Pod – GPS Pet Tracker

When I moved to a new house, I brought my rescue dog with me.  I was worried he’d try to escape and, given this was a new area, I’d have even more trouble chasing him down.  Now, I’d heard about GPS pet trackers – devices you locked onto their collar which would return  their location – and thought I should look into them.

However, he seemed to actually settle in at the new house.  There were no escape attempts, and I could actually leave the front gate open while I worked on the bushes outside the fence, and he’d just watch and bring me the ball.  So thoughts of spending money on such a gadget faded.

Then, three months in I got a call asking if I was missing a dog.  After finding where he’d got out, and doing my best to dog proof that part of the yard, he got out again two days later.  Whether through boredom, a need to explore, or even the fact that he enjoyed meeting new people, he was escaping again.  So, I ordered what seemed to be the best GPS tracker, the Pod Tracker, and set about doing some major escape-proofing.So far, the escape-proofing has been a success, but I still had the Pod, which arrived three days after the last bout of using tools against innocent fences.  At first, I had some issues, as I hinted at in my last entry, but it looks like they were just user issues.

The Pod itself is a neat little thing, being a cylinder about 5 cm long, and about 1 1/2 cm in diameter.  It comes with two straps for fixing the Pod to your pet’s collar (one plus a spare), and a USB battery charger with spare battery.  The documentation is all online which makes sense, since the point of this is to be able to track your pet from online.

The instructions say to charge at least one battery before using the Pod, but I found that both batteries were already fully charged.

I’ll ignore my initial attempts with it and just move smoothly on to how you get started with it.  There’s an iOS App, an (currently in Beta) Android App, and a Web App.  I started with the Web App, but I’m now playing with the Android one.

The first thing to do on opening the App is go create a new account.  Once that’s done, you associate the ‘POD ID’ (essentially the IMEI of the mobile device inside it) with your pet, and you’re ready to go.

Once the device had a  mobile signal (almost instant) and GPS lock (a few minutes wait), I could pinpoint my location to within a few meters.  As with all GPS devices, the accuracy can depend on how much clutter is around and above it.

The Pod has three modes:  each corresponds to frequency of locating itself with GPS, and consequently how much battery is used.

Standby doesn’t send reports or keep the GPS lock.  However you can query the Pod to ask it to get its location from GPS and return that.  Once it has a lock it can send a few responses for location over a minute, giving a rough idea if your personal Houdini is on the move or not.  This is the lowest power mode. This will apparently give you 3-4 days of battery life – which is about what I’ve found in testing.

Perimeter (zone alerts) determines the location every 5 minutes and if it’s outside a zone you set on the map, sends you an alert to tell you that your pet is now a-wandering.  They say the battery will last 1-1.5 days in this mode which, again is what I’ve seen in testing.

Track (adventures) is for when you what to find out what your pet has been up to with high details. Every 10 seconds in stores position, speed and heading.  A full battery will last about  6-8 hours in this mode is their estimate.  I haven’t much played with this as the needed Bluetooth support (to load the data into the app) isn’t available in Android yet.

Querying and requested locations all appear to use SMS to do the job, which I guess is the easiest thing to use rather than holding open a data channel all the time.  Everything else, such as changing modes, and alerts, seem to use the 2G data.  This, however, is just a guess based on what I’ve seen.

There are three lights on the pod.  On ‘boot up’ (the first 5 minutes after you turn it on) all of the lights come on, then settle into ten second status reports, allowing you to see if it’s got mobile signal and GPS lock.  After that five minutes you can press a button to get the current status of the Pod.

So that’s all the technical stuff.  How is it to use?

Using the Pod in Practice

Let’s start with your precious pet first.  The straps that attach it to the collar are quite strong.  In fact they recommend you use a pair of pliers to help pull them through as much as possible as the fit is very tight.  I have very little worry that it will fall off.  The tapered ends allow them to start feeding through the Pod well, but after a while you will need some serious effort to tighten them.  I didn’t really need the pliers until the last few millimeters, but they were needed then.

My Terror is a small Jack Russel, and I think he’s probably the smallest animal I’d recommend this for. The main problem is that with his smaller collar, the Pod is heavier than the D-ring and tags.  Since they suggest you put the Pod on the back of the pet’s neck, this just means the whole collar rotates until the device is, in fact, at the side or lower.  I can’t really imagine this on a smaller animal.  This does seem to be the smallest and lightest GPS pet tracker out there, but even that isn’t quite small enough for some pets.

