Fi Dog Collar Review

fi dog collar review

If you think a dog collar needs to just be a simple strip of leather or nylon with a few tags attached, then you’re living in the past.

This is the 21st century — modern collars need to tell you everything about your dog, like where she’s been, what she’s been doing, and whether she’s been a very good girl (answer: yes).

That’s the idea behind the Fi Dog Collar, anyway. This high-tech gadget is GPS- and Bluetooth-enabled, so it will give you an unbelievable amount of data about your dog and her habits. It’s like a FitBit for your pooch.

It’s also pricey, of course — but is it worth it? Read on to find out.

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What It Does

The collar itself is fairly basic: it’s a nylon band that clasps at one end.

In the middle, though, is the device itself. It looks like a simple buckle, but it’s a GPS- and Bluetooth-enabled sensor that tracks all sorts of data about your dog, like:

  • Where she is
  • Whether she’s escaped from the yard
  • How active she’s been
  • How her activity levels compare to other dogs in the area

Do you need all this information? Not necessarily — although the ability to see whether she’s gotten out of the yard and where she is could literally save her life someday. The rest of it feels like pointless bells and whistles designed to justify the thing’s price.

How It Works

The collar itself is very simple: all you do is snap it around your dog’s neck.

The chip inside pings a base station you have to set up in your house, and that station then transmits the data to an app on your smartphone. You can save the data or share it with others — provided your subscription is up to date, of course.

Unlike other smart collars that simply connect to Wi-Fi, this one requires a fair amount of extra equipment.

How Much Does It Cost?

It’ll cost you $150 up-front, but that’s only the start of your expenses. After all, as every savvy tech guru knows, the real money is in the subscriptions.

You must pay $99 a year to take advantage of all the tracking features it has. You could always choose not to buy the subscription, of course, but then you’d be stuck with a $150 collar that you could have had for ten bucks or so.

The good news is that it’s very durable, as the collar and device are both chew – and waterproof. If you ultimately decide that you wasted (at least) $150, it shouldn’t be because the thing broke on you.Divider 8

Does It Work?

That’s an extremely broad question, and ultimately the answer depends on what you mean by “work.” Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

Connectivity

The company boasts that theirs is the only smart dog collar on the LTE-M network, so you should enjoy incredible coverage and connectivity wherever you happen to be.

We never had any issues with connectivity, but then we tested it in a major metropolitan area. We have no idea how it would work out in the boonies, but based on reports from other sources, it seems to do well in this regard.

Battery Life

You can go about three months before you have to recharge this thing, so there’s little to complain about there. It recharges quickly as well, so your pup shouldn’t be naked and vulnerable for very long.

One thing we should mention here, though: if you use the “lost dog” mode, it will eat through the battery much more quickly.

If you left it on that setting, you could only expect a couple weeks’ worth of battery life, rather than a few months. While that’s still good, it’s not reassuring to know that the battery will die much sooner if your dog gets lost.

Location Tracking

If you’ve ever had issues tracking down an address using the GPS on your phone, then you know how dodgy these systems can be. This one’s no different.

The good news is that it should give you a relatively good idea of where your dog is, and if she’s lost, that may be all you need to find her. After all, being able to limit the search to a block or two can make a world of difference when the alternative is canvassing the entire city.

However, don’t expect pinpoint accuracy. This can be a problem if it gives you a false alarm that your dog has gotten loose, as you might rush home from work to find her asleep on the couch. Do that enough times and you could get fired, or you could start ignoring the alerts, defeating the purpose of the device.

Pedometer

Part of this gadget’s appeal is its ability to track your dog’s activity level. It can count the number of steps she takes a day, as well as capture every minute of her walks.

This is one function that’s almost completely unreliable, however. We get it: tracking a dog’s steps is hard to do, and things like vigorous scratching can throw off the count. We just feel like the number it gave us isn’t really accurate, although to be fair we didn’t count our dog’s steps ourselves.

A bigger issue than the reliability is the fact that it doesn’t really give you any context for the data it provides. The app suggests that your dog should take 10,000 steps a day, but this seems to be based on…nothing, it seems. Our guess is that they knew that many people aim for that many steps, and that the number would sound good to them.

However, the number of steps your dog should take will vary wildly depending on her age, breed, and health. Also, as far as we know, there hasn’t been any research done to determine the optimal number of steps a dog should take, so you’re basically throwing darts in the dark here.

The app lets you compare your numbers with other dogs in the area for some reason (so you can freak your neighbor out by claiming to know how many steps his dog took yesterday, possibly?). Again, though, there’s little point in comparing your Labrador’s activity level to that of your neighbor’s Shih Tzu.

