A Phone Call to SPOT Regarding Their Product

25 February 2010

Yesterday I gave SPOT a call to check the status of their SPOT 2, the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger (their number is 866-651-7768).  I called about a month ago and they said to try back in a few weeks regarding the availability of their SPOT 2 model.  It has recently been recalled, and they have asked retailers to stop selling the units at this time.  Apparently you can still buy them from some retailers, but SPOT is not allowing them to be registered until the problem is fixed.

It sounded like the problem is still not completely worked out; the person I spoke to said to call back again in early March.  She seemed to think that everything should be worked out by then, and that the unit would again be available for sale and registration.

The SPOT website states that replacement units for those who have returned theirs due to the recall will be shipped beginning 18 February.  So this is a good sign at least.  Maybe the units will be back on the market as soon as they say.

For those unfamiliar with the recall, their website states:

Updated Important Notice: If you have a SPOT 2 unit with an ESN number equal to or less than 0-8053925, please complete the simple Product Return Form below to return your SPOT 2 unit for replacement. All units need to be returned for replacement and to be eligible you need to fill out the form below before March 31st, 2010.

You can read more about the recall, and find the form, at FindmeSPOT.com.

The SPOT and the PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) are two very different devices with somewhat different applications. Be sure you know what each does and choose the one that is right for you. I personally plan to buy a SPOT and try it out, but will most likely end up with a PLB in the future as well. As a final note, ACR now offers an optional message service on their 406 MHz PLB’s, giving you a true PLB with the ability to communicate “okay messages” from the bush. For those unfamiliar with the SPOT device or PLB’s, which SPOT is not, see our recent blog posts on the subject or visit the Desert Explorer website.

Revisiting the SPOT Versus PLB Question

5 February 2010

In the last week I have had a few comments on my blog post about the SPOT GPS Messenger and Personal Locator Beacons. The comments and the information sent to me is just too important not to post, especially for those thinking about purchasing one of the devices. Comments from Max have shed a lot of light on the questions that I asked a few months back, and those I left unanswered.  Max gave me a thorough breakdown of the differences between the two devices- battery life, transmission wattage, transmission frequencies, satellite differences, and coverage, and how his experience with both devices. He uses both the SPOT GPS Messenger for tracking his route and carries the ACR SARLink for emergency use.  You can follow the above link to read then entire comment thread, or visit the Desert Explorer website where I will repost all the text to read it there.

There was also a comment from Mikele with a link to the latest feature available from ACR- an optional subscription service compatible with all their 406 MHz units that allows the user to send an “okay” message- read more about that here. This sounds exactly like one of the features of the SPOT device. ACR offers only this single message transmission option, sent to up to five email addresses or as texts,  at a price of $59.95 a year.  I am not clear how many messages you can send with that option. More importantly, I could not find any data on how much power it takes to send such messages- a very important factor considering the battery replacement cost for the SARLink is about $160. Back to the comparison- the SPOT GPS Messenger service costs $100 a year, but has a few message send options, and the tracking option for another $50 a year.

Another new addition to the ACR website is their comparison of SPOT and PLB’s, and a wealth of information about the differences in the two devices (much of it exactly what Max had sent me- word for word- maybe he works for ACR?). All of this data is exactly what I was looking for when I wrote my blog post back in November of 2009. Strangely neither ACR nor SPOT could tell me about their competition at that time. Now the information is official, coming right from ACR. It even confirms my suspicion that it is not truly accurate to compare the two devices, that it is essentially “comparing apples and oranges” (my wording and theirs). If you have any doubts about which device is right for your needs, or the differences in the two, read the information on that page and you will be perfectly clear.

Finally, in support of what is on the above mentioned ACR web page, it should be noted that SPOT has recalled the SPOT 2, aka the SPOT GPS Messenger, because of power issues.  I called SPOT about two weeks ago and asked about the recall.  They told me that it was still underway, but that units were still being sold by some companies, and they actually recommended not buying them.  The person I spoke to said to call back in a couple of weeks and that new units should be available for sale then.

At this point it is clear that the two units, while appearing to have the same features, are very different in their function. If you want a device that will insure your safety in the bush just about anywhere in the world, then you should look at a PLB such as the ACR SARLink or MicroFix.  If you want a device that will probably keep you safe and will, under normal circumstances in many parts of the world, allow your friends and family to follow your progress online, then look at the SPOT device.