And don’t even think about putting this on your budgie.

So, once I had it on, and got used to how it worked, I settled into a routine.  When I’m at home, I usually set it to ‘Locate’ mode.  If I’m going out, I’ll set it to ‘Perimeter’ mode.  I’ve had two alarms of him escaping so far, however both of those were simply because I’d set the zone too tightly around my yard, and the vagaries of GPS means that he was outside the fence as far as the device was concerned.  Since I’ve taken that into account the only alert I’ve had was when I took him out, and forgot to change the mode.  I deserved that one.

Speaking of the ‘vagaries of GPS’, it’s probably important to realise the limitations of the GPS system.  As mentioned above, too much clutter around, or above the unit can cause it to either lose GPS lock, or for the location to be less accurate.  I have a lot of trees with large canopies in and around my yard, with only one clear spot.  A spot the Terror never sits in, of course.

There is also his kennel, which is hard up against the house, under the eaves.  Whenever he’s in there, his determined location can vary quite wildly: from being in the front yard, to being in our neighbor’s house.  In my case I had to set the zone around the house a lot ‘looser’ than I’d have liked because of those factors.  On the other hand, when he gets out, he goes for a nice long wander, so even if I doubled the size of the zone, it would still trigger if he got out.

It does seem that the GPS is far less accurate than (say) the one in my Samsung Galaxy S5, but given their respective prices, and the fact that the Pod tries to not burn through the battery long before you can get home, I can see why it has the accuracy it does.  Really, I think they’ve found a good compromise for balancing power usage, price, ruggedness and accuracy.

I also wouldn’t want to hang my S5 from the Terror’s collar.

I mentioned that the Android app is currently in beta, and of course that means there’s a few niggles there until the next release.

For a start, instead of leaving a service in the background when you hit the ‘back’ key to exit the client, it actually logs you out.  If you remember to manually push it into the background, then it will log you out due to ‘inactivity’ if you’re not checking it every couple of hours.

Other than a few minor display glitches (that I can’t reproduce reliably), the only other thing that I’d like is the bluetooth upload of tracking data.  I’m told that’s also in the next version.

A Special Note On The Battery

I should also mention changing the batteries.  The first time I tried to remove one battery to put on the other one, I couldn’t get the first one off, even after reading the hints on the website.

You turn the battery from the ‘lock’ to the ‘unlock’ position and then they say you try to ‘snap’ the battery and pod apart, as if you were snapping a pencil.  They really mean this, and if your battery is as tight as mine was you will need a lot of force the first few times.  As long as you definitely have it in the unlock position, then just keep trying to snap it until it comes apart.

The Mobile Network

The Pod uses Vodafone‘s 2G network, and Pod Trackers have a deal with Vodafone worldwide as best I can tell.  So if your country has a Vodafone network, you’re probably in a good place for this to work.

As an Australian I was more than a little nervous about this using the Vodafone network; their reputation hasn’t been that stellar over the last few years – even spawning the name ‘Vodafail’.  If you have this worry, don’t.  They’ve done some kind of deal with Optus to help pick up coverage where their own network isn’t as strong, and I’ve had good mobile signal, even in slightly ‘grey spots’  (they aren’t dead enough to be called ‘black spots’).

Customer Service

When I first got my Pod, they’d only just started sending them out from the first production runs.  Since this meant a whole lot of people got their devices all at once, it meant that Support was swamped (as you’d expect for any new device).

A few weeks later they hired a new Support Genie (Hi Tim!) and since then, the support is much quicker and smoother.  I actually got a call from Tim to discuss the issues I was having (shut up; it’s not my fault I have to make everything too complicated), and I’ve received followup emails since, to make sure that things are still OK.

So, if you’re having issues, you should now have them addressed in a reasonable time, with great, friendly service.

The Wash-up

I’m now really happy with the Pod, and feel much better about leaving my Terror alone during the day.   Once the small issues with the Android app are sorted, it should make it even easier to use, and I should go from ‘really happy’ to ‘ecstatic’.  Yes, I am that kind of geek.

