SPOT Personal Tracker
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $121
Shoddy business practices. Lousy customer service. Largely inclined to bilk customers out of $50 purchase rebate coupon. Reputation for charging credit card for annual renewal without first querying customer if they want to renew.
- Maybe it works
- Shoddy business practices
- Cumbersome interface
- Exagerated claims of grandiose rescue
Source: bought it new
BEWARE - THIS COMPANY IS A SCAM!
Beware, SPOT is an extremely unethical company that is going to try to screw you out of every possible dollar with their shady auto-renewal and automatic credit card charges without even sending you a bill.
Two years after you thought you cancelled the device, large charges show up, and the customer service is useless and trained to make sure you pay every penny. Check out reviews on Amazon and elsewhere to see what I mean.
THIS COMPANY IS A SCAM! The outdoor community needs to spend our hard-earned money elsewhere and take this company down!
Price Paid: $100+
First of all, it doesn't work unless you have wide open sky. Perhaps if you are concerned about getting lost on a prairie this product may work. I got a message out from a parking lot at a football stadium but could not get a signal from a city park with a few trees. So, if you are headed to the mountains, leave this piece of junk at home.
Second, the company will re-bill you automatically. They hide this in the fine print so you get a surprise a year later. Customer service (misnomer) is VERY RUDE and will NOT refund what they auto bill you.
This product and company are just short of fraudulent. STAY AWAY!
Price Paid: $350
I am super pleased with this product!!
For the last 18 months the SPOT has been living in the top of my backpack. I usually hike 10-12 weeks every summer, and an occasional week-end now and then the rest of the year. I'm an epileptic, so naturally my family is a bit worried about me hiking alone. For some strange reason I'm not...
The first time I tried it I placed it on the stairs outside my house. In that way 180 degrees was covered by the house, and in front there were a lot of trees. I could hardly see the sky, but after a few minutes I received an email with a link to google maps, and it missed my exact position by about 10 meters. Pretty good if you ask me.
When I'm out hiking I send an OK message home every night when I have made camp. In the 150+ nights I've used it, it has only failed to get a message through once. I have added my own email address to the notification list, so I can check if a message has gotten though when I have mobile phone coverage. When I saw that the message had failed to get through that night I moved the SPOT a few meter and tried again, and this time it worked. Of course that one missed message could have been in a life threatening situation, but no systems are 100% perfect. I've used it both above and below the tree line.
As for the billing process, at least here in Europe we receive a notice two weeks in advance of a renewal charge, so canceling shouldn't be a problem. Never tried, so I can't be sure. An email to customer service regarding a serial number was answered in a few hours.
The web pages where you configure where to send notification to, maps and stuff like that could use a little clean up though.
There are two things I would have liked to see different though. One being able to get an indication that the message sent actually went through. The second are covers for the "help" and "911" buttons, as they are fairly easy to press by mistake. I covered mine with two washers and a bit of duct tape.
The newer model has addressed the second issue, but still no feedback signal. It has also gotten smaller and lighter, but the battery life has shortened.
Price Paid: $99
I have had my Spot for about a year. I do a lot of motorcycle riding in the mountains. It seems to have a really hard time getting a message out if you are not in wide open spaces.
I just went on a 7-hour motorcycle ride in the mountains, covering 150 miles. I sent 5 OK check-in messages druing the ride, and only 1 got through. Does this mean that if I crash and need help I have a 20% chance that my message will get out? What if I am too injured to climb to the top of the nearest mountain where I have unobstructed skies?
A good choice if you are in wide open spaces, but maybe not in the mountains, or the forest.
Price Paid: $150
This is an awesome product and I never hit the trails without it. I hike alone and spend extended period of time in the back country and this gives my wife peace of mind as well as a little extra comfort for myself.
The functions are fairly simple if you read the directions and it is accurate to within 50 feet of my actual location. I have dropped the messenger countless times on rocks and boulders and it still works great so it has good durability.
It does however take a long time to acquire a signal, up to 20 minutes at times. The only time I haven't been able to get a signal is in heavy overcast. Other than that it works in canyons, mountain valleys, light overcast, and heavy forest.
I recommend this to anyone going going into the back country.
Price Paid: $170
Simply put, this dog doesn't hunt. In my tests, it failed about 90% of the time. Customer support is non-existent and the web pages are kludgey, confusing and crash-prone.
This thing is junk. Avoid it.
Price Paid: $149
Unit works...used it sailing on bluewater deliveries.
Why only 2 stars? The auto-billing policy for the services and the very un-user friendly website. I used full service at $159+/- per year. Was auto billed when annual service came up, and I had no use for service at that time. Would have non-renewed until I needed service again.
6-7 months after auto-billed, I inquired about canceling service with prorated refund, or at least to stop the auto-renewal. No luck...no refund, but could cancel and lose next 5-6 months of 'already paid coverage'. Also informed that company has no way to cancel auto renew. I have to wait until renewal date to do so, then have a 45 day grace period to cancel with full refund.
I am trying to deal with that now...and getting poor customer service...on hold on phone and auto, no reply emails stating that it may take 3 days to "respond". Also...re calls: Company is in Milpitas, CA but calls must be made during working hours for East Coast!
Re web site: For example, open my account to billing page, which allows you to 'update' credit card info....BUT NOT DELETE IT. This all reminds me of early AOL accounts.
