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SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger Review

New SPOT Gen 3 (Left) and the SPOT II (Right)
New SPOT Gen 3 (Left) and the SPOT II (Right)

The SPOT Gen 3 is the newest device is the SPOT family of satellite-based personal locator beacons and communication devices designed for outdoor adventurers and represents a significant improvement over the earlier SPOT II in terms of usability and functionality.

My History Using a SPOT II

I’ve carried a SPOT II Satellite GPS Messenger on every backpacking and day hiking trip I’ve taken since 2010 because it gives my wife peace-of-mind. That’s a small price for the freedom she gives me to trot off and hike so much.

But it’s not the ability to call SAR that she like so much. It’s the fact that I can send her a daily OK message via a Satellite when I’m deep in the backcountry and out of cell phone range. She just wants to know that I’m ok and I can understand that.

But the SPOT II has some real usability issues, most notably the buttons which you use to turn it on and off, or use to send OK or Custom Messages. They don’t work over 50% of the time, and you may need to push them a dozen times before they activate. This is very frustrating!

A True Confession

I once got so frustrated with the SPOT II buttons that I stabbed them with a swiss army knife to see if that would work better than pushing them with my fingers. They didn’t, but REI gave me a full refund, anyway, no questions asked. 

Much Better Usability

Rejoice. The usability of the buttons on the new SPOT Gen 3 Satellite GPS messenger is vastly better than the SPOT II. Vastly. But the upgrade from a SPOT II is very expensive, particularly the annual subscription fee and the optional new services that the new device enables.

Spot Gen 3 Buttons Up Close
Spot Gen 3 Buttons Up Close

The new Gen 3 buttons are made of hard plastic and provide the appropriate tactile feedback that you’d expect from triggering a mechanical device. There’s even a separate on-off switch now.

The new device also provides visual feedback (flashing lights) when it’s turned on and off, when you enable and disable tracking or when you send one of your two pre-canned message. The old SPOT II did this poorly so you never really knew if it was doing what you wanted.

In addition, the SPOT Gen 3 is also waterproof and has a USB port which you can use to add capabilities to it, upgrade the device’s firmware to fix bugs and future proof your investment, and which brings it into the world of “smarter” devices.

Unfortunately SPOT hasn’t upgraded the usability of their web site which you still need to use to activate service plans, customize your preprogrammed messages, and create shared route pages. That’s still one of the worst web sites I have to deal with, but once you set things up you can avoid returning to it almost indefinitely.

An Introduction to the SPOT

If you’re new to the SPOT and have never seen or heard about it, it’s a very popular, consumer-oriented,  personal locator beacon that operates on a private satellite network called GEOS instead of the public, international one used by other similar devices.

The basic idea is simple – push a button and emergency responders will come to your rescue, even if you don’t have cell phone service, almost anywhere in the world. The benefit of running the SPOT service over a private satellite network instead of a public one, is that you can customize the messages that are sent, including the ability to send non-emergency or tracking messages to friends or family.

Spot Satellite Messager 2 - Sample Ok Message
Spot II Satellite GPS Messager – Sample Ok Message

In order to trigger a message, you press one of the buttons on the front of the SPOT devices, which provide the common set of basic functions:

  • Check-In: Let contacts know where you are (GPS location) and that you’re okay (see above).
  • Custom Message: Let contacts know where you are by sending a second (possibly different) pre-programmed message with your GPS location.
  • Track: Automatically  saves your location data and allow contacts to track your progress using Google maps via a web page.
  • Help/SPOT Assist: Request non-emergency help from friends or family at your GPS location.
  • SOS: In an emergency, send an SOS with your GPS location to GEOS, who will contact the appropriate agency to come and rescue you.

Unlimited and Enhanced Tracking Services

Besides device usability, the main difference between the SPOT Gen 3 and the SPOT II is motion activated tracking and the ability to limit how often tracking updates are logged, be it on 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minute intervals. Both of these function preserve battery life, but who really needs them?

Unlimited Tracking with SPOT Gen 3 at 10 Minute Intervals
Unlimited Tracking with SPOT Gen 3 at 10 Minute Intervals

I reckon backcountry skiers, helicopter pilots, adventure athletes and possibly guidebook authors are the people who would most likely benefit from the advanced tracking capabilities. But let’s face it, sending 10 minute location updates is only useful for entertainment, documentation, or body recovery purposes. It serves little purpose from a  backcountry safety or rescue perspective because there’s no such thing as instant rescue assistance in the backcountry – unlike urban EMS.

Note: No one should expect a backcountry rescue to be called in if they’ve stopped moving for 10 minutes unless they specifically send an SOS message.  Even then the rule of thumb is that it takes rescuers 1 hour to reach you for every 1/4 mile you are from a trail head. There is no substitute for self-sufficiency. 

I question whether people really need unlimited or extreme tracking.

Actual Roue with Track Line
Actual Route with Track Line

Improved Battery Life

In addition to the new tracking capabilities, the battery life on the SPOT Gen 3 is over twice that of the SPOT II giving it the ability to transmit over 1,000 check-in or custom messages on a single set of batteries. But the SPOT Gen 3 requires 4 x AAA Lithium or NiMH rechargeable batteries or a 5v USB line connection, while the SPOT II requires 3 x AAA batteries and cannot be powered externally.

Message Reliability

One of the problems with the SPOT II was message reliability, particularly for tracking and check-in messages, where users reported delayed or lost messages which never arrived. It used to happen to me very frequently when the SPOT II first came onto the market, but much less so in recent years, which I think is probably due to improved satellite coverage or network reliability.

Various reasons were given by SPOT for dropped messages including low battery power or that narrow canyons and tree cover blocks satellite message delivery. I was never really satisfied with those explanations because the device always reported successful transmission based on its flashing light feedback.

In you’re in North America or Europe, SPOT claims that there is a “99% or better probability of successfully sending a single message in 20 minutes,” but when you start to pull that statement apart, it’s really not clear what it means or if it means anything except in the most ideal testing scenarios.

