Price: Monthly plan
Designed for the guardians of special-needs children, the Angelsense GPS tracker offers constant tracking, frequent location alerts, and a way to call a child who can’t or won’t pick up a phone call on their own. The device has the potential to be a lifesaver, but it does come with a steep monthly bill—along with thorny privacy and legal issues raised by Angelsense’s “Listen-in” feature.
Measuring about 4.5 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches and weighing a little over five ounces, the Angelsense GPS device is about the size and weight of a smallish touchscreen phone—and that’s exactly what it is, as you’ll discover if you remove the Angelsense device from its thick nylon sleeve.
The Angelsense module is designed to stay in its sleeve at all times, with the device itself (a customized LG smartphone) encased in a water-resistant silicone cover complete with red “Do Not Remove!” stickers. Though the touchscreen lights up when you press and hold the power button—which, incidentally, only reboots the device rather than powering it off—the display will go dark again within a few seconds.
The sleeve itself features a pair of fasteners on the top and bottom, but no controls at all save for a power button along the side
(which, when positioned properly, sits atop the handset’s power button). It also has an opening in the bottom for a micro-usb charging cable.
Once inside its sleeve, the Angelsense can be fastened in a child’s backpack, pocket, or worn as a belt (using an optional beltequipped sleeve). A lockable pin (similar to the anti-theft devices used by retail stores) keeps the Angelsense sleeve securely in place. I fastened the Angelsense handset to a backpack, and it felt like it wasn’t going anywhere.
The Angelsense “Guardian Kit,” which includes the device itself, a travel case, a sleeve, a charger, a trio
of fasteners, and a magnetic key for unlocking the fasteners, goes for $79.
The monthly service plan, which covers unlimited GPS tracking and 60 minutes of voice calls, costs a $53 a month. That’s considerably more than, say, the $5 monthly fee for the LG Gizmogadget tracking watch, but the LG device does require a Verizon Wireless subscription.
You can knock the Angelsense’s monthly fee down to $40 a month with a one-year contract, or $33.33 a month for a full year paid in advance (which comes out to about $400 for the entire year).
Getting the Angelsense up and running takes just a few minutes. Once you enter your username and password into the Angelsense GPS portal, a short questionnaire helps you determine how long your child might take to grow accustomed to the device, based on factors such as age, special needs (from autism and Asperger’s to OCD or general anxiety), and degree of sensory sensitivity. Depending on your answers, the portal may advise that it’ll take anywhere from a week to a month or more for your kid to grow used to wearing the Angelsense.
Once you’re done with the questionnaire, all you need to do is make sure the device is charged up. Within a minute or so, the Angelsense’s location should pop up on a map within the Angelsense app or website.
Through the Settings section of the app, you can add more caregivers who can track, call, or even listen in on your child (more on the “Listen-in” feature in a moment). You can also add a list of first responders, such as school officials or law enforcement, who can get a text message with a tracking link in case your loved one isn’t where they’re supposed to be.
Tracking and monitoring
Unlike other GPS tracking devices that pinpoint your child only during scheduled times or when you manually tap the Find button, Angelsense GPS updates its position frequently and automatically, particularly when your child is in transit or at a location you haven’t previously labeled.
In my tests, Angelsense’s GPS readings were timely and, generally speaking, accurate to within a half-block or less. While Angelsense is prone to the same cellular and GPS reception problems as other devices (particularly when indoors), the device does support Wi-fi—handy for keeping track of your child if their school or other frequently-visited locations have spotty cellular coverage.
If you’re worried that your kid is lost or wandering, you can enable Runner Mode, which boosts the frequency of GPS tracking (at the expense of battery life). Optionally, you can send out an alert to the first responders you’ve previously designated, complete with a link that’ll let them track your missing child. You can also activate either a soft or loud alarm on the Angelsense device to help searchers locate your kid.
Calling and communication features
Angelsense GPS’S “Angelcall” feature is designed specifically for special-needs kids who aren’t able to use a traditional cell phone or calling device. It lets you call your child without requiring her to pick up a receiver or press any buttons. Just tap the Call icon on the Angelsense app, and the Angelsense GPS device will ring briefly and automatically put you on speakerphone. Any calls you make will count against the 60 calling minutes included in your monthly Angelsense plan.
This Angelcall feature is what Angelsense means in its specs by “two-way calling.” Just keep in mind that your kid can’t initiate a call using the Angelsense device—it is always a parent or caregiver with Angelsense access who makes the call.
In addition to the calling, the Angelsense also has a “Listen-in” feature that lets you discreetly hear whatever’s going on near your child. The feature works more or less like Angelsense’s two-way Angelcalls, except there’s no ringtone or alert to warn anyone that you’re listening.
