Learn about SPOT & SPOT Connect
"Mr.Twisted" received an email from a customer who wanted to know his thoughts on the SPOT GPS line of products. Check out Erik's detailed reply.
If you never leave cell phone coverage and you have a way to continuously power your phone, it’s cheaper and easier to use a cell phone app like MotionX-GPS to automatically transmit your location via email or text message on whatever frequency you set.
If you’re leaving cell coverage range, a Spot or Spot Connect can help you. Costs about $100 per year for a basic subscription that lets you check in at will by pushing a button. The problem is, you need to push a button. Upgrade your subscription an extra $50 per year to automatically transmit your location every few minutes so they know where to find you if you can’t check yourself in.
Spot has buttons, is stand alone, and is more “bulletproof”. You can wear it on your body somewhere you can reach if injured (don’t attach it to the bike, as the bike might be out of reach in a crash). Problematically, you can’t send custom messages.
Spot Connect connects to the cell phone so you can update Facebook, Twitter, text, and email, but it’s one way communication… you can only send messages out. It also has no buttons, so if your linked cell phone is broken, uncharged, out of reach, or you can’t get your gloves off, you can’t use the Spot Connect at all (except for the automatic updating of your position for the extra $50/year). Those short messages also cost more money ($50/500? – not sure of the latest pricing).
To address the vulnerability of my iPhone, I use a Lifeproof case (submersible to 1 meter, crashproof, freezeproof, etc.). You could store a non-iPhone in a drybag with a clear cover as an alternative.
The other problem is that neither Spot device can always get a connection with the sky, and both need to be charged regularly. None are substitutes for sharing your ride plan with a friend before you go.
I’m planning on using a combination of MotionX-GPS and Spot Connect on my next trip. Unfortunately, I wish I’d been able to send basic messages out when Dereck passed last week and I was in Alaska. I literally couldn’t talk to anyone until I rode 400 miles to get into cell phone range. Not good.
None of these devices allow you to receive any information if you’re out of cell phone range. For that, you need a sat phone. Depending on where you’re going, you can rent them, but usage is big bucks.