While I haven’t had any issues with dropped check-in messages or tracking since I started testing the SPOT Gen 3, I can’t definitively say that message reliability has improved. That’s why I plan to continue testing this device on backcountry trips for the next few months.


I am excited to see the new usability improvements in the SPOT Gen 3. The device is much more idiot-proof and message reliability has improved noticeably. While I question the utility of the enhanced tracking capabilities available in this new version of the product, I’m a dedicated user of the OK check-in messages that you can send using the Spot Gen 3. I rely on this device to let my wife know that I’m ok in the backcountry and will continue to use it in the future.

Disclaimer: SPOT provided Philip Werner ( with a loaner SPOT Gen 3 device and a 6 month unlimited tracking plan to test the device and write this review. 
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  1. Thanks for the review. So if you pay only the $149.99 for basic service and tracking for the Spot 3, what is the time interval that it tracks you at?

  2. Thanks for the review of the SPOT3. I purchased a SPOT2 at the beginning of August to take on a group kayaking trip to Isle Royale National Park in mid-August. It provided the peace of mind to our families back home and allowed me to track the trip to for a pending trip report. I have to admit that I heavily plagerized Phillip’s email and procedures he outlined in his SPOT2 review.
    I had no complaints whatsoever, it worked flawlessly. I had hoped to buy the SPOT3 but it wasn’t available until after we left. Initially I was dissappointed that I was restricted to 10 minute tracking updates, but after further thought I couldn’t think of a reason to have more frequent updates, even when tracking our trek up to the boat dock in our cars.
    The batteries worked for the entire 7 day trip, I brought spares and never needed them. I would turn the device on in the morning after we got up, send an “OK” message and initiate tracking when we got under way. At the end of the day I would do the exact opposite, after dinner I would send an “OK” message and once the device was done sending the message I turned it off for the night.
    Since we didn’t have a strict itninerary that would require us to give a “delayed” message I reserved the custom message to send my love home to my fiancee. :)
    Overall I’m pleased with the device and can’t justify the expense of the SPOT3, I’m with Phillip in that I will continue to use it until I’m forced to upgrade.

  3. Still using my ancient Spot Gen-1 device here. It is working okay, so there’s no need or reason for me to upgrade, particularly not when they continue to increase the price. Then again, if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, 150$ is an amazingly cost-effective insurance policy.

    • You can buy a regular PLB like a that runs on a public SAR network and NOT have to pay an annual service fee. The main difference is that it runs on a public network called COSPAS-SARSAT. It’s just as effective for calling for help but it doesn’t have tracking or email check-ins available

      • Also – looks like you can add the custom messages to for $60/year. see

        • I think you have a limited number of total messages because the battery is not user-replaceable.

        • The batteries are user replaceable on the SPOT 2 and SPOT 3

        • I was referring to the ACR ResQLink for which the service you mentioned applies.

        • I was looking at the ACR unit but had the sales person tell me that if rescue is needed, it could cost thousands of dollars. Is there some missing information that needs to be brought to the forefront on all these units?

        • These devices can signal search and rescue teams, but states and countries are increasingly charging people for frivolous rescues when they have been negligent in their trip preparation. This has nothing to do with satellite communicators and more to do with state budgets. Most device vendors, including SPOT sell add on insurance to help you pay for rescue and medical costs, but read the policy information carefully.

          Some examples of negligence: not bringing the 10 essentials or hiking in very bad weather. It varies by state.

    • Dear Phillip, while its nice to know your experiences with spot1 have been good, truth be told I think one of the product line’s most fatal flaws is its slow rate of product development and innovation.

      Werner is excited that the battery on the spot3 performs great, and good for him. However for the past 6 years, the spot family of products still suffer from some of the same serious flaws.

      For 1, a 1 way SOS technology, especially when there are now available in the mass market much more modern 2 way SOS solutions is just selling both the user and local SAR teams short.

      The spot devices are still susceptible to a high rate of false alarms, SAR teams have no way of responding to your spot to verify that your distress truly merits a full blown 911 response, and since the spot by design still cannot relay to goes any credible, specific info. other than 3 simple letters, SOS, is in my opinion antiquated.

      REI and other retailers have largely moved on to offer now 2 way satcom solutions in addition to the old lineup of spot products because of the inherent benefits 2way devices provide everyone.

      Feel free to do your own t research at REI dot com, and you may be surprised of other devices that are really well conceived, and utilize 2way technology, upon which nearly every other communications device is based on (think cell phone, tablets, satellite phones, etc).

      It’s amazing that given the opportunity to put these other, more complete and practical solutions are not even mentioned in this article so customers really understand what are all the different viable solutions

      • I find it ironic that the only sat phone sold by REI is manufactured by SPOT
        and suffers from all of the Globalstar Satellite network issues that the SPOT(s) suffer from. Surely you can come up witha better example.
        If you want relaible sat phone service you need to buy a sat phone that runs on the Irridum network and you need to be willing to pay and arm and a leg for the service. The Spot Gen 3 is one of the most economical private satellite services available. If you need a sat phone, rent one, unless you need it year-round.

  4. Thanks for the detailed writeup- I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out a decent and cost-effective PLB/communicator solution for a solo JMT hike next year, so it’s good to hear your thoughts. I would be very curious to hear your long-term thoughts on the reliability of the messaging with the new unit once you’ve had it for a bit longer.

    • I had it out again for a long bushwhack yesterday (after I wrote this review) and it worked flawlessly in heavy forest. In fact, I’ve been running it from inside the top pocket of my pack (which I never did before – and which is not recommended) and it’s still hitting the satellite fine. I think they increased the power of the device to 5V up from 1.4v (read this somewhere) and that probably contributes to better reliability…I suspect.

      • No power change just a better antennae and more sensitive GPS receiver. Remember, the unit won’t send a TRACK or CHECKIN message if it can’t get a GPS fix.

