We’ve covered this already here at Coolsmartphone but now we’re lucky enough to borrow one to review. For $79.99, this is a pet activity monitor with in-built GPS, WiFi and a SIM card so that you can see where your pet is, live.
Oh, and get this, it arrives in packaging which doubles-up as a bowl for your cat or dog – it’s squashes flat.
The idea is a brilliant one and, with an accompanying app, you can track your dog or cat and see how much exercise they’re getting. The app even has a “virtual leash” to indicate when your pet has left a designated safe zone. The Paby itself actually talks to you too, and during my testing it told me to leave the device on while it performed some OS updates.
The first big questions for me? Well, battery life and whether it was too big for our little cat were my initial concerns. Although our cat isn’t the biggest in the world, she’s not kitten-sized either.
Oh, and she’s an absolute bloody nightmare. Look at her. She’ll attack you for no good reason, and she wasn’t looking forward to me going near her, let alone sticking a bit of gadgetry on her collar.
First, it’s time to charge the thing. This is performed easily thanks to a magnetic charging cable which sucks itself to the back of the Paby tracker. You just plug the other end into a USB port and it’s as simple as that. An LED will show you that the unit is charging.
Here’s a video overview..
The Paby app is available in your mobile app store and, by scanning the QR code on the back of the device (this is done through the app), it’ll automatically connect to the Paby tracker in double-quick time.
Also pretty simple is the way that you attach it to the collar of your dog or cat – an elastic band stretches around the collar and attaches tightly to a metal bracket on the other side of the Paby. Incidentally, under this band and – after you’ve removed some small screws – is where the SIM card sits. In this review there was one supplied, but you’ll need to put one in yourself and have an active data plan to ensure that you get live location data.
The LED will give you more details too. Red means that the device is connected, blue means that it’s searching for a network, green means that it has connected successfully. To turn on the device you’ll need to hold the button on the back for 5 seconds. It’s fairly small but you can still just about reach it when it’s on a collar – even if it’s best to do it first. Once you’ve done this, that blue LED will flash for around 30 seconds while it’s connecting.
Here’s the Paby on our nightmare of a cat…
It weighs in at just 31 grams but, at 5.85 x 3.23 x 1.74 cm, it was a still a little chunky for our rather grumpy cat, and she tried to pull it off with her claws. I also had to bear in mind the fact that she had a magnet dangling from her collar which activates a cat flap, and the weight of this pet tracker pulled it around. This would mean that she couldn’t get into the house.
As mentioned before, Paby is a real-time smart tracker. You can use three types of location – WiFi (to see if your pet is near to your home WiFi and therefore in the immediate area), LBS (which will use mobile network triangulation to give a rough location) and GPS, which gives a far more accurate location. You can set all three to be on …
There’s a cost to this. Bear with me though, because I need to tell you about a couple more functions first.
A “virtual fence” can be setup. You can set the location and the distance around that area, then the app will alert you if your dog or cat has strayed too far. Multiple locations can be setup so that, if you regularly go to a local park, you can let your dog loose and be alerted if they go outside of the park.
Another feature is the “virtual leash” option which alerts you if your pet leaves the proximity of a preset WiFi connection. Thus, if the Paby can’t find your home WiFi connection, it’ll let you know.
These two options will update every minute, checking GPS location, checking for WiFi and, with the real-time tracking, you’ll soon see the battery life dropping pretty rapidly.
This, then, brings me back to that “cost” I mentioned earlier.
As with smartphones, if you use GPS and WiFi a lot it’ll absolutely kill your battery life. Try using Google Maps to guide you somewhere without your phone on charge and you’ll soon see the battery life drain. In my tests, and bearing in mind that I was using the live tracking etc, the battery would be dead after just a day.
With the “Low Power Mode” you can extend this to three days. This reduces the virtual leash / virtual fence updates to once every five minutes though.
The app also lets you schedule an auto power-on and power-off. Great if you have set “walkies” times or your cat goes out at certain times of the day, plus it helps prolong the battery life… a bit.
You can share the location data with other registered users and you can get more than one of these devices if you wish. It’ll also let you update the firmware straight from the app, view historical location data illuminate the LED on the Paby tracker and check on the amount of activity your pet has received.
The Paby itself is durable and waterproof, so you don’t have to worry if it rains or your dog inevitably jumps into a big puddle. There’s a range of colours and patterns to choose from (All Star, Bubble Pink, Future Green, Midnight Black and this Spider Red one) and you get daily exercise recommendations based on the breed, weight and age of your pet.
Flicking through the brochure I received with this, it’s apparent that this is a version 1 gadget which is in development still. Indeed, I received two firmware updates while I was reviewing this. They’re also working on the next generation – a smart harness that’ll have a pulse and temperature sensor.
Personally, I’d have to make a few recommendations. Right now, with the battery life, you’re going to need to charge this up pretty frequently. You’re going to need to remember to remove it every day or so, charge it, then put it back on the collar of your pet. Whilst it isn’t a huge task, it’s another thing to remember. I’d love to see a collar with integrated batteries if possible, just to prolong that battery life a little further. Right now – and this is all due to the battery pull from GPS, WiFi and data connectivity – the various “cool” aspects of this gadget are somewhat limited by the relatively short battery life.
That said, Paby have more products on the horizon and this is a well put-together first attempt. The app works well, the device itself is easy to use and …
.. I did find another use for it.
Yes, I applaud Paby for what they’ve done here. It’s tricky to squash down the GPS, the WiFi, the battery, the SIM card and all the related gadgetry to a small (and light) enough gadget for pets – especially cats. However, I think there’s another avenue that the company could go down. It’s one that we’ve seen other companies try, with the likes of tracking watches and wristbands. However, the app does lend itself (with a bit of adjustment) to the tracking of children too. As an example, when your child is “playing out” this summer, it can be fitted easily to a belt, a belt loop or put in a pocket. So, instead of equipping your child with a phone and having them addicted to the thing (or potentially accessing stuff you’re not comfortable with), just get one of these and it’ll go almost unnoticed in the pocket of jeans or a coat. No need for a potentially “un-cool” tracking watch, instead it can be hidden on a belt or in a school bag.
For $79.99 (although there is a sales tax which pushes it up to $87.79 / £67.56), it can be delivered worldwide. After that there’s no subscription fee (which is a good thing – a lot of the time these services charge a regular on-going subscription) other than the price of a SIM card with a low-low data allowance (our £5 monthly feature is a good start, but there’s even cheaper deals out there).
If you tune the location updates, you can eek out two, maybe three days of connectivity with this. If you use all the features in anger, then you’re looking at just a day. It’s definitely something you’re going to build into your “walkies” routine, perhaps putting it next to the lead, on charge and ready to go, but it definitely provides peace of mind if your dog has a tendency to run off or you’re wondering where your cat goes at night.