Review of the Pod Tracker 3

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Meet Finn

Finn
Finn

And his brother Jake

Jake
Jake

Two very smart, adventurous puppies.

Being very smart, adventurous puppies they have mastered the art of the escape so that they can adventure even further than their already large dog run.  We’ve added new fencing up top and bricks and wood around the bottom of their fence but with over a hundred metres of fence in their pen there is lots of space for them to find weaknesses and boy do they find them quickly.

Given that we worry about them so much we decided to try and buy some piece of mind.  We debated between wireless cameras to watch their paddock(large parts of it aren’t visible from the house due to our shed) or a GPS tracker.  We decided to go for the tracker since we also wanted something that would help us find them if they did escape since we have a lot of dense forest around.

We looked at a few different options but most were not available in Australia.  One that was available was called the Pod Tracker 3.  The size looked good and the features sounded great.  It had an alert system so it would tell you when your pet left a specified area, activity tracking for your pet, and it ran on 3g which was important to us as we live in the country so 4g can be patchy away from the houses.

I ordered us one for each dog and after a few days got a notice that it had finally shipped.  A few days after that we had our pod trackers, exciting day.  I plugged in two batteries to my laptop and left them to charge for the required two hours.  After 4 the lights hadn’t changed to green indicated charged.  Weird.  I unplugged them and plugged them back in and they showed green now.  This was an early warning of things to come.

With batteries now charged I turned on the Pods and took them outside to get signal.  Watching the flashes on the device it seemed to confirm that a connection was successful.  However when I checked the app while it showed the trackers it didn’t show their locations, battery levels, or anything really.  Just a message telling me the version was out of date and needed an update.  I would initiate the update and 10 minutes later I would get the same message.  I contacted support and received an automated response telling me to not open multiple tickets as it just slowed service down for everyone.  *Big warning sign*.  Eventually support got in contact and told me the devices hadn’t connected to the mobile network yet despite the lights indicating they had.  They reset something on their side and I removed and reinstalled the batteries and they connected hurrah!  I should note that I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the support people when they have finally gotten back to me.

Opening the app now I finally see all the options and go in to set the area where I want to be alerted when they leave and see that I am only able to set it as a circle.  How many people have properties that are circles?  Given the shape of the dog run is a rectangle to cover it all required a 55m radius circle which also includes a fairly large chunk of my neighbours property since the dog run is along the side of ours and a huge chunk of ours outside their dog run.  So this feature is basically useless based on this alone.  But it gets more useless when combined with other issues later.  Also for those of you with smaller properties the smallest circle is 25m in radius.

All of this would be annoying but not problematic if the tracking was good.  It’s not.  The Pod Tracker uses a mixture of home wifi, bluetooth, gps, and a wifi location database to determine the location of the pet.  It seems to move between these randomly and without thought as I’ve had our dogs move >150m instantly before.  “Alert: Finn is safe inside the back pen zone”….”Alert: Finn is now 120m from the safe zone”.  The accuracy is pretty terrible in general so setting up the safe zone is a bit of a guessing game on how much do you overshoot to have them in the bounds most of the time when they are actually in the bounds.  It is pretty much always off by 20m or so though not always in the same direction.  Sometimes it shows them 50m towards the road from where they are, others 20m away from the house when they are sitting next to it.  The tracking is so bad and the alerts so frequent that “Alert: Finn has left the safe zone” isn’t even enough to get me out of my chair to look anymore.  One day it literally had Finn move from our backyard to a few hundred meters out to sea and a few KM up the coast.  While the whole time he was sleeping on his play structure.

On the plus side the batteries last a full 24 hours and the devices themselves seem pretty tough as we learned when Finn pulled Jakes off his collar a few days after we got them.  That said we still haven’t bothered to put Jakes back on given the problems above.

Ultimately the problem with the pod trackers is that they are so inaccurate with so many false negatives that after a few days you become blind to their alerts.  An alert system that you don’t believe has no purpose except to annoy you.  We’ve bought a lot of stuff for the dogs, much of it costly and short lived but the Pod Tracker 3 is the only one I really regret and feel was a waste of money.

 

Bonus content!

Finn deciding to swim 55km offshore.

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By shawn

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