emergency alert directly through the app.
There are a few other features that you can use the app for, depending on whether you are using the free version or the premium, which costs $79.99 annually or $49.99 quarterly. The premium version will allow you to retain three weeks of location history. (Google Maps retains several years of history.) You can also create to-do lists and generate weekly driving reports that will tell you if a driver is speeding or using their cellphone — something that may be useful for the parents of new drivers. Unfortunately, if you want to try out the premium version of the app, you only get a three-day trial until you’re charged for the service.
So how useful is this device? To be honest, there is little, if anything, that the Geozilla GPS tracker does that can’t be done already by a smartphone. If you want to track the movements of a friend or relation, Google Maps does it as well and keeps the data for longer (which may be an advantage or disadvantage, based on your point of view). If you want to send an emergency alert to friends or family, there are iPhone and Android apps that will provide that service as well.
However, there are some situations where the Geozilla could be very useful. If you want to track someone who may not be able or willing to use a smartphone — a young child, a pet, or a relative with Alzheimer’s — then a device like the Geozilla could work for you. It could also be useful to keep in a family car so you can always know where the vehicle is (and if it’s being driven properly). The device is lightweight, easy to carry, and lasts at least three to four days on a charge. And the presence of the emergency button makes it easier for someone to get help than having to fiddle with a phone while you’re in a possibly dangerous situation.
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