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October 2, 2012

Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 4 of 5

Verdict: Uniquely Designed For Parents

The Bottom Line:Amber Alert GPS is a reasonably priced, parent-friendly child tracking device with unique features specifically designed with parents in mind. Slightly larger than a matchbox car, the device can send location updates every 5 minutes, or alerts when your child arrives at school or leaves home, or whenever he/she is traveling in a vehicle. Amber Alert GPS can also send "Predator Alerts" whenever the device is near a registered sex offender's home address.

Unlike most GPS trackers, the Amber Alert GPS has a panic button that can be used to place a 2-way phone call to a parent. The device itself costs $199 (free if you sign up for a 3 year contract), and monthly service is $14.99 for basic location service, $24.99 for Premium service (adds breadcrumbing, voice calling, and predator alerts).

What's in the Box
Figure 1: What's in the Box

Included in the box:

  • GPS Tracking Device
  • Faceplates (black, green, blue, & pink)
  • Data and charge cable
  • USB Power Adapter

Optional accessories sold separately: colored lanyards ($3.99 each), and a neoprene pouch ($9.99)

AmberAlert GPS Child Tracker
Figure 2: Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker

The Amber Alert GPS tracking device measures H:2.8″, L:1.5″, W: .75″ and weighs 2.17 ounces.

AmberAlert GPS Child Tracker, with Pink Faceplate & Lanyard
Figure 3: Amber Alert GPS Child Tracker, with Pink Faceplate & Lanyard

The package includes 4 different colored faceplates. In the photo above, I've replaced the black faceplate with the pink faceplate, and also attached the optional pink lanyard ($3.99).

Optional Neoprene Pouch
Figure 4: Optional Neoprene Pouch

The optional neoprene pouch has a carabiner clip that allows you to hang the Amber Alert GPS tracker from a zipper, coat pocket, or just about anything.

In the photo above, I've clipped the pouch to the zipper on a backpack.

On/Off Button
Figure 5: On/Off Button

The On / Off button is located on the top of the device. Press and hold the button for 4 seconds to turn the tracker on or off.

AmberAlert GPS Child Locator Device, Top
Figure 6: Amber Alert GPS Child Locator Device, Top

The round button on the top of the device is the SOS/Voice Button. Holding this button for 2 seconds send an SOS alert to you pre-determined emergency contacts.

If you've signed up for the "Premium" monthly service, the SOS button cal also be used to call a phone number (you setup which number the device should dial via the Tracking Portal -- we'll get to that in a minute).

The three small LED indicator lights on the front of the device are used to show GSM (cellular signal) status, GPS, and battery life (flashes when low battery, solid when charging).

AmberAlert GPS Child Locator Device, Left Side
Figure 7: Amber Alert GPS Child Locator Device, Left Side

The up/down volume control buttons are located on the left side of the device. When using the Voice Call/SOS button to initiate a voice call from the device, the volume buttons are used to raise or lower the speaker volume.

Charging Port
Figure 8: Charging Port

The charging port is protected by a plastic cap. Peel the cap back, and you'll find a standard mini USB port. A battery charger is included in the box, and you can also use most standard USB chargers.

SIM Card
Figure 9: SIM Card

The Amber Alert GPS comes with an active pre-installed SIM card -- used for communication on AT&T cellular network.

Amber Alert GPS Tracking Device
Figure 10: Amber Alert GPS Tracking Device

Tracking Portal: Map
Figure 11: Tracking Portal: Map

Whenever you want to locate the Amber Alert GPS tracking device, you can do so either by logging into the Tracking Portal (shown above) from a web browser, or via the Android/iPhone App shown later in this review.

Once you log in to the Tracking Portal, the Map Page is shown.

Device locations are updated every 5 minutes on the Map page. Notice that the map markers are color coded:

Map marker color coding

Map markers are numbered from 1 to 100, with 1 being the most current location.

Location Details
Figure 12: Location Details

You can view more detailed location data by clicking on the map marker.

Zone Alert
Figure 13: Zone Alert

Zone Alerts allow you to setup alerts when the GPS enters or exits a specified geographic area. For example, you can configure a Zone Alert around your child's school, home, neighborhood, etc., and receive email and/or SMS text message alerts whenever your child enters or leaves that area. Up to 20 "Zones" can be configured.