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What We Liked About It

There are a few features that really stood out to us about this collar, such as:

  • Durability

This thing can take a pounding, so if you have an active dog (or one that likes to explore dense underbrush), you don’t have to worry about it breaking on you. Even if it does, it’s backed by a one-year warranty.

However, just because the collar won’t break doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have other issues — but more on that later.

  • Battery Life

This thing really does last for a long time. Three months might be a bit optimistic, but it shouldn’t be much less than that. Plus, when you need to recharge it, it juices back up quickly.

  • Ability to Add Multiple Users

This one can go either way, really. You can add multiple people to the account, such as other family members or a dog walker, and you can track their locations and activity levels with the dog as well.

This lets you monitor your dog when she’s in someone else’s hands, and allows you to check up on the hired help to make sure they’re doing their jobs. It’s great for putting suspicious or anxious minds at ease, but it may be a little creepy (more on that later, too).

  • Good Connectivity

As we said, we never had an issue connecting to the system, and other users we’ve talked to haven’t either.

While we can’t promise that this thing will work everywhere (such as extremely rural areas where you’re likely to hear creepy banjo music playing), most users should be satisfied.

  • It Gives You Lots of Data

As we mentioned above, some of the data is unreliable and some isn’t very useful.

However, you never know what kind of questions your vet will ask you if your dog gets sick, so having a treasure trove of information stored on your phone could be incredibly useful someday.

What We Didn’t Like

This collar isn’t all sunshine and roses. We had quite a few issues with it, including:

  • Buckle Security

Sometimes the buckle came unlatched, like when the dog had been roughhousing. It didn’t break — it just came off.

We never lost it (and we suppose we could have tracked it down with GPS if we had), but that’s a scary thought. It would be horrible if your dog got loose and your phone simply led you to an abandoned collar.

  • Location Tracking

As mentioned above, the location tracking gives you more of a “best guess” rather than pinpoint accuracy.

Surprisingly enough, we don’t think this would be much of an issue if your dog got out, as having a general idea of where to look would be priceless (and would more than justify this thing’s cost).

However, it can get annoying when your phone is constantly blowing up with alerts about your dog’s activity or location, especially when you know she’s sitting right next to you, watching old episodes of Magnum, P.I. (does your dog love that show too, or is it just ours?).

  • Data Collection

This may be hardly worth mentioning, since it’s likely that the government, Big Business, and Lord knows who else probably already knows everything about you thanks to your phone. Still, though, it’s disconcerting just how much personal information this thing asks for.

And that’s just during setup — imagine how much data you’re giving them about your habits with this thing. It knows where you live, when you take your dog for a walk, and where you usually go.

Also, while some people may feel the need to check up on their dog walker periodically, it feels voyeuristic to do so, especially if they don’t realize the extent to which they’re being tracked.

Maybe we’re paranoid, but if someone really is after you, this device will make it easy for them to get you.

  • The Subscription

Presumably the company figures that anyone willing to drop 150 bucks on a collar won’t balk at paying a C-note every year to keep the thing working.

To us, though, it feels like they’re trying to milk you for every penny, especially given how useless the thing is if you let your subscription lapse. We’d prefer if the subscription simply unlocked more cool features, rather than being necessary for making the whole thing work.

There are a few things you can do without a subscription — but they’re basically limited to telling you where your dog is when she’s home. Hopefully you don’t need a high-tech dog collar to figure that one out.

Also, the subscription is only available in one-year increments, so you don’t have the option of signing up for a few months at a time.

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Who Would Benefit from This?

If you’re a gadget-crazed dog owner with plenty of extra cash on hand, there’s little reason not to buy this thing. It works well enough, and it can give you lots of information about your best friend (some of which is actually useful).

Also, if your dog is an accomplished escape artist and you never know if she’ll be safe at home when you get there, it’s worth plunking down the money to keep tabs on her. If nothing else, it should make you feel better when you’re out and about.

Who Should Probably Skip It?

If your dog isn’t the type to run away from home, don’t waste your money.

All the other features are unnecessary, so if you don’t think you’ll ever need to lead a manhunt (doghunt?) for your pet, you’re better off spending that $150 on treats to thank her for being a good girl.Divider 7

Would We Recommend It?

It’s hard to advocate buying this device. There are other smart collars that allow you to track your dog if she gets lost, and they work just as well for less money.

The extra data it provides isn’t really worth the price you’ll pay, and the app is clunky, so you might have issues accessing that information if you do end up needing it.

However, this isn’t a bad device, and there are certainly situations where you’ll likely thank your lucky stars that you bought it. We just feel those situations are unlikely enough that it’s hard to justify spending this kind of cash on a snazzy dog collar.


Featured image credit: Tryfi.com