Life can be difficult when you’re taking care of someone who really can’t take care of themselves. The AngelSense ($99.99, plus monthly fee) is designed specifically for parents of nonverbal or special needs children, and caretakers of adults with dementia. It’s pricey and a bit clunky to use, but it offers a level of assurance and continuous monitoring we haven’t seen from any other similar tracker.
Editors’ Note: This review was originally published on June 21, 2018. It has been updated to reflect a change in the device, which has a new form factor and no longer runs on a 2G network.
AngelSense sells an all-inclusive service plan for $52.99 per month on a month-to-month basis. It drops to $39.99 per month with a one-year contract, or $33.33 per month if you pay for a whole year upfront. That includes 60 talk minutes, unlimited GPS tracking, and unlimited alerts. That’s much more expensive than the $5 per month LG GizmoGadget service plan, or the $9.99 per month Jiobit service, but you’re getting a product that is designed for, and more importantly, supported by special needs parents.
What’s In the Box?
For $99.99, you get an AngelSense device, a fabric sleeve that it fits in, and three fasteners that can only be opened with a special magnetic key.
For a tracker, the AngelSense is pretty big, at 2.7 by 1.7 by 0.6 inches (HWD) and 2.1 ounces. Compare that with the Jiobit, which is just 2 inches high and 0.63 ounces.
But it’s the only GPS tracker we tested that’s non-removable—well, at least without stripping off the clothing it’s attached to. The AngelSense essentially rivets to clothing using the included pins, which can only be removed using the aforementioned magnetic key. The company also offers a belt accessory—also pretty much unremovable, thanks to those pins—and a special undershirt that the device tucks in to. The company offers suggestions and options for kids with sensory sensitivity, and kids who habitually strip off their clothes. The device itself isn’t waterproof, but AngelSense offers waterproof wearing options for it.
All the other trackers, whether wristwatches or clips, can be removed by a child or adult. For any other product, I’d say that it should be removable. But you don’t actually want a person with severe dementia or nonverbal autism removing a tracker, and the AngelSense helps mitigate that issue.
To monitor the AngelSense, you can use an Android or iOS device, or you can access the app from a web browser. You can set up three kinds of responsible adults. Only Guardians can make phone calls and listen into the device. School Guardians can view locations, receive notifications, and block listening-in. First Responders get automatic text messages if a Guardian thinks that the AngelSense user has wandered off.
The basic user interface is a map with location history. You don’t need to request to locate your child, like you do with the LG GizmoPal 2 and GizmoGadget; location is continuous. In the AngelSense Android or iOS app, you get a comprehensive catalog of your child’s movements: where they were, when they left, the exact route they took to the next stop, and how fast they were going. No other tracker we’ve tested provides a history quite this comprehensive.
You can assign names to frequently visited places to generate a narrative. Named places also persist as geofences, and you’ll be alerted every time the user enters or leaves a named place. That’s much easier to set up than systems that require you to draw arbitrary geofences.
Location accuracy is similar to your standard smartphone—about a 100-foot radius, better outdoors than indoors. Indoors, we typically saw results that were next door to, or across the street from, where we actually were. That’s true of all trackers.
If your child vanishes, you can put your phone in Runner Mode, which will dynamically track them and show the shortest route between your location and theirs. Because of the continuous tracking, battery life is shorter than other trackers, but the AngelSense can still last up to 48 hours before it needs to be recharged. You’ll need to attach this to your child’s clothing in the morning, and remove and recharge it each evening. . You can plug in a charger through a little hole in the fabric sleeve.
The AngelSense is the most reassuringly paranoid of all the child trackers we’ve tested. It was constantly pushing alerts to the AngelSense app: when the device was charging, when it was running down, and whenever it moved. You can turn off those alerts if you want, but it’s safe to say that you will be kept up to date with this product.
The AngelSense can also make calls. Since it’s designed for the severely disabled, it makes unusual types of calls. The phone can be called by app-designated guardians, like we’ve seen on other child-phones. It uses caller ID to verify that the guardian is calling. It auto-answers after two rings, automatically in speaker mode.
There’s also a Listen In mode, that essentially turns the AngelSense into a spy device. This is so parents can make sure that their nonverbal charges aren’t being mistreated, though keep in mind School Guardians can turn this feature off. I actually like the idea, having recently had to deal with an elder who was being verbally abused by a caregiver when no one else was around.
The problem is, listen-in audio isn’t great (and there’s no obvious way to record it, if you hear something suspicious). I tested it in a couple of different scenarios, and voices were understandble, but sounded quiet and distant. Louder sounds like sobs will come through, though.
Comparisons and Conclusions
The AngelSense is a very specific solution for a very specific group of people. It’s not a generalized kid tracker or phone. Because of some of its features and phone capabilities, it’s bigger, has shorter battery life, and service plans are more expensive than some of the competition. The average child would be better served by Verizon’s LG GizmoPal. And if you don’t need voice calling, the Jiobit is much smaller and less expensive.
For caretakers of intellectually disabled or nonverbal children or elders, though, the AngelSense is an amazing product. With its multiple different wearing styles, extremely comprehensive tracking, and a listen-in option, it can give you some real peace of mind.
The Bottom Line
The AngelSense delivers the absolute maximum in tracking and safety for worried caregivers of children and adults with special needs.