About Lisa

A Geeky Gamergrrl who obsesses about the strangest things.
This entry was posted in Gadgets and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Pod – GPS Pet Tracker

  1. KazNo Gravatar says:

    Great review. I have just purchased one of these for my cat (don’t worry, we’re talking a BIIIG cat) as he has a tendency to go on “adventures”. I was concerned about the different settings and how much battery they would chew through (no good coming home and finding him gone if the battery has already run out) but your review gives me more peace of mind that some of the other settings, and a nightly battery swap, might do the trick. Looking forward to mine arriving in the mail.
    Only problem is, puss has a tendency to lose his collars too. Lost collar = lost tracker. But at the very least, this will be a great way to find those collars 🙂 He does tend to come home, eventually.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      I’m sorry I missed this comment! And thank you!

      I hope it worked out for you. I’ve since needed to find a lost puppy a couple of times, and (since the release of the new version of the app) I’ve had no problems finding him.

      And hopefully it’s still good as a lost collar finder 😉

  2. Daniel FowlerNo Gravatar says:

    Daniel

  3. NicoNo Gravatar says:

    Hi — Thanks for the review! You said that the GPS isn’t very accurate. Can you give a sense of the range of accuracy? I also have a very wooded yard and I’d be using the collar not only to track the (big) cat, but also (especially) to find the collar after she’s lost it. If the range is more than 30 feet or so, it wouldn’t be very helpful in the search. Thanks!
    Nico

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      I’m not sure if this is going to be the most helpful reply, but the accuracy ‘depends’.

      If, for example, the Terror is in his kennel (which is under the eaves of the house), then I’ve got readings up to 50 meters (about 165 feet) away. If he’s out in the yard (but under the trees), then it seems to be accurate to within about 10 meters (about 32 feet).

      Having said that, as long as he’s not in his kennel and he doesn’t move much, then the readings appear to be more accurate over time. So a lost collar might be easier to find if you give it a bit more time. But that’s a might.

      Note that all of this refer to the original Pod. I’ve only just got the 2.0 Pod (which is what they’re now selling) and haven’t had enough chance to play with it yet to see if it’s better, worse or the same.

  4. sandraNo Gravatar says:

    I bought podtrackers for both my dogs and it has been a complete disappointment as well as waste of money, most of the time it doesn´t work at all, you cant find them on the app, I have the app on my mobile as well and I just don´t use it anymore cause it has never ever worked, And sometimes when it works on the computer it gives you the location of the dog 21 hours ago, yes indeed very handy if your dog is lost. I don´t have peace at mind when I let my dogs out, i don´t feel I have any control when they are wearing the trackers for me it is exactly the same as if they are wearing nothing because I never know if that day its going to work or not. In my opinion the info they give in their website its not correct and not the real thing at all.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      Ow. That’s a horrible experience, and I’m sorry you’ve had it! I know in the early days I had a lot of the same issues. However, for me they all got fixed with the release of the new app some months ago.

      The only thing I can suggest is to talk to their support folks and maybe they can help.

      I agree, though, that their website needs a lot of work to be useful for any kind of troubleshooting!

  5. KellyNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for your review, very helpful. I have a Burmese cat and she is 4 years old. She is quite small for her breed.
    Do you think a Pod would be too heavy for her.
    We recently lost her for 6 days and as you can imagine, totally distressed.
    We eventually got her back, she just came home but was dehydrated and needed fluids at the vet.
    I am wondering how accurate this tracker would be tracking her locked inside some ones house?
    Would it pick her up if she wasn’t moving inside a locked in place?
    Would the pod be too heavy for my Burmese?
    I am terrified of loosing her again.
    I wish the pod could be a little smaller and lighter.
    Many thanks.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      With how heavy it I’d say it would be ok for a Burmese, though maybe large enough to irritate her.

      From the playing around I’ve done with the Pod its accuracy inside a house is very hit or miss. Though that’s true of all GPS systems I’ve played with. In my house my phone and the Pod may or may not get a GPS signal. If they do, it may end up being a hundred feet or so off.

      If your kitty is stuck in someone else’s house you might be able to tell which one if the position seems to drift around a certain house, but I know I’d just be going door to door at that stage anyway.

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure much of that helped. Good luck! I hope you have no more kitty-stress!

  6. KellyNo Gravatar says:

    Thankyou so much everyone for your replies. I am very grateful.

