SPOT Announces New Device: spotX (two-way with a keyboard!)

#1
SPOT announced a new device, the spotX, that not only does two-way messaging, competing with Garmin InReach, but also has a built-in keyboard.



From my brief read, I see the following key pros:
  1. Finally does true two-way text messaging.
  2. As a built-in keyboard, which is fantastic.
  3. Less expensive than InReach.
  4. Provides a dedicated phone number for SMS. (InReach does not, yet.)
  5. Seems to have incredible battery life.
And cons:
  1. Coverage is not truly global. (InReach on Iridium is global.)
  2. Use with a semi-obscured view of the sky may be more difficult than InReach, but that needs testing.
  3. According to the documentation, it does not seem to allow pairing with a tablet or smartphone, meaning you are forced to use its keyboard.
  4. Lack of external antenna jack. (InReach does not have this, either.)
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#5
From what I've seen Garmin's future product will be smaller, lack most buttons and rely on a Bluetooth link to your phone.

I like that Spot doesn't need a phone and part of what swayed me to a Gen 3 was it using AAA batteries. This device is like the Delorme/Garmin stuff, it needs you to bring a USB battery pack or have some vehicle or wall charging periodically. My standard load is a cell phone turned on only daily or so to check for messages, a Spot and an eTrex. I can go a week with one spare pair of AA change for the GPS and only need the barest of minimum convenience stores to find replacement AA for it. I can go a month on a Spot and carrying one spare set of AAA lithium reduces concern to essentially zero for a whole summer almost.

We'll have to see what the battery life ends up being I think. FWIW, this has a slightly higher powered transmitter than the Gen 3 but has no antenna gain (the Gen 3 does have some slight gain). The reason I think they changed was the patch antenna on the Gen 3 has to be oriented facing up to work best, which shouldn't be the case with the X. But the Gen 3 has exceptional battery life (easily weeks on 3 x AAA) and I hope that to be true just doing tracking and a daily check-in on this. I don't like being locked into needing a USB charge, though, even if it does last a couple of weeks by not doing messages much.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#7
Spot Gen 3 on left, Gen 2 on right. These are just one-way tracking beacons, periodically they wake up, get a GPS fix and transmit a short burst message that's relayed by Globalstar's satellites and is posted as a position update.

It can send four pre-configured (you set them up on the web prior to leaving) messages other than beacons. There's no provision to receive a message back at all. No arbitrary messages in the field. That's currently only possible with InReach or using a satellite phone. The SpotX is adding the two-way, arbitrary messaging to Globalstar's trackers.

BTW, the Gen 3 takes 4 x AAA, not 3. That's how rarely I have to switch batteries in it, I confused it with my BCA Tracker, which takes 3 x AAA. I just pulled the batteries in that for the season so it was on my mind.

New-SPOT-Gen-3-Left-and-the-SPOT-II-Right.jpg
 
#8
We went with the InReach for the two way, so its great to have competition. The Keyboard is no big deal if tou can pair with another device that has a larger keyboard.
Space X will put both of these systems out of business in about 10 years with true global internet coverage.
 
#12
Is this just a case of Spot finally catching up with Globalstar's sat phone service, or did anything changed on Globalstar's end that opened up the extra bandwidth for unlimited uplink/downlink messaging and two-way texting?

It seems a little weird to me - unlimited 2-way texting on the SpotX for $29.99/month seems to be a pretty good deal - unusually good considering the alternatives in the satellite market. Compared to Sat-Fi plans this seems like a bargain. Unless there's some kind of explicit QOS limitation in place for SPOT that limits the maximum messaging rate?
 
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DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#13
Globalstar got their constellation issues sorted. I'm not sure if you're aware, but in the gen 1 satellites they had faster than expected failures of the S-band amplifiers that required them to launch all their spares and accelerate the gen 2 design and launches.

They completed those launches in 2013 and since then have been focused on upgrading the ground network, which had become the bandwidth bottleneck. So I think they now have the capacity they expected to have 10 years ago and I guess now is the time to start trying to develop the subscribers they need to stay afloat and attract investors.

I suppose the risk is that they may turn the lights off if they run out of money. I just recently renewed my Spot when they offered me a $50 one year plan. For that price it seemed like a fair bet. Not sure I'll risk it with a SpotX, though it is everything I want other than not using standard replaceable batteries.
 
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#14
Globalstar got their constellation issues sorted. I'm not sure if you're aware, but in the gen 1 satellites they had faster than expected failures of the S-band amplifiers that required them to launch all their spares and accelerate the gen 2 design and launches.
Yeah, I was aware, I remember when a friend had their really inexpensive phone, but we had to consult a chart to find out when we could place calls. :)

Have you tested your Spot to see how fast messages go out? I use my InReach to get medical/mechanical advice, and it sucked when it took 20-30 minutes to do a back-and-forth.

Thanks,

A.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#15
Have you tested your Spot to see how fast messages go out? I use my InReach to get medical/mechanical advice, and it sucked when it took 20-30 minutes to do a back-and-forth.
The Spot I have is a one-way device and it doesn't handshake or acknowledge messages it sends. All I can offer is in the informal testing I have done suggests that a transmitted beacon or message is seen and handled within tens of seconds (e.g. posted to my location page or the email sent to my list of recipients).

A successful beacon to update my location is never more than 10 minutes old and the probability of success for them has been around 95% for me. So if a location hasn't made it within 20 minutes it's a failed attempt and will never make it. I have read that the Spot will send a new location and the previous location with each transmitted beacon.

My memory is the device itself only stays in check-in transmit mode for a fixed amount of time and reverts back to beaconing but I would have to test that again to make sure. My assumption is Globalstar knows the probability so for any message other than SOS it will go back to it's sleep/wake/transmit cycle after some time. I'm fairly certain the SOS activation will stay in SOS until you turn it off.

However this I can only verify this if I have Internet service with the Spot app or a web browser. Someone with a Globalstar sat phone would have to offer the latency and reliability of their two-way links.
 
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