These are primarily designed to be a way for parents to communicate with their kids and keep track of where they are. So I want to focus on that first. Overall I was really happy with the cell coverage of the Relay, I found it to have equal coverage to a smart phone on the same network. Occasionally it did provide the alert that it wasn't connected to the "Relay Server", but this seemed to happen only in fringe areas or when transitioning from Wi-Fi to cell coverage. The Push & Talk functionality is super easy and intuitive. The clarity is great, except for when my son got over exuberant and the sound would end up a bit distorted. The volume is easy to adjust via the button on the side and seemed to be adequate for most environments. Enabling the push notifications on the phone keeps you aware of any activity on your channel so you are less likely to miss something. Though, with that said I do wish you could set the app to record incoming messages. Several times my phone would alert me that my son was talking to me but with my volume off I heard nothing. Overall these work just like the walkie talkies you remember from being a kid, but with nearly unlimited range.
The tracking capabilities of these devices is also pretty good. Unlike the TickTalk 3
we reviewed, this device seems to be able to provide updates on the move though a bit behind actual location. But certainly good enough to have an idea where they are and where they are headed. Also I found the location to be incredibly accurate. Unlike the TickTalk 3, I would often see my phone and the two Relays overlapped, where the TickTalk 3 would often be a football field away when they were all on the same nightstand. Hopefully no one will ever need it to be that accurate but it is nice to know it is where you think it is.
Translate: I don't know if it was me, but I never really got this to work. A couple of times I would say something in another language and it would translate it to English. But most of the time it would just repeat what I said in the same language. Maybe I am missing the point of this but I was expecting you could have someone speaking another language into this and it would tell you what they said. This isn't what I found.
Music: The devices I received had some music pre-installed, but you can add more to the device using the proprietary USB charging/data cable. I played around with the existing music and found the sound quality to be acceptable and with the headphone jack you can listen and not bother those around you. I did play music for about 30 minutes and found the unit still had plenty of battery left at the end of the day.
Echo: This is one of those features the kids like and the parents start to lose their minds. In this mode the device repeats back what was said with random echo like effects. At first it was fun and cute but after 20 minutes I was about to disable the channel. Luckily he moved on.
Daily Joke: This channel is a curated list of kid friendly jokes; like how do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boogie in it. Most of the jokes are cute but like the echo effect, you do start to lose your patience. Again thankfully the obsession of playing these wears off before minds are completely lost.
I am not sure if this has a name but my son realized if he puts the two Relays together they will play random sound effects, mostly of different animals. Again this is another feature that starts off cute and fun then turns south quickly. Luckily he doesn't get obsessed but if you have a kid that is prone to repetitive things you may have issues.
Battery life: It is fantastic! My son can take this to school and come home with nearly enough to last another day. This is especially incredible being that the device has no cell service or Wi-Fi service for the majority of the day. My only gripe is I think their battery saving mode may be a bit too slow to react when signals change. For instance when my son leaves the building and gets on the bus, the device doesn't show activity until about 5 minutes later. But still I can't complain about the battery life.
Wi-Fi: Since these devices do not have a screen you configure the connections through the app. This is a blessing and a curse. For most private networks this works perfect, you select it, provide the password, and you're done. Unfortunately most public networks are done differently. When you see an open network and you click connect, it does this but most of these networks require you to accept terms or redirect you to a page to log in. This is not possible with the Relay. To make matters worse, if you try to connect to one of these networks and it requires additional inputs you are stuck without any connection at all. Since you are connected to Wi-Fi the device disables the cellular portion, but you have no internet connection and no connection to the Relay server. Normally you could go in and tell your device to forget the network so it stays on cell, but there is no feature like that in the app. Otherwise the Wi-Fi performance is quite good.
Kid friendliness: Overall this package is tough to beat. The colors are fun and the inclusion of the stickers for the Push & Talk button allow kids to customize it a bit more. Operation is simple, though sometimes you do lose the beginnings and ends of what they say because they forget to wait for the beep to start talking and release it too early. Since it is a simple button press, we found it super easy to use even when we were skiing and we had gloves on, something not possible with a tiny touchscreen. Changing the channel via the power button was also intuitive enough but since there is no back, if you have 25 channels and miss one, you've got a lot of button presses to get back to your desired channel.