If I needed this for USA land use only, think I would go with a Sat Phone. I might renew use of this unit...but I think I'm going to sell it or sink it!
Price Paid: $150
The SPOT is unique in what it does. To my knowledge, there isn't any other product that's out there that has the same price point and performs the same function. So it's hard to assign a star rating to it when the device isn't perfect.
If it works for you in your activity, in your area, you're probably going to be a happy customer. I signed up for the 2-year service, which also got me a rebate for the cost of the device itself. So I pay about $15/month for the device, tracking, and even the optional rescue service.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is a totally one-way device. The only thing that you can do with it is *send* information. You can't get *any* information on the device itself -- not your current location, messages from your contacts, or even whether it was able to send your messages successfully. It's designed to be used only as a high-tech tracking and emergency beacon.
The device is fairly simple to operate and monitor. The only downside is that there's no good way to distinguish if you're in "OK" mode or in "tracking" mode, since they show the same status. You just have to know that you initiated the mode properly. This is unfortunate, since the two modes that are hard to distinguish are the two that you're going to use the most frequently.
The biggest downside for me is that this device simply does not work well in the hills of central Pennsylvania. Unless I'm at a very high ridgetop with a 360 degree view of the horizon, no messages make it out from the device. Even moderate hills (much less valleys) obscure the signal, and none of my contacts get the signal. I suspect the satellites are very, very close to the horizon here, and are just barely visible to the device even under good circumstances.
The end result is that I get better emergency coverage with my cell phone for the areas of forest that I'm visiting most of the time.
It seems that people in other parts of the country don't have this problem. In particular, the coverage in the western United States seems excellent.
So my advice is to see if you can make sure you get good coverage in your area first. The coverage map that the company provides isn't necessarily a good indicator that you'll be able to get a satellite signal when you need it.
Price Paid: $149
You've done a terrific job in your review, however, having owned a used the SPOT unit for the past 18 months let me give you the REAL skinny on this unit! The concept is great!
However, SPOT's customer service is terrible! The annual usage fee is expensive for an unreliable service. The unit has many issues. The small function lights for instance cannot be seen in daylight. The feel of the function buttons are such that you're not sure if the unit is in the proper operating mode since the feel has no response and not being able to confirm the operation mode by the lights since you cannot see them in daylight.
I'm both a pilot and ship's captain and have lent this unit to my friends who have come to the same conclusions. BUT it gets worse, the Customer Service department is near to impossible to get through to. I sent many emails never to hear back. I have made several phone calls to be put on hold for 15+ minutes causing me to hang up. I emailed and called SPOT to not renew my service and after six months past the original expiration date I am still being billed for the renewal!
I think the Customer service for this country is located outside the US and would not trust this system with my life never mind my money. For peace of mind and safety buy a REAL ELT or GPS Locator, stay away form SPOT. "SPOT, I'm still waiting to hear back from you!"
This is an affordable, effective device for reassuring your loved ones that you're okay--or, if necessary, summoning emergency services. I'm thrilled that a consumer device like this exists for a reasonable price. My only complaints are with the interface.
The device will attempt to send an OK message for 20 minutes, and will send the message three times if possible just to make sure. During this time, the OK message light blinks and, each time the message is successfully sent, will light solidly for 2 seconds.
Sometimes I want to know whether my message was sent or not, so that I can possibly try again. But rarely do I have time to watch the device for 20 minutes to glimpse that 2-second success indicator.
I'd really like to see a "message sent/not sent" indicator that remains active until I acknowledge it. I'd also like some indication of the availability and strength of satellite signals, which would help me gauge the likelihood of a successful message or decide whether to seek out a more favorable location from which to attempt to send one.
Also, this device is significantly larger and heavier than most modern GPS receivers (I have the Garmin eTrex which seems to weigh about half as much as the SPOT).
Having said all that, I'll happily continue to use this device; I'm a female solo backpacker, and my friends and family enjoy receiving confirmation that I haven't been eaten by bears. ;) I assume the company will continue to refine its features.
Price Paid: present
My husband got us this for extended horsepacking trips that I and my neighbor friends take. We've only used it hiking so far but it has worked very well from places we don't get cell coverage.
Your message shows up on pre-set email addresses and/or a text message on a cell phone. I think you can send your message to up to 10 addresses. There is a link in the message that plots where you are on GoogleEarth. Very, very easy to figure out!
You can send "we are ok" messages - you pre-set the message before you leave, we need help from friends, and a 911 message. The we are ok messages simply give my husband peace of mind. With the we need help from friends button you can't send a specific message but you can work out a code - for example send 5 we need help messages could translate to we need gas, 4 messages could mean we need food. 911 messages are simply a message to 911 operators showing your location but not what is wrong. Don't press 911 unless you really need it!
Price Paid: $135
I hike, bike, and ride motorcycles often. This has been a great addition just in case something goes wrong. Originally I bought it for personal safety, but it has also provided an unintended benefit for family and friends who can track my progress.
I ordered one from http://www.MyLiveTracks.com/ - got a prompt response to my inquiries, a 50% off coupon for the tracking service. The price of $135 included shipping as well. Highly recommend the unit as well as the vendor!
Where to Buy
The SPOT Personal Tracker is not available from the stores we monitor.
You may want to check pricing and availability directly at these SPOT retailers:
You may be able to find it new or used at one of these sites:
US | Canada | UK | Aus
Retailers: Do you sell this product? List your site here.