SpotX satellite communication

1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#1
I bought a SpotX satellite device, so many (most) of the remote areas I go into alone have no cell service and help is a long way off. In short it’s very good, but not great it’s an evolving technology. In a nutshell it works although on its own schedule at least with non-emergency texts, most of mine were sent, some did not (my mistakes learning) and I think there are limitations on how soon one text can be sent after another I’m still figuring the little quirks out something with traffic limitations and the system needing to reset...but, don’t ask cause I don’t know.

The service has nine different rates based on 3 different plans, a basic, advanced and an unlimited service ranging from around $14 a month to $40 a month for the unlimited flex plan. The basic plan monthly payments gets you 12 texts a month, the advanced plan get you 100 texts a month plus more frequent satalite access and unlimited is well... the three tiers are repeated except when you pay the year up front you get all your available text limit for the year and they all are good for the entire year plus it’s a couple bucks cheaper, the three levels are again repeated as flex, this has slightly higher rates and no one year commitment you can start/stop as it fits all the plans come with an $20 activation fee. I chose the advanced with 1200 texts for the year. I also added rescue insurance, roadside assistance and replacement insurance for an additional $85, the rescue insurance provides $100K/$50K per occurrencein case they have to send you a helicopter or some other big bucks rescue, roadside 50miles towing free, off road ok and winching service available at the push of a button that also sends the tow service your gps and a map with your location pinpointed, you can also send the gps data and map with a text. All in all The device, tax, fee and service for the year set me back roughly $670, cheap insurance I think.

There are also other tracking and social networking features, it’s actually a great device and gave me some comfort knowing if I needed I could get help and also it was great being able to send my wife a note and let her know everything was good.

Battery life is also good, think it will do 10 days easy with the tracking settings set to 10 minute intervals. They also do online software updates, last one came with an e-mail notice to remind me. So far I’ve used it in the California sierras and in the north Nevada desert and it was extreamly comforting to know if I’d had any problems I wasn’t going to be stuck out in the boonies for days.

7B8AF0B2-3519-4FDA-B060-1A21F4CA0C85.jpeg
 

Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
30,262
18,253
Salem, Oregon
#2
I've had my eye on all three of these, one of them being the exact one you bought:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DYC1PGR/?tag=wranglerorg-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CR7PL54/?tag=wranglerorg-20

The Garmin seems to have pretty decent reviews, but the SpotX reviews are absolutely horrible (read them on that first link). So you're saying it's not as bad as those people are saying in the reviews?

I've been thinking I really need something like this for a while, just because it would be nice to have something that works when you're 100% off the grid, by yourself, beyond any-and-all cell phone reception.
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#3
The Garmin is really nice too and I think has slightly better reception running on a different network (irridium), although probably not much of an issue really I think the difference is minimal, Garmin being into gps is better if you want that. The spot x is supposed to be much more user friendly if mainly interested in texting communication and social networking tracking functions. I was a bit concerned because of the reviews, I think many of the issues have been addressed and improved with the updates and some of it is users not understanding the directions that could be a little more complete in some areas.
 

Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
30,262
18,253
Salem, Oregon
#4
The Garmin is really nice too and I think has slightly better reception running on a different network (irridium), although probably not much of an issue really I think the difference is minimal, Garmin being into gps is better if you want that. The spot x is supposed to be much more user friendly if mainly interested in texting communication and social networking tracking functions. I was a bit concerned because of the reviews, I think many of the issues have been addressed and improved with the updates and some of it is users not understanding the directions that could be a little more complete in some areas.
That's good to hear! I almost bought one a few months back until I saw all those horrible reviews. It sounds like perhaps they are constantly refining it, which is good to hear.

I feel like more people should have one of these, especially since we tend to go to very remote places to wheel sometimes.
 

jgaz

TJ Enthusiast
May 29, 2016
292
356
Peoria, AZ
#5
I purchased the Garmin InReach SE from Costco a couple months ago for $248.16 shipped.

My wife had been strongly encouraging me to buy a Personal Locater Beacon (PLB) for more than a year. I do a lot of off trail hiking here in AZ, looking for hill top Indian ruins. Most of those hikes I do with a buddy but I do a fair amount of other remote area solo hiking during the course of the year. My wife never complains but I know she worries some times.

I really had myself convinced that all I wanted was an “awe shit” device. Push one button to call the cavalry. No subscription.

My wife thought I was nuts not to consider a device that allowed two,way communication. Now understand, she is not a person that expects a text every half hour from me.

Two things convinced me to purchase the Garmin.
First was this thread which is an excellent discussion of the pro and cons of each type of device. It includes excellent info from a current, Moab area, SAR professional. (Mobian)
https://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/plb-personal-locating-beacon.198641/

The other factor was a personal experience I had this summer volunteering in the Grand Canyon.
I work in the PSAR (preventive search and rescue) program, patrolling the corridor trails, interacting with hikers, and trying to help them make smart decisions about their hiking plans. We also assist the professional SAR rangers and many times are their initial eyes and ears. Anyway, I got a call from dispatch on my radio that a PLB had been activated approx. 1 1/2 miles below my location. I was asked to expedite down to the broadcast location and access the situation. Keep in mind, it’s summer, it’s about midday, it’s really hot and I have to climb back up about four miles now instead of two. But, that’s what we do, so I headed down.

