While the Pokémon GO craze has clearly died down after the initial explosion of interest at launch, there are still millions of people who continue to play the game each and every day. Some of these will already be using the excellent Pokémon GO Plus accessory, a device worn on your wrist which flashes whenever a 'mon or Pokéstop is nearby, allowing you to attempt a capture or grab items without having to remove your phone from your pocket.
As we pointed out when we reviewed the GO Plus last year, it's a great device for serious players and we continue to use ours every single day - we dread to think of all the monsters and items we'd have missed out on had we not had the unit with us at all times. The only real drawback of the GO Plus (aside from the fact that it only allows you to use standard Pokéballs when attempting a capture) is the fact that you still have to interact with the unit to get it to do anything. This is obviously a lot better than having to use your phone - especially when you're walking or driving - but it still requires you to constantly push a button every few minutes.
Some inventive players have come up with hacks to totally automate the process, but if you're not keen on performing invasive surgery on your beloved GO Plus then you might want to take a look at Datel's Go-tcha, which costs £29.99 (not including shipping) from CodeJunkies. Shaped like a fitness tracker, this small device imitates the GO Plus perfectly while adding in some neat tricks of its own, such as auto-capture and auto-spinning of Pokéstops. The unit slots into a rubber strap and has to be removed for charging - the internal battery is said to last for eight hours of constant use according to the manufacturer, with a full day of standby time. Charging is handled by the proprietary USB changer, and it takes around an hour to fully charge.
Unlike the GO Plus, which gives you feedback via LED flashes and vibrations, the Go-tcha has an OLED screen on which information can be more clearly displayed. At the bottom of the Go-tcha's screen there's a capacitive button which is used to interact with the device. A single tap will wake it and automatically connect to the app, while subsequent taps will run you through the menu system where you can toggle various settings such as auto-catch, auto-spin, vibration, pairing with your phone and so on. You can also tell the device to only catch Pokémon you don't already have in your Pokédex. To change one of the settings you have to hold your finger down on the capacitive button. It's possible to turn off the automated functions if you so wish and have it operate just like standard GO Plus.
All of these features are great, but a device like this lives or dies by how well it works out in the field. During a solid day of testing, we can confirm that the Go-tcha performed just as well as the GO Plus. The automatic modes all worked perfectly; just like the GO Plus the unit prioritizes 'mon over Pokéstops and is sometimes a bit slow to spin for items, but we have a feeling this is simply how the app works rather than a fault with the unit. Also like the official option, the Go-tcha automatically disconnects from the app after about an hour of usage, irrespective of whether or not you're interacting with it. Again, this appears to be a call by Niantic to save battery life. Sadly the unit's OLED screen is quite hard to see in bright sunlight, which is a shame as it negates one of the big selling points of this device over the GO Plus.
We came away incredibly impressed with the Go-tcha, and it has certainly replaced the GO Plus as our daily travelling companion. Given that the device is totally unofficial, it's fair to ask what kind of long-term future it has; we're sure Nintendo and Niantic won't look too kindly on other manufacturers profiting off the popularity of Pokémon GO and could even take some kind of legal action against Datel regarding the unit. As for whether they can patch out support for the device, we're not convinced it's possible; as far as the Pokémon GO app is concerned, the Go-tcha is a GO Plus. Unless Niantic is able to spot some kind of difference on a hardware level that it can exploit in a future app update to prevent the Go-tcha from connecting then we wouldn't worry too much about this device suddenly becoming useless overnight.
For those of you concerned that using the Go-tcha could lead to your account being banned, we'd also say that's very, very unlikely. As we've just noted, the app "sees" the device as a GO Plus so that would suggest there's no way Niantic can tell if you're using a Go-tcha or the real deal. The automated behaviour of the device is also unlikely to trigger any alarms; if that were the case, then those people using the aforementioned GO Plus hack would have been banned quite some time ago.
The existence of the Go-tcha does throw up one very important debate: if everything is automated then are you really playing Pokémon GO anymore? Given that some people considered the GO Plus to be a challenge-destroying device, the Go-tcha will almost certainly be seen as a greater evil, but the fact of the matter is that Pokémon GO requires an awful lot of grinding and collecting and anything that makes that process easier is going to be seen as a benefit by certain players.