  5. Thanks for the review, Philip. Few points:

    I’ve used the original SPOT and the SPOT 2 and havne’t been especially impressed. In my opinion the system itself is limited and most people should take this itno accoutn when thinking of buying or using the system. More of my views in my blog:

    Also because of different communication networks being used I wouldn’t say that a proper PLB would be “just as effective for calling for help”. It’s a lot better and a lot more reliable and also offers a true global coverage. But SPOT and similar devices are nto PLBs and should not be used as such but just as nice outdoor gimmicks.

    More reliable and cabable option to SPOT are the new messaging devices based on the Iridium network. One of them, the Yellowbrick YB v3, reviewed in my blog:

    Oh, also the 10min (or more frequent) tracking is quite nice if you wan’t to make maps with Social Hiking. Nice way to make “trip reports”.

    • Like I said – entertainment.

      • Excatly. My point was just that all people don’t understand that which can lead to potentially dangerous situations and at least cause unnecessary worry and grief… And that there are also alternatives.

        • SPOT is not a toy and it is a very popular tracking device because it just works. We are fortunate today to have many fine choices ranging from minimalist COSPAS-SARSAT PLBs like ACR’s ResQLink to the relatively new InReach. Responsible solo backcountry travelers have options today, and that is a very good thing. Each product has pro’s and con’s and potential buyers need to evaluate their individual needs.

          I’ve owned and used all 3 generations of SPOT and I really like the improvements to Gen 3. Consider me a happy 6 year SPOT customer who tramps solo all over the Northwest.

        • Hi Don, and thanks for you comment. I have to disagree with SPOT “just working” as my personal experience differs and in my opinion I have good explanation for the reason behidn this. But as I wrote, it works really well for many people. I’d just like to make people aware and highlight the shortcomings of SPOT. I haven’t tried the 3rd generation SPOT btu would like to if someone offered it for me for test but until then I assume it has the same limitations for now* as it uses the same satellite network.

          * This might change in the future as Globalstar is updating their constellation.

    • Now that people can test the COSPAS-SARSAT PLBs (ACR ResQlink specifically) by sending messages they are discovering all the same transmission limitation known by SPOT users. E.g. can’t get a GPS fix under canopy, can’t transmit from within buildings, your body shadowing the unit can block transmission, etc. Transmission power is misleading as the COSPAS-SARSAT PLB has to hit a satellite 22,000 miles up, whereas SPOT has to hit one at 800 miles. The key is that they both work and they both have the same limitations.

      The only thing superior about COSPAS-SARSAT is the true global coverage. However you can also get global satellite coverage with InReach which uses the Inmarsat satellite system. Of course it costs you much more than SPOT.

      • The limitations you mention are limitations of the GPS system and apply on all devices using it. The problems I’ve had with SPOT are more likely related to the satellite network SPOT uses so I’d rather use (and recommend for similar use) a devcie that uses other satellite network and that’s one of the advantages of real PLBs. Another advantage (at least for me living in Finland) is that the is a tried and true system for getting the alarm for national authorities. But still, as I wrote, SPOT seems to work just fine for many and has also saved lives. But so have PLBs.

        By the way, InReach uses Iridium network, not Inmarsat.

        • Good catch! Thank you for the correction. Delorme InReach uses the Iridium system as you said.

          Globalstar (SPOT) Satellites have a 52 degree inclination (middle of Canada). Since Finland lies between 60 and 70 degrees, I would not expect SPOT to give optimal performance. IMO, COSPAS-SARSAT PLB or Delorme InReach would be better choices.

          Since I do all of my adventures at about 45 degrees, SPOT gives excellent coverage.

        • Hi again Don. I do agree with you. And I’d like to add Yellowbrick YB v3 (Iridium) on the list of great devices with global coverage. I’ve been more than happy with it. Thanks also for the info about the Globalstar satellites’ inclinations!

  6. I’m a very satisfied SPOT 2 user. I recently learned from a government friend that because of budget issues, the the monitoring of the standard PLB frequencies is not completely reliable — so while such info is disheartening, it was at the same time ‘heartening’ to know that the privately run, subscription-supported GEOS network for my SPOT is free of at least that concern.

    To the 2 -> 3 upgrade issue, SPOT did offer a grandfathering of sorts: a $50 purchase discount on the 3. Technically, the new monthly pricing is not an increase, but rather a forced bundling of two services that are offered a la carte to SPOT 2 users.

    I hope that as technology advances and as networks continue to become faster and more abundant, prices will drop — such that by the time I’m looking to replace my SPOT 2, there will be an appropriate (and appropriately priced) service option available to me relative to the $99.99 service I’m currently using.

  7. Oh law, I’m still using a Gen 1 SPOT, it’s a clunker piece to carry around and slow as molasses in January, but it still works and always has, I used it all of past week on my bike trip. But, I’ve been thinking it may be time to upgrade before 2014 hiking season arrives.

    • Check for grand opening sales – I got my Gen 3 with a 100% rebate. Gen 1 was a bit of an IQ test ( many people did poorly on it), Gen 2 was a huge improvement, and Gen 3 is pretty easy to use. You’ll be shocked at the size difference. Gen 3 has a much more sensitive GPS receiver so you’ll experience a much improved TRACK message success rate.

  8. I SO agree with the lame web site comment. I’m frequently gone more than 2 weeks and coming home to see my older tracks deleted just pisses me off. It would be so easy to add additional functionality to their tracking site. I like the new Spot 3, but can’t agree to higher tracking fees unless they fix their web tool.

  9. there are a LOT of pilots who use the SPOT, especially since COSPAS/SARSAT no longer monitors 121.5 mHz, which a whole generation of ELT’s transmit on.
    I use a SPOT I, but also am unlikely to upgrade to the 3, just to get more tracking hits per mile. Most aircraft travel in the 100 – 200 mph range, and the 5 or 10 minute interval is not great at narrowing a search area!!!
    they have made the subscription the price of a PLB, so there will be users abandoning this in droves, an opting for other devices. way to go Spot!

  10. I agree the findmespot website is lacking, but the site is great, free and links flawlessly with the SPOT device.

    Regarding the SPOT Gen3 device, has anyone used the motion activated feature yet? Does this mean that you can power the Gen3 unit on and leave it on (even for days on end), then pick it up (i.e. motion detection) and have it spring to life? I’ve used the Gen1 and Gen2 devices for years, and understand the motion activation feature will work as I’ve described.

