Sigbog is an avid Level 40 "Pokémon GO" player and raider with lots of knowledge and experience to draw from.
Wind the time back to shortly after the launch of Pokémon Go and you'll remember the ridiculous desire for a Pokémon Go Plus and its incredible scarcity. They were selling for over $100 if you could even find one. This little device turned Pokémon Go into a single button press game by connecting with your phone via bluetooth. The convenience it offered was incredible. The ability to swipe Pokéstops, catch Pokémon, and track distance all from a small device in your pocket was amazing, especially when during this time Pokémon Go was well known to be a huge battery drain and basically a hand warmer when open with how much it cooked your device.
Now, the Poké Ball Plus has released as a part of the cross with Pokémon: Let's Go. The Poké Ball Plus is mainly used as a controller for Pokémon: Let's Go, but it also doubles as a Pokémon Go Plus. I was personally very excited to see if the Poké Ball Plus would serve as a Pokémon Go Plus 2.0. If you haven't used a Pokémon Go Plus, it leaves a lot to be desired. It's often buggy and slow to connect or occasionally even refuses to connect. It won't throw anything but regular Pokéballs. It won't work if you only have great/ultra balls, and will get stuck on Pokémon instead of switching to spin Pokéstops. I was hoping to see Niantic take this chance to fix some of these problems so I got a Poké Ball Plus to find out.
Chart Breakdown: Pokémon Go Plus vs. Poké Ball Plus
Poké Ball Plus: The Good
I immediately noticed the Poké Ball Plus clearly has much higher production value. After using it to play my copy of Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee I was pretty satisfied. I then popped open Pokémon Go to see what it could do. It connects quickly, and usually seems to register Pokémon very quickly. In the regular Plus there is often an annoying delay between registering the next thing it needs to interact with. That seems to have been minimized with the ball. It also follows the regular protocol for a plus in terms of vibrations and LED colors.
It automatically spins Pokéstops which is altogether quite awesome and perhaps my favorite thing about the ball.
Of course, it's rechargeable. I haven't yet run out of battery while trying to use the ball but I also haven't put it to the test to see how many hours of continuous use it has.
And we can't forget, it tracks distance and that's just great.
Poké Ball Plus: The Bad
I'm sad to report that the Poké Ball Plus certainly has its downsides.
The biggest problem to me is the size. It doesn't go well in a pocket, at least not the pocket on a pair of jeans. It fits into a hoodie pocket without issue, the thing isn't exactly large. But that leaves the 2nd biggest problem. The Poké Ball Plus has 2 buttons, the top button and the joystick button, and you can connect to the Pokémon Go app with either one. However, you can only use the top button to interact with Pokémon. The issue is that the top button is not physically differentiated in any way and barely has a ring around it that you can feel with your finger. When it vibrates in my pocket I basically have to squeeze the entire ball until it works because I can't tell where the top button is. This would all be solved if the joystick button also worked, but it doesn't. This is one of the most annoying things about the Poké Ball Plus, though it can be worked with.
Related, is that you then aren't really able to hit the button while it's in your pocket. The regular plus is somewhat flat, so you can leave it in your pocket with the button facing outward and easily find and hit it when you need to. The Poké Ball is big and round, and the top button doesn't stick out, so you can't really use it from your pocket at all. It seems to only be practical if I put it in a hoodie pocket and keep my hand in there and positioned properly on the ball to hit the button.
Lastly, there have been a few moments where the ball did not seem to quickly recognize a nearby stop and was actually slower than a typical go plus. I'm not sure if this is going to be a consistent problem because generally it was quite fast, but I wanted to call it out.
Honestly, there is no clear winner. The fact a Pokémon Go Plus can be modified to automatically catch Pokémon and spin Pokéstops makes the regular plus a winner to me. However, most people won't want to modify their pluses. The Poké Ball Plus compared to a vanilla plus may very well be a better option due to its general higher quality/performance, rechargeable battery, and automatic stop spinning. Of course this comes at the cost of having to be more actively interacted with or even held rather than more passively sit in your pocket. Even just having it connected to track distance and spin stops from a backpack makes it a pretty powerful choice.
There is also a 3rd device, a knock-off called the "Gotcha". While I've never personally used one, I've heard it automatically catches Pokémon and spins Pokéstops, but also uses a rechargeable battery. I can't speak to its performance, and I've generally heard mixed reviews, but I figured you should hear it.