  7. ronNo Gravatar says:

    Just bought this device for cat. i’ll divide my review according to categories:
    1. product presentation: the packaging is quite nifty and well done. the instructions are to the point, but maybe lack a few key details, which will bring up later.
    2. setup: easy to follow the instructions; only 4 or 5 clear steps. two batteries are supplied and have to be charged. in my package, one of batteries wouldnt install properly on unit, but other one did. on the App, recommend go into settings and explore, as some details not spelled out in the simple instructions that come in package. as mentioned above, the straps that come with it are quite hard to install, but that means they are secure; i’d worry about the pet collar itself coming off pets neck before the pod coming off collar.
    3. starting unit: has to have access to open sky. inside will not work. i found having it near buildings sometimes will interfere. there is a signal acquiring process that takes few minutes. Side of pod has 3 lights that indicate information about status. One problem is when the included strap is wrapped around the unit, it obscures these lights. so I didn’t find them useful.
    4. operation: when my cat went exploring, many times he would go into bushes, under trees, under patios, and close to apartment buildings under the eaves. At these times, the signal can’t reach properly and basically unit does not track location. each “locate” inquiry takes several minutes so one can spend a good amount of time repeating the location inquiry before system finds the pod.

    when it did find him, it says “Cat[name] found”, it indicates the finding was “just now” as opposed to some minutes or hours ago. When I went out to pick him up, as it was time to come in, the signal starts to move around, as though the cat was running around. The pod does not have live tracking however, instead takes ‘snap shots’ before final position found. these snap shots each take a few minutes and there are 12 of them, so overall it will take some time to find final location. Before I figured this out, i was running around puzzled as to why whenever i arrived at supposed location as shown on iphone, it would move at every one of the 12 updated positions. The difference in location between steps was significant – on the order of several hundred yards, before settling on final.

    THe final position proved to be fairly accurate, as long as my cat had open sky above. I don’t know what happens if there are thick clouds. when the cat is indoors, the unit does not work.

    5. summation: Unit works fine with reasonable accuracy of location, but only when the sky above is not obstructed.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      Good to see other opinions stated so clearly!

      One comment I have on 3: The straps are supposed to go through the pod, then around the collar; not around the pod. I made that mistake when I first started too.

  8. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    Well it sounds very exciting but the problem is that Pod Trackers just don’t deliver!

    I ordered (and paid for) mine in September 2015 and now December 2015. I chased them up in November and received this reply:

    I am sorry to hear you have been waiting for your Pod.
    Unfortunately we’ve noticed a handful of UK orders haven’t been delivered.
    We are currently investigating this issue, and should have it sorted for you as soon as possible.
    Thank you for your patience, and apologies for the delay.

    It’s now 3 weeks later and I still haven’t heard another word. I’ve sent them another email and awaiting a response to that.

    So what do I do? Ask for my money back? Write bad reviews?

    Any suggestions would be really appreciated.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      That’s definitely not a fun position to be in!

      Given your situation, I’d be pushing for my money back, at least.

      Writing bad reviews is another option, though I’d suggest that you stick to (for example) the long delays in shipping and/or lack of customer service contact. But that’s just me.

      I’m not sure that either of those really help you though.

    • DavidNo Gravatar says:

      Well the Pod finally arrived at the end of January, hooray!

      I even found my dog with it when he went off hunting but it was quite a hit and miss operation, taking about 20 minutes to provide an accurate location (close enough to find him) so another (quiet) hooray.

      One month of use and it is broken. Boo.

      Pod trackers say that the same problem has occurred with others and they are sending a replacement. Hooray.

      But now I’m back in the failure-to-deliver loop again. Boo.

      Waiting, waiting….

      • MartinNo Gravatar says:

        Hi David, could you please provide some more info on what happened to your device? Mine did break yesterday (the narrow edge of the main unit, where the battery is attached).

        • DavidNo Gravatar says:

          Hi Martin. Yes same problem for me. A replacement did arrive and, so far, so good. One of the responses I received from them suggested this was not an isolated problem and, although they replaced the broken one with what I suspect is one that will have the same problem, they say they are getting improved/stronger ones made. Perhaps it was a bad batch of resin? Perhaps it is a poor design? No doubt we’ll find out in due course. Now, off to change the battery over as I’ve just received a message to say it’s flat… Good luck.

    • DavidNo Gravatar says:

      No real surprise here but it’s broken again!

      Same problem as before. The battery fell off this time because the casing was cracked.

      I’ve written to Pod Trackers and we’ll see what they say.

  9. ryan downNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for sharing this information about gps pet tracker

  10. sandyNo Gravatar says:

    recently purchased a podtracker, good idea in principle, but does not always work, it can locate, and then an hour later does not locate, more times does not locate than does, so defeats the object of the product. so reluctantly will be returning it

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. It really does seem to be one of those “works great for some people, horribly for others”.

