is a tiny matchbox sized GPS device used to track the movement of your child. According to the manufacturer you slip the GPS into your child’s backpack (or other article that stays with them) and can then track their location for up to 24 hours. There’s also several interesting features like speed, temperature and remote audio monitoring that are offered as well. For the last few weeks I’ve been putting this to the test and using it to track my kids. Here’s what I found.
The normal pricing for this Amber Alert GPS is $279 though I just noticed that the web site is running a promotion for $119 to $199 depending on the service agreement purchased. The $199 price requires a $9.99 per month for service.
In order for the GPS to work you must order a service plan with it. At present the data service is only available in the USA and Canada and works by transmitting location information back over cellular phone signals. In practice this means that to receive location information on your child they’ll need to be within range of a cell tower.
The monthly service plans offered are as follows. Discounts may be available for multiple year purchases (contact the company for information):
Basic – $9.99/month
75 Location Requests/Alerts (SMS or Locate Now) cannot call the unit
Web Viewing (View location history)
Premium – $19.99/month
150 Location Requests/Alerts (By SMS, Call, or Locate Now)
Unlimited – $49.99 / mo
Unlimited Location Requests/Alerts (By SMS, Call, or Locate Now)
Bread crumbing (Multi-Locate)
In testing the device I set it inside my son’s backpack and shipped him off to school. There is a web interface that you log into which allows for viewing of the device’s location and setting different options.
In practice I found it took about 30 seconds for the device to be located. Once logged into the web site there’s a button that you click to obtain the current position of the device.
Remember that you’ll only receive the current position if the GPS unit is within reception range of a cell tower. I discovered this when I sent my son to school (a notorious dead spot for cell phone signals). I was able to track him on the bus until he entered the school and from then I was not able to update the location.
I also found that when I picked him up from school at the end of the day that the Amber Alert Tracker battery had depleted. I have no way of knowing when the battery went dead so at most I can say it would have lasted about 8 hours from when he left the house to when I picked him up.
The Amber Alert GPS is a useful device for tracking locations. And if that’s all it did then it’s probably be worth the $9.99 per month in the right situation. However there are several other tricks that this GPS can perform (some may require an extra monthly fee so be sure to review the manufacturers site closely).
I love that a complete history of where the Amber Alert has traveled is available from the web site. Each time I viewed this I thought that it may not only be valuable for tracking young children – but perhaps teenagers as well.
Certainly there may be legal, privacy and trust issues that come along with this type of monitoring use for teenagers or adults. I’m not judging (or recommending) whether it’s a good idea to track anyone – rather I’m looking at the overall usability and features of the device. How and where you use it is up to you.
At a glance you can see exactly where the device has been in the last few months. Here’s the detail for one of the testing days. If you click the image you can see where the GPS traveled as well as alerts that were sent automatically.
The Amber Alert GPS can send you a text or email alert any time it is traveling faster than a user defined limit. In testing I used a limit of 45 mph and as you can see the alert was registered in the log shown below.
Although the alert registered in the log I was unable to obtain a speed alert via text or email. I read at least one other complaint online about this feature not working. I set this option on at least two occasions but was not alerted via text/SMS (though it did register in the log).
When working, various alerts are designed to send a text message any time the GPS device travels outside a pre-set boundary. Especially helpful are alerts for exceeding a speed limit (think teen) or leaving a pre-set destination.
Unfortunately as mentioned above, in my testing I wasn’t always be alerted to via text to these items.
The device is also supposed to have a monitoring feature though I was unable to activate it possible due to not being on the right plan (my device is a review unit). I tried both calling the device (it is assigned a phone number) and setting the monitoring option on my computer. Neither worked.
When the battery was running low I did receive a text message to indicate that the battery was low and another several minutes later to tell me that it was powering down.
The Amber Alert GPS is compact enough to fit just about anywhere. And that may also be it’s biggest downside. This device would be simple to lose very quickly. There are no attachment points for you to run a string or wire through the device. Instead you have to hope that wherever you place the GPS (backpack or pocket) doesn’t open up and let the GPS fall out.
I could see this GPS going through the wash a few times in my house.
In case of loss there’s a beeper within the device that can be activated remotely- but that won’t be of much use if the battery is dead or it’s out of cell range.
The monthly cost of the device is also expensive – except for the cheapest $9.99 plan.
If you look at various cellular phone companies you often can activate a similar tracking feature on my phones for about the same monthly price without having to manage another GPS device.
Naturally cell phone tracking only works when the application in question involves someone who HAS a phone — and doesn’t work for youngsters.
Setting options on the web site was slow. It took me 30 seconds to locate the device (which must be done by clicking a button on the site). Entering other options was also slow and in the case of trying to establish text message alerts at least some options didn’t work for me (speed and location) the way the web site indicated they would.
At the current promotion price of $199 (when purchased with $9.99 basic plan) the Amber Alert GPS is a more affordable solution for anyone where keeping track of a younger child is a must.
What I Liked:
– Web based tracking
– No buttons to push on GPS
– Accurate GPS location while in range of cell tower
What Could Be Improved:
– Several notification alerts didn’t work (speed, leaving location)
– Add some way to attach a fastener to the GPS