  11. I’ve had great luck with my SPOT2 even in the deep canyons and heavy canopy of the Cascades and Oregon Coast Range without a problem. As for the buttons, I hold a button down for a five count and it works every time. Only had one problem with a message drop so I must be lucky. Spot battery life has been good using an average of three days a month and about two weeks at a time during the summer (e.g. about thirty days of battery life with two messages a day but I don’t do tracking). I replace the batteries every Xmas.

    I don’t need the enhanced tracking so I’ll keep mine until I’m forced to upgrade

  12. Thanks Philip for the great and thorough review. I’m a satisfied Spot 2 user and have had it for 3-4 years. The buttons on mine work fine, just need to hold them down for 5 seconds. Motion detection would be nice and the longer batter life of gen3 would be nice. You’re not supposed to but I’ve used rechargeable Eneloop Ni-mh batteries since day 1. The red low battery light comes on quickly but in repeated testing, I can get a safe 60 hours or six 10 hour days of continuous 10 minute tracking out of a charge. Glad to hear Spot 3 is designed to use rechargeable batteries to keep operating costs down. I’m tempted to upgrade to Spot 3 but it’s a want right now, not a need yet.

  13. Thanks for the review Philip. I’m going to purchase the Gen 3 and probably the advanced tracking as my wife carspots for me at times and this would allow her to determine what time she needed to be at the trailhead to grab the group. I’ve done hikes where I was way under my scheduled time and was lucky to get cell reception to inform her, otherwise we’d be sitting at the trailhead waiting. My main reason though is for emergency response whether my group needs it or I come upon another group in trouble.
    See you on a Mountain!

  14. I’m leaning toward buying one of these myself John. The signal strength works really well. They’ve obviously increased the power of the transmitter.

  15. I’ve used an original Spot Gen 1 device since they were first released and never had a problem with it. 10-minute tracking is great if you’re moving fast but tends to be too frequent for slower modes of travel. Plus if you forget to turn it off it continues to send out a track message every 10 minutes until you remember or the batteries give out. (Lithium batteries last almost forever in my experience – at least a season or two until I get too cautious and change them out anyway.) The ability to increase the track interval and motion activated tracking convinced me to upgrade to the Gen 3. (Well that, and a special offer from Spot.) Looking forward to taking advantage of the new capabilities, and really like the new button configuration.

  16. I have never used a device like this, so this may be a silly question, but what prevents accidental SOS?

  17. How about down under? New Zealand next February? No comments about that corner of the world.

  18. If you are colour blind (up to 8% of males are colour blind to some extent) then you may find those coloured flashing lights (green & red) on the SPOT GEN3 are not very helpful re batteries good or bad, message sent or not , GPS connected or not, etc. Have told SPOT who have forwarded the colour blind issue to their marketing & development team.

  19. Which device would be recommende to track a person with Dementia? Does the device power down if indoors for a period of time (no satelite signal)?

  20. Phil, as I mentioned in a previous email to you, my son is hiking the CO Trail in August. We’ve bought the Spot Gen3 for him, but we’re concerned about the batteries lasting for the duration of the hike. Other than the emergency capabilities, we only want to know his position/situation once a day – where he camps. Do you have any suggestions? Will it work with ordinary AAA batteries? You are so right – the web site and enclosed documentation is absolutely awful. Additionally, I’m not so thrilled about having to pay a year’s subscription for only 1-1 1/2 month’s use, but I guess there is no alternative.

    • The batteries last for months if you just send ok messages, but get chewed up in a few days if you keep it in tracking mode which sends out updates continuously.

    • Eric, I would not trade my delorme increase se for anything. REI was helpful in the store going over the ins and outs of the inreach se. Functionally, I think it’s light years ahead of anything in its class. Might want to take a look at (2 way send and receive, family can contact you if needed, you can from home actually ping the inreach se if its location is unknown, keyboard so you can actually text when you are out – far more practical than just saying “I’m ok”.

      My plan is Monty to month on my inreach.

  21. Laurieann Milligan

    So if you were to purchase one would it be Spot Connect or Spot Gen3? on the Gen3 no one can reach you correct?

  22. There are pros and cons of both SPOT and other devices, but saying its only a gadget or for entertainment reflects only your limitation for finding the possible use. Same with tracking.

    There are places in the middle of europe with still no GSM coverage and bunch of sports and activities that profit from huge safety improvement ex. cross country paragiding, climbing, enduro biking… In paragliaing especially, any break means youre grounded. Backpacking does not generalize the whole world properly, sorry.

    • The SPOT does not make those activities any safer and the SPOT people simply calls out the local SAR team in those remote places. Best do your homework on response times in those remote areas. You may be surprised at how long it will take for help to arrive.

  23. Nobody answered about Gen3 in New Zealand. Anybody with knowledge or experience there?
    Another silence will be taken as a “no”. Thanks

    • how about just calling the company?

    • Spots work great in NZ. Used Gen 2 & 3 successfully

    • Used a Spot 2 in New Zealand, South Island, without any problems. I’m sure the Spot 3 would be the same. I’ve been a happy Spot user for many years, both Spot 1 and 2. Never had any problems with either of them. They have worked everywhere except Denmark for some reason.

      • Ed et all. SPOT Gen3 works with great coverage in New Zealand and Australia, and all the water between the two.

        Their parent, Globalstar, reached out to me recently & lit up my Globalstar satphone at no charge. And I must admit, I am a bit blown away by the experience.

        Over 7/4, I get this short, email from one of the executives at G*. It basically read “look, we are sorry about the troubles of the past, and we want to make it right with you, whatever it takes – within reason. The days of old should not define the days ahead.” My wife says it was from donnie.hatch at globalstar com

        So, he responds to my email, reactivates my old Qualcomm Globalstar phone for unlimited service for a month. I’m like, OK, lets see where this goes. In exchange he asks for 10 min to review pointers on properly using the phone. I’m glad I accepted. I didn’t know about the Service Alert function, and some trick to make the phone work in your favor. The docking kit for the phone he mentioned was a no brainer. Someday soon, I’ll use it at our weekend retreat site outside of Glacier, giving us basically a home phone line there.

