Nov 10

Review of the Spot tracking device

by in Gadgets, Reviews

Our rating: 3/10

In order to give some peace of mind to our families while we’re on the road, we wanted a way of being in contact at all times. Rather than relying on a mobile phone, which would be expensive and limited in coverage, we looked at satellite devices, but again many options were costly and cumbersome. The SPOT satellite device though seemed perfect, at just over £100, it is a simple palm sized device that would allow our movements to be tracked online.

After purchasing the device plus the £100 year-long subscription we signed up to the SPOT Adventures website which allows you to map and manage your trips. The device offers different options. The tracking function will send a GPS coordinate every 10 minutes, which appears on our website so that people can see our current position.

The Spot at work in the Argentinian Andes

The Spot at work in the Argentinian Andes

There is an option to ‘check in’, which as well as appearing on the website can be set up to send texts or emails to designated contacts. The device also had an SOS function that would alert international authorities should we run into trouble.

It seemed like the perfect product, but we have been rather disappointed by its reliability and the ease of use.

Pros

  • Battery: Consumption has been decent with 3 AAA lithium batteries.  When we were only turning it on once or twice a day it lasted on the same set for over three months.
  • Durability: It’s a robust little handset which can take the rough and tumble of bike touring.
Paddy trying to register a position from the Spot in the Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Paddy trying to register a position from the Spot in the Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Cons

  • Reliability: The device sometimes struggles to get a connection with a satellite. Whilst this is inconvenient, the real annoyance comes from when it indicates that a message has successfully been sent, when in fact it hasn’t. This can only been discovered from looking at the website later. There appears to be little rhyme or reason to why it works sometimes and not others. We have lots of theories, including the effects of telephone wires and tall buildings, but have not found a solution. Unfortunately it happens too often to be a fluke, and we have met other users on the road with the same problem.
  • Limited history: Users are only able to display a maximum of the last seven days’ co-ordinates on their website map. Older co-ordinates can be viewed in the user’s online account, but only for a month, after which they are permanently deleted. The only way to keep a record is to download a CSV file of the co-ordinates, but this requires a good internet connection, which we have not always been able to access on the road. Spot Adventures is designed for you to plot your old trips, but we haven’t found it meets our requirements.
  • Website integration: Laura tried a few different options, but couldn’t get the map to successfully embed into our website. Instead we ended up linking to the SPOT adventures page.
  • Support: The web support has been terrible. We have contacted them several times with questions about the above, but had no reply. The online FAQs section answers some basic questions we had during the setup stage, but hasn’t solved any of the major problems we encountered.

In summary, we wouldn’t recommend this device, but there seems to be few other options.  We have met other cyclists on the road who have one and seem less than satisfied too.

 

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