With or without a SIM card, and if without, then which one to buy? These are the questions asked by many people looking for a GPS tracker for their e-bike.
We shed some light on the subject. To do so, we go into when a GPS tracker needs a SIM card and what you should look for in a SIM card for GPS trackers. We also compare devices with and without an integrated card and introduce you to a few recommended providers.
Does every GPS tracker need a SIM card?
There are GPS tracker devices that serve their purpose even without a SIM card:
- GPS navigation systems: Navigation systems, as we know them from cars, are used exclusively for navigation. Your location is displayed directly on a screen on the device.
- GPS loggers: These devices record routes, for example, when hiking. You can then analyze them on a computer. You can not retrieve your current location during a hike.
Both types of GPS tracker devices have in common that the location data is not sent to an external device such as a mobile phone. Therefore, they do not require a GPS tracker SIM card.
The situation is different if you want to track the location of an e-bike via your mobile phone to check if your bike is being moved without permission, or to track down the location of a stolen bike. In this case, the tracker must send the position data to your mobile phone or the corresponding app on your smartphone. For this, it usually uses the mobile network, which requires a go SIM card.
In summary, not every GPS tracker device needs a SIM card, but every GPS tracker that sends data to a smartphone via the cellular network does.
Want to learn more about how data exchange between GPS trackers and end devices works, what IoT and M2M mean, and the differences between various wireless standards? Take a look at our special topic “Internet of Things, smart e-bikes and GPS tracking” now.”.
What is important about a GPS tracker SIM card?
If you know that your GPS tracker needs a SIM card, you still have a choice: There are GPS trackers that already have a SIM card integrated and those for which you have to buy the SIM card separately.
First of all, let’s assume that you have chosen a GPS tracker without an integrated SIM card. Then you can buy a SIM card yourself. But what does it depend on?
Prepaid SIM card or contract
First of all, you have the choice between two “billing models” for a SIM card for GPS trackers: prepaid SIM card and SIM card with a contract.
The key differences at a glance:
- Prepaid: with a prepaid SIM card, you only pay for what you use. The card often includes a starting credit. Once this has been used up, you have to top it up again. Under certain circumstances (not always), you can get away cheaper this way. However, tracking only works if you have credit on your card. If you have no more data volume, you will not be able to view live location GPS data.
- >Contract: With a contract, monthly or annual fixed costs are incurred. This cannot be changed before the end of the contract period. The significant advantage, in this case, is that GPS tracking is possible at any time, unlike with a prepaid card.
What you choose is a matter of opinion. We think that a SIM card with a contract offers more security than a prepaid card because you can rely on it at any time. If your e-bike is stolen, you do not have to worry about running out of credit and having your GPS tracking thwarted.
Aside from the question of the billing model, network coverage plays a crucial role when it comes to SIM cards. After all, especially if you are tracking a stolen e-bike, it is necessary to track it everywhere. Otherwise, there is a risk that the thieves will put your bike into a dead zone.
In this context, make sure to check which radio standard a GPS tracker provider uses. There are big differences between 2G, narrowband IoT, LTE-M or SigFox and LoRA.
If you want to find out more about radio standards and which one is best suited for bicycle GPS tracking, we recommend you read the articles in our technology topic special.
No question, costs also play an essential role in running a GPS tracker device. You probably want to keep the running costs low. This can be achieved by both a cheap contract and a cheap prepaid tariff. But be careful: it is not advisable to accept poor network coverage in order to save money.
Important SIM card manufacturers
Manufacturers with tariffs that are eligible for GPS tracking in the offer are, for example:
In addition to these, you will find many other providers of SIM cards with changing offers. It is worthwhile to do some personal research in advance.
GPS tracker without SIM card (retrofittable) vs. GPS tracker with integrated SIM card
If you choose a GPS tracker without an integrated SIM card, it means:
- You get the GPS tracker, including necessary accessories.
- For the GPS device to transmit data to a smartphone, you have to purchase an additional SIM card and insert it into the slot provided.
However, GPS trackers for bikes or e-bikes hardly ever use this system anymore but come with a SIM card.
This is because a GPS tracker device that requires you to upgrade the SIM card has fundamental disadvantages compared to a “complete solution”:
- In contrast to a SIM card, which providers of GPS trackers have carefully selected, problems with network coverage and especially with roaming abroad occur more quickly with a self-selected variant.
- If you are not careful, unexpected costs will arise from use abroad or if your bike is stolen and thieves transport it abroad. Again, you do not have to worry about that with an integrated card and a flat rate.
- e-SIM cards or soldered SIM cards take up less space than a slot. This makes the tracker slimmer. This makes it easier to mount it hidden and provides more security.
- Customer support is usually better when you buy the tracker and SIM card together.
And what about the costs? Usually, you pay a fixed monthly or annual amount for data usage, which also covers customer support.
We at PowUnity also give you the GPS data flat for the PowUnity app that comes with the GPS tracker for free in the 1st year. If you consider that you get a fully developed technical solution plus customer service, this is quite respectable.
GPS Tracker with SIM Card – Provider
There are more GPS trackers for theft protection than we can present here. We will highlight a few popular models and their advantages and disadvantages below. For details on which criteria are crucial when choosing GPS tracker devices, read our article “GPS tracker bike: test 2021 – how to find the best device for you”.
PAJ GPS Allround Finder – versatile but bulky
The PAJ GPS Allround Finder is, as the name suggests, an all-rounder. That is, it is suitable for tracking a wide variety of objects or even people. The SIM card is included and those who want to use the finder pay a monthly subscription price in addition to the purchase price.