Within 5 min., dispatch called me back and said to disregard my previous instructions. I found out later that dispatch was able to establish two way communication with the distressed hikers thru the Garmin device and determine that, even though a helicopter was needed for the rescue, it was not a life threating situation. At that point, two way communication was priceless, and not just to me.

Given our almost year round hiking season here in AZ I elected to get a basic plan for $11.95 a month. I don’t plan to use my InReach for GPS navigation so I think this plan will meet my needs. You get unlimited use of three different preprogrammed messages delivered by text and /or email. This free message includes an extremely accurate GPS location that is plotted for the recipient on google earth. You also get 10 free messages that you compose and also include the GPS location. Additional messages are .10 each. The inReach device also has the SOS button that starts the rescue. That one button is all that’s needed in case that’s all you’re capable of activating.

This is my experience, YRMV, but if you’re considering a device I strongly encourage you to read thru the attached thread. It’s hands down the best real world review of these devices.
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#6
I think no matter what device if you go out alone having one brings great peace of mind, I’m a retired Fire Chief with 30 years experience in emergency services and ran a mid size fire department in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, I am not in any way an expert in satalite communication I’ve been retired a few years and the technology is fairly new. No matter which/what company, plan or system they all run basically the same in that the devices control center relay the information and requests through a central dispatch/communication center to the appropriate agency and any rescue decision action is made by that agency and the performance differences between the providers (Garmin/spot) is small. Both Garmin and spot I think if you go out far and/or alone are a worthwhile investment in safety. The spot x runs independent of any other device, the reviews I read indicated the Garmin was tedious to text with independent of pairing it with a cell phone? I liked the idea of my emergency communicator being stand alone, very small personal preferences. I’m sure both satalite devices are worth their weight in gold if needed in an emergency.
 
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cclarke802

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jun 11, 2017
160
113
St Augustine, FL, United States
#7
I see someone say garmin is based on iridium service. I cannot speak to the garmin but I have used iridium on several sat phone when I've been abroad on a boat and it works great once you get a signal which takes a minute for it to lock on once turned on.
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#8
That’s what I’ve read and the reviews show worldwide coverage better on that system also signal strength is a bit stronger for the iridium platform, although if use is mainly for the continental US I’m not sure those differences equate to any performance difference? Perhaps jagz, would know the answer he has more experience with the devices and is more knowledgeable on the satalite systems.
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#9
319167E5-DECC-4F91-9738-3F8D52440750.jpeg
I've had my eye on all three of these, one of them being the exact one you bought:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DYC1PGR/?tag=wranglerorg-20
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CR7PL54/?tag=wranglerorg-20

The Garmin seems to have pretty decent reviews, but the SpotX reviews are absolutely horrible (read them on that first link). So you're saying it's not as bad as those people are saying in the reviews?.

I just read these reviews again a few minutes ago surprising some are very recent, although I had kind of a similar experience at first, like I said they need to improve the direction they provide. I sent myself a test text when I first got the spot and it went through in a few minutes, then I started out sending other messages to give my contacts the device address in case someone needed to reach me. I don’t know about the Garmin, but spot needs a clear view of the sky and in my impatience with the expectation this would be like using my cell phone I kept intrupting it’s attempts to connect to the satalite system causing a back-log on my device. I later read the system needs to regulate the text volume and that also can cause communication delays, I think the iridium is also subject to this as well perhaps for now to a lesser extent. My performance last trip out a couple of days ago hunting gold nuggets in the desert the spot worked everytime I used it and I received all messages sent, although I was careful to give the device time to connect and send between messages and didn’t allow them to stack up in the q. Also, I read negative reviews on the spot for some of the added features seems they might have put too much in too soon with everything not dialed in causing a lot of frustration. when I first got the spot I couldn’t calibrate the compass, after the software update I needed some of the gps tracking features that require compass calibration and up in the desert had no difficulty with the calibration it worked first try.
 
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Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
30,262
18,253
Salem, Oregon
#10
View attachment 61076


I just read these reviews again a few minutes ago surprising some are very recent, although I had kind of a similar experience at first, like I said they need to improve the direction they provide. I sent myself a test text when I first got the spot and it went through in a few minutes, then I started out sending other messages to give my contacts the device address in case someone needed to reach me. I don’t know about the Garmin, but spot needs a clear view of the sky and in my impatience with the expectation this would be like using my cell phone I kept intrupting it’s attempts to connect to the satalite system causing a back-log on my device. I later read the system needs to regulate the text volume and that also can cause communication delays, I think the iridium is also subject to this as well perhaps for now to a lesser extent. My performance last trip out a couple of days ago hunting gold nuggets in the desert the spot worked everytime I used it and I received all messages sent, although I was careful to give the device time to connect and send between messages and didn’t allow them to stack up in the q. Also, I read negative reviews on the spot for some of the added features seems they might have put too much in too soon with everything not dialed in causing a lot of frustration. when I first got the spot I couldn’t calibrate the compass, after the software update I needed some of the gps tracking features that require compass calibration and up in the desert had no difficulty with the calibration it worked first try.
You actually found those gold nuggets? Wow... I'm impressed. That has to be worth something, right?

