When Pokemon Go was first announced, it came with the news that a peripheral device, known as Pokemon Go Plus, would be sold in stores. After a few delays, the Pokemon Go Plus has finally gone on sale, and we can see what it has to offer.
The Go Plus serves a simple function: it gives players access to minor functionality without needing the app open in front of them. That is to say, you can try catching Pokemon and collecting items from Poke Stops without having to stop, check your phone, tap on everything on the screen, and so on.
At least that’s the theory. So how well does it work? Let’s take a look. I spent a good part of the day trying it out, and here’s what I’ve found.
Pokemon Go Plus itself is a small peripheral, shaped like a cross between a Pokeball and a GPS marker. You can wear it as a clip, or on a wrist strap (which may need replacing, depending on the size of your wrist). It just has one button, which doubles as an LED that lights up to provide signals. It’s a simple design, but it does what it’s meant to.
The main function of Pokemon Go Plus is to catch Pokemon while you’re on the go. When there’s a Pokemon in range, the device vibrates, and the LED lights up green. Tap the button to try and catch the Pokemon. It then buzzes up to three times, like a shaking Pokeball, and on a success, it’ll flash multiple colors. On a failure, it’ll flash red.
Either way, the phone then notifies you if the Pokemon was caught or if it fled (or if you’re out of Pokeballs and can’t catch it).
Of course, you can’t exactly tell what you’re catching from the green light alone. It could be something useful, or it could be (and more often than not is) another common Pokemon like Pidgey, Rattata, or Weedle. Several Pokemon ran away while I was trying to catch them earlier, and I have no idea if they were any good.
You can always check your phone when it buzzes, if you have the time to look. But if you don’t want to catch it, there’s no option to avoid the Pokemon; it’ll just keep buzzing until you’re out of range.
If there are multiple Pokemon, it’ll light up for one of them, then the next once you’ve tried catching the first. If there are Poke Stops nearby along with the Pokemon, it tends to focus on the Pokemon first.
When trying to catch a Pokemon, the device only uses Pokeballs. So if you have a large stock of Great Balls or Ultra Balls, you’ll just have to save those for encounters using the game itself, and let the Go Plus go through your Pokeballs.
Last but not least, you only have one shot at catching a Pokemon with the Go Plus. If it’s a success, it’s caught, but if it breaks free, it immediately flees. So you do not want to use it to try catching anything rare or powerful; do that manually.
After a day of wandering about, you can check your recent catches on the game to see what you picked up along the way. Then inevitably transfer most of them to clear up storage space and get more candy. You do still get experience points for each catch; I even leveled up while catching Pokemon with the Go Plus, as I discovered after turning my game back on.
When you’re nearing a Poke Stop, the peripheral will buzz and light up blue. Tap the button and collect items from the Poke Stop. If it lights up red, that means your bag is full and you need to get rid of extra items, or you’ve already moved out of range. Either way, the phone gets a notification saying how many items you got, or what went wrong.
If there are multiple Poke Stops, it will potentially buzz again after collecting items from one. That’s only if it’s still in range, of course. But it’s a good way to quickly hit up each Poke Stop while you’re on the go.
Tracking Travel Distance
One of the best features of the Pokemon Go Plus is how it tracks travel distance without needing the phone and app open. As long as Pokemon Go is running in the background, it’ll remain connected to your GPS and Pokemon Go device, so however far you travel will count.
This is not only great for hatching Pokemon eggs, but also for the new Buddy system; the more you travel with a buddy Pokemon, the more candy it will find. But walking around with your phone on and the app open is a big power drain, not to mention the issue of how fast one travels. With the Go Plus, I’ve already got a 10 kilometer egg much closer to hatching, and my buddy Pokemon picked up a few new pieces of candy for its eventual evolution.
Power and Data Drain
There’s some good news and some bad news with the Go Plus.
The good news is that it remains connected even with the app in the background or the phone in standby mode, which is a big power saver.
The bad news is that it keeps your GPS active at the same time, which is something of a data drain.
So it’s a bit of a tradeoff. Your battery will last longer, but your GPS will see a lot more usage in that time. But for those with a good data plan, it’s less of a concern.
The Pokemon Go Plus is not necessary for when you’re out on a Pokemon hunt. You can’t track down the one you want with it, you can’t try to catch a rare Pokemon with berries and trick shots, and you can’t walk past the useless junk Pokemon without a second thought.
It is, however, great for when you’re on the go. You can catch Pokemon and Poke Stops from a traffic light, and there’s no need to check your phone to see what’s showing up. It makes hatching eggs and traveling with a buddy Pokemon a lot easier, so you don’t have to have your phone open and set aside while you’re stuck in traffic and want to rack up that distance. (Please don’t play Pokemon Go while driving, though I imagine the Go Plus will also help cut down on that.)
In other words, it’s not the best way to play at all times, but it has some very specific uses that it serves quite well.
Is there room for improvement? Of course there is. Off the top of my head, the option for a Pokemon filter would be nice, so you can tell it not to buzz you if there’s something like a Rattata around. Or if you could tell it to use Great Balls or Ultra Balls when you’re all out of Pokeballs, that would be nice too. Perhaps it will get updates like that later on, perhaps not.
But now that you know what it can do, the good and the ill, you can decide if it’s worth the 35 bucks for yourself, then get back out there and catch ‘em all.
Update: A word of warning
I had to edit this in after originally posting this after encountering a slight problem: it’s easy to catch a lot of Pokemon really quickly when you’re traveling with the Go Plus. But doing so may trigger the bot detection, since the server may think you’re using a bot to farm for Pokemon. Doing so will result in a hard ban, where Pokemon, gyms, and Poke Stops do not appear on the map or in the sightings.
That’s what happened to me. I’m reaching out to Niantic about it now.