      Or I’m just one of the few lucky ones!

  11. maria concettaNo Gravatar says:

    Hello, I am trying to decide which tracker I could buy for my cat and, since I live in the city center of Milano, in Italy, I need a tracker which is reliable for indoor positions (no meadows around here, only tall buildings). I have been told that only Wi Fi technology can track indoor. So, I was expecting the Pod tracker to be accurate in indoor locations, since it also uses WiFi. From what I am reading here, though, all reviewers seem to agree that the Pod Tracker does not work for indoor tracking! Is that right?
    Thank you!

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      It doesn’t do indoor tracking, from what I can tell. The best it can do is to say that it can see the WiFi you set it up on. I’ve set up a strong WiFi router, so in my case the Pod thinks my Terror is in the house even when he’s within a large circle around the house. It even managed to see my WiFi when I took my Terror a few houses down the street.

      So, I’m afraid for what you need, the Pod isn’t going to be useful.

  12. Michael FallasNo Gravatar says:

    I bought two of these on ebay which were brand new and unused. Sadly one owners cat died before they got to fit the unit. All seemed to work well to start with but I had numerous issues with the battery on one and podtracker were initially very helpful indeed. However having hardly used them I then discovered the battery on one would not longer stay one so I contacted podtracker and they indicated ” we’ve recently find out there had been a batch of Pods 2 which a manufacture fault that lead the Pod to crack unexpectedly, and it seems like unfortunately you got one of these, but the good news is that we’ve had new Pods manufactured with a thicker casing and a stronger locking mechanism, so happy to replace it with one of these” which all seemed great until they asked for proof of purchase and then they said ” I’m afraid we do not sell our product on eBay and we do not condone the sale of our product on eBay. Warranty is reserved for customers who purchase from ourselves and or recognised retailers only. The retail price of the Pod is £139, your item may not be genuine and or was not purchased legitimately. I suggest you please contact the seller to request the original proof of purchase, to make sure your Pod was not a found item or acquired illegitimately, or you can ask the original seller to contact us to proceed with an exchange. We strongly recommend you never purchase electronics from individuals at largely discounted rates”

    I could have been given them as a gift and to imply they are not original is just ridiculous as they registered no problem on their website.

    I would not buy a pod tracker again and to be honest they are not as good as they claim in my opinion. One cat knocked the battery off which was lost. Another battery had charging problems and they don’t last all that long before you need to re-charge them. Good idea but not as good as I had hoped and then having admitted I have a faulty unit refusing to replace it because I bout it on ebay is just ridiculous. I am in the process of contacting the sellers to get the original receipt etc but to be honest I have lost all faith in this product and company.

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      That position on the warranty is just strange; especially given that I have yet to see any other tracker that looks like this one. If they’ve had any stolen, then I would assume they’d know the serial number range. However, I’m going by how I think I’d run things 🙂

      The battery dropping off/cracking does seem to have been an issue with the earlier 2.0 pods. The amount of time you get out of a charge is a real issue lately. I basically get two days out of the Pod in ‘standby’ mode. If it hadn’t proved itself in my particular circumstance I suspect I’d be looking elsewhere.

  13. SteveNo Gravatar says:

    I’m sorry… But it seems this company has crossed the dreaded FALSE advertising line…. They advertised this pod being g2 compatible hear in Australia…but as from the end of this year…Don’t exist anymore…finished….so where does this leave all customers that brought one recently….mmm…??

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      That’s a good point. I haven’t been keep track of the mobile news, but I’ve just had a look.

      I think this may be a question for the Pod folks. I’ll ask and see if I can find out anything. But others may want to try too!

    • LisaNo Gravatar says:

      Ok, their FAQ covers this, and I’m not that sure that the answer satisfies me:
      “We will be releasing a 3G version of Pod in early 2017 and discounted upgrade options will be available for our customers once it’s available.”

      So if you’ve bought a Pod recently, you’ll have to fork out more money (even discounted is still money) for a 3G version.

      I guess I’m looking for another option again.

      • RobNo Gravatar says:

        If you go through the order process it says… “Please note, any Pod 2 units under warranty will be upgraded to Pod 3 (3G) for free upon shutdown of the 2G network in your area on request, as approved by Pod.”

Leave a Reply