Always-on monitoring and notifications
For users who don't want to keep checking Live View's Web site every few minutes, the Web interface also lets you set alerts that send e-mail or SMS alerts when certain conditions are met. For example, you can be alerted when a certain speed is exceeded, when the vehicle's ignition is turned on, when the Live Trac has been disconnected from the car, or when the vehicle enters or exits a geofenced area. A geofence is a virtual boundary set using GPS coordinates. This means the EZ can send you a text when your car leaves home and send another when it arrives at the office.
All around, this is a fairly robust level of idiotproof vehicle monitoring and should be more than enough information to deter, for example, an irresponsible teen or untrustworthy roommate from "borrowing" your car while you're at work. The whole valet subplot of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" would have been cut short if Cameron had had access to this device. Come to think of it, they'd have never gotten away from the house if Cameron's dad had installed the Live Trac EZ on his 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Then again, a '61 Ferrari lacks an OBD port, and wouldn't be compatible with the EZ anyway--but I digress.
The EZ's protection and monitoring are not without their flaws. For example, we parked the Jaguar deep in one of two underground parking garages every night during testing. Both of these garages are cellular dead spots, and the Live Trac EZ's low mounting point pretty much assured that the unit wasn't able to establish a connection while parked inside. However, because the EZ only reports its position data at an ignition event or at speeds exceeding 4 mph, the final data point would be transmitted just before we entered the garage every night. This didn't exactly create a security issue, since the EZ would immediately begin reporting again once the vehicle exited the garage, sending a notification when the car exited the geofence. However, the car would not send notifications of ignition events and would, in fact, report that the vehicle's ignition was in the On position for the entire night.
I assume this hole in the EZ's reporting means that we also wouldn't receive a unit-disconnected notification if the EZ were simply removed by a sneaky teen or, worse, clever thief in one of these coverage voids. Testing proved this theory to be true--the Live View software still reports the Jaguar as idling in the Car Tech Garage, despite the fact that the Live Trac EZ unit is sitting on my desk as I write this review. This is a bit scary for our use case, but we don't believe that most people actually park their cars in bunkers overnight like we do.
Getting started with the Live Trac EZ involves handing $249 to LiveViewGPS. As GPS vehicle trackers go, the EZ is significantly less expensive than, for example, the Escort Entourage that we tested a few years ago and only about a few bucks more than a portable tracking device like the , which isn't really designed to work with a car. So while I wouldn't exactly consider the EZ to be a steal, it does seem fairly priced.
Once you've got your EZ, you'll have to keep paying LiveViewGPS to actually watch the thing for you and maintain that ever-important data connection. This is where things get a bit "sticker shock-y." For $29.95 per month, you get unlimited updates and monitoring with 10-second update intervals using the live.liveviewgps.com Web interface.
There are also LiveViewGPS apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad so you can monitor your ride from the portable device of your choice. However, LiveViewGPS currently charges an additional $4.95 per month per mobile device to make use of the free app. Many of the user comments that we read expressed outrage at being asked to pay more on top of the almost $30 monthly service charge, reasoning that the app monitoring should be included in the bottom line. We're told LiveViewGPS charges for app access due to Google Maps licensing issues and that a new, Microsoft Maps-powered version of the app is coming. The new version will not require an additional subscription fee.
With the exception of connectivity issue that we experienced in our bunker of a garage, the Live Trac EZ performed admirably over the course of our testing. Installation was a breeze and online setup of the alerts system was also easy.
Whether the Live View EZ is worth the $249 entry price and nearly $360 annual monitoring charge depends greatly on how much the monitored car is worth to you, where you park it regularly, and how much jeopardy the vehicle finds itself in. Do you own a nice luxury sedan that your roommate keeps borrowing for dates or an expensive sports car that you want to keep a teen driver away from? Maybe the Live View EZ is the product for you. Do you own an inexpensive commuter car that you just want to protect from thieves? Perhaps a dedicated antitheft solution like an alarm or LoJack is a better way to go.