Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dog Tech: The June Smartcollar Update

It's time to check in with our favorite smartcollar GPS and activity trackers, and introduce some new ones! I started a Facebook group for discussing pet technology, check out Planet Smartcollar for active discussion about all the different smartcollar products, and real, unfiltered reviews by people who have actually used them.
Zip takes a dip in a stock tank wearing her Whistle 2.

Whistle 2: Currently using.

I wasn't expecting to like Whistle as much as I do. I saw the Whistle 2 tracker as old technology, about to be eclipsed by bigger and better products. It has turned out to be pretty darned reliable. The tracking is slow, but it really does work. 

Just a few days ago I sent Zip over a hill to look for wandering sheep, and she didn't come back. Eventually I opened the Whistle 2 app on my phone. While the location points it sent were several minutes apart, I could clearly see that she was running back and forth on the wrong side of an electric fence over the next hill.She has probably gotten zapped going under it, and wasn't willing to do the same to get back to me. Without the Whistle 2 tracker, I wouldn't have even known which direction to start looking.

Whistle 3

I've been hearing good things about Whistle 3, faster tracking and a new app. I just ordered one for each of the girls, and will report back when they arrive. After months of research, and talking to people who are actually using different products, I am confident that this is the best 3G tracker currently on the market. It uses wifi, bluetooth, and GPS, and is waterproof. Whistle 3 is smaller than Whistle 2, it may even be small enough for cats. It requires a monthly subscription fee.


I am cautiously optimistic about Scout, another GPS/bluetooth/cellular device. This one specifically allows you to set alerts for places you do not want your pet to go. With a virtual leash, tracking history, and three days of battery life, this could be the pet tracker I've been looking for!

Link AKC

Though I ultimately decided that AKC's Link collar wasn't for us, I'm still recommending it as the best all-around smartcollar on the market. Link has a virtual leash feature, as well as temperature monitoring. Though they recommend charging it each night, many users report that the battery is still at 75% at the end of the day. I've heard from a couple of people who had really bad battery life, or collars that wouldn't turn on until they had been sitting for three days to let the battery drain and then recharged them. Link seems to have really responsive customer service, they've replaced these defective units, and also the trackers that have fallen off collars. Yes, as I predicted, the tracker falls off sometimes.


Nuzzle's smartcollar is an enigma that is poorly understood even by those that created it. I have yet to hear from a single user that reports consistent behavior from the device. Battery life remains well under a day, but often varies from 8-22 hours for no known reason. The app often grays out and ceases to provide updates, which the company claims is unrelated to the batteries, but paradoxically can often be fixed by swapping out the battery for a fresh one. The batteries take 5 hours to charge, but may only last 8 hours. Tracking can be hit or miss, and constant false notifications are totally normal. Nuzzle is still deleting negative comments from their Facebook page, and negative reviews from their website. They are currently 3 days behind on processing returns, because everyone who wanted a reliable and accurate smartcollar is sending theirs back. They've changed the return policy and are now claiming to only accept unopened products, so that 30-day money-back guarantee is another Nuzzle lie.

Pod 3

Pod 3 still hasn't shipped to anyone other than the initial beta testers, and also to Argos shops in the UK. Yes, you may have backed the project, but you can walk into a retail store and buy a Pod 3 weeks before you get your backer reward unit. Crazy. I had a very high opinion of this company, but they seem to be having a tough time rolling out their product, and they're not handling the PR well. Nobody is even totally sure why the company felt the need to run a Kickstarter campaign anyway, since they are an established business with capital and stuff. Whistle didn't crowdsource their product, they released it on time, and the thing seems to actually work.


Kyon is now a year behind schedule, and the original Kickstarter backers have begun asking for refunds. It's pretty clear they will be missing their goal of shipping by the end of June. Will the Kyon rollout be like Link's, with lots of initial bumps but a solid product and excellent customer service? Or will it be like the Nuzzle rollout, with a shoddy product and worse customer service?


The Scollar release date has been pushed back from August to December of 2017. Typical smartcollar project. The company was still discussing color options in May, I don't think this one has been finalized for production yet.


Wuf is still claiming a release in Fall of 2017, but has not posted an update to their restless Kickstarter backers since April. Many are asking for refunds, as the project was fully funded in 2014. I am officially predicting that Wuf will end up as vaporware, like Buddy and DogTelligent.

Findster Duo

I'm hearing good things about the Findster Duo. This one has a limited range, but does not require cellular signal to work. You carry one piece with you, and put the other on your dog. Your phone connects to the piece that's with you. Findster does not have a monthly fee.


Touted as "a smartphone for your pet", this project looks even more ambitious than Nuzzle. It actually has an LCD screen. It will have a virtual leash, geofence, 2-way communication, camera, and three days of battery life, all for $200. These are expected to ship in September 2017. Sound too good to be true? I'm expecting this one to be vaporware too.

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