Review - Spot3 personal tracker
The Spot 3 is a one-way Satellite GPS Personal Tracker.
The first impression is that the build quality looks good, it is nice and compact and weighing in at just under 4 oz with the batteries in it seems a great piece of kit.
What does it do?
With a service plan in place the Spot 3 lets you send messages to friends and family (they receive via e-mail and/ or text messages). All this is done via satellites (rather than a mobile phone network) so you get good worldwide coverage, so when you are out in the hills you can send pre-fixed messages to your pre-set contacts.
S.O.S.: With the push of a button, GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Centre provides your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams - for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe The S.O.S. button is for emergencies only.
Tracking: Allow friends and family to follow your progress online in near real-time and save waypoints so you can review your entire route at a later date.
The Spot3 has a recommended retail price at £129.99 so in the scheme of things it is great value for money.
On top of this you then add your service charge of just under £160.00/ year (service plans vary in price) you have to go away thinking this is good value for money.
At this price I think it is unfair then to compare it to other products (mainly the Garmin inReach products) as these are 4 times the cost.
The unit is supplied with 4 AAA Lithium batteries and after a quick online registration process and after choosing the plan I was ready to go (or so I thought).
Battery life varies massively according to if the unit has a clear view of the sky and also the frequency of the track points but with a 50% view of the sky and being continuously switched on (24 hours a day) and with it making you would get 13 days out of a set of batteries.
That’s good going for 4 AAA batteries in my eyes.
Setting up the unit online and choosing plan
The online registration process was very straightforward and then off I went, or so I thought.
It took a little while (3 hours) before the unit started working which in my experience was a lot slower than other satellite communication devices.
The unit works using the Globalstar 24 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites, this system does not offer a 100% worldwide coverage like the Iridium Satellite system achieves.
Simplicity is the name of the game with the Spot3. You have an on/ off button and once it is on you get a green flashing light.
You then have 5 further buttons –
Check in – send your contacts an e-mail/ text of your current location
Track – sends a track point so other people can follow you live.
Custom message – you can tailor this message online beforehand in your online account.
Help/ spot assist – this will send an emergence pre-set message to your selected contacts.
SOS – In an emergency you can send an SOS with your GPS location to GEOS, who facilitate Search and Rescue.
Attaching to you
As someone who spends their life handling Outdoor GPS units I found the Spot3 compact and unobtrusive, a small strap can easily attach it to your rucksack strap or even your belt.
Quality of service
The Spot3 has achieved such good battery life by only logging onto the satellites but the downside of this is it therefore takes longer to send either track points or messages.
If you are stationary and send multiple messages it works quickly but when walking (which is what it is made for) I found it lacking a little with messages taking up to 15 minutes to send, but if I stopped it worked quicker. It alarms me a little that they only guarantee 96% send rate in a 20-minute window of sending the message.
We are all used to sending messages in an instant so this worries me a little. As there is no way for the person who has received the message replying back to you do start doubting it a little.
The other thing that worries me a little is (unless I have missed a setting somewhere) when sending your messages to a mobile phone it just inserts your Lat and Long rather than the location link that you get in the e-mail message so you can see the sender’s location in Google Earth.
Overall, I like the Spot3, it is compact, I like the ease of use and it is great value for money.
Would I rely on this to save my life, I don’t know if I could.
If I was a day walker in the UK and throughout the day I went in and out of mobile phone coverage I think the Spot3 does the job but in these circumstances if I had an accident or somebody in my group had an accident would I trust a SOS button.
If I pressed the SOS button or even the help/ spot assist button and I didn’t know if the message has got through and with a system where the recipients can’t communicate back with me would I use it or try and move to an area where my mobile phone would work so I could speak to somebody and tell them exactly what has happened. I think the later.
More info about the Spot3 here.