There’s nothing quite like disconnecting from the outside world and spending time in nature – that is until something serious happens. Thankfully, you have your personal beacon locator with you at all times. Even if you’re miles away from the nearest town without any cell service, you’re still able to call for help and send your GPS location to be rescued.
If you spend any time outdoors, then a satellite messenger is one of those must-have devices. Not only does it allow you to connect with authorities in an emergency, but it also lets you stay in contact with family and friends while you’re hiking or camping.
While there are many different satellite messengers and personal locator beacons on the market, only a few of them are worth considering for your outdoor adventure. In this article, we compare two SPOT Satellite Messengers. They are among the best personal beacon locator systems and we explain how these little portable devices could end up saving your life.
But before we dive into the comparison, we’ll shortly explain you the difference between a personal locator beacon and a GPS tracker.
What is the Difference Between a Personal Locator Beacon and a GPS tracker?
Although they share similar features, there’s a big difference between a personal locator beacon (PLB) and a GPS tracker.
A GPS tracker monitors location and movement through internet, cellular, or satellite connection. Once it’s switched on, it generally stays on, which allows others to see where the tracker is at all times.
On the other hand, a PLB is used in emergency situations when someone needs to be rescued. It uses satellite technology to 1) send a distress signal to notify authorities that there is an emergency and 2) send your location so they can find you. Some PLBs also have a built-in messenger system, which allows you to communicate with friends and family using satellite technology.
When preparing for a trip, it’s important to understand the difference. While a GPS device can perfectly help you find your way, a PLB is a better option when you go far off the beaten path, where danger lurks.
SPOT is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in satellite technology – and fora good reason. Since they launched their satellite messengers, they’ve rescued over 7,600 people around the world from dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.
They’ve created a line of portable SPOT satellite messenger devices that allow campers, hikers, boaters, and adventure enthusiasts to communicate with family and friends as well as with emergency services. This is especially important if you’re traveling off-the-grid or to somewhere with limited cell phone service.
What SPOT GPS Trackers are Available?
SPOT Gen4 SPOT X
When researching SPOT Satellite Messenger systems, you’ll likely notice there are three different types on the market.
The SPOT Gen3 is no longer manufactured, although it’s still supported by SPOT and can be used for your hiking or camping trip. It’s the predecessor to the Gen4 model, which means it’s less robust, although it’s still capable of sending S.O.S messages in an emergency.
The SPOT Gen4 is a 1-way satellite messenger that can communicate with emergency services or with your contacts. You can choose to send either a pre-written custom message or a check-in ping to let your family know you’re doing okay. It’s a huge upgrade from the Gen3 and comes with a sleeker design, SPOT Mapping technology, motion-activated tracking, and a longer battery life.
The SPOT X is the top-of-the-line satellite messenger that has 2-way communication so you can send and receive messages via the device or directly through your smartphone using the built-in keyboard. If you’re on the go, you can simply send a check-in message to your emergency contacts with just a push of a button.
SPOT Gen4 vs. SPOT X
Use the table below for a detailed comparison between two of the most common SPOT Satellite Messengers: SPOT Gen4 and SPOT X.
|3.48 x 2.66 x 0.93 inches
|7.5 x 5.75 x 2 inches(16.6 x 7.4 x 2.4 cm)
|5 ounces (141g)
Ask for help
|Type of battery
|4 AAA batteries
|Rechargeable lithium polymer
|Between 10 – 52 days depending on tracking intervals, view of the sky, and outdoor temperature
|Price of device
|Price of serviceplan
|Contract Plans (US)
Contract Plans (Europe)
Flex Plans (US)
Flex Plans (Europe)
|Get your device
|GET THE SPOT GEN4
|GET THE SPOT X
Video SPOT Gen4
Below you can check out a video of the SPOT Gen4:
Video SPOT X
Below you can check out a video of the SPOT X:
How Does it Work?
Although the idea of satellite technology seems complicated, it’s actually rather simple! To send an emergency signal or outgoing message, your SPOT satellite messenger pings a GPS satellite system that’s floating in outer space. The GPS chip in your device connects to those communication satellites and sends your location (or your custom message) to different antennas set up on land.
Those antennas then communicate with different networks and services to send your location or message to the receiver. If you’re using the emergency distress function, then your location will be sent to the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center.
In addition to sending messages, your family and friends can keep tabs on your trip using the SPOT Mapping feature. They can download the app or log in online to see your current location and even where you’ve been before.
The best thing about using a satellite messenger is that cell service isn’t required. So if you’re traveling off-the-grid and can’t connect to a cell tower, then you can still stay in touch with loved ones (and emergency services) by utilizing the power of satellite technology.
1-way and 2-way satellite GPS messenger explained
Although personal locator beacons are very useful in emergencies, they can also be used to communicate with people back at home.
A 1-way SPOT satellite messenger allows you to send outgoing messages or GPS data. For emergencies, this means pinging the GEOS Response Coordination Center. However, you can also send check-in messages or your GPS location to family and friends, so they can see where you’re traveling. The SPOT Gen4 is a 1-way satellite messenger.
A 2-way SPOT satellite messenger also sends outgoing messages, but it also has the ability to receive incoming messages. This means you can send text messages or emails to anyone around the world – whether you’re in an emergency situation or not. The SPOT X is a 2-way satellite messenger.