Parents with special-needs kids who tend to walk out of school or otherwise wander off describe Angelsense’s Listen-in feature as invaluable and even lifesaving in an emergency. You could also use Listen-in to make sure your child is safe while they’re in transit or visiting an unfamiliar setting.
In my tests, Angelsense’s GPS readings were timely and, generally speaking, accurate to within a half-block or less.
While Angelsense’s Listen-in feature is doubtless reassuring for the parents of special-needs children, it also raises privacy and legal issues. For its part, Angelsense urges its users to disclose the Listen-in feature to caretakers and educators. Indeed, the company provides downloadable form letters that describe the capabilities and rationale behind the Listen-in feature, handy for notifying school officials or caregivers that you have the ability to eavesdrop on them. For schools that don’t allow Listen-in at all, you can automatically disable the feature during school hours on the Angelsense Settings screen.
Above and beyond the rules of your school, however, are federal, state and local privacy laws. Some states (including California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida) bar the recording or “interception” of a conversation unless one or all of the participants are aware they’re being monitored. While Angelsense says its Listen-in feature doesn’t actually record conversations, the mere act of eavesdropping without the consent of some or all of the involved parties could be considered a crime, depending where you are.
While an entire page of Angelsense’s support site is devoted to the legal issues surrounding Listen-in, the service should do a better job of warning parents about state and local privacy laws before they use the feature for the first time. After passing along my feedback, an Angelsense PR rep told me the company would make changes to its initial setup process to highlight Listen-in’s legal issues.
Because the Angelsense GPS device is constantly checking in with its location, battery life is relatively short compared to that of other GPS trackers I’ve tried. In my tests, the Angelsense handset only lasted about 18 hours before its battery ran out. That means
you’d need to be diligent about charging the Angelsense every night, just as you would with a smartphone.
The good news is that you can set the Angelsense to email or text you when its battery level falls below 20 percent. You can also create daily alerts to remind yourself to charge the device.
Angelsense GPS offers some of the most comprehensive monitoring features we’ve seen in a GPS tracking device, and it’s the one of the few designed specifically for specialneeds children and their parents. That said, the monthly service charge for the powerhungry Angelsense GPS isn’t cheap, and you should be aware of the privacy and legals issues surrounding the “Listen-in” feature before you start using it
LG GIZMOPAL 2 Price: $80
Among the GPS tracking watches available, the Verizon Wireless-exclusive LG Gizmopal 2 is one of the cheaper options. But being affordable doesn’t make it notably worse than its competition: We liked its simple controls, lightweight yet rugged design, two-way calling, and a relatively cheap monthly charge.
Pricing and monthly plans
As a Verizon exclusive, the $80 Gizmopal 2 requires service through Verizon to purchase one. Once you’ve paid for the watch itself, a $5 monthly fee (a.k.a. the “access fee” for using a device on your Verizon plan) allows you to use the voice minutes and data of an established monthly service plan.
Available in either pink or blue, the half-inch thick, 1.6-ounce Gizmopal 2 feels featherweight despite its bulky 1.5 x 1.9-inch face.
I was able to strap the Gizmopal to my six-year-old daughter’s diminutive wrist using the third-to-last notch, but within an hour or
so she was complaining that the wristband was too tight. Strapping on the watch over the cuff of a long-sleeved shirt definitely helped, but parents should keep in mind that keeping the Gizmopal 2 on a small wrist can be a challenge.
Both the body and the wristband of the Gizmopal 2 felt tough, firm, and a bit rubbery. If you wish to personalize the device, Verizon sells replacement watch bands—available in six colors—for $35 each. The Gizmopal 2 is also water resistant (Ipx7-rated), meaning it can handle being splashed or even dropped into shallow water.
The face of the Gizmopal 2 is quite simple: just a big black screen (non-touch) with a trio of small icons for Battery, Call, and Play. The blue review unit I received had a protective face sticker with a nifty sports design and a cutout that kept the Battery, Call, and Play icons in view. While you can peel the sticker off, I decided to leave it on, in part so that the Gizmopal 2 would look more like a toy and less like a pricey smartwatch.
A Micro USB charging port sits on the back of the Gizmopal 2. Just flick up the protective cover to plug in the charging cable.
Getting started with the Gizmopal 2 is a straightforward process. You first install the Gizmohub app to an iphone or Android phone, then you turn on your new Gizmopal to obtain its phone number. You plug that number into the Gizmohub app, follow the prompts, and wait a few minutes for the watch to pair with the app.
