Spot Connect Review

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Luke: "The Spot Connect was a key part of our communications strategy with the outside world. It’s a good tool for what it is, but I can’t recommend purchasing it. Read on to find out why...

(We had a satellite phone as our primary, making a phone call to a different people back home each day - giving our status and our location and if anything interesting happened that day. This is all pretty standard on trips like this and it works well. Find whatever provider is cheapest, get that phone, and bring a backup battery.)

As I was saying, the Spot was our backup, incase the sat phone broke, was lost, or whatever. It runs on a different, if similar, network - thus also providing redundancy on the infrastructure backend. We went with the Spot Connect model for two reasons: 1) it has an emergency SOS button, sort of a poor man’s EPIRB and 2) it can broadcast your location on Twitter!

Regarding 1), we never had to use it so I can’t speak to it too well. We never had any issues getting a satellite link with our Twitter broadcasts, so I assume that the SOS function would be fine as well.

As for 2), this feature was a favorite of all of our friends and family back home. We were able to send out an update with our location to all our Twitter followers twice a day, alerting them that we were stopped for lunch or stopped for the evening. The Spot handles this in a very clever way, by having you set up all your messages beforehand with a computer. After that, all it needs to do is know which message to send out instead of the whole content of the message - this saves on data costs for SPOT and makes things a little more durable in terms of spotty connections. I set up the two alerts, a lunch one and a camp one, with our current location with each message. It worked well.

The process of sending a message was quite cumbersome though. Here’s how it worked:

  1. stop traveling
  2. pull out hardware from pack and dry bags
  3. fire up iPhone with SPOT messenger app
  4. fire up SPOT messenger
  5. pair the devices
  6. try again, since I don’t think I ever got a link on the first go
  7. select which message you want to send out with the iPhone
  8. send the message
  9. wait. A lot. In order to make sure the message gets through, SPOT tries three times with 5 minute pause times between each
  10. hope your message got out. There’s no ‘message successfully sent’ notification system in the app and I managed to get some false positives while setting things up before the trip
  11. pack everything back up

Great so far, right? Well, not exactly. There is ONE HUGE GLARING ISSUE WITH THE SPOT MESSENGER: you need a paired phone to send out messages. This meant that, when I left the trip after the first leg and took my phone with me, there was no way to send out status updates. There was still a key on the hardware to send out an SOS, but how hard would have been to put one more key on with an ‘I’m OK’ button? Their lower end device, without the messaging function, has just this button.

Because of the need for a paired phone, I can’t recommend the SPOT Messenger - go with the base model or the fancy deLorme with the built in screen."

Visit the Spot Connect website