        Endgame: Was 30 days of fun. Service was way better than I remember it in ’04. Globalstar guy sent me a usage report to review, which is kind of cool. Showed all the calls I made, whether they were successful (less than ~5% dropped) if call was voice or data.

        Bottom line:
        – My old Globalstar phone worked like a charm. Was kind of hard to digest, since I was expecting a different outcome.
        – If I did drop, the satellite picked me right back up.
        – email & Internet worked considerably faster than my other satphone [had to buy an Iridium 9555 after Gstar had hiccups ].
        – He offered me a free upgrade to the 1700 with no strings attached since I qualified, and I got to keep my old account etc.

        Anyone that does have a Globalstar phone, you might want to try getting in on this deal. I’m sure he probably has a line of folks he is helping out right now.

  24. I bought the DeLorme InReach SE 2way satellite communicator at my local REI store, and I am glad I did.

    Don’t get me wrong, for $150, the value of SPOT3 is nice, but I didn’t realize how important it is to be able to receive messages until I experienced it first hand.

    I am surprised my the simplicity of using the inReach SE 2 way device. What a relief that others can contact me in the even of an emergency back at home.

    I also give kudos to the built-in keyboard on my inReach SE. Its pretty nice that I’m not locked down to trying to figure out far in advance what, or with whom I need to communicate.

    My InReach SE really works no different than my cell phone. It’s quick and easy.

    As far as Philip’s comment above on SOS, I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable with the 1 way SOS on SPOT any more.

    My inReach SE allows me to text back and forth [fore free] with GEOS in SOS mode – there is a real comfort factor of knowing what’s going on what a SAR team is heading your way to save your life. That 2 way in SOS in my opinion is irreplaceable, and I would not put a price on that.

    The REI rep. in Denver gave me the lowdown of the pros and cons of both units, and each unit has its own pro and cons. I just feel that now having used both SPOT3 and inReach SE, my inReach SE is in a class by itself.

  25. Thanks for all the comments–but non re inside vehicles–I understand the limitation re not under metal. The unit would be placed at the front of the dash under a 45 degree windshield in southern Canada and all of United States. Talked to a Company Rep in New Orleans and he said it worked OK in that area. Any comments??Thanks.

    • Yes, I strongly disagree that SPOT3 is “new and vastly improved” over SPOT2.

      The “improvements” to SPOT3 are largely cosmetic, and have done nothing to increase the device’s performance, quality of service, or even set of services.

      Remember, just like the Old SPOT1, the SPOT3 STILL provides, after all these years just

      – 1-way SOS [with no delivery confirmation]

      – outbound-only canned text messages [no freeform, or custom text messages like the DeLorme inReach devices provide that you can get at REI]

      – tracking broadcasting only GPS with date and time [no elevation, no heading, no speed – very generic service with no granular data].

      I hope this sheds much needed clarity on the differences between the DeLorme inReach 2 way devices, and the SPOT3.

      ON TO YOUR QUESTION – because the Globalstar/SPOT satellites have a 52 degree equatorial orbit, you still will require a line of sight to the SOUTHERN SKY, even if you are in Southern Canada. There is no getting around this. Yes, you may get SPOT service in Southern Canada, but only if the SPOT has a line of sight to the south. Do a test: put your SPOT on the front dashboard, drive anywhere north from your house in Canada, put SPOT in tracking mode, and I bet you $$ you will not get an, or very very few tracking points through.

      DELORME INREACH is immune to this “line of sight to the south” requirement because the inReach devices work off the Iridium satellite system. Iridium satellite fly in a polar orbit, which means you do not need a line of sight to the sourth to get service. any sky view [north, south, east or west] however small, will get you a signal on your inReach. In Fact, the inReach works better in Canada than it does in the US because the Irididium satellites converge at the poles~!

      Glass/car windshields/cloud cover/rain drops do NOT impede the signals on SPOT or DELORME INREACH [contrary to popular believe]. They use ~ 1.6Gigahertz signals which penetrate glass, denim, etc. with no problem whatsoever

      ALSO, the other thing many SPOT customers overlook is the fact that the SPOT1, SPOT2, and SPOT3 all use a patch antenna, which “radiate” the signal at about 180 degrees.

      If the SPOT is mounted on your belt, and thus placed in a “standing up” position, the SPOT signal radiates into the ground and sideways – and VASTLY diminishes quality of service. Fro best service, your SPOT should be lying on its back – like placed on your dashboard in a “supine” position.

      The DeLorme inReach SE & EXPLORER are immune to that limitation as they use a helix omni-directional antenna, that broadcasts the signal in almost a 300 degree pattern – meaning if you have a DeLorme inReach in your backback and it gets a rattled upside down, it will most likely still work due to the higher quality antenna.

      The sales reps. at any REI Store or Customer Service at can give you more information on the inReach SE & Explorer.

      This one is a no-brainer: for you the inReach is FAR worth extra $100 for the device – unless you like trying to fix broken things like the SPOT, that under some circumstances just can’t be fixed..

  26. I agree with many of your points above regarding service reliability, except the annual subscription fee. I can’t afford to pay $300/year for the inReach satellite service. The SPOT annual service fee of $99 is however “in reach” for me.
    The cost of the device itself pales before the annual service fee. The inReach is a good option for people who only need it peridically on vacations, but not reguklar 12 month users.

    • How much is your life worth? That is what I ask myself and the answer is rather obvious….

      The SPOT3 Annual Service is actually $150, not $99. Now, SPOT mandates that all customers buy the “optional tracking” service, whereas in the past this was not required.

      If you get the extreme 5 min. tracking on SPOT3, you pay an additional $100/year on top of the $150/year required service.

      DELORME InReach service is not $300 year. They have recently introduced these no-contract “Freedom” Plans, which are just month to month [no 12 month contract required].

