It’s been a while since I mentioned Pokémon Go. The mobile game was a huge fad for a while, which saw local businesses using “Pokemon Go players welcome” signs to woo new customers, but it seems to have died out to the point where the cashier at a store I visited tonight was surprised to hear anyone was still playing it. But a number of players are still interested in the game, and Niantic has finally managed to get enough of the Pokémon Go Plus bluetooth dongles into stores that people are more often able to buy them at non-scalper prices. (Though, it’s still out of stock at major stores such as GameStop, and oddly enough still isn’t available at the non-scalper price point on Amazon, where the $35 gadget goes for $80 to $100 instead.)
My sister-in-law got me one for an early Christmas present, I’ve been using it for the last day or so, and I’m here to tell you that, if you read ebooks on your phone but also like to play Pokémon Go, the Go Plus is one of the best friends you could have.
The reason is simple. As I’ve already noted, when it comes to using your phone, the Pokémon Go app is a very jealous mistress. In order to get alerted when new monsters pop up, or to hit game-resource-providing Pokéstops, or to get credit for the distance you walk, you have to have the app open and your phone on at all times. Even the game’s “battery-saving mode” amounts to keeping your phone fully powered on and just dimming the screen.
Not everyone who plays the game is fortunate enough to live and work where there are a lot of Pokéstops around. Such people often have to scrabble for resources when they can find them–which can mean using time they might otherwise spend in reading, browsing the web, or doing other things on their phone staring fixedly at the screen and waiting for Pokéstops or monsters to come near on their commute, on walks in the park, or even just around the house.
But with the Pokémon Go Plus, suddenly that phone monopolization is a thing of the past. Your phone can stay asleep, or can be running some other app (such as eReader Prestigio, in the photo above), and the Go will alert you when something important is nearby. It will flash blue in the case of a Pokéstop, green for a monster type you’ve already caught, and yellow for a monster you haven’t caught yet and might want to devote some special in-app attention.
You can then press the button, and the Plus will try to catch the monster for you. It only uses a regular ball, so it fails a lot of the time–but it succeeds a lot of the time, too. And most of those monsters are ones I wouldn’t even have bothered to try catching with the app open on my phone. After you’ve done it a bunch, the whole process of aiming, throwing a ball, catching, waiting to see if it stays caught, throwing another ball, etc. is just too much to want to go through for Yet Another Pidgey. And if the monster proves to be too difficult, there’s no way to abandon the catch attempt–you have to keep going until you catch it or it gets away (or you run out of balls, I suppose).
But pushing a button and forgetting about it is ridiculously easy and much less distracting. I’ve probably caught more Pokémon just tonight in the process of a bike ride to the grocery store and back than I had in the previous three or four weeks without it, and that’s even leaving aside all the ones that got away.
More importantly to this blog’s readership, it’s something you can do while reading ebooks, making a phone call, or doing something else altogether. Feel a vibration, glance at your wrist, tap a button, glance back at your phone–it’s as simple as that. So, if you’ve found yourself having to choose between picking up more Pokéballs that you can use later or doing something more intellectually fulfilling with your phone, the $35 you spend on a Pokémon Go Plus could let you do a lot more with your multi-hundred-dollar phone without giving up the ability to gain more resources or catch more monsters.
Plus, it can let you do that when you’re watching TV, eating dinner, or doing something else altogether that doesn’t involve the use of a phone. (I can already tell I’m going to be loading up on a lot more stuff from the portal that’s located right next to where I live now, since I can just push a button on my wrist every few minutes instead of having to make sure the app’s open on my phone.)
The device isn’t perfect–I’ve noticed that every so often it will come unsynced from the phone, and have to be reconnected through the Pokémon Go app. A lot of the time, it’s difficult to get the phone to sync back to the device, but when it works, the process is ridiculously easy, which is pretty good–but it also means that someone who grabs it away from you can easily pair it with his own phone and use it with impunity. So it might be a good idea to be careful where you use it.
Another problem with it is that the included battery seems to be very weak; mine only lasted for a day or so, and my sister-in-law who gave me the device said the same thing was true of hers. Fortunately, CR2032 batteries can be found pretty much anywhere that sells batteries, and the replacement seems to work very well.
In any event, the Pokémon Go Plus is a great example of how something that doesn’t have anything to do with ebooks on its own can nonetheless make the process of reading more possible and more enjoyable. Instead of having to be a slave to the app all the time, now you can read and play Pokémon at the same time.