What does it cost?
The cost of a personal locator beacon will depend on which model you buy. The Gen4 costs $149.99 (€145.53) while the X costs $249.99 (€299.00). In addition to the cost of the device, you will also be required to pay for service.
The SPOT X has three different contract plans which require a 12-month subscription. If you’re only going on a short trip, you can also opt for one of their flex plans instead.
The Contract Basic plan starts as low as $11.95 USD (€11.95) per month while the Flex Basic plan costs $14.95 USD (€14.95) per month. They include 20 custom messages, unlimited check-in messages, free incoming messages, and free pre-defined messages to send. The Advanced plan is identical to the Basic plan, except that it includes 100 custom messages. If you want the ability to send unlimited custom messages, then you will need to upgrade to the Unlimited plan.
If you’re considering the 1-way SPOT Gen4 model, then pricing will be structured a bit differently. You can choose a 12-month contract plan for $11.95 USD (€11.95) per month which includes unlimited S.O.S., help, check-in, and pre-defined messages. If you live in Europe, you can also add extreme tracking for either €4.95 per month or €59.40 a year.
With the Gen4, you can also choose a Flex plan instead, which has all the same benefits as the contract plan without the 12-month contract. For European buyers, extreme tracking with the Flex plan will cost €6.25 a month.
For both devices, the Contract and Flex plans have an activation fee of $19.95 USD (€19.95). With the Flex plan, there is also an additional $24.49 USD (€24.49) fee which is charged annually.
What do you get for this price?
Your pricing plan includes SOS/911 monitoring, which informs the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center of your whereabouts in the case of an emergency. In the rare instance that you need to be rescued, it’s important to note that you are responsible for paying those expenses. And if you aren’t insured well, you have to pay it all out of your own pocket.
However, you can also upgrade to become a GEOS Member, which would include up to $100,000 in search and rescue benefits. Think of this like emergency insurance protection. For just $2.50 USD(€2.50) per month (with a 12-month contract) or $24.99 USD (€24.99) a year, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll be covered in case you need to be airlifted back to safety.
Altogether, a SPOT satellite messenger may seem like a pricy investment, but we believe this is a small price to pay to have a rescue team save you in an emergency. You can’t put a price on reassurance and safety!
How to activate the service plan
Once you have your SPOT Messenger in hand, then you’ll need to activate it before your first trip.
To do so, log on to the Findmespot website at http://findmespot.com/activate. Enter your SPOT customer login information (or create a new account) and follow the onscreen instructions to add your details and emergency contacts. You will need to choose your desired service plan at the time of creating an account.
Now, download the SPOT X app for your smartphone and enable the Bluetooth setting. Place your SPOT X within 10 feet (3 meters) of your smartphone, and open the installed app. After entering your customer login information, you should see your SPOT X device pop up on the screen. Clicking this will sync your phone with the device.
If you have a SPOT Gen4, then you will need to enter your serial number and authorization code when you set up your account online. These codes can be found inside the battery compartment on your device.
What SPOT Satellite Messenger is Best for My Adventure?
If you’re deciding between the Gen4 or X models, then there are a few things to consider.
The biggest difference between the two SPOT satellite messengers is that the SPOT X can receive messages in addition to sending them. Using Bluetooth and the SPOT X mobile app, this 2-way messaging system syncs to your contact list so you can send messages directly from your phone. Or, it can be used as a standalone communication device since it has its own mobile number. If you want that ability to receive messages, then the SPOT X is the best option for you.
However, the SPOT X has a shorter battery life, which means you’ll need to charge it every ten days or so using the rechargeable battery. This can be a problem if you are traveling in the wilderness where power supply is very limited. The Gen4, on the other hand, can last up to 52 days on the lowest tracking interval setting and has replaceable AAA batteries, which is great for long-term travel.
Price may also be a big deciding factor when choosing a SPOT GPS. The SPOT X is almost twice the price of the Gen4 model, which could deter some buyers who are only using the device for emergency services.
Keep in mind that both SPOT GPS products have the ability to send check-in pings to friends and S.O.S signals to search and rescue – which are two of the most crucial functions for a personal locator beacon.
Our Experience With a Personal Locator Beacon
We purchased the SPOT Gen3 in 2017, so using a personal locator beacon is a fairly new experience for us. Thankfully, we were never in a situation where we needed urgent help. But now that we do have the device, it’s always on our packing list. We have complete peace of mind whenever we go biking, hiking or camping in the wilderness.
We’ve traveled all around the world with our SPOT Satellite Messenger. From trekking through the Australian Outback to hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, we’ve never left home without our personal locator beacon by our side. We have even taken it with us up to the mountains and sailing across the ocean where cell phone reception is minimal.
Not only do we trust our SPOT to save us in case something bad were to happen, but we also feel happy knowing that we can communicate with our family and friends. Our parents always know exactly where we are, and we can even ping them that we’ve changed locations or set up camp somewhere new. Trust us – it really takes the pressure out of traveling to remote parts of the world!
This has been a detailed review of the SPOT Gen4 and the SPOT X satellite messengers. If you have any questions, we’re here to help you out. Please leave a comment below!