      Actually, inReach service is far Cheaper than SPOT3 service: InReach service for the year can be as low as just $37/year [$25 annual fee, plus 1 month of service for $12].

      And in fact, the inReach is the Ideal Solution for regular 12 month customers, because inReach is not to be compared to the SPOT3. Respectfully, I have to say you are comparing apples to oranges.

      InReach is 2-way service. SPOT is 1-way only. Huge difference…..

      Imagine if your iPhone was 1-way, talk only, but no listen?…..

  27. Lots of good feedback. I have both an in reach explorer and a spot 2. They are both good. I do a lot of ‘off the beaten path’ motorcycling and I find one or even both devices, worth carrying. I just thought that folks might want to know that Spot is offering a free Gen 3 to Gen 1 or Gen 2 users with a current subscription. Of course you will have to up your $99 per year subscription to the Gen 3 $150 per year plan, but you get the Gen 3 free. Contact Spot for details, the offer ends 12/31/14. No I don’t work for Spot…just got the offer in email and think I will take them up on it. Merry Christmas

  28. Thanks for the review, Spot Gen3 is just awesome. We have some issue with its earlier versions but this one is just perfect. This GPS messenger is quite simple and easy to use. Its upgraded version is much better then gen1 and gen2. It has notification led too which shows it’s on or off or your message is sent or not.

    • I have to agree with George. Despite the fact that I have both SPOT and inReach, I have to say hands down, the simplicity is SPOTs best friends. Its so easy to use you never have to worry about messing anything up on it. Once you get your account online all set up, its really just a matter of pressing a rubber button and SPOT does all the rest (seriously). I cannot discount the fact that my inReach has additional GPS features, but I would expect it to for $400.

      I had to finally dump my Iridium 9555 – it was not worth them gouging me every month for consistently crappy service that is obviously declining. About a year ago, I did not make much of the dropped calls, maybe they were doing something to the satellites, or maybe I had a problem with the phone.

      Over the past month however, my Iridium phone service has all out tanked. Somethingf must be going on. I took my 9555 to the service center in Miami and had them took a look at it, both inside and out. The service tech spent well over an hour troubleshooting the device, checked the power levels, confirmed the antenna was functioning, called the Service Provider and confirmed my SIM was good. But, no dice.

      I would not mind waiting 5 minutes for my Iridium satellite phone to register on the network if it thereafter worked like I need to and give me consistent service. 2 weeks ago, I was out in the great basin of Nevada with nothing for hundreds of miles around me and no mountains threatening my line of sight. It went like this; dial, call talk for 1 min, drop, searching searching, repeat.

      What if something happened to me and I did not have much time to react?

      I always felt uncomfortable with the fact that Iridium phones (9555, 9505, 9500) can’t dial 911, and now I’m being squeezed both ways.

      I dont know what Im going to do if this thing stops locking onto a satellite altogether, it would be hopeless. And even if I am able to get a 3 minute call through – I know my Iridium wont give me a call time longer than that – those 3 minutes to find out that my brother is not available, leave him a message – it would be useless.

      After his $250 bill from AT&T the last time he had to dial my Iridium phone and talk to me for just 20 short minutes taught him the hard way. Hes not going to do that again, and he doesn’t text.

      Im better off having both the SPOT and the intouch at this stage. I guess there would come a time when Iridium was on its way down, and without a doubt, that time has come.

      I bit my tounge on the $1,300 price of the phone, and disregarded the persistent tunnell sound on my calls, because 2 years ago it worked ok. Now, it just makes me angy knowing that my Iridium service fell off a cliff recently and Iridium dealer is doing nothing about it.

      These days Im happy to text in lieu of making voice calls, but then again I really dont have a choice with the shoddy service my Iridium gets. I think I’ll donate it, unless any one hee in the community wants it for $50. The service isnt worth a penny more, otherwise anyone is going to feel totally ripped off and scammed by the Iridium “service”.

  29. Very good information here, but somewhat of a Ford/Chevy debate at times! All informative, though, and well mannered. As for value of items: I learned long ago that you don’t value things in town, you value them when you need them. EX: I just took an unplanned swim in Valdez (water in the 40’s), and the $180 life jacket price never entered my mind; floating sure did. I’ve used a Motorola sat phone several times a year for 8 to 10 years now, in southwest, Interior and farther north Alaska; it has worked every time, with only minor garble now and then. An Inreach has appeal, too, but being able to call ANYONE is wonderful. I’m probably going with the Inreach to keep in my pocket; I can’t pack that fat sat phone everywhere. Cheers. john

  30. I bought this device and test it a bit. 15 minute after I pushed HELP button and do not receive any email or sms on my help contact I canceled help. Then I receive message “The help message has been canceled” on all emails but only on 2 of 5 phones.
    I contacted support – You did not receive help messages because you canceled help – was answer. (Why they send 2 useless sms tey did not answer same as why the HELP LED blinking green when device did not send any “help me” message.)
    By recommendation I repeat the test – 7 of 12 messages never came! I contacted suport again – This Is because you did not test it whole hour – try it again!
    Again not answer why LED blink green. In manual Is written it means message was send. What does the LED really indicate?
    I really do not recommend to buy this device – unreliable equipment. You can not be sure if your “help me” message came or not.

  31. Beware the Autorenewal. Never signed up for it but they still did it. Lost the device over a year ago. They autoreviewed last year but I didnt catch it. They did it again this year and I asked for a refund 2 days after they charged me. They refused. If you look on Amazon you will see that there are MANY users with similar complaints. Beware

  32. phillip, i have had the spot ll for 4 years and have no problem with the buttons. You just have to hold them down until they blink, 3-4 seconds. Not sure if the manual says this or i just figured it out. when i hike its on my shoulder strap and i just hold them down 4 seconds without looking.

