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best two way sat communicator?
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 13:56:56 MDT Print View

I need to get a satellite communicator for work. I spend too much time outside and if there is a work emergency I need them to be able to msg me so I can bail and head back to civilization.

The DeLorme Inreach Smartphone seems like the best option:

http://www.inreachdelorme.com/product-info/inreach-smartphone.php

it supports two way messages (SPOT does not... I didn't realize that. Kind of defeats the whole point).

Somewhat pricey. 10 messages max per month for $250 for the device and $120 a year...

Are there any other options? Do any of you have one? Is it worth it?

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 14:36:05 MDT Print View

Might be worth looking into Satellite phones. I believe there has been some improvement in the competition and may be worth looking into as an option.

http://www.globalsatellitecommunications.com/content/phone-promotions?gclid=CKzv2buX7LgCFUVp7AodvjsAuQ

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 15:37:52 MDT Print View

Someone reported experience with InReach http://www.portlandhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=16606

Rather favorable

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 15:51:26 MDT Print View

Will work pay for the device?

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 16:45:25 MDT Print View

Over the last year I have rented a number of the devices and tried them out. If two way text messages with fairly long latency (10-15 minutes) is adequate, and you would like to use it in the back country, then I would recommend the inReach SE which was released in June 2013. After tried a number of options, this is what I purchased for the combination of feature set and pricing. If you think you are going to need real-time communication (including voice) then I would go with a Iridium 9575 sat phone. If text is enough and you aren't looking for back country features, then there are a couple of units I haven't tried but would be worth a look such as the Nal Nano. There is a good round-up on the option on this site which was posted a couple of months ago.

--mark
'

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/07/2013 17:16:03 MDT Print View

Recent SOTMR

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
DeLorme inReach SE on 08/07/2013 17:21:46 MDT Print View

Kevin,

We own both the inReach (for Smartphones) and the inReach SE. We prefer the inReach SE -- it is lighter and it doesn't require a second device (smartphone)for typing messages. The advantage of the inReach (for Smartphones) is to use replaceable AA batteries.

It seems like you would need an annual plan, because you mentioned this is work related. Otherwise you might consider a seasonal plan. That allows you to use it only for (a minimum of) four months a year - during the main backpacking season - and save some money. We use the recreational plan with 40 messages a month and pay 4 x $40 = $160 instead of 12 x $25 = $300 for the annual plan. For my wife and me it is clearly worth it. We are often with our children out there, sometimes going cross-country and it is very re-assuring to be able to contact the spouse or emergency services when needed. We have two of the devices because sometimes we are both backpacking at the same time with different kids in the wilderness - that way we can communicate even in the wilderness, agree on meeting points, etc.

Manfred

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
inReach SE working for me on 08/07/2013 21:19:11 MDT Print View

As the author of the recent SOTMRs on both sat phones and two way satellite communicators, with a distinct preference for sat phones when I wrote the article ...

I bought a DeLorme inReach SE and I like it so far.

They need to fix some syncing issues to deliver all that they promised, but even without that the inReach SE is a very good standalone product.

Note one gotcha with the seasonal subscription plans: you must call and cancel at the end of each season, or you will continue to be billed at the (much higher) seasonal monthly rate.

I signed up for the year-round Recreation plan with unlimited tracking and 40 messages per month. I leave 10-minute tracking on all the time (can't track in my closet, so no big deal), and throw it in my pack on weekends, etc. without thinking about it much. I haven't come close to using 40 messages in any month of intermittent use so far, especially with unlimited sending of three pre-defined messages.

YMMV.

-- Rex

Richard Russell
(w5yk) - M
Yellowbrick is pretty good on 08/20/2013 21:59:48 MDT Print View

I bought a Yellowbrick messenger recently to use on an upcoming John Muir Trail hike. I have been doing a lot of experimentation with it to determine its performance, especially battery life. The bottom line is that it will go for about two months if you set it to update your location every two hours. It is quite flexible in allowing you to send messages selectively to text, email, Facebook, or twitter. So far I really like it and would recommend it. It is more of a "pro" device than a consumer device, and the price reflects that. Support from Yellowbrick is top-notch, they get back to you right away if you have a question. I will do a proper review after my JMT hike, but so far, thumbs up!

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re:best two way sat communicator? on 08/20/2013 22:28:01 MDT Print View

"I need to get a satellite communicator for work. I spend too much time outside and if there is a work emergency I need them to be able to msg me so I can bail and head back to civilization."

I'd say time to get a new job rather than a 2-way communicator. :)

Seriously, and I have no idea what you do for a living, but if my company is dependent on me getting out of the backcountry and to a computer in a timely fashion if they send an SOS text, when I'm not oncall, then we've both failed. Getting back to where I can help can be an absolute minimum of 4 hours and, hopefully a few times a year, days. I work on a team of specialists but we have to cross train each other and document everything. There shouldn't be a single point of failure no matter how small the organization. You could get hit by a bus at lunch (OK, not if you are paying attention :).

That being said, I'd get an Inreach in a heartbeat if I could expense it (but I would never approach me company about that. I very much like the I'll be unreachable for XX days model). I carry a SPOT and like the features of the Inreach but think their price model is ridiculous. I'd love to switch but don't see Delorme coming to their senses on pricing anytime soon. (I've tried to talk to them.) If they matched SPOT's 1 way pricing with their 2 way offering, SPOT would most likely be out of business very quickly.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re:best two way sat communicator? on 08/20/2013 22:58:57 MDT Print View

"I'd love to switch but don't see DeLorme coming to their senses on pricing anytime soon. (I've tried to talk to them.) If they matched SPOT's 1 way pricing with their 2 way offering, SPOT would most likely be out of business very quickly."