Anyways, it sounds like there are some kinks to work out with the SpotX, but it also sounds like a lot of the complaints could be from people who just aren't willing to be patient. Still, with technology as far as it's come, you'd think we would be able to get a service like this on our smartphones if you paid extra for it... right?
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#11
D0C45A5B-EFE4-4851-B006-0E51B328E147.jpeg
FDF9B042-4CEE-4DD0-98F3-5E7731A240B3.jpeg
The gold this trip won’t even cover fuel for the thirsty tj, but the adventure priceless. Chris a lot of hours go into a little bit of color some days nothing but bullets and tiny scraps, but occasionally you get rewarded with something nice.
 

Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
30,262
18,253
Salem, Oregon
#12
View attachment 61081 View attachment 61082 The gold this trip won’t even cover fuel for the thirsty tj, but the adventure priceless. Chris a lot of hours go into a little bit of color some days nothing but bullets and tiny scraps, but occasionally you get rewarded with something nice.
That's really cool and looks like a lot of fun too! That's definitely something I'd love to try, but I'm not sure I'd find much gold like that up here in Oregon.

I suppose you have to really know where to look, huh?
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#13
Oregon has gold, best way to begin is to join a prospecting club that will help to get you to the right places, then internet groups for nugget shooting, detector prospector is a good one. It takes time and reasearch to find the best spots, but great way to enjoy the outdoors. Camping is allowed on federal mining claims also so if you like to boondock you can camp on claims you have access.
 
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jgaz

TJ Enthusiast
May 29, 2016
292
356
Peoria, AZ
#14
That’s what I’ve read and the reviews show worldwide coverage better on that system also signal strength is a bit stronger for the iridium platform, although if use is mainly for the continental US I’m not sure those differences equate to any performance difference? Perhaps jagz, would know the answer he has more experience with the devices and is more knowledgeable on the satalite systems.
Sir, First, thanks for your fire service.
I have only a little real world experience using my Garmin yet. Any knowledge I have about the satalite systems have been gained from reading articles about the devices. Again the SAR professional in the thread I linked above was an excellent source of understanding what happens behind the scenes.

It was mentioned above that it’s tedious to text on the Garmin, this is correct.
However, you can rewrite the three messages you can send for free to read anything you want. I rewrote one to read “Out, all good”. This way my wife knows I’ve finished my hike (usually out of a Canyon) and am at least back to the Jeep.

There is a decent list of prewritten messages that cover a lot of scenarios. These you pay for after your monthly allotment is used up, but in many cases, who cares.
There is a way to pair the Garmin with your cell phone and use the phone via Bluetooth to compose your text. This is supposed to work regardless of cell signal. I suck at technology, and haven’t mastered this yet.

As far as sending your location when messaging or using the SOS feature. I have purposely sent messages from locations that are easy to pinpoint on Google earth. I’ve used the side of a mountain, a saddle between two peaks, and an unused ranger cabin among other locations. Garmin’s accuracy was excellent.
 
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tworley

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
May 23, 2018
948
908
Morrison, CO
#15
Ive used the SPOT Device before during work. It was a client requirement in a very remote part of TX next to the Mexican border. As well as in very remote parts of NM. It had three buttons; An "ok" button, an "SOS" button, and a tracking button. It was rather cheap insurance at $150 IIRC, but the yearly subscription was upwards of $300. Thought it was a great unit and worked incredibly well.
 
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1515art

TJ Enthusiast
Jun 14, 2018
109
86
Santa clara
#16
Ive used the SPOT Device before during work. It was a client requirement in a very remote part of TX next to the Mexican border. As well as in very remote parts of NM. It had three buttons; An "ok" button, an "SOS" button, and a tracking button. It was rather cheap insurance at $150 IIRC, but the yearly subscription was upwards of $300. Thought it was a great unit and worked incredibly well.
Good to hear the favorable report, I feel pretty confident Picking whatever the device that fits your needs all the major players will get you help and send a message, good to have on hand when needed.
 

tworley

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
May 23, 2018
948
908
Morrison, CO
#17
Good to hear the favorable report, I feel pretty confident Picking whatever the device that fits your needs all the major players will get you help and send a message, good to have on hand when needed.
We used it every day for a few weeks straight. Just touch the "ok" button and it sent a text to the safety officer back at HQ. It really is an invaluable piece of equipment. Where we were at in TX was literally right on the border, there was no service and what service you did pick up was a bar from a Mexican cell tower which would do you no good in an emergency situation.
 

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