Review: Jiobit Location Monitor

This article was originally published on Wired.com

This simple and attractive GPS-enabled tracker is the best way to keep tabs on your pets and kids.

RATE 8/10 PRICE $100

  • WIREDLight: attractive, and unobtrusive. Lots of options for clipping it on your pet or kid. The app works great, and you don't have to draw geofence with your finger. Easy to add to safe places list. Real-time Live Mode tracking is very accurate.

  • TIRED: Expensive and requires monthly subscription. No fancy features for pet tracking, like step counting.

Every kid is different. Some remain still, focused and content with their books or Legos. Others get on a sled, immediately rocket into a snowy woods, and disappear for days on end. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)

As a parent, it can be hard to know when to grab your children and when to pull back. But on a recent sunny, Saturday morning, in a mostly empty park, I decided to try something different. When my four-year-old took off down the trail, I resisted the urge to sprint after her. Instead, I opened the Jiobit app and turned on Live Mode.

I watched as the little dot got about 400 feet away from me, walked in uncertain circles at a fork in the trail, then turned around. As it turns out, a little bit of freedom goes a long way.

Connecting the Dots

I have complicated feelings about tracking your kids. But since Jiobit launched in 2015, customers have discovered that they’re handy for many other purposes besides trying to keep your kids from being kidnapped. For instance, if you’re a caretaker, you can Jiobit your dementia patients. This week, the company also released a firmware update that lets you use it to track your pets.

If you have a few living creatures that are only semi-within your control, the Jiobit is by far the easiest and most attractive tracker I’ve ever used. The small, gray, teardrop-shaped device fits into the palm of my hand. Jiobit sent one tester for my kid and one for my dog, and suggests a number of different ways to attach it. My dog was easy—I slipped it into the included fabric pouch and slid it onto her collar. My 50-pound heeler didn't even notice it.

Figuring out a way to attach it to my kid required a little more experimentation. Looping it through a hair tie worked, but I found that the screw-on flex ring was the easiest way to attach it (the optional silicone sleeves are also ridiculously cute). Whichever method you choose, you have to be able to detach the Jiobit easily, to charge it or to switch it from jacket to jacket.

Jiobit uses a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular data, and GPS satellites to pinpoint the tracker, depending on which is available. Of course, GPS drains the battery more quickly than the other technologies; when we took the kids and dogs on a three-day ski trip with limited cell coverage, the Jiobit’s battery died within two days, but at home the battery lasted for a week. In my tests, it took two hours to charge it from zero to 100 percent.

Clap for Apps

The Jiobit is incredible easy to set up—no wrestling it into fragile plastic holders, or blowing sand or grit out of a collar dock. It’s lightweight, only 18 grams. (That's about the size of an Oreo, Jiobit notes, for the Oreo-eating crowd.) It also has a waterproof rating of IPX8, which means it can be immersed in up to a meter of water. My dog plunged into the rivers wearing hers, and my kid face-planted into a snowbank without affecting either Jiobit at all.

The app was also, by far, the easiest to use of trackers I've reviewed. From the parent menu, you can add members to the care team or change the map view from streets to satellites. It’s incredibly simple to add to or delete from the list of trusted places in the app. On our way to a weekend trip, I searched for the hotel’s address in Google Maps, named it, added my dog and kid, and determined a geofence radius between 100 to 800 feet.

In the app, you swipe from left to right to switch your view of different Jiobits. You can check where the Jiobit is, if it’s in a trusted place, or with a member of the care team. Every time a Jiobit leaves or arrives at a trusted place, the app pings you.

The Jiobit is by far the easiest and most attractive tracker I’ve ever used.

In general, I found the Jiobit could locate my child and pet with an uncanny degree of accuracy. When I pulled up Live Mode while we were out on walks, I found that it could pinpoint in real-time when we passed bridges, or walked through different crossroads on trails. Watching the little dot move around was like having a Marauder's Map in my phone.

While I was testing the Jiobit, the location history was still in beta and could only save two days’ worth of data. I also found that the least helpful feature were the notifications that my child or dog had left the trusted places. I usually got a ping on my phone within a minute or two, but in the mountains, I only received one when we were over 20 miles away.

If you’ve ever wondered why you would shell out for something like a Jiobit instead of, say, clipping a Tile Pro on your kid’s shoe, it’s probably because the location monitor has stronger security protocols. For example, the Jiobit has a dedicated security chip which meets the standards set by the U.S. military; without this chip, a device can’t access the Jiobit servers.

In addition to standard safety precautions like malware-prevention and encryption, Jiobit also burns away part of the circuit board before assembly. Even if someone got his or her hands on your child’s device, they wouldn’t be able to physically program it.

It’s also worth noting that, like other pet trackers, the Jiobit also requires a monthly subscription to access T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s networks, with an additional fee for each extra Jiobit.

Ethically as well as logistically, I can’t see myself putting a monitor on my kid. I want to give my kids the same independence that I had growing up. Also, I can’t keep it on her. She constantly switches jackets. Her shoes have no laces. She won’t even wear “wrunkly pants,” let alone tolerate an Oreo clipped in the waistband of her leggings. (To be fair, I wouldn’t either!)

But if it’s critically important to you to track someone else’s movements, the Jiobit is the easiest way I’ve found to do that. Since my dog can usually be found within three feet of me at all times, I also appreciated its security measures. Maybe it doesn’t track how many calories my dog burns, like the Whistle 3, but it’s much nicer to use.