Smartphone with Satellite Link

Spot LLC and DeLorme made waves last year with the release of the co-branded DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator. The product, which included a DeLorme GPS linked wirelessly to a small SPOT device, enabled text messaging and even Twitter updates via the DeLorme interface and SPOT’s satellite network. A new product announced today, the SPOT Connect, opens up this type of capability to the masses. The claim with SPOT Connect, which is also a two-piece product, is that it will “turn smartphones into personal one-way satellite communicators.”

SPOT Connect phone.jpg

Smartphone and SPOT Connect

As a subsidiary of Globalstar Inc., which owns a network of communication satellites, Spot LLC’s new product provides a way to connect to the Internet outside of regular cellphone coverage areas. With SPOT Connect the company says you can enable a smartphone to send text messages with GPS position, update social networks, or even alert the authorities in the case of an emergency. All this can be done from remote areas around the planet within range of Globalstar’s satellite network.

To launch Connect’s capabilities, smartphone users download the new SPOT Connect app. With the SPOT Connect device, the phone can then wirelessly synch up via Bluetooth. Says Peter Dalton, president of Spot LLC, “For the first time ever, urban professionals, outdoor enthusiasts and world travelers can utilize cost-efficient, personal satellite communications directly from their smartphone.”

Additional features include the ability to send location-based messages via satellite delivered as SMS text or email; update social networks including Facebook and Twitter from remote locations; provide GPS functionality to non-GPS devices; send messages linked to a locator on Google Maps; and transmit an SOS message in an emergency.

SPOT Connect copy.jpg

SPOT Connect device

The SPOT Connect uses a Bluetooth wireless connection. The unit is waterproof and measures about 3 × 2.6 × 1.2 inches. It weighs about 5 ounces with batteries.

SPOT Connect will cost $169.99 plus a required annual subscription service starting at $99.99 per year. It is scheduled to begin shipping this month to retail locations and online sites specializing in GPS, outdoor recreation and personal electronics.

—Stephen Regenold

Posted by Brad Goodridge - 01/04/2011 01:41 PM

I like this new product but I see a few problems with the old and new.
I have the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger. You have to remember to change the custom message while you have internet access (never tried this from my smartphone).
You have to remember to have extra Lithium batteries with you. A USB charging option would be nice. So you could plug in a USB battery pack if needed in an emergency or just while you are driving.
The batteries on my Windows Mobile phone don’t last very long in the out-back (~3 hours of searching for nothing). I try to shut down cell and data services before I get out of my truck. Not sure if Android phones have the same problem. Looks like it only supports Android. Smartphone is extra baggage (for me a heavy camera, I take it with me anyway just in case, I also carry a dumb-phone), but that depends on your outing. Limited product information and accessories on Lack of a better case and clip options. I always have difficulties securing the device to myself (pack, run belt) or my bike to keep the antenna exposed and still have quick access to the message OK button without having to stop and look at it.

Posted by Jason A. Dailey - 01/04/2011 06:06 PM

Bluetooth technology still gouges the battery life substantially so the need for either a backup battery or a solar charger would be necessary in my opinion. Looks like a relatively inexpensive communication tool compared to the satellite phone option.

Posted by Joe - 01/05/2011 02:24 AM

Maybe I’m missing something, but how is this device more compelling than the regular SPOT? It’s more expensive, carries the same subscription costs and requires extra equipment (you could just leave your cell phone in the car with a regular SPOT, assuming you don’t get coverage anyway).

Posted by Editor - 01/05/2011 10:11 AM

Joe – You can’t send text messages or update your Twitter feed with the regular SPOT.

Posted by buddy - 01/25/2011 09:03 PM

I have yet to get the urge to update my Twitter feed when I’m high on a remote ridgeline looking at the world.

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