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LBT PocketFinder personal GPS locator review:

LBT PocketFinder personal GPS locator

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Users can track multiple devices on one account, which makes it easy to keep tabs on an entire family. Additionally, each account can have multiple users with different levels of access to the information. For example, you could set up a limited account so a friend, family member, or--in the event of a missing person--local law enforcement can track a device's location, but doesn't have access to billing information.

Mobile apps
Users on the go can also access every function available on the Web site through a free iOS app for iPhone and iPad, from tracking individual and multiple devices on a live-updating Google Map to viewing the 60-day location history, speed, and altitude of a particular device to monitoring and setting alert zones and power settings. You can even edit advanced account settings directly from the app. Additionally, you can receive any zone, battery, or other notification as a push alert on the smartphone or tablet.

With the exception of the device history screen (which can get cluttered quickly due to the way iOS formats map point labels) the interface of the iOS app is on par with, if not superior to, the one on the actual Web site, making this a very viable primary point of interaction with the PocketFinder device and service.

The PocketFinder iOS app is in many ways superior to the browser-based interface.

In sum
As GPS locators go, the PocketFinder system is one of the easiest that I've tested. It's got no power button to fiddle with, no moving parts to break, and no status lights to annoy you. The addition of the cradle charger means that you don't even need to think about plugging it in or digging around for a charging cable--you just toss the PocketFinder onto the contacts every few days and get on with your night.

Additionally, the PocketFinder's soft gel case makes it easier to attach the locator to a backpack, belt loop, purse, or pet's collar than, for example, the bulky (but also more durable) zippered and strapped case that comes with the smaller Garmin GTU 10 personal locator. PocketFinder's colorful cases are also less of an eyesore. And, interestingly, the lack of obvious PocketFinder branding hides the device's intentions as a GPS locator (as opposed to the Garmin branding on the GTU 10's case). In fact, for the entire week that I wore the PocketFinder, no one could guess what the small green and white bauble hanging from my belt loop was. This leads me to believe that thieves, kidnappers, and other ne'er-do-wells will be less likely to spot and discard the device despite the fact that it is more brightly colored.

The PocketFinder (left) is a more than worthy adversary to the Garmin GTU 10 (right).

At an MSRP of $150, the PocketFinder also undercuts the GTU 10's $200 price tag significantly, making it the obvious choice where entry cost is concerned. However, because both of these devices require a service plan to operate, costs over time should be considered before choosing either. With a no-contract $12.95-per-month service fee and the two free months included, the PocketFinder will cost you about $130 for the first year and a maximum of $156 per year thereafter to run, whereas the GTU ships with one year of its extremely limited basic service for free and will cost you only $50 per year thereafter. However, to match the level of functionality of the PocketFinder plan, the GTU 10 requires an additional $5 per month Deluxe service tier. So the PocketFinder purchase and continuous service end up costing $66 more than the GTU 10 after two years of ownership. For the extra greenbacks, PocketFinder's service gets you 60 days of location history versus Garmin's 7 days.

So which personal locator should you buy? The PocketFinder has the edge in physical design, ease of use, and Web interface design. Based purely on the user experience, it is the superior device. However, it will be the more expensive device in the long run despite its lower initial cost. For some, that will be money well spent, but those looking to save money in the long run should consider the Garmin unit (particularly if the hardware can be found at a discounted price).

Note: All prices and plans are listed per device, so users interested in tracking multiple devices should multiply my estimates by the number of intended units.

Editors' note: Updated with more accurate pricing information and to correct the days of available location history to 60.

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