Late last year Spot LLC released the SPOT GEN4 GPS Satellite Messenger, replacing the third generation model which has been available since 2013.
With a number of different satellite communication devices available in Australia, is the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger the ideal satellite communicator for your Big Lap road trip around Australia?
Let's dig a bit deeper and find out . . .
What is a SPOT GEN4 GPS Satellite Messenger?
The SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger is a one-way messaging device that sends pre-programmed update messages (SMS & Email) & location updates to your friends, family and online followers via satellite from virtually anywhere on earth.
It also includes a 'one button' SOS function that can be used in the event of an emergency to send your location to emergency services who will coordinate your rescue.
With most of Australia outside of mobile phone range, the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger will give you a remote communications solution to keep friends and family up to date with your progress and also act as an emergency SOS solution if things go wrong.
How does the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger Work?
Pushing the SOS button will send your location information to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Centre who will contact local emergency services and let them know who and where you are and that you need help.
This is intended for life threatening situations.
You can also make your map public and share it so that anyone following your trip can see your progress.
Use the Check In button to send a pre-programmed text message or an email with your GPS coordinates to up to 10 contacts.
This waypoint is stored in your online Spot account and can be shared so that your followers can track your progress.
Before leaving on your trip, program a custom message into your SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger from your internet connected device.
This message can be sent to a pre-defined list of up to 10 contacts via SMS or email at the push of the message button.
For example you might let your friends and family know 'Made it to camp. All ok.'
HELP (Non Emergency)
Use the HELP button to let your contacts know that you need help in non-life-threatening situations.
For example you might pre-arrange for your friends or family back home to keep track of you as you cross the Simpson Desert and will use the HELP button in the event of a breakdown.
What are the differences between the Spot Gen4 Messenger and its predecessor, the Spot Gen3?
If you're a Spot GEN3 GPS Messenger owner and wondering if you should upgrade to the new SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger, I've put together a comparison table so we can see the specs of each side by side.
As you can see in the table below, aside from cosmetic looks, there is little functional difference between the previous and new generations.
|Spot Gen4||Spot Gen3|
|In Use Dimensions:||8.83H x 6.76W x 2.36D cm||8.72H x 6.5W x 2.54D cm|
|Material:||Rugged Plastic | Alloy Carabiner||Plastic | Rubber|
|Waterproof:||IP68 | Impact, Dust & Water Resistant - Up to a depth of 2 m for up to 30 minutes||IPX7 | Submersible to 1 metre for 30 minutes|
|Operating Temp:||-30C to +60C||-30 C to +60 C|
|Operating Altitude:||-100m to +6,500m||-100 m to +6,500m|
|Batteries:||4 x AAA Ultimate Lithium Included | 4 x AAA NiMH Rechargeable||4 x AAA Lithium Ultimate Included | 4 x AAA NiMH Rechargeable | 5V USB|
|Run Time:||With 100% view of sky - SOS: 13 days | Tracking @ 60 minute intervals 24hrs/day: 52 Days||With 100% view of sky - SOS: 13 days | Tracking @ 60 minute intervals 24hrs/day: 52 Days|
|Run Time:||With 50% view of sky - SOS: 6 days | Tracking @ 60 minute intervals 24hrs/day: 26 Days||With 50% view of sky - SOS: 6 days | Tracking @ 60 minute intervals 24hrs/day: 26 Days|
|Battery Replacement Interval:||Last 24 months in storage||Last 24 months in storage|
|Weight:||0.142 Kg with Lithium Batteries||0.114 Kg with Lithium Batteries|
There are however a few differences that are worth pointing out:
- The GEN4 has a higher dust and waterproof rating which has been enabled by the removal of the USB port that was present in the GEN3. The downside however, is that you can't power the GEN4 from a USB cable.
- The GEN4 is slightly heavier - not that you're likely to notice the difference.
- The GEN4 comes with a strap and locking carabiner for easy attachment to your pack or gear
- The GEN4 looks cosmetically nicer than its predecessor but its darker colour scheme may make it less visible around camp and at the bottom of your pack.
With very little functional difference between the GEN3 and GEN4 Messengers, I wouldn't bother upgrading to the new model.
However if you don't currently own a satellite messenger and are planning a trip beyond mobile phone range then the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger is definitely worth considering.
Is the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger better than a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)?
The SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger differs from a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) which only work as distress beacons and have no day to day application.
PLB's & EPIRB's are purely an SOS distress beacon that you activate in a serious emergency. When activated, they send your GPS position information via the COSPASS satellite system to emergency services who then coordinate your rescue.
Other than the initial purchase price and future battery replacement, they have no ongoing subscription cost.
On the other hand, the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger is a more 'active' device that can be used during your trip to send position information and pre-programmed updates with the added reassurance and backup of an SOS function.
This extra functionality does come at a cost with a monthly or annual subscription required to run it.
At around $200, the initial outlay for a SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger is lower than a PLB or EPIRB but the monthly or annual subscription will ultimately result in you spending more money.
Do you need both?
No. If you choose to go with the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger you should be covered.
What if I want two way communications?
One thing the SPOT GEN4 GPS Messenger doesn't do is give you two way communications.
For a satellite communicator that provides two way communications, you'll either need the SPOT X 2-WAY Satellite Messenger, a satellite phone or a Zoleo (review coming soon).
CONCLUSION - Is the SPOT GEN4 the ideal satellite communicator for Big Lappers?
In a word . . . probably.
What I love about the SPOT GEN4 is that it gives you great functionality to track your trips and keep your friends and family up to date in a simple, reliable, compact and lightweight device.
AND you have a built in SOS function in case things go seriously wrong.
While it lacks the two way communications capability of the SPOT X, satellite phone or Zoleo, do you really need this? Are you prepared to pay more to have it?
Unless you're spending long periods of time outside of mobile phone range then two way communication is something you can probably live without (you may even prefer it!).
The SPOT GEN4 GPS Satellite Messenger sits nicely between the limited functionality of a PLB or EPIRB and the greater functionality of two-way communications devices.
Plus it has great location and tracking ability which you won't get with a satellite phone or Zoleo.
Overall the SPOT GEN4 is a great value package that should suit most Big Lappers.