For the last couple months I have had a piece of gear with me to test that keeps me in touch on nearly the entire planet, the Spot Global Phone.
According to my adult sons, I have finally reached the pinnacle of success as according to them, every hero in the movies has a satellite phone. I reminded them that we had watched Brad Pitt who had a satellite phone in World War Z and he was being chased by zombies, so I’m good just being an outdoors lover and writer.
The Spot Global Phone is offered by the same firm that has the great little Spot Gen3 rescue device which I reviewed recently and which I believe is a must have device for backcountry travelers.
Many people may consider a satellite phone, but then step back from it expecting the cost to be prohibitive. Honestly the Spot Global Phone really is not that bad of a price, costing less than many of the smart phones on the market.
The Spot Global Phone has a suggested retail price of $549.95 but it can be found online for right at $500. Considering how much other satellite phones can cost, this really is not that bad and on occasion there are rebates offered. The current offer is through Globalstar, the parent company of Spot. If you sign up for certain plans, the least of which costs $65 a month for 100 minutes of talk time, you get the phone for free. You can find information on this at the What Matters webpage of Globalstar and the offer runs through June 30, 2016. If you need a satellite phone, this really is a good deal.
When it comes to standard service through Spot, there are plans that range from $40 a month for 40 minutes of talk time up to $150 a month for unlimited talk time. Short 35 character text messages can be received and there is a data kit available so you can use the phone as satellite modem for your computer. Of course you are assigned a standard phone number with the phone and you make calls like any other mobile device.
Testing the phone.
When I have used the phone and to be honest I have not been running up much of a bill, it worked most of the time but in some parts of my metropolitan area, getting the phone to find and connect to a satellite was a challenge. I am not sure why this was happening and neither were the folks at Spot. In fact they sent me a second phone to make sure there was nothing wrong with the first and I had the same problem.
It was always in the same part of town and I am assuming it was aliens or something blocking the signal. But once I was away from this “Bermuda Triangle of sat signals”, the phone worked just fine. In fact I was surprised at just how fast it connected with a satellite whether I was on the shore of the Detroit River at Belle Isle State Park or out on the ice stretching into Lake Michigan. All my calls went through, sound quality was good and the other thing that seemed impressive was the battery life.
To charge the battery there is a proprietary charger and connector, but with most of the portable electronics today using a micro-usb port to charge, this was a bit irritating. The battery pack on the phone needs a higher voltage than a usb charger can supply so there is not much that can be done.
There is a car cord that can be used and if I had one of the phones with my while backpacking, I could charge it using my small solar panel that puts out more than enough power. When I am on a canoe trip, it is even easier, I carry a small gel-pack battery and keep it charged using the solar panel. With this combination I can charge any device that has a charger the will run on 12-volts and in the case of the Spot Global Phone, the car cord would work perfectly.
Power for the phone is provided by a replaceable lithium battery which is rated to provide the phone with 4-hours of talk time and 36-hours of standby. While I had the phone I never did an exact test on battery life, my concern was in how the battery would perform under real world conditions.
When I use any phone in the backcountry I only have it on only at specific times. By setting predetermined check in times, I can receive calls or text messages and save power by turning the phone off the rest of the time. I treated the Spot Global Phone in the same way.
One test I was interested in was how the battery would respond to extreme cold. While I had the phone temperatures where I was reached down into the -20 so I put the charged phone in my car and left it there for 24 hours to simulate my being out winter camping. The phone was off, as I would not expect any device to run for an extended period of time in extreme cold, after 24 hours in well below zero temperatures, I turned it on and the power was as good. Then I made a couple calls, turned it off and put it back in the car for another 24 hours. When I tried it the next day, the power held and I was satisfied it would work when needed.
When it comes to coverage, users are good to go anywhere on the North American continent and in the vast majority of south and central America. There are some areas of the planet that the phone will not work. Spot supplies a coverage map online that you should check if heading overseas and because of the positioning of the low earth orbit satellite system used, there is no coverage in either of the polar regions.
So now to the bottom line.
As I said above, the only time I was not able to connect was in on part of my metropolitan area and it seems no one has any idea why. But when I was in other areas I could connect to a satellite and make calls like I was using a standard cell phone. Just keep in mind that as with any satellite phone you need a clear view of the sky for the phone to work.
There was one other small problem I faced, it took very little force to press the button on the phone to turn it on. More than once when I had it in my jacket pocket, the phone switched on so I would not store it with the battery in the phone. If I wanted to make sure the phone would not turn accidentally, I took the battery out. This was especially true when I tossed it into a side pocket on my backpack.
Is the phone worth the price and does it perform as promised? The answer is yes if you really need to maintain voice contact no matter where you are, the price of the phone is very reasonable, about half of some other phones on the market and there are service plans that offer a limited talk time at an acceptable price.
So if you need a satellite phone and don’t want to spend a ton of money, the Spot Global Phone is well worth a look.
Stay up-to-date when new stories are published by clicking the subscribe button below!