My typical usage for communications is a SPOT tracker and a sat phone. The SPOT sends out my latitute and longitude while I can receive free incoming text message on the sat phone. This combination is the simpliest and lowest cost option to keep people up to date on your location and condition as well as receive wx reports. Also you can pick up the sat phone and make an outgoing call at extra cost if you need that type of support.
But recently I have been investigating upgrading to DeLorme’s InReach product. Below is a comparison. My verdict? SPOT is still the better option for my style of offshore delivery usage. I need the unlimited tracking and messaging capabilities as I would quickly eat up the 10 / 40 message limits on InReach. You be the judge for yours.
SPOT is a handheld satelite communications device that runs over the GlobalStar network. The first version, launched in 2007 which I still use, has minimal options for sending. You can only choose between “OK,” “Help,” and “Custom” message types. There are also SOS and a tracking feature which automatically pings the OK button at regular intervals. The 2nd superior version called (connect) interfaces which your bluetooth smartphone and allows the user to send custom message. Essentially it turns the SPOT into a one-way, outgoing text sat phone.
The first version hardware costs $100 new at West Marine or on Amazon but if you look hard you’ll probably find a better deal elsewhere. The 2nd gen Connect version is usually priced at $150. The basic service cost is another $100 or a little more depending on what options you subscribe to. You have to pay a bit more for the automatic tracking feature. The mapping and messaging come with the basic plan, but you have to remember to push the button to send out your location. All messaging is unlimited. You can set up Google Maps and distribute the asssocated link so even your grandmother can watch you you hop through the West Indies.
DeLorme’s InReach, launched in the Fall of 2011, runs over the Iridium network. You can pair her with your smartphone and do full-featured, two-way text messaging (up to 160 characters per message) to and from email addresses and cell phones. Messages can also be posted to Facebook and Twitter.
The unit costs $210 to $234 currently on Amazon and requires a $150 annual minimum service fee. The basic plan allows 10 text messages per month, then $1.50 per additional message. The tracking is 25 cents per point. If you want 40 messages per month, then you have to upgrade to the next level at $25 a month (300.00 year). You have to plan fees when changing your plan level.
So if you want the extra capabilities and do not mind to pay the price, the DeLorme’s InReach is a highly touted option by those I have talked to. There are some new options I have heard on the market that might be a good middle ground between the two that I’ll report back on later. Please feel free to share your experiences with a sat device whether hiking, sailing, or otherwise out of cell phone range in the comment section below.