Finally! An Affordable Sat Phone

But will it work?

I’ve written how I have a SpotX by Globalstar (internal link) in case of emergencies when I am beyond cellular coverage.

I’m glad I have the device but the keyboard is difficult to use and it is a text based message service, in fact, the texts must be less than 150 characters.

Still, despite those limitations, it can connect with the outside world and I bought into a personal recovery service and a vehicle recovery service.

Globalstar has a new device. It’s called a Sat-Fi2 which is a small satellite terminal that works off your smart phone.

Besides text and regular e-mail, it provides voice! And a tie in to the nearest 911 center in case of an emergency. Voice! I can’t tell you how long I have waited for this.

The last time I priced sat phones was three years ago before my travels through the Southwest. Hardware was from $750 to $1,000 which I could manage. It was the air time that killed the deal.

Just that short time ago, air time was 75 cents to a dollar a minute. And you needed to buy huge blocks of airtime to get that price. And those minutes expired quickly. No rollover, use them up quick. A real racket.

I think Globalstar may have added more capacity by putting up more satellites, don’t know. I can’t explain the price drop.

Will it work? I’m going to find out on my upcoming trip into Utah. Right now, I am awaiting it to arrive, whereupon I will take it on the road. I still have my SpotX paid up until September so I am not going without a backup. And I have my handheld ham radio. And my CB radio.

Globalstar is running a promotion on the device for whatever reasons I do not know. $249 dollars for the hardware, figure $300 or so with tax and shipping, and $50 a month for unlimited voice and data.

Let’s talk about that data. The most Globalstar is promising is 72kbps, realistically, you’ll be getting data transfer at the equivalent of a 56K modem from 1996. You won’t be doing heavy business with this device but you will get e-mails out and back. But voice!

Nothing beats voice communication for relaying real time information. Everybody knows that. Now, I just have to find out if this is a broken or kept promise. I’ll be reporting back soon.

If you want to try this unit, deal with Globalstar directly. Going through a third party means trouble.

Here’s a link to them, and no, I do not get a commission. Nothing on this site is commercial, nothing is meant to sell anything. Ever seen an ad?
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SpotX Satellite Messaging Device Update

November 25, 2019 Update. I continue to be pleased with the SpotX although I rarely use it. It’s more like an insurance policy but I will need it for camping when out of cell phone range. A few days ago another update was announced and I will have to download the updater program and update as described below.

Original article follows:

I’ve had my SpotX for over a month now and I am getting happier with it. The SpotX is a satellite messaging device designed for use where no cellular coverage exists. Which for much of the Southwest  is a mile or two off the main road, especially in hilly or mountainous terrain. While I haven’t had to use it in an emergency, its real purpose, my tests are going well.

The SpotX is not easy to set up but I am sure their engineers are working on this. I had to wait over two weeks to get a unit, so I am hoping this strong demand inspires them to great things. You need a Mac or Windows desktop operating system to configure the device; a mobile OS is not yet available. Once all your information is entered into your desktop or laptop, like account settings and predefined messages and such, you need to run a separate program to sync that data over a cable to the SpotX. It’s easy to lose track of all the steps. But on to the good stuff.

Today I sent a test e-mail and a text message and both were received by my cell phone in minutes. I then replied by cell phone and that message was received by the SpotX in under five minutes. The device operates best when stationary. Prop it up or lean it on something with a clear view of the sky and let it work its magic. Moving or walking with it while trying to send a message seems to delay messaging quite a bit, the connection to a satellite is not as robust as a cellular signal and this should not be expected. The closest satellite is, of course, hundreds of miles away and it’s probably a wonder that this technology works at all.

While sat phones can be rented or bought, air time is incredibly expensive and probably worth it only if going into the most high-risk places, where real-time conversation with rescue services or doctors may be needed. As for me, this service is a good compromise between cost and convenience. I signed up for the personal recovery option and the vehicle recovery option as well. If an emergency does come, in the worst case, a helicopter will be heading my way or a 4WD tow truck will be ambling down the road I got stuck on. All messages to first responders are automatically stamped with GPS coordinates, you can elect to include them when sending non-emergency traffic.

After I posted this entry, I found out about a major firmware update for the SpotX. I downloaded the update and everything is working. The fix alleviates at least two major problems that I had with the previous iteration.  I think the company is on its way in working toward a better product.