However, the device is hardly suitable for protecting bicycles against theft, even though it is often advertised as such. The bulky PAJ GPS Allround Finder can hardly be attached inconspicuously to your bike. It also does not help that the tracker can score with sufficient battery life and the price turns out to be fair.
Easy to use
Too large and conspicuous as a GPS tracker for bikes
Vodafone Curve Bike – GPS Tracker and Rear Light
The Vodafone Curve Bike is a GPS tracker that can be used in combination with both conventional bikes and e-bikes. The most prominent feature: the tracker is integrated into a rear light.
This has two advantages:
- You do not “just” get a GPS tracker, you also get a working tail light.
- The tracker is not readily recognizable as such to thieves.
In case of a theft attempt, the Vodafone Curve Bike works like many other GPS tracker devices. A motion sensor registers as soon as your bike is moved and informs you via an app. You can then locate your bike and try to get it back with the help of the police. In addition, the rear light functions as a fall sensor that can inform selected contacts of your location in the event of a fall.
So far, it is a well-rounded device. Still, it has its drawbacks: Although the GPS tracker’s battery recharges automatically via the light, standby is nevertheless over after a foreseeable amount of time. In addition, the rear light can be easily and quickly unscrewed – unlike a GPS tracker, which is installed inside an e-bike, for example.
Tail light and GPS tracker in one
With camber sensor
Good price-performance ratio
Limited battery life in standby mode
Easy to remove
It’s My Bike – Tracker with NB-IoT
The It’s My Bike GPS tracker comes from Hesse, Darmstadt to be precise, and is specifically designed for e-bikes. Unlike many comparable devices, it is not attached to the frame, but firmly integrated into the bike’s motor. This has the advantage that the tracker is practically invisible to thieves and cannot be removed as quickly as Vodafone’s tail light. Small downside: self-installation is not possible. You can only get the It’s My Bike GPS tracker from dealers and have it installed by them.
The functionality is the same as with the Vodafone tracker: You will also be notified via the app in case of an attempted theft, and you also benefit from additional functions, such as ride statistics in the app. It’s My Bike uses the comparatively new NB-IoT wireless standard for the Internet of Things for tracking.
This brings us to the major weakness of It’s My Bike: NB-IoT is characterized by good building penetration and low energy requirements. But the network coverage, which is built on LTE, is currently not yet comparable to that of the older 2G. In addition, and this will not change in the future, NB-IoT does not enable real-time tracking, either domestically or internationally. Delays can be a big disadvantage when tracking stolen bikes. After all, you want to know where your bike currently is, not where it was recently.
Firmly integrated into the motor of the e-bike
With the modern phone app
Only available through dealers (self-installation not possible)
No real-time tracking is possible due to NB-IoT radio standard
What does NB-IoT mean, how does the wireless standard work and what are its advantages and disadvantages? You can get answers to these questions from us. Read now “Narrowband-IoT: The proper GPS tracker standard for your e-bike?”
GPS tracker BikeTrax from PowUnity
The BikeTrax GPS tracker is also unobtrusively integrated into your e-bike’s motor. Unlike It’s My Bike, however, in this case, you can do it yourself. Simply order the tracker for your e-bike or the motor of your e-bike in our GPS tracker online store. Installation is easy even for people without experience in bicycle repair and a knack for tinkering.
When tracking your e-bike, you benefit from a modern app with additional functions such as a bike passport, in which all relevant information, including proof of purchase, is stored and can be sent to the police as a theft report.
In addition, and this is another big difference to the It’s My Bike tracker, real-time tracking is possible with PowUnity’s BikeTrax. The GPS tracking builds on the 2G radio standards and will move to LTE-M in the near future, both of which allow seamless GPS tracking in real-time, unlike NB-IoT. A SIM card is permanently installed, so you do not have to worry about that.
Permanently installed inside the e-bike
Self-assembly is possible without any problems with an assembly instruction
Europe-wide real-time tracking and seamless network coverage
Modern app with additional functions such as a bike pass and route diary
GPS Tracker Bike Trax – this is how the billing works
You do not have to worry about a sim card for GPS Tracker when you order the GPS Tracker BikeTrax. You will be charged for the data you use via an annual subscription.
This works as follows:
- When you buy the GPS tracker, you get one year of data transfer for free.
- After this time, you sign up for an annual subscription for 39.50 €.
- This subscription is also a data flat rate. That means it does not matter how often you call up the location of his bike and how much data volume you use. You can also use all the features like the route diary included in the app as you share your GPS data with friends or in other apps.
By the way: Thanks to an additional battery, the GPS tracker also works when thieves remove the battery bikes.
Conclusion: GPS trackers for theft protection best with SIM card
If you are a bike or e-bike owner looking for a GPS tracker for theft protection, you need a GPS tracker with a SIM card. This is the only way to locate your bike via the Internet.
We also advise you to buy a GPS tracker with an integrated SIM card. This saves you the search for suitable SIM cards and you benefit from a reliable overall solution that will not let you down in an emergency. With an annual flat rate, for example, you still get a good deal.
Of course, a good SIM card only pays off in combination with the right GPS tracker. So make sure that not only is data transmission smooth, but that the device can be integrated inconspicuously into the e-bike, that it allows seamless tracking in real-time, and that it can be controlled via a modern app. Finally, it is important that the network is well developed. So the investment is worthwhile in any case.