The new Pokémon Go Plus has finally arrived, giving Pokémon Go players a way to catch critters and collect items without ever taking their phones out of their pockets.
I walked into a store and bought two today (there were plenty more around) so chances are you won’t have to resort to overpaying on eBay for a pre-order slot.
After only a few hours playing with the Go, I already feel like it has a good chance of pulling me back into the game, at least for a little while, and the entire experience of using it is pretty painless. The Go Plus was easy to pair with my iPhone, since it uses Bluetooth LE, and you don’t even have to leave the Go app itself to connect them.
All you have to do to pair is open Go on your device, go to the main menu (tap the Pokéball icon) and then hit Settings. There’s a new “Pokémon Go Plus” menu item provided you’re on the latest version, and then you just press the physical button on your device and tap the line item that appears in the app itself telling you it discovered the device.
The hardest part of setting up the Go wasn’t anything to do with software, however – it was changing out the clip for the wrist band. This actually involved using a screwdriver (not provided) to unseat a single mounting screw, and then to screw that back into the backplate attached to the wrist band. The screw-based mounting doubles as access to the battery, however, and also means that you won’t be able to easily lose the Go Plus itself. It just means a big chunk of users might need the help of their parent or guarding initially.
Once on, the band is light and comfortable though (think bracelet rather than activity tracker), and it buzzes well enough that you’d be hard-pressed to miss a notification. The single button will change color depending on what you’ve encountered (blue for PokéStop, green for previously encountered Pokémon and yellow for new Pokémon).
When you press the button in response to these notices, it’ll either trigger the stop, getting you some items, or attempt to catch the Pokémon. This depletes your stock of regular Pokéballs by one, then has you watching for the series of white lights that tell you a catch is in progress, and hoping you’ll be notified of a successful catch with a multicolored flashing light. A red light means the Pokémon got away, and there is not chance to re-attempt capture using just the Go – you either catch the Pokémon on first try or it gets away.
On-screen notifications also provide more info, including the number of items you’ve received and whether you successfully caught a Pokémon.
Overall, it’s a much-improved Pokémon Go playing experience for casual players who’d rather not be holding their phones constantly. Plus, Niantic has added more functionality than was originally promised, including step tracking for hatching eggs and buddy training, and the ability to catch Pokémon you haven’t encountered before.
At least until the Apple Watch app arrives, I’ll definitely be doing most of my Go-ing via the Plus, and if the app lacks the ability to catch Pokémon as originally announced (and if it hurts Watch battery life), I’ll definitely be sticking with the dedicated wearable. Plus, it’s an overt signal that you’re part of a very nerdy club, which is nice.