I’m pretty upset with how Automatic handled their 2016 product lineup. First, some background:
I pre-ordered the Automatic in 2013. I’ve covered the device extensively on this blog both the good and the bad and It think their V2 product made this a mainstream and awesome device.
Here’s my past coverage:
I received an email in September introducing me to the Automatic Pro. I ordered it the day of release and received it a week later. I’ve had a lot of issues with the Automatic Pro Adapter and all of the issues are based on the 3G Connectivity. I live in Rural-New Hampshire. I have basic 1X Verizon connectivity at my house but I have a Verizon Booster that plugs into my Router. It gives me 5 bars of 3G. My Automatic adapter is within 25 feet of this booster. On the way to work, I get patches of Verizon 3G and then finally LTE about 2 miles before my office. At my new house I just bought, there’s Verizon 3G there at 2 bars w/ no LTE.
Based on this and my issues with the adapter, I assume Automatic is using AT&T’s network which is abysmal up here. Side-Note, the adapter worked fine on my trip to Canada despite Automatic saying it doesn’t work in Canada. I had connectivity and push notifications going to me just fine to and from Montreal 2 weeks ago. Here’s a clear view of my Montreal trip:
Back to my issues, my adapter will stay offline for many days without reconnecting even when my car is in a high density area with solid AT&T & Verizon service. Eventually, the dongle finds service and syncs but this could be only once a week which means my driving maps look like this:
That’s right, the GPS also isn’t gathering data. A solid 10% of my maps trips don’t have a map.
In the V2 Adapter days before Pro or Lite, the dongle stored trip information ( up to 10 if I remember correctly) and synced back to your phone when the phone was present. Now, I have a scenario where my phone is present and has service but the dongle has no idea where it is, if the car is even running and can’t synchronize back to Automatic. It has overcomplicated a system that used to just work.
This isn’t even my rant. My rant is in the fact that when Automatic launched the Pro dongle, they discontinued the V2 dongle and said “this is the future” and in that release, there is not a single mention of an Automatic Lite on the horizon. When I saw the Automatic Pro, I thought “I don’t need 3G but the built in GPS sounds good so I’ll order it”. I’m loyal to companies who innovate and treat me well and with respect. Automatic treated its customers like idiots. Instead of saying that a 3G free version of the Pro was coming soon for those of us in rural areas, they sold us on the future for $129 as a total money-grab.
One week ago, a full 8 weeks after the pro announcement, the Automatic Lite was release.
Here’s the Pro & Lite side-by-side:
$50 for lifetime 3G, Crash Alert, Parking Tracking (something built into iOS10), Live Vehicle Tracking (if 3G works) and the big one, Event & Streaming based apps.
When I started down the path of emailing Automatic asking them to swap my Pro out for a Lite, I thought to myself, I don’t need crash-alert with Volkswagen’s CarNet enabled. Parking Spot Tracking isn’t needed since I have that in iOS 10 Maps every time I get out of my car. The Live Vehicle Tracking sounds cool but I don’t have kids, my boss doesn’t care where I go and the last time a car was stolen in my area was 5 years ago and besides, any thief can just remove the dongle so it’s not thief-proof.
I don’t need any of those features but Automatic got me. If I want my lights @ the house to turn on when I get home or the thermostat to turn down when I leave or for my driving data to sync to a CSV file I keep in Drop Box, I’ll have to keep the Pro. In addition, if I want DashCommand when I take my car to the track to log all of the live data from my turbo charger and ECU and TCU and keep track of my 0-60 and 1/4 mile times, I’ll need the Streaming Apps feature as well.
….and this is where I feel helpless to the point of just wanting to sell my adapter.
Automatic is forcing me to use the Pro but for Streaming Apps & Event Based Apps to work, the 3G connection has to be solid. In my area, it isn’t. I have service maybe 5% of my day and about 30% on days I go to the office. If someone steals my car at the house and drives east toward Maine, I won’t know it’s stolen until they’re 5 hours from my house when they get service again. if Automatic is using GSM, I can tell you guys for a fact that AT&T made me give my phone back to them and they cancelled my 2 year contract when I changed my address to where I was living 5 years ago (about 5 miles from my house today) because they had zero coverage in the area and had no plans to add coverage and that remains true today.
Having gotten rid of my V2 Automatic, I’m pretty pissed. The future is Automatic Pro (and Lite) and the Lite doesn’t have any of the features my V2 had and the Pro has 3G as a required means of connectivity yet no where in my area has 3G except Verizon in small spots.
I want Automatic to refund me $129 and give me a V2 Dongle. That’s what I want. I feel completely disowned by this company for where I choose to live and lied to because they released the pro without talking about the Lite coming soon.