SPOT Connect…

10 04 2011

Spot Connect + your smart phone...

I’ve been keeping my eye on the Delorme PN-60W which connects to a SPOT satellite beacon to let loved ones track your progress on a trip and also allows you to send short text messages via satellite when out of cell range. That satellite messaging service would be very handy indeed for me on some bike tours, sea kayak trips, trips to Baja, kiteboarding at remote lakes/beaches, etc… I’ve nearly bought that Delorme GPS on several occasions, but I wanted to milk my Garmin Vista Cx for as long as I could and I also figured it might be smart to wait for version 2 to come out in case there were any bugs in the first model.

Well SPOT did one better. They are now selling just the SPOT Connect module that will talk to any smart phone via Bluetooth. I’m definitely going to buy one to use with my iPhone. I’ve used a straight up SPOT beacon on a remote bike tour and a road trip to Baja – both times it worked great and let loved ones at home follow my progress without having to call or email home. It would also allow you to summon emergency services to a remote location which might be handy.

I haven’t been this excited about a gadget for a while…=-)


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21 responses

10 04 2011
aushiker

Looks good, but and it is a big but in my view is that it is not Android compatible. I really don’t see the point in coming out with such a device and then significantly limiting the market. Frustrating.

11 04 2011
thelazyrando

@AH – GPS Central [CDN dealer] notes it is compatible with Android 2.9 or later versions:

http://www.gpscentral.ca/products/spot-connect.html

Probably worth confirming directly with SPOT, but that sounds reasonable.

11 04 2011
thelazyrando

Yes looking closer at the spec sheet on the SPOT site they state it is compatible with Andriod 2.0 or later.

http://faq.findmespot.com/admin/gateway_main/getAttach/2/e4add1bcf0a9b4631cf61c1445e8ee51/44/SPOT%20Connect%20Sell%20Sheet

11 04 2011
alang

very cool. i was hoping there would be something like this soon.

a couple things to work through for long rides:
-phone power. options: external batt-powered charger, stop and charge, use a dyno powered charger
-spot power. says it takes 2 aa’s. looks like it lasts for up to 11days. 6 days of tracking. that’s good. i would just bring one set for backup.
-phone protection. i have issues with my sim card bumping loose when it gets jolted and i have to restart my phone. i would want good shock-proof mount and ideally a waterproof case.

if i could get all those things squared…i will buy this.

one other consideration is multi-tasking with my phone. i can see how you wouldn’t need any extra device for taking photos/video, but i want the multi-tasking to be smooth and the gps app to continue running in the background.

11 04 2011
thelazyrando

@Alan – you don’t need your phone on all the time. I would power my phone off unless I needed it. I have a spare battery pack for my iphone that should give me a lot of stand by time with the phone only used occasionally.

Since the phone is not needed just put it away in something soft like a hat so it doesn’t get bounced around on the bike.

The SPOT beacon needs to be on and visible to the sky. My experience with previous versions suggest they are shockproof enough for hard mounting to a bike. OTOH if you mounted it to something soft like a bar bag or rack bag you’d save it a lot of wear and tear.

11 04 2011
alang

hmmm, seems like you would want your phone on and visible so you could use it to navigate, right?
or are you thinking of having this in addition to garmin (or other gps)?

11 04 2011
thelazyrando

I don’t consider the iPhone a viable navigation aid beyond my truck or casual use in town. It’s not ruggedized, not waterproof and it uses too much power. I carry my iPhone turned off on some long rides for occasional use, but it lives in a ziplock bag in my waterproof bar bag.

11 04 2011
aushiker

@thelazyrando Thanks for the clarification on the Android aspect. I made my comments based on the spec sheet linked to initially and didn’t delve further. If it works with Android then that makes it interesting for sure.

@alang I am not sure that the Spot is designed to be used as a navigation aid and hence one wouldn’t be using a phone in combo for that purpose. Well I wouldn’t.

I see the Spot as being a tool to send texts from out of range areas and to keep family and friends informed as to my location/status.

Andrew

12 04 2011
Vik

@AusHiker – I think Alan was talking about using the iPhone’s GPS/mapping capability to navigate with not the SPOT’s GPS/Beacon function.

12 04 2011
alang

correct, i would like to use it as a navigation aid, but i agree that it’s primary purpose isn’t navigation. i haven’t seen any extensive reviews yet, so only time will tell….
the screen shot of their app don’t really show the navigation interface (if there is one) but the description makes me think you could use the GPS with other apps.
on my iphone, I use everytrail, which lets you load huge gps routes and download all the maps surrounding it, if i could pair that with a good gps signal, i would happily ditch the out of date garmin Cx.

it’s so close to getting it down to one device…well, two devices

12 04 2011
thelazyrando

@Alan – you don’t need the SPOT for that your iPhone has a GPS receiver in it.

12 04 2011
alang

ahh, but the gps doesn’t work, as it’s an ‘assisted GPS’ – you have to have a cell network for it to really work.

12 04 2011
thelazyrando

@Alan – when my friend Kurt and I went on our remote CDN GDR tour he used his iPhone [3G]’s GPS and previously loaded Google Maps to verify our position a few times. The accuracy was on par with my Garmin and he certainly did not have cell coverage at all.

I’ve used my iPhone 3GS in my truck to navigate remote parts of Vancouver Island using its GPS and perviously loaded Google Maps. It works fine with no cell signal.

12 04 2011
alang

hmmm, that’s interesting, mine never, ever works well away from coverage. when i check the specs of the newer phones (mine is the 3G), they use the same antenna.
i don’t trust it in town either. often times, it puts me a quarter mile away from where i *actually* am.
the specs say ‘assisted gps’ for all iphones which is great and keeps power consumption lower – but it still has a stand alone gps that should work in the woods, you are right about that. i think the gps antenna itself may be broken or damaged on mine.

in any case, based on my experience, i don’t trust the phone gps for my trips – not this one anyway.

2 07 2011
3 07 2011
Andrew Priest

@ratwell. Thanks for the links. Still not available in Australia 😦

Interesting couple of comments:

I tested the Spot Connect in the field and discovered that if you log out of the smartphone application, you need an Internet connection in order to log back into the application.

No, I would not recommend this to a friend.

Andrew

4 07 2011
thelazyrando

@Andrew – only one person had that issue about logging out/in of the SPOT app which is odd since it should be an issue for all users – could be operator error and that first review on the REI site was a bit stupid. They clearly had unrealistic expectations from the device/service. If your expecting a SPOT to provide 100% reliable emergency service response you are buying the wrong device – get a satellite phone that works well in your part of the world.

17 07 2011
ratwell

Check out the DeLorme inReach. Looks very promising especially if they add the iPhone support:

http://blog.delorme.com/2011/06/03/delorme-inreach-two-way-satellite-communication/

17 07 2011
thelazyrando

@Ratwell – thanks that does looking interesting. My friend gave me a free SPOT which I’m going to use for now. Doesn’t send satellite msgs though – just tracking and SOS.

18 07 2011
Got SPOT! « The Lazy Randonneur

[…] been keeping my eye on the new SPOT Connect satellite beacon that connects to your iPhone so it can send short text msgs via satellite in addition to the […]

25 01 2012
NickReese

Has anyone tried using the spot with an Android tablet? Also, does the Spot have an emergency button on the unit itself? Any suggestions for compatible (i.e. tested) Android devices would be greatly appreciated!!

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