Monday, January 2, 2017

Dog Tech: Whistle First Impressions

Well, Whistle's 30-day money back guarantee was too good to pass up, so I bought a Whistle GPStracker for Zip. It arrived today, and I thought I'd share my first impressions. This is the first pet wearable device I've had in my possession, though I did get to play with a Pod tracker at SuperZoo.

Whistle is advertised as an end to lost pets. It offers on-demand tracking of your pet's location from your phone. Users can set up a custom Whistle Zone, and the app will alert them if the pet leaves that zone.

Health and activity monitoring is another Whistle feature. The company promises to track long-term health trends, and alert users to changes in their pet's sleep and activity patterns.

Whistle's flagship product was an activity tracker, like a FitBit for your pet. About two years ago they acquired Tagg, a GPS pet tracker. There was a rocky start to the merger for users, as evidenced by all the angry reviews on Amazon. It seems the tracking functionality tanked, while Tagg users complained that the app had become a bloated social media manatee. I'm hoping things have gotten better since then.

What's in the Box

The Whistle arrived mounted on a clear plastic...thing. It took me an embarrassing several minutes to figure out how in the world to remove it. (You have to slide it down, it's the same way it hooks onto the collar mount.) Inside the box a base station, two-piece collar bracket, wall plug, USB cable, and tiny instruction booklet. I also had some trouble locating the cable inside the box insert. (It's in the top.)

The instruction booklet instructed me to plug the base station in. The first page also includes a note that the tracker must be placed on the base station before it can be activated. I set up the base station, plugged it in, slid the tracker into place, and went to work.

Getting Started

The next step was the install the Whistle app on my Android phone, and then follow the steps to activate my tracker. 

Welp, I followed the steps, but there were definitely some missing. First I entered  the tracker ID number, then I filled in Zip's personal (dogtional?) information. Next I chose a picture of Zip. Then the app took me on a little tour of the main screen and told me what everything did. That was it. All done.

According to Whistle's support page, I should also have been prompted to enter a daily fitness goal for Zip, (lol seriously!) and then been asked to enter payment information and set up a service plan. Since the app skipped that step, it seemed I had ruined everything and there was no going back. Both the website and the app told me to complete the activation, but did not offer any options to do so. I finally had to log in and out of the website several times before it would let me start the activation process all over again.

The Whistle Zone

Now that we're all activated, I set up Zip's Whistle Zone. This is an area around the base station that is a "safe zone". If Zip leaves this area, I will receive text messages that she has done so, and hypothetically could begin tracking her. There are basically two immediate issues with the Whistle Zone.
1. It's a circle. My house, like most suburban southern California homes, is on a square-shaped lot.
2. It's way too big. Like, maybe an acre. My house is sitting on a quarter acre, so the minimum size of Whistle Zone also encompasses the neighbors to either side, the drainage ditch behind the house, and the truck parked across the street. So if Zip gets out of the yard but then hangs around with the kids next door, I'll never know that she's out.

What's Next?

Next, Zip and Godzilla and I are going to go to work and see how the Whistle performs. I'm a little worried about the battery life though, apparently leaving it on the base station to charge all day long got us 21.86% battery life. 

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