DeLorme uses Iridium satellites. SPOT uses Globalstar satellites.

Globalstar owns SPOT, and SPOT (barely) saved Globalstar from a second bankruptcy during the years Globalstar phone service was in very bad shape. In theory, SPOT/Globalstar could support two-way messaging, but they have never offered that.

All of the two-way satellite text communicators on the US market use Iridium. Iridium is pretty much the only game in town for now. With no competition, Iridium has no reason to lower prices, and DeLorme isn't going to lose money on Iridium fees.

Judging from the pricing of other two-way satellite communicators, DeLorme seems to have a cell-phone subsidy model: you pay less for the device, but pay more per month, indefinitely. Other devices are 2x-3x the price to buy, and have different-but-expensive message plans. It's really hard to compare costs across devices. I tried.

Only DeLorme offers flat rate unlimited tracking on two plans – maybe DeLorme got a good deal from Iridium. I see a lot of value in unlimited tracking, YMMV.

-- Rex

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/20/2013 23:26:41 MDT Print View

"All of the two-way satellite text communicators on the US market use Iridium. Iridium is pretty much the only game in town for now. With no competition, Iridium has no reason to lower prices, and DeLorme isn't going to lose money on Iridium fees.
"

That may be so, but short sighted from a business perspective. If Delorme was smart, and this would not be the best thing for me of course, they'd follow the Sam Walton philosophy and drive the competition out of business by lowering the prices temporarily, at least, and then raise prices after. I'm not saying ethical, or even what I'd do, but smart.

So far, nobody that I know has traded in their SPOT for an Inreach. That says a lot. We're ready to do so, but not at double the cost for the same message count whether two way or one way. If I was in Delormne's shoes, I'd take a short term loss to swing the market in my favor, then use that leverage to negotiate lower costs with Iridium who would reap overall benefits from the increased traffic in the long run. But that makes too much sense. Iridium can continue to soak the smaller numbers that do use their technology since they have no choice but to pay for that service. But that is seriously short sighted.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/20/2013 23:33:10 MDT Print View

BTW Rex, I did very much enjoy your article on 2 way satellite communicators. Really well done. And I'm ready to switch in a second if it's $100/yr for unlimited messages.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: best two way sat communicator? on 08/20/2013 23:34:38 MDT Print View

"$100/yr for unlimited messages."

I think that if the service was that price, DeLorme would be flooded with business.

--B.G.--

J R
(JRinGeorgia) - F
Thuraya SatSleeve? on 08/21/2013 07:09:59 MDT Print View

What about the Thuraya SatSleeve? It is an adapter you plug your smartphone into to turn it into a sat phone. Seems like a great idea but I have hardly seen any write-ups about it.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Thuraya SatSleeve? on 08/21/2013 07:35:27 MDT Print View

Thuraya does not work in Americas.

J R
(JRinGeorgia) - F
Re: Thuraya SatSleeve? on 08/21/2013 07:44:08 MDT Print View

Huh, I see that now, not clear on their website. Not clear either why Delta airlines put a blurb about the Thuraya in their flight magazine a few months ago and neglected to mention this little detail...

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
inReach... on 08/21/2013 11:15:57 MDT Print View

>> So far, nobody that I know has traded in their SPOT for an Inreach <<

That's exactly what I did. My Spot let me down a couple of times when I really needed it so I switched to the original inReach. I prefer not to carry my smart phone so I have now moved up to the inReach SE. I'm now a happy camper.

As far as service plan prices go, the Canadian plans are really bad when compared to the American plans. That said, I'm worth it!

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Thuraya SatSleeve? on 08/23/2013 00:27:44 MDT Print View

"What about the Thuraya SatSleeve? It is an adapter you plug your smartphone into to turn it into a sat phone."

The SatSleeve is a good idea, strangely implemented.

The SatSleeve is 199 grams with iPhone adapter - heavier than the standalone Thuraya XT satellite phone at 193 grams, and comparable to the Globalstar GSP-1700 satellite phone at 200 grams.

The SatSleeve also is a standalone satellite voice phone, with a speaker, microphone, but only one button. Without the iPhone, you can receive calls, and make an outbound call to one pre-progammed number (default 112). Without the iPhone or adapter, it's a 172 gram (6.1 ounce) satellite phone – pretty light!

When paired with your iPhone, you use the iPhone to send and receive calls and text – but no Internet access, despite Thuraya's relatively high speed Internet access - 60 kbps.

You can use the SatSleeve battery to supplement your iPhone battery.

Despite using Bluetooth for pairing, and having a flexible multi-piece design, Thuraya has not released an Android version. Android phones are outselling iPhones in most of the world. Maybe the Android market is too fragmented.

Too bad they seem to require your iPhone to be physically mated to the SatSleeve. Otherwise, you could have put the SatSleeve in a good location for a satellite call (e.g. outside your cabin) while your iPhone was in a good location for you (e.g. inside your cabin.)

You cannot use the SatSleeve for calls and text in North America, South America, Antarctica, most of the major oceans, and parts of Asia and Africa.

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 08/23/2013 00:31:53 MDT.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Spot > SE Upgraders on 08/23/2013 20:10:16 MDT Print View

">> So far, nobody that I know has traded in their SPOT for an Inreach <<

That's exactly what I did."

-- Me too!

I expect my annual cost to be only slightly higher.
I have no need for tracking, so my only add'l annual costs for the SE will be the occasional overage above & beyond my 10 message/30-day quota.