I spent a few days testing the device with my Boston Terrier Batgirl (that's her at right), who may or may not have been happy about conducting her first tech review. Here's my look at the SpotLite 2.0 GPS pet tracker.
The SpotLite 2.0 device
The "why" of this device is pretty clear: dog owners love their pets and losing one can be a stressful occasion. Anyone who has conducted an "analog" search for a lost dog -- wandering about shouting their name -- knows how ineffective and unpleasant that can be. The SpotLite lets you see exactly where the dog is in real time. That's great.
The SpotLite 2.0 device itself is fairly small. It's about 2.75" long, 1.75" wide and 0.75" tall (note these are my own hasty measurements, not official dimensions). Its exterior is mostly plastic and feels very sturdy indeed, and Securus notes that it is waterproof. I didn't test this but I don't see where water would get in, either.
The top of the device features an SOS button (more on that later) plus three status indicator lights. On one side you'll find a micro-USB port for charging the internal battery and a SIM card slot. Both seal tightly and the latter can only be opened with a screwdriver. On the bottom you'll find an IMEI number, which you'll need for registration, as well as the serial number.
The device also ships with a zip-close pouch with a strap on the back. Use this to attach the SpotLite to your dog's collar. It's all very lightweight and shouldn't bother most dogs who are used to wearing a collar with tags dangling from it.
The initial setup procedure is quite easy, if not a little time-consuming. First you must charge the device for about five hours, which isn't too bad. Next, go online and complete the steps that ship with your unit. None of this is tricky, but you must follow the steps in order to be successful. At last, turn the device on when prompted. It will blink away as it acquires a signal and locates itself.
Now that you're all set up, let's have some fun! I conducted two tests with the SpotLite 2.0. First, I walked around the block with Batgirl and monitored our path with the iPhone app, to see how accurately it would report her location. Then I sent the kids to take off with her anywhere they wanted in the neighborhood and then wait for me to find them. First, the accuracy test.
Batgirl and I suited up and took off for a walk. I launched the iPhone app which found my device rather quickly. The Dashboard was my first stop. It lists the device itself and it's last known location, complete with time, and nearest physical location. It even retrieves the battery status, which is really nice.
You'll also find the alarm status (I'll get to that), current mode and LED status. Scroll down to find a live map.
Next I tried out the tracking feature. This works very well. Within a couple of minutes, I had a live feed of where Batty and I were. I was impressed with the accuracy, especially since I live in the middle of nowhere. At this point I was convinced that the iPhone app tracks the device effectively. On to test number two.
I instructed the kids to hide somewhere in the neighborhood with Batty and I'd come to find them after a 20-minute head start. They were off, I launched the app and set off.
About two minutes after tapping Tracking, I had a lock on where they were. Since I was in the car, I found them within minutes. If Batgirl had reached the chosen hiding place without any of us -- and without the SpotLite 2.0 -- I would have searched for significantly more time, wasted gas and probably recruited/alerted/annoyed neighbors.
There's a lot more to it than this. During set up, you can designate "safe zones." If your dog leaves a designated safe zone, the SpotLite 2.0 will send you a text message right away. At that moment, you know that Spot's gone.
I didn't get to test the SpotLite's arrangement with the American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) team, but it's impressive. They offer around-the-clock recovery assistance, further reducing the amount of time you'll spend searching.
Finally, there's an SOS button on the top of the device. If someone finds your dog and you're not around, they simply press that button and you receive a text message that includes the dog's location.
While the SpotLite 2.0 is compact, it's bulky on a small dog. I moved it off of Batgirl's collar and put it on her harness, which was much better. If your small dog wears a harness or better yet, a vest with pockets, try that.
The iPhone app occasionally took a while to find the device, but that could have been due to the poor coverage in my area. The app does pop up a warning about this, but I waited longer than three minutes on two occasions. Again, that's not the SpotLite's fault, but if you live in an area with poor coverage, keep that in mind.
Finally, at one point the tracking failed and I got stuck with a "Communication Failed" dialog box that I could not dismiss. I had to force-quit the app. Again, this might have been due to poor AT&T coverage in my area.
I like this product a lot. It provides huge peace of mind and an even bigger hand in finding a lost dog. The SpotLite 2.0 sells for US$119.99 plus a monthly service charge of $12.99.