Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness on a lengthy family camping trip for the past week you’ve likely heard of Pokémon GO. But that doesn’t mean you understand it. In fact, if you’re like most of the masses, you’re probably more confused than ever.
Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know, especially if you have kids.
How do you play Pokémon GO?
At its core, Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game for your iPhone or Android-powered smartphone. So when you hold up your phone’s camera and scan the area you’re in, you might see a Pokémon right there with you.
The in-game map uses your real-world GPS location to guide you toward other players, Pokémon characters, and PokéStops, where you can snag free in-game upgrades.
The good news: This game encourages players to get outside and go exploring in the real world. The concern: This can put younger players unexpectedly into contact with strangers. There’s even an option in the game for players to “Lure” Pokémon and other players to their real-world location. Parents beware.
Is Pokémon GO really and truly free?
The Pokémon GO app itself is free to download from the Apple app store and the Google Play store. Players can explore their world, customize their trainer character, capture Pokémon, meet other players, join gyms, and engage in battles all without spending a penny.
There are, however, a number of in-app purchases that make upgrading and catching Pokémon easier. Poké Balls, Incense, Lucky Eggs, Egg Incubators, and Lure Modules all cost real money, so parents should be aware of the potential for runaway micro-transactions.
What about data usage and battery life?
The nature of the game requires that players keep the app open and running at all times, with a constant Internet connection. This, of course, has serious implications for both your data bill and the battery life of your phone.
Phone charger cases can help extend battery life, while downloading offline maps directly from Google Maps can help mitigate data consumption. Connecting to WiFi whenever possible also helps. But even with these little tricks, there’s no denying that Pokémon GO can be a data killer and a battery drainer.