My biggest beef with the SPOT Global Phone is coverage. Although the Globalstar Network coverage map shows most of South America within the “primary” coverage area, you have to read the fine print underneath that notes, “Roaming is unavailable to SPOT customers when traveling to the following countries and the surrounding ocean areas: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.” Having missed that before heading south, I soon realized trying to test it in Chile that it couldn’t connect there. And although I initially hoped to try it in Namibia, southern Africa is not covered. So as long as your adventures are limited to the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and Australia, this is the phone (and network) for you.
In addition to coverage limitations, I have one “key” quibble with the phone’s design. The long-press power button on the keypad is placed in such a way as to make inadvertent activation much too easy. There is no way to lock the keypad to avoid unintentionally powering it up or inadvertently making a call. You’ll need to keep the phone in a loosely packed bag or a small Pelican case.
Data geeks won’t find a lot to love here, either. Since it maxes out at 28k, data transfer is a slow process. Uploading photos, especially. If you’re trying to save air time, you’ll need to do like we did back in the day and make the photos super small. If you can afford the air time, then you can start sending your photos and let it rip — overnight possibly, if the images are large.
And if you expect to use this phone for email, set yourself up with a text-only email platform and avoid using in-browser online applications. This way you can download and send your messages in a batch instead of having to hover over your computer while it transmits. To save data and time, I recommend disabling downloading images and limiting the size of incoming emails. Although it offers one of the fastest portable satellite data connections, it still maxes out at 28k. (The data cable is sold separately for $20.)
The SPOT Global Phone comes with a wall charger, and a 12v cigarette lighter plug accessory is available separately. For extended periods away from power, consider bringing along the Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Solar recharging Kit ($360) to keep your phone and computer juiced.
If you’re an infrequent far-flung adventurer and need some sat phone piece of mind, consider renting. Depending on the length of your trip and how often you make calls, you could save a few bucks.
Cameron Martindell suffers through the throngs of gear-testing while exploring the world so you can explore the world suffering-free. Follow him on Twitter (@offyonder) and read about his exploits at offyonder/em>