Full of anticipation, I bought an “H08” mini GPS tracker off ebay hoping to secure it under my Suzuki’s dashboard in the case that the car ever got stolen. Seems like a good idea, and it’d be kinda cool to chase my car down with the Slovak police in pursuit!
Brimming over with anticipation, I bought a new SIM card from O2 Slovakia, and soon afterwards the Mini GPS tracker arrived, and boy is it a tiny thing!
As you can see above, the instructions that came with the machine were… well, kinda useless. It’s in “Chinglish” (Chinese-like English) and it makes less sense than non-alcoholic beer. To read it, click on the picture above and it’ll open at full size in a new tab for you.
It’s amazing how they can fit such technology into one tiny little circuit. I’m planning on hiding in directly underneath the dashboard below the plastic, so it’ll be impossible to see and near-impossible to remove.
After installing a SIM card, I proudly fired up the mini GPS tracker on the windowsill with a clear view of the sky, and gave it a couple of minutes before I loaded the SIM card’s phone number into my phone and typed out the SMS message DW and pressed send.
Just 30 seconds after sending the SMS with DW in it, I got a response back from the GPS tracker! It had a link which I eagerly pressed, to see if it could find where I was located in Bratislava…
According to Google Translator, the text just above the map 位置不详 means “Not Connected” which is bad news. I tried a different location on the driveway, outside and away from the house… Same thing happened.
Then I left it for 20 long minutes outside and tried sending the SMS again. Nope, 20 seconds later I get a link for the same 位置不详 (Not Connected) map in Chinese.
I tried calling the device. No problem, it picks up in less than one ring, and I can hear everything going on around the GPS tracker thanks to its little built-in microphone.
I tried the SIM card from the tracker in my phone. No problems there, it loads up immediately and finds a connection. I thought perhaps the O2 SIM card I bought just isn’t compatible with the GPS tracker, so I tried my father in law’s Orange SIM card.
Once again, I could call the device, but when I sent DW to the device to get a precise location, I got another link with the same middle-of-nowhere map location.
I contacted the ebay seller to ask why this might be happening and he seemed reasonably helpful during the 5 or 6 emails we’ve gone through, but ultimately I’ve reached this point where I’m not sure what to do next.
I get the feeling that these mini GPS trackers don’t work in Slovakia (and even Europe) because I found a discussion thread here, where users of a very similar Chinese GPS tracker are having the same problem.
UPDATE: A very helpful guy here Slovakia has also bought a GPS tracker (although a different type) and has suggested I try and change the APN settings to allow it to connect to the data network here. He sent me some advice on turning off GPRS, and setting the APN via SMS, which is suitable for his model of GPS tracker.
As you can see above, I’m trying as many combinations as possible to change the settings. Unfortuantely I get the feeling that A: either this tracker’s connection details cannot be changed, or B: the syntax of the SMS message I’m sending is different to all the other Chinese-made trackers out there.
Normally, if I send the tracker an instruction via SMS such as factory# (for a complete factory reset) it would respond with ok but with the APN and GPRS instructions I tried, I get no answer from the tracker.
As you can see in the two screen captures above, I tried (yet another) factory reset but as usual when I send the message DW to get a location, it gives me the same old link with “Not Connected” in Chinese, and a Google map of a non-existent ocean.
Another tech savvy friend of mine has just studied the photographs of this mini GPS tracker and found that it doesn’t actually have a GPS satellite antenna. This means it’s only method of positioning is via cellular network triangulation (guessing a rough location by the signal strength from the nearby cellular towers).
Sadly this means the eBay listing was somewhat misleading, and at present I still have no solution to the connection problem. If you’re reading this and have managed to fix it then please let me know how!
UPDATE: Unless I can learn otherwise I have come to the conclusion that these mini GPS locators do not work on 3G networks, and I suspect this is the main reason it refuses to work. After looking on eBay, I have noticed that many Chinese made phone advertisements have the warning, “This will not work with 3G” under them.
I don’t know why, but it seems many Chinese mobile devices do not have 3G capability, and I suspect my mini GPS is no different. Someone else might be able to confirm or deny this but I reckon that’s what’s causing the problem. These Chinese mini GPS units simply do not work on 3G networks.
This means I’m now looking at using my car’s Raspberry Pi as a tracking device with a GPS antenna and a 3G modem. It’s just a very messy way (with a lot of cables and learning how to code) just to see where my car is. I wonder if there’s an easier way.
ANOTHER UPDATE: As you can see in the picture above, the sellers of these mini GPS trackers are starting to update their advertisements to include Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and El Salvador to a (growing?) list of places where these Chinese devices are useless.
If nothing else, I sincerely hope that my misfortune and experimentation has saved you from potentially wasting your time and money one of these GPS trackers. I gave up, and I created a GPS tracker using an old cellphone instead.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I’ve posted this problem in other forums, and one person has provided this site as a possible solution. It’s not the ideal answer we’re all looking for, but it’s a start: http://www.minigps.net/map.html At that site, enter in the details you got from your GPS tracker’s response, and you should get a rough location come up on the map (I got an address that was only 2 streets away which was good). I know it’s not perfect; the site is all in Chinese, the process isn’t automated, and it takes some time to fill in, but it did work for me.
Please leave a message underneath if you also have this problem and what country you’re in. That way we can learn what countries this problem affects.
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