While satellite technology is emerging in newer smartphone models, the ZOLEO device offers more than just SOS. The brand says it lets you exchange two-way messages of 900-plus characters, retrieve hyperlocal weather forecasts for any location, and send free unlimited check-in messages with your GPS coordinates to friends and family — no matter where you are.
The device acts as a relay between smartphones and the Iridium satellite network to transmit messages. It’s designed to use cellular networks when it can and then switch to satellite networks (and back) without a hitch. Working together, this tech creates what the brand calls a “uniquely seamless global messaging experience.”
In a pinch, the satellite communicator can send check-ins and SOS messages on its own without the use of a paired smartphone, according to the brand. You should also be able to use it by itself to start and stop automatic location sharing.
Read on for an overview of what ZOLEO does, how it’s different from other devices on the market (according to the brand), and the ways it could come in handy on your next outdoor adventure.See More at ZOLEO
- Dedicated SMS number
- Two-way messages 900-plus characters
- Device is shareable with friends/family
- Unlimited free check-ins
- Global progressive SOS alerting with 24/7 monitoring
- Configurable message check intervals
- Shock-, dust-, and water-resistant
- Costs less than $200
The ZOLEO satellite communicator is about the size deck of cards, though slightly thicker, and weighs 5 ounces. It connects to Android and iOS smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth.
Designed to withstand the elements, the device is resistant to dust, water, and shocks and comes with a carabiner so it can be clipped to a pack. It boasts a water resistance rating of IP68, which means it can survive 30 minutes in water as deep as 1.5 m. According to the brand, this is superior to comparable satellite communicators in the market.
It’s also designed for temperatures from -4 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can stay on the outside of a pack or belt and should perform in most conditions.
The design of the communicator and Iridium’s fully meshed network of 66 cross-linked satellites means there’s no need to point and move ZOLEO to maintain a connection with the satellite network. As long as the ZOLEO has an unobstructed view of the sky, it claims to only takes a couple of minutes to transmit messages, regardless of weather conditions.
The ZOLEO unit is the only Iridium-connected satellite messenger we found on the market for less than $200. It is available online and at several retailers.
3 Capabilities of ZOLEO
ZOLEO is an option for satellite messaging and safety beyond cell coverage. Here are just three of its capabilities you should know, according to the brand.
1. Communication: Messaging & Check-Ins
The ease of texting on our phones has made many of us accustomed to breaking up long messages over several texts. But with a satellite communicator, you pay for each message, so you want to get your money’s worth from each text.
With ZOLEO, users can send more than 900 characters in one message via the free app. That means you can be detailed when sending navigation directions, describing your trip, or asking for updates from home. Additionally, these app-to-app messages include delivery receipts so you have peace of mind knowing they’ve been received successfully.
If your contacts aren’t using the ZOLEO app, you can still send messages up to 160 characters directly to their SMS number, or messages up to 200 characters to their email address.
ZOLEO check-ins let your contacts know you’re OK. Check-in messages are free and can leave digital breadcrumbs of your location when you’re on the trail, at work, or gone fishing. The simplest way to check in is with the device’s checkmark button. Contacts can be configured to receive check-in messages via SMS, email, or the ZOLEO app.
The ZOLEO app chooses the least costly route for a message, according to the brand. It prioritizes Wi-Fi and then cellular data. If those aren’t available, the app will send the message over the Iridium satellite network via the ZOLEO device.
2. Dedicated SMS
What about when your contacts want to message you? ZOLEO assigns you a dedicated SMS number that never changes as long as your account is active. This feature allows contacts to initiate a conversation with you instead of having to wait for you to send the first message.
This ability for straightforward communication sets ZOLEO apart from other satellite communicators that don’t assign the unit a dedicated number.
3. Safety: SOS
If things go wrong, you can trigger an SOS alert that will share your location with responders. According to the brand, ZOLEO is the only device on the market to offer a progressive SOS experience that sends users continuous updates until the incident is resolved.
SOS messages are received and triaged by Global Rescue to coordinate an emergency response. (If you aren’t familiar with Global Rescue, they’re an organization trusted worldwide that has coordinated more than 20,000 rescue operations across 200 countries.)
The dedicated SOS button on the device works with or without a connected smartphone and is covered to avoid accidentally triggering it.
Who It’s For
ZOLEO is an option for anyone who lives or works on the fringe of cellular coverage but values having a connection wherever they go. People may buy a ZOLEO communicator for a specific reason or trip, but once you own one, you may find plenty of use cases. The SOS feature alone could be worth having on hand for a mountain bike ride or day hike.
Here are a few examples of popular use cases.
Thru-hikers or backcountry hunters can let friends and family track their progress through check-ins and automatic location updates (via Location Share+). With the ZOLEO app, a hiker can adjust how frequently the device checks for new messages and set it to check for messages less frequently to save battery life. For instance, it can be set to manual (which requires you to check for messages manually) when it’s time for bed and changed back to 12-, 24-, or 60-minute intervals when on the move again.
Say a re-supply is in order — a thru-hiker can make use of the app’s lengthy messages to coordinate a rendezvous point with friends and update their ETA. It also means they can send detailed messages about their needs and wants, whether it’s a new pair of boots or just extra gummy bears.
The ZOLEO app also lets you download offline maps while out of coverage — for things like using the weather map as well as viewing check-ins and automatic and manual location updates.
As you travel a route, you can request weather forecast updates based on your GPS location or another location, such as your destination. If you hike around mountains or coasts, you’ve probably experienced drastic weather changes within a few miles of travel. The ZOLEO device aims to help users plan ahead by checking the conditions of their route in case the weather decides to wreak havoc.
Work & Play Afield
Popular hobbies often take us to remote lands. Cellphone service can drop off well before reaching a trailhead, deer stand, or river bank.
The ZOLEO device lets a loved one keep tabs on you with a dropped pin or message. It’s a simple way to let others know when you’ve reached your favorite spot, left it, or are on your way home. You can send along additional messages like “Make room in the freezer” or “Let’s order a pizza.”
Of course, plenty of workers also find themselves away from cell service. Ranchlands, oil and gas fields, or forests can be rough terrain where it’s smart to carry a safety backup. A ZOLEO device enables anyone working in remote locations to communicate with co-workers, coordinate a meeting point, or just say hi to family back home.
Monthly plans start at $20 with 25 satellite messages included, and they run up to $50 for unlimited satellite messaging.
Anyone on a multiday hike or trip may consider adding Location Share+. It’s a $6 add-on that adds pins along your route, allowing the user to share their progress with as many as five contacts.See More at ZOLEO
This article is sponsored by ZOLEO. Learn more about the brand’s satellite communicator online.