SPOT X satellite messenger review


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Erin Lawrence

Spot X, review, how to, satellite, message, SOS, emergency, check in

Our cell phones are our everything. They’re cameras, entertainment devices and they can be a lifeline in an emergency. But what if your phone is out of range? For hikers, backcountry skiers, climbers, and runners in Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks or folks who routinely work in remote areas, this is a very real problem. So what to do? You could upgrade your communications and get a satellite messenger device like SPOT X.

What is SPOT X?

SPOT X provides 2-way satellite messaging when you’re off the grid or out of reach of regular reliable cellular coverage. Connect SPOT X to your smart phone via Bluetooth wireless technology through the SPOT X app to access your contacts and communicate easily with family, friends, or directly with Search & Rescue services in a life-threatening situation.

If preferred or when necessary, SPOT X can be used as a standalone communication device. SPOT X has its own dedicated Canada mobile number, so others can message you directly at any time.

The SPOT X satellite device lets you send messages but not make phone calls (the company’s Sat-Fi device does allow for that, but not this version). SPOT-X can be used as a tracking device too. The phone is compact, albeit with a big antenna, basic backlit qwerty keyboard a small monochrome display, and a pretty rugged and lightweight design.

Setting up SPOT X

My loaner device arrived already activated with data usage, so all I was required to do was turn it on, let it connect to the satellite for the first time (took about 10 minutes) and I was ready to go.

Spot X, review, how to, satellite, message, SOS, emergency, check inSend emergency & check-in messages with SPOT X

Using the SPOT X device you can send and receive messages via SMS/text or email and you get a dedicated mobile number for the SPOT X. That means you can check in with family members on your outdoor adventure, or use the group message feature to let everyone know how you’re doing. Type out your own message or use some of the pre-set messages that you create in the device to make it fast and easy to send out a blast.

Connect to your phone with Bluetooth using SPOT X app

SPOT X will connect with your smart phone, so you can use the phone to communicate via the satellite connection inside SPOT X. To access it you need the Spot X app for iPhone or android.

Log in with your username and password then you’ll need to connect to your SPOT, so make sure it’s turned on and operating.

The app found the phone immediately and linked everything together; I could view all the messages on the phone that I could on SPOT X.

How to update firmware on SPOT X

I did start to get messages about the SPOT X needing a firmware update in order for it to work with the app correctly, but there appeared to be no way to update the firmware. I could look at the firmware settings in the phone (System settings>Spot X info, but couldn’t see how to update them. Same story in the app; I could view but not update the firmware. Even so, the messaging still seemed to work just fine. But my tip to you is to turn everything on; the device and your phone app and test it before you head to the backwoods, because the last thing you want is to have you connection broken by out of date firmware. I presume a quick call to customer service will get this resolved.

I later learned this device needs a computer to update. Full Firmware instructions are here.

Spot X, review, how to, satellite, message, SOS, emergency, check inHow to link your social media accounts with SPOT X

In some of the press materials i read about SPOT X, it says you can post updates to your social feeds. On my own, I couldn’t figure out how.

After further reading, I realized this is also something you need to do at home on a computer, before you leave. Once your accounts are set up, they essentially become ‘contacts’ that you send a message to, and it will resend on to your social media account of choice.

What can SPOT X do?

Because SPOT X is pulling down satellite signals, you get the best results with it outdoors, and with the antenna pointed directly at the sky. If you don’t do this, you’ll get reminder messages. Because it’s always looking for the sky, using it indoors isn’t likely to work well. I brought the SPOT X along to the giant indoor consumer tech show in Las Vegas in January, hoping I could use it to better my connectivity thank to busy networks and shoddy Wi-Fi, but more often than not, the device wanted to seek out satellites outside and was just looking for a signal. So an indoor wifi booster, this is not. Then again, that’s not what it’s for.

SPOT X is designed for hunters, travelers and others who’s forays into the off-grid world mean they’re often out of reach.

Navigation with SPOT X

There are several navigation options with SPOT X Use the built in compass for direction (it needs to be calibrated first so do that before you go), and get detailed latitude and longitude info.

SPOT X Tracking

Add waypoints or load trip info including your ultimate destination for tracking. SPOT X will also calculate speed, heading, distance and elevation. You can choose whether to get tracking updates every 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. It will even build a map for you so you can view your progress or so others can see where you are.

There’s also a check in function where you can just hit the Check in button and SPOT X will automatically register your current location.

Spot X, review, how to, satellite, message, SOS, emergency, check inSend an SOS

If you really get into a jam, there’s a small SOS button on the device, housed under a small door to prevent accidental activation. Push it and a message will go out automatically to search and rescue services, and it will let them know your exact position. From there you can message about what’s going on. As my SPOT X was fully active I definitely did NOT test this out, so I’m trusting it works as advertised.

SPOT X’s website says messages go to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, where you can communicate about the nature of the emergency, transmit GPS coordinates and receive confirmation when help is on the way.

SPOT X Battery Life

SPOT X says the rechargeable battery on the device will last an astonishing 240 hours. While I never exhausted the battery, I can say it stayed full for weeks while turned off and then when I left it on, it ran for 6 days and the battery never budged from showing 3 of 4 bars of battery. Impressive! By the time I shut it down to send it back, it was still almost full.

In its real world applications you should get 10 days of battery life in continuous 10-minute interval tracking mode. Recharge it using the micro-USB connector and a power bank or solar power set up if you’re not near a plug.

Extreme temperatures note

One thing I did notice is that the lowest temperature SPOT X can function in isn’t all that low for a Canadian winter. SPOT X says the operating temperature is -4 °F to 140 °F or -20 °C to 60 °C. In Calgary, we routinely get -35 in the dregs of winter, so in some situations the SPOT X may not function due to the cold. Could you keep it with you on an inside coat pocket and have it stay warm enough to get you help in an emergency? Perhaps, but either way, you’ve been warned.

Spot X, review, how to, satellite, message, SOS, emergency, check inWhere will SPOT X work?

SPOT X has near universal coverage across the globe. For a look at their coverage map, click the link to the Spot X website.

SPOT X Price & packages

SPOT X is available from outdoor retailers in Canada for $349.99 CAD with month-to-month Flex plans starting at $14.95 USD per month (or annual service plans starting at $11.95 USD per month). There’s actually 6 different usage packages so for more information on SPOT, visit or get one from Amazon.

*A note about Affiliate Links: Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you chose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using this link.

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