Once that’s done, you can use the Gizmohub app to add up to four contacts to the Gizmopal 2 for two-way calling. (You add the first one as the primary “caregiver” during the initial setup process.) First you add the number, then type in a name, and finally pick a nickname (like “Daddy,” “Mommy,” or “Grandma”) from a pull-down menu.
Tracking and monitoring
You can track your child’s current location at any time simply by opening the Gizmo Hub app and tapping the Find button in the bottom corner of the map. In my tests, it took anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes for the app the pinpoint the Gizmopal 2’s location.
You can also create up to 10 “Location Checks,” which check your child’s location at a predetermined time and day. For example, you can set a Location Check for 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday, or at 12:00 noon each weekday. You’ll get a notification on your smartphone after each location check, whether they’re successful or not.
The face of the Gizmopal 2 is quite simple: just a big black screen (non-touch) with a trio of small icons for Battery, Call, and Play.
Finally, you can create up to five “Place Alerts,” which let you know if your child has entered or left a certain area within a given time window. For example, you could create a Place Alert to let you know if your kid made it to school in the morning, and another Place Alert for leaving school in the afternoon.
The one weakness of Place Alerts, however, is that you can’t set them to stay on indefinitely. Instead, you must set a time window for each alert, and each window can be no more than two hours long.
Personally, I’d love to be able to set an all-day Place Alert for school, just so I’d know if my daughter left school in the middle of the day for some reason. However, the likely reason that you’re limited to five Place Alerts and ten Location Checks is that adding more would unduly tax the Gizmopal 2’s diminutive, watched-sized battery.
Calling and communication features
You can call your child’s Gizmopal 2 from within the Gizmohub app or simply by dialing the watch’s Verizon Wireless phone number. When you call, the phone’s ringer will sound, and an automated voice will announce the caller. (For example: “Daddy is calling.”) To pick up, your child just needs to press the Call button. The only people who can call your kid’s Gizmopal 2 are those whose numbers you previously programmed into the watch’s contact list.
If your kid wants to place a call, her first step is to press the Call button. When she does, the phone instructs her to press the Call button to reach the first contact on her list (like “Daddy,” for example) or to press the Play button to hear the next contact. Pressing Play will allow her to cycle through the remaining contacts available. My six-year-old picked up the system pretty quickly, and before I knew it, she’d left a half-dozen giggly voicemails on my Android phone and her mom’s iphone.
You can set “quiet times” for school hours and other periods using the Gizmohub app, up to 10 separate times at once. No audio will
play, be it a ringtone or a sound effect. If your kid gets an incoming Gizmopal call during quiet time, a teal Call icon will blink on the phone’s display. Just keep in mind that the watch lacks a vibration feature, so if your child doesn’t see the flashing Call light, she’ll probably miss the call.
The LG Gizmopal 2 lacks any kind of “panic” button or auto-dial 911 feature, although you could always add 911 as a contact.
While LG has curiously omitted a digital clock from the face of the Gizmopal 2, the watch will read the time aloud if you press and hold the Call button, even during a designated quiet hour.
For entertainment, the Gizmopal offers “Fun Sounds,” which basically just plays amusing audio clips whenever your kid hits the Play button. The selection ranges from underwater noises and walkie-talkie sounds (“Breaker one-nine!”) to space effects and “DJ” sounds.
While five- or six-year-olds might be satisfied with Fun Sounds, older kids will probably tire of them quickly. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly GPS tracking watch with more robust features, consider stepping up to the $150 LG
The Gizmopal 2’s battery is rated for 9 days of standby time and 2.5 hours of solid use. In practice, I found the Gizmopal 2 could run for a few days on a single charge, but that was with only one or two location checks per day, plus a phone call every couple of days. If you set up each and every Location Check and Place Alert the Gizmopal 2 can handle and make frequent phone calls, the watch’s battery life will take a serious hit.
Tough, lightweight, and easy to use, the Verizon Wireless-exclusive LG Gizmopal 2 makes for a relatively cheap, simple way to keep track of your kids. That said, you’ll have to settle for a meager number of location alerts, while older children might be bored by the watch’s bare-bones features and activities.
The Angelsense GPS device (which is basically a customized LG touchscreen phone) comes encased in a water-resistant silicone cover.
The Angelsense GPS app keeps constant track of a child, particularly when they’re in transit or at a place they don’t regularly visit.
Understand your state and local privacy laws before using Listen-in.
The LG Gizmopal 2’s wristband was a bit too large for my six-year-old, but strapping it over her shirt sleeve helped.
The LG Gizmopal 2 will track your child’s location within a few minutes, once you tap the Find button that sits in the bottom corner of the screen.
The three-icon display on the LG Gizmopal 2’s face is basic but easy to grasp, particularly for little ones.