  33. I’ve been using the inReach SE since it first shipped. Mostly I use the canned messages (three allowed), but it permits arbitrary messages to anyone with a textable phone or an email address. The device is super easy to use. The DeLorme web sites are annoying and need upgrading

    After running the SE through its repertoire with the mid-price plan, I settled on the Safety Plan, $12/mo. When sending messages, you get positive feedback of successful transmission. And! It receives messages. In the Colorado Rockies, it seldom takes more than a few seconds to upload a message to the heavens. If you are anxious to receive a response, you can force the SE to interrogate the low-flying Iridium satellites whenever you like. Otherwise, the inReach downloads on a schedule, typically set at a ten minute interval.

    My inReach SE supplies a GPS data stream to an iPod Touch 5g for use with a nav app. Battery level declines about one percent per hour in that mode. The iPod can be used to send SOS or arbitrary messages, too. The glass keyboard is more convenient than the four-way-controller on the SE.

  34. Just got myself a SPOT GEN3. So far it’s great, no complaints whatsoever. Although I cannot figure out how to make a track line of my trips. I’ve mapped it on the,website but only gives me the option to see each individual pin. How can I line out my progress through each track point?

  35. I started carrying a SPOTII in 2010 and still use it. You’re right. The buttons are a pain in the donkey but hold them down a second time and they seem to work. I’m happy and too cheap to upgrade until this one catches fire.

    A surprise on my last bill. It went from $117 to $177 (Canadian) for basic service. I discovered that today and sent them an email asking why. Thus the subsequent search for info and here I am on this page.

    As an exploration geologist, this little hockey puck has allowed me the freedom to work independently by bending the corporate no-one-works-alone bubble-wrap rules. One of the joys of the job over the decades has been the independence and freedom working alone gives you. Many years of +200 days/year in the field from the Arctic to Patagonia and I’ve never lost an eye. The SPOT has been great for anxious due diligence corporate hand wringing safety Nazis sitting in their desks and dreaming on being in the mountains.

    But at $177 Can$ for basic service, I might be tempted to look elsewhere. SPOT was basically the only game in town 7 years ago. The options now might be more attractive.

    • $177/ year. Less than $15 a month. About 15 – 20 minutes of work time. & you think that’s expensive? If your complaining about a companies’ governance policies, how come they’re not paying the annual fee? I think you’re talking a load of crap.

      • Expensive is a comparative thing. I may have even made a mistake in quoting the rate in Canadian $$ as I believe the invoice was US$ which puts it solidly over $200 Canuck bucks.

        My rambling point in the comment was that the fee jumped almost 50% in one billing period for no change in service except it now includes tracking which I did not have because I do not need/want it. There is competition to this unit including paying even more for proportionally more services right up to carrying a sat phone with data.

        The bubble wrap safety tangent was just a shiny thing passing by the squirrels and monkeys in my head.

        And as for the company paying for it, I guess they do as I work as an independent consultant. Ultimately, my clients pay for everything if I chose to pass rising costs along in my fees. If I don’t, I just absorb the cost as I am the SPOT increase out of the beer fund as just another in a number of incremental increased costs in doing business.

  36. I just got notified of the same price increase. From about $123 a year to $180.

    I’m going elsewhere. The way they packaged the fees was a $50 increase plus a 9.99 network fee after your first year.

    DeLorme units are expensive up front – but at least the service cost is reasonable, and they do more.

  37. I’ve had a 1st generation Spot since 2011 and it has worked pretty well. Recently purchased the Delorme InReach SE because of the two-way communication via text message option. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the details like the fact that the basic Freedom plan for $15 a month only includes 10 messages, sent and received. You can do more of 50 cents a pop which could get expensive if one is not on top of keeping track of how many are coming and going. The upgraded plan allows for 40 messages for $35 a month which isn’t too bad if I only activate it for a couple months. The next upgrade has unlimited texts but is prohibitively expensive for this retired senior citizen.

    Unclear on the suspend service procedure in that it bills automatically and you must notify Delorme to turn it off. Not sure if that means you can turn it off until further notice or you have to stop it every month. Need to get a clarification on that.

    I was also unclear on the SOS option. The Delorme rep gave me the impression that any rescue was subject to charges and recommended getting their insurance. Never used the SOS on the SPOT but again, was under the impression that SPOT simply notifies local SAR, who’s services in most cases in the US at this time, are free.

    Thinking of returning the Delorme and downgrading (if possible) the SPOT service by dropping the tracking option.

  38. Spot is terrible. Charged me for 5 years even after i cancelled. Never refunded me even though they said they would. Get a yp3.

  39. I have just bought a spot generation 3 and in the last 7 days I have sent 11 I’m ok messages of wich 2 have been successful. I will not be using it again. In my job it has the potential to cost me thousands of dollars in chopper costs for some one to check up on my safety. I would not recommend it for New Zealand conditions and I consider it out right dangerous

  40. So you when using the device do you leave it on the entire day or just turn it on to send an “I’m okay” message at the end of the day. We plan to use the device for family’s peace of mind while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, 10 minute up-dates seems a but much but also seems silly to carry the device but have it turned off all day, thoughts?

    • Doesn’t seem silly to me. I only send ok messages. One at breakfast and one at dinner. The 10 minutes tracking is just a stupid waste of money and batteries.

  41. Hey Philip – I bought a spot 3 but haven’t bought a plan yet. without tracking, would I be able to see where my husband is when he sends an I’m ok message? For example, if I didn’t get that message for a day or two because something happened to him, would I be able to know his last I’m okay location? Thx for your answer.

    • Beware to use the services and unit. Call and deactivate the unit when you are not using it. I got a call from the resp, the contract renewed automatically and no money will be refunded to you after they renew it. They charge you the whole year services fee.
      Put in mind that they are not going to refund you ANY money even you call them to stop the unit after one day they renew the contract. That is according to the terms of contract & it’s your reasonability to remember the end date of the contract – the resp said.
      Fair enough!?

      • Welcome to the real world. Subscription services, even your cell phone renew annually. Ever try to get out if a cell phone contract? Be an adult and manage your finances accordingly.

