Review: SPOT Global Satellite Phone

sat phone

I tested the phone on a ranch in the rain, under heavy clouds, when the sky was clear, as well as under structures (like an awning). Even in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma without any cell phone reception, this sucker did it’s job. I made 10 calls over 7 days, and I was super impressed—despite the funny looks I got at everyone around me who have to drive to the top of a huge hill to get any reception.

To top it off, the SPOT Global Satellite Phone is surprisingly small—I carried it around in my pocket for a while and didn’t really notice it. It has regular volume controls.

Functionality ★★★★
The SPOT global phone is a satellite phone that utilizes the Globalstar network of satellites (there are two major networks of satellites—Globalstar and Iridium). Globalstar’s handsets are cheaper (around $500 compared to $800 and up) and have the fastest data transfer of satellite phones (9.6 Kbps compared to Iridium’s 2.4 Kbps), but they work only on populated landmasses. Iridium has more global coverage (it’ll even work in Antarctica), but it’s easily interrupted by obstructions such as mountains or buildings.

The battery life is ridiculous. I was given this item for review a week ago. It wasn’t on the whole time but the battery life didn’t drop at all. It’s still full 7 days later.

As soon as you step underneath something, and there’s no line of sight to the sky, game over. I stepped under an waning and it cut out completely. It worked decently in trees, but fields and open areas are clearly the best.

It also works in the rain—but you have to stand in the rain to make sure you keep line of sight to the sky. If the clouds are super heavy, it’s fuzzy and cuts out but doesn’t completely drop the call.

Design and Aesthetic ★★
If you look back fondly on the good ol’ days of the brick phone, you’ll love the interface on this phone. But if you’re too used to smartphones, the interface is quite intuitive and easy to pick up on.

If you’re wanting to find out the phone number on this phone, pay attention to it when you turn it on. I’m sure there’s a way to find it after that, but writing it down as soon as you turn it on is the easiest way.

Durability ★★
Durability wise, it’s pretty solid. I don’t see any spots that concern me in terms of failure. Maybe if the antennae was extended and was stepped on it might break, but that’d take considerable force and a strange series of events.

I dropped it once and it didn’t even get a scratch (I can’t say much for the rock, though).

The device isn’t waterproof although there is some basic design considerations in the ports to keep water and dust out. I made a call in the rain, but that is about as far as I’d feel comfortable testing it.

Value ★★
At $500 for the phone and plans starting at $25 (for 10 minutes) and going to $150 for unlimited talk, it’s actually pretty comparable regular cellphone plans.

Compared to other similar products like the Delorme inReach SE, which costs $300, is waterproof but only offers SOS, text messages and other character based messaging, the SPOT Global is a good product for those who want an emergency phone anywhere your cell phone won’t work.

For the adventurer who is traveling abroad 12 months out of the year, the phone might be a great deal, but for the average adventurer like myself (for instance, I’ll be road tripping all summer across the US with a Jeep and a tent), I just don’t see it being practical.

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