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SPOT Connect Review

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By Wom Battle

Here's my detailed review of the SPOT Connect Satellite Messenger and how it works with my iPhone 4s. The SPOT connect review is based on real experience using it while riding my Harley-Davidson® Road King®.

A while back I used to use the QStarz B-Q1300 to log my rides on my Harley-Davidson®.  It generally worked well but was a bit fiddly because you needed to press the little button for exactly the right length of time to get it working (impossible in gloves).  It was rechargable but the battery life was only 12 hours which made it not really that suitable for long day rides or multi day rides where an opportunity to recharge didn't present itself.  However if everything aligned the tracking was great and the software was easy to use to create and export maps of your rides.  All it did though was log your co-ordinates for you to use later. I stopped using it over time because I'd turn it off at stops to save the batteries and forget to turn back on and a few other issues the popped up that were mostly my fault. I got too lazy to bother with it.

Then I saw a SPOT Tracker 2 now called the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger and got excited. These are satellite enabled devices that allow you to track your trip and your family/friends can log on and see where you are.  It also includes the ability to send pre-defined SMS's via satellite to let people know you are OK or in trouble where no mobile carrier service exists.  Most importantly you can also subscribe to GEOS Search and Rescue and you have your own SOS device, a great insurance policy if the worst case scenario happens.  It's a rugged device and popular among Adventure Riders and Long Distance Riders.  For me though it reminded me of the QStarz, a bit of a closed box with buttons and not much feedback to the user. More features but little or no feedback.

Enter the SPOT Connect.  This device is similar to the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger with less buttons.  The additional buttons are replaced by an iPhone App that gives you a visual way to manage your SPOT. It also allows you more flexibility in the SMS's you can send and some integration with Facebook and Twitter. That sounded great to me, I believed the iPhone app interface would allow me to overcome my fear that things weren't working by letting me see that they were.  Sadly though the reality hasn't met the expectation for me. Here's my summary of my experience using it with an iPhone 4s;

Good Points

  • It's smaller than the SPOT GPS Messenger
  • The GUI/iPhone app is good enough when you get it working.
  • You can select groups/individuals to SMS and create custome ones.
  • It's rugged and waterproof
  • You can get RAM Mounts for it to attach it to almost any bike.
  • The batteries last for 6 or 7 days of logging
  • People can see your last logged location at SPOTWALLA if you set a trip up and SPOT's own website if you give them access.  You can also show your trips at SPOT Adventures.

Issues I've had

  • Each time I need to connect the iPhone App to it if they've been out of range or at the beginning of a trip I have to go into the Bluetooth settings first, connect the devices and then use the iPhone app.  Success isn't always guaranteed first time, a few time's I've needed to power cycle the SPOT Connect or Bluetooth on the phone to get them talking nicely. A pain and time consuming, particluarly on a long distance ride when time is of the essence.
  • Walk away from the bike with your phone e.g. paying for fuel. and the connection to the SPOT Connect drops out so the process above is guaranteed to be required. So decide if you want your phone in your pocket or stored on the bike to alleviate this.
  • You need to have an internet connection available on your phone to sign into the satellite service.  So if you log out by mistake in the middle of nowhere you are left with nothing but the SOS button working.
  • On two occasions I've had to uninstall and re-install the iPhone App because it crashed immediately and wouldn't load.  This would not be helpful if I was out of mobile service at the time.  I have a feeling this happens after iPhone updates but not confirmed yet. Even more painful, particularly when logically this happens just as you are ready to leave on a trip.
  • If you have to uninstall and re-install the app make sure your username and password are to hand or that's the end of all the functions except the SOS until you get access to them. I've now stored mine in my phone. I missed logging a 950k trip to Victoria because I didn't remember it.
  • The logging feature logs every 10 minutes, so for a safety device it's great, but to log your route it's not so great.  even a Harley-Davidson covers lots of ground in 10 minutes and joining the dots with straight lines doesn't reflect the roads travelled.  The Qstarz logged every 10 seconds. Here is a SPOTWALLA map with the SPOT compared to a ride logged by the QStarz.
  • On my recent trip there were no points logged for the last 60k's or so between Lithgow and Bathurst.  I have no idea why. Possibly unintentional user error, but if it was then clearly it's not that simple to use.

Show me the route map!

There are two ways to display your routes, one through SPOT's own SPOT Adventures and another through SPOTWALLA.  In the former you can export your trips from the SPOT Website to SPOT Adventures, I've not dug really deeply into it yet but haven't managed to get photos syncing with locations/times yet in that app.  It has a neat graphs showing speed if you aren't afraid to show it. SPOTWALLA is free, simple and it seems to do what it does well. Here's some maps of my recent trip to Bathurst to compare.  Note Lithgow to Bathurst on the first day is just not logged and I have no idea why. SPOTWALLA joined the dots between those two locations, SPOT Adventrues didn't.

Summary.

As mentioned above, the reality for me hasn't met the expectations.  I like things to just work and the SPOT Connect has been quite frustrating.  I need to stick with it for now to get some return on the investment but it if breaks I'll be getting the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger (Tracker 2) next time and accept the simplicity and slightly reduced functionality.  In the meantime I'm hoping that some firmware updates on the phone or the SPOT and the iPhone App will make things smoother, if they do I'll let you know.  If logging your route accurately is important to you, you'll need to get something else to do that for you, the 10 minute intervals isn't good enough for motorcycling, probably OK for walking.

If you've got any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

 

Disclaimer: This non commercial website and its content is not affiliated with or associated in any way with the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Harley-Davidson Australia, the Harley-Davidson Owners Group® or any Harley-Davidson® Dealers in Australia.  The use of the terms Harley-Davidson, and Road King® are unavoidable because that's what I own and ride.  This website,  called "My Harley Davidson" , and any opinions or comments expressed herein are purely about my Harley-Davidson Road King ownership experience, a truly great experience at that. I have no intention whatsoever to infringe on any trademarks or copyright ownership of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company or anyone else.


December 2017
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