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SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 2 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

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SPOT satellite GPS messenger

SPOT satellite GPS messenger.

SPOT

The Bottom Line

Many people depend on their smartphones for emergency contact and GPS services, but a smartphone can disappoint you when you need it most. Major smartphone weaknesses include short battery life, lack of waterproofness, and little or no coverage in backcountry areas. If you're serious about any type of backcountry or water travel or adventure, you may want to invest in some serious gear that can keep you in contact, and keep friends, family, and if necessary, emergency services aware of your location and condition. That's where the SPOT Satellite Messenger, reviewed here, comes in.
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Pros

  • Communicates via satellite, covering most of the globe.
  • Waterproof, durable, long battery life.
  • Companion website well-designed, thorough, easy to use.

Cons

  • Annual service plan ($99.99 for one year) required in addition to initial hardware cost.
  • Message content and types must be pre-set before departure. Can't be changed in the field.

Description

  • Price: $150 - $199
  • "Talks back" to satellites to send messages from around the globe.
  • Check in - OK feature sends a pre-set message and your location to others.
  • Batteries: 3 AAA.
  • 3.7 x 2.6 x1 inches.
  • 5.2 ounces.
  • Service plans: $99.99 for one year, $199.98 for two years.
  • Facebook and Twitter update direct links "coming soon."
  • SPOT "Assist" roadside and marine plans available at extra annual cost.

Guide Review - SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

The SPOT Satellite Messenger is waterproof (it passed my immersion test), durably built, and does a few vital functions very well. Its key feature, setting it apart from other portable GPS devices on the market, is the ability to communicate via satellite. This makes it a useful and dependable stay-in-touch and emergency device around much of the globe.

Beyond emergency contact, the SPOT can offer peace of mind to friends and family. For example, a press of one button initiates a "check-in/OK" custom message that can be texted and/or e-mailed to a pre-set list, including a link to your position (as determined by its built-in GPS) on Google Maps. Another option for check-in is a "track progress" feature that sends your coordinates to your personal SPOT account every 10 minutes. This near-real-time sharing can take place on your SPOT map page, which can be set to public or private. Both of these features worked as advertised in my off-road cycling tests.

For a true emergency, SPOT users have two options. A "Help" button (wisely covered with an attached cap that snaps clear with a thumbnail) notifies your pre-arranged personal contacts that you need help, along with your coordinates. The message is sent every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. The second emergency option, "SOS/911" is one you hope you never need, but you're glad is there. The SOS/911 button (also covered to prevent accidental engagement) sends a distress message and your coordinates to the GEOS Search & Rescue system that will contact appropriate authorities, including, for example, local police, mountain search & rescue teams, or the Coast Guard.

The current SPOT Satellite Messenger is a second-generation product. I reviewed the original version and liked the concept, but faulted the device on usability and control features. Credit to SPOT, they have done a lot of work on every aspect of the device, making it more compact (it's now 1 x 2.6 x 3.7 inches), and significantly improving button layout and usability, as well as improving the Web interface and features. I had no difficulty walking through the online setup process, and understanding and setting up the fairly detailed emergency contact layers.

I tested the SPOT primarily on road and mountain bike rides, and found that it accurately tracked my position and reported same to my personal SPOT page and map without a problem. My "check-in/OK" messages went to the e-mail addresses I had set up without fail, and provided a convenient link to location in Google Maps, in addition to my pre-set message.

The SPOT runs on three, AAA lithium batteries, and the batteries are said to last three months in the powered-on state, and up to six days with SOS or Track Progress activated. Best to carry a spare set of batteries for a long trip, and/or turn on the SPOT just for check-ins or an emergency to assure long battery life.

SPOT is also collaborating with DeLorme to provide a custom device paired to a full-featured handheld GPS.

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User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
Good hardware annoying slow web site, Member bilko2

The hardware works well. I tracked a round the world flight via Europe, stans, Russsia, USA, North Atlantic. There were few gaps. BUT: Web site is very slow and a large part of this device is using the web site. When I say slow I mean VERY slow. Track information disappears from web site after 2(?) weeks so part of my track was gone when I got home. That's mean - I can't believe it takes much memory to store a few hundred data points.

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