  42. Hello Phil! Thank you for your complete article, I’m thinking I buy one for my husband but I read a review in REI web page about the spot didn’t work even around his neighborhood, and I’m just concerned about if he is at the half of the trail and the device stop working, for sure I’m going to go crazy in home lol (Sorry my grammar, English is not my first language)

    • No idea why it wouldn’t work, but then again, satellite coverage isn’t guaranteed, just the norm. Doesn’t matter what device you buy.
      If “the” trail is the Appalachian Trail, have him bring a cell phone and use the Verizon network. Network access is extremely good.

  43. These guys are a joke. They advertise 24/7 support but when you call they put you on PERMANENT hold. There is no customer service that I can discern. I tried every department over several days in an attempt to find someone to speak to thinking one of their departments was busy. They are all the same and put you on hold forever. If you buy this product do NOT expect any support except they will take your money. I could not even get billing ?!! or support on how to activate so they really don’t give a you know what.

    • John,

      I agree completely! I have two 2 Gen spots that are unreliable so I called customer service. Was on hold for 30 minutes. When the “technician’ answered the phone, I could hardly understand his broken English (they obviously farm their “customer service” out to the cheapest bidder overseas). After 15 minutes of trying to communicate with him, I was off the phone with no understanding of where I stood as a customer. So I still have 2 unreliable locators (yesterday it sent 3 trackings on a 7 hour hike- should have been around 42). Of course, they did offer to sell me a 3rd unit! Yeah, they are only interested in our money.

  44. oh yes one more thing…….I sent them an email and never received a reply. Good Luck!

  45. Thanks for this review. I have one of these and do not plan, at the moment, to pay extra for enhanced tracking. I can’t find out what the tracking interval is with basic tracking. Is there a set interval or do I have to press the track button each time I want to send a position to a satellite? Being a hiker, around every 60 minutes would be fine.

    • I’ve now found the answer in the FAQ in the website. Battery life is 45 days with 100% sky view and half that with 50% view. That’s with 10 minute intervals for eight hours a day. I suppose this would reduce somewhat with check in emails being sent each day but still pretty good. My upcoming trip is three weeks duration.

  46. Do not rely on SPOT for any emergency.! Service is lackluster at best. I’m selling my Gen 3 if you want a good deal, hardly use it’s like new. Just buy an ACR if you’re serious about emergency rescue. If you want to let everyone know where you are with tracking it may work or it may not. Reception will be the same with any emergency.

  47. I’m disappointed with my SPOT as well. Rode the Trans America Trial and coverage was intermittent at best, there is no way for two way communication, there are other units out there that will allow you to do that. On some transmissions of location, only about half the Email addresses got the information. While hiking in the Cascades weather and tree canopy often made a sat link impossible. If I really needed help in an emergency situation I’d not be overly confident in this unit. The year long contract is expensive, no month by month option available. Cancelling service was a bother, on the phone for a very long time as I was bounced from supervisor to sales to retention to sales…. In my opinion this unit was more aggrivation than it was worth.

  48. Unfortunately, the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) chose the same acronym that the GEOS weather satellites use, causing many people to confuse the two distinctly separate systems.

    IERCC uses Globalstar, which is a private satellite system, as are all satellite systems. I am not familiar with any “public satellite system” that you mention in your article. Globalstar is a low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellite system, but does NOT cover the polar regions, due to its 52 degree inclination (angle with reference to the equator).

    For truly global phone/pager coverage, the Iridium system appears to be flawless. Flawless does not mean it will work in an Amazonian forest, however!

  49. I cannot get the Spot Gen 3 to send a text to my IPhone SE. I get an email and my husband’s phone will get a text but not mine

  50. I have just renewed my subscription and started using spot 3 again.

    Very disappointed with the number of signals not getting through. Just come back from a 5.5 hour bike ride in the desert surrounding Lima, Peru (no tree cover). With the tracking set for 30 mins I received onlyTWO positions in the whole route.
    I will perform more tests and report them here.

    • Just a suggestion. When you trigger an OK message, do you wait until the OK light stops flashing before turning the unit off. 100% of my OK messages go through and have for years, ever since I started doing this. I have a suspicion that a lot of so-called dropped messages are because people are too impatient.

  51. Absolutely horrible customer service! They auto-renewed without my permission. Not only that they increased the price from $149 to $214. I called them 9 days after it went through and they told me that I need to call within 7 days. RUN, don’t walk away from this horrible company!!

  52. Do you know if a Spot Gen 3 will send an emergency signal if you do not have a current subscription?

  53. Do NOT buy this product. I purchased it for a solo hiking trip with the upgraded service plan. It never tracked, even in our own backyard. It will only give you a false sense of security and likely not work in an emergency when you need it. We repeatedly contacted customer service and followed their advice and still could not get it to track register our location. And after all this, customer service refused to honor the warranty or do anything to remedy the issue. Terrible!

  54. My daughter is solo hiking is on the AT with a SPOT Gen3. She’s checked in 4 times in the last 10 days with no problems. But in the past half hour I’ve gotten 4 texts that look like SPT Gen 3 messages saying “content not found”. Any ideas about might be going on would be much appreciated. We invested in the device for her safety and am concerned the device, and therefore the SOS function, has stopped working. Thanks.

  55. {I haven’t read the whole thread}

    I am getting SPOT reports but not using the device, and I have a very basic question not answered by the reviews, product info, and comments I have read: When I load the lat-long info from a SPOT report into Google maps, how much info am I getting? GMaps shows the route from earlier report to current report as a series of dots. Are those the full set of (for example) 10-minute locations, or something like that?

    Nothing urgent about the question, just serious curiosity.


  56. I love my GEN3 SPOT tracker!! I use it all around the world and it keeps my family in touch with where I might be – and more importantly, that I am safe and alive! I’m excited to try the SPOTX that was just released. I do recommended this product because there is no price to safety :)

  57. I can hardly discourage using services from Spot LLC. The satellite coverage is way worse than they claim and customer service is only there to get money from you. I’ve asked cancellation of the service as it was not working properly in my area (France) and was first told I’ll be reimbursed, then that i would’nt, once the service was shut down !!! they only care about short-term money, i was thinking about using their services in other parts of the world. Now this is definitively a no-go to me.

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