"Zones" can be defines as areas from 1000 to 10,000 feet radius. There may be times when having a larger zone is desired. For example, you could create a zone around nearby airports, or a large shopping mall where an area larger than 1,000 feet is needed.

Speed Alert
Figure 14: Speed Alert

Speed Alert is a handy feature that can be used to send you an alert if your child is in a vehicle that is exceeding the selected maximum speed.

Unfortunately, Speed Alert, as implemented on Amber Alert GPS, suffers from a few limitations: first, you cannot specify different maximum speeds for different areas. For example, I might want to get an alert if my child is in a vehicle moving 90 MPH on the highway, but I might also want an alert if the vehicle is going 60 MPH on a back road.

Second, the device only sends location updates every 5 minutes. That means if the vehicle goes 90 MPH for 2 minutes in between updates, no alert will be send. In effect, the vehicle needs to be traveling faster than the allowed speed at the time the location update is sent - which could be as much as 5 minutes away.

Predator Alert
Figure 15: Predator Alert

Predator Alert is a feature unique to the Amber Alert GPS tracking device not typically found on other GPS trackers.

When enabled, Predator Alert will alert you when the device is near (or passes within 500 feet) a registered sex offender's residence. Information is pulled from the US Department of Justice's Dru Sjopdin National Sex Offender database.

Predator Alert Details
Figure 16: Predator Alert Details

When a Predator Alert is issued, the predator's location is shown on the map, and details about the specific offender (including a photo) can be viewed by clicking on the blue man icon on the map.

Alerts can also be disabled on a per registered predator basis, if desired.

History
Figure 17: History

The History lets you view historical location data - IE, where was the Amber Alert GPS on a given date/time?

History Detail for A Specific Date
Figure 18: History Detail for A Specific Date

Selecting a date from the calendar brings up the more detailed view, shown above. Places where the Amber Alert GPS tracker was located are indicated on the map with red markers, ordered from 1 onward (with 1 being the most recent). Each marker can be clicked on for more details (such as speed, exact street address, and time of day).

Amber Alert GPS iPhone App
Figure 19: Amber Alert GPS iPhone App

Conclusion

Plus Reasonably priced
Plus Unique voice call and Predator Alert functions
Plus Historical reporting lets you see where the device has been
Plus Ability to track the device via smartphones, tablets, or browsers
Minus $24.99 Premium monthly service fee
Minus Still a few bugs in the iPhone app
Minus Can't adjust the frequency of location updates in order to stretch battery life

Slightly larger than a matchbox car, Amber Alert GPS is GPS tracking device specifically designed for parents. You can locate the device from any web browser, or via the Amber Alert GPS iPhone/Android App. The device automatically updates its location every 5 minutes, and parents can configure various alerts based on entering or exiting a location, or vehicle speed. For example, you can setup automatic alerts whenever your child arrives at or leaves school or home. You can also configure an alert to let you know whenever your child is in a vehicle (IE moving faster than 25 MPH).

Unique to Amber Alert GPS is the Predator Alert function. If the device passes within 500 feet or a registered sex offender, an alert can be sent to the parent(s), complete with detailed information (and a photo) of the offender. This information is pulled from the national offender database. This feature can be enabled or disabled, or disabled for specific registered offenders.

Also somewhat unique to the Amber Alert GPS is the ability to use the device's SOS/Panic button to call a pre-defined phone number (available only on the premium service plan). Once you've setup the number the device should call, pressing and holding the SOS button on the device will initiate a 2-way phone call where you can hear and talk to your child. 15 minutes per month of voice time is included in the $24.99/month premium service plan.

GPS reception worked well throughout testing. The device was able to get GPS location fix even indoors. The device operates on AT&T's wireless network, so coverage may vary based on your local area. Battery life was decent, lasting around 2 days per charge on average.

Priced at $199 for the device (free if you sign up for a 3 year contract), Amber Alert GPS requires a monthly service fee of either $14.99/mo for the basic monitoring service, or $24.99/mo for the premium service that adds predator alerts, breadcrumbing, and 2-way voice calling.

Amber Alert GPS is available for purchase via Amber Alert GPS' website.