The Spot Connect - Connection Optional.
Review and Photography by Matthew Scott
Just a few days ago, I was exploring an area that was relatively new to me. I was using my iPhone and a topographical map application I had installed - all was well. That is until the batteries died, and I had no clue where I was. It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have mixed my essential kit, the maps, with my non essential kit, the iPhone.
Much of the same can be said for the Spot Connect. It takes the features that we’ve known and loved from the original Spot satellite personal tracker, and integrates them with your smartphone. The addition of the smartphone allows Spot to offer some additional services that weren’t available previously. When you’re off the grid, you can actually use the Connect to send custom text messages up to 41 characters (messages you predefine can be as long as 120 characters). You’re even able to alert your Facebook and Twitter followers if you have an issue in the field, allowing them to rescue you.
Remember when you were a child and you ordered those sunglasses that promised you could see through walls? Or when you ordered those dinosaurs that were promised to be 5 feet tall after you submerged them into a glass of water? I remember the idea being awesome, but it never really working out. The same things happen with the Spot Connect - they've promised you the world, but instead left you with nothing more then a few bits of plastic, and some flashing lights. It's not to say that the device is poorly made, it just doesn't do what they advertise it to do.
Sure, you could probably send some really awesome Facebook updates from some remote locations with the Spot Connect, but it’s never going to happen. We had 5 people in our office, all well versed in many things technological, try to pair the Connect with their iOs and Android smartphones. All but two failed or gave up after trying for over 30 minutes. I figured out how to pair the device eventually. However, no text messages would send and no Facebook updates would post. It did post my location to Google Maps, but it took a few tries. The point is simple, it's an emergency device; I'd hate to be hiking in the middle of Utah, trying to update my location, and end up spending my entire time fiddling with my phone. It's important to note that the Connect does still have an emergency button that works independently of your smartphone.
Did I mention every time you power down your phone, or the Connect; it makes you start the entire process over again. It's a complete pain.
In this photo, the Connect is actually listed as a device with an active connection on my iPhone, but the Spot Connect Application doesn't recognize it.
New isn’t always better. We have two Spot devices, our original “Spot 1” has been to some pretty interesting places all over the world - it never missed a beat. I attribute that to its simple, rugged design. Smaller and more stylish isn’t a good thing with devices meant to keep you alive. Drop the Connect in the woods at night and you're screwed. Simply finding the Spot Connect in your backpack can be a challenge. The original Spot is twice the size, but not cumbersome. When you’re in a situation where you need an airlift, and seconds really do matter, the bright orange color of the original Spot is far superior. Which spot do you see?
The Spot Connect comes with a USB port beneath the batteries to enable (much needed) firmware updates, the original spot does not. They're both watertight, with quality stainless fasteners that can be used with or without a screwdriver to change batteries. A bonus to the original spot is a completely removable and replaceable rear clip that is independent of the battery compartment. If the one screw holding the back cover in place were to become loose on the Connect, you'd be leaving the unit open and susceptible to internal damage and battery loss.
The Connect does feel well made. It's slightly more refined than the original model, and features a soft touch rubber coating on the entire outside of the unit, which adds to its appearance. There are five total lights on the Connect, one more than the first. The most important on the new device is the bluetooth light at the bottom, which you'll want to pay close attention to when you're attempting to pair the device.
My biggest complaint with the original spot is the lack of a cover for the 'HELP' and '911' buttons. The Connect doesn't have either of those buttons, and is replaced with a single 'SOS' button. I'm a huge fan of the fact that this button is covered, and cannot be pushed without consciously lifting the cover away from the button and depressing in. I always had great anxiety over something in my backpack, or vehicle depressing the emergency buttons on accident, and having to explain to the calvary that it was a mistake once they've shown up.
Technology is something that not everyone understands, but safety equipment is something that everyone who depends upon it should understand. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way. There's no instructions on the Connect - a big no-no in my book. While the connect only has one button, and in an emergency situation (when it can be found), is simpler, it doesn't tell you the important, basic information that the original device does. What happens if a child is playing with the Spot and depresses the 'SOS' button? Would you know you can cancel that distress call? On the Connect, you wouldn't.
For the most part, I like the idea spot came up with. It allows people to get out and explore knowing if something terrible were to go wrong, they'd be able to get help. Unfortunately some people take advantage of this and it allows people to think they can go further than they should without being prepared. I've heard the words countless times "It's okay, I have a Spot" and I don't agree with it. This device should be your last resort and used only when your life depends on it - no exceptions. Any of the Spot devices will do this, and do it well. Smartphone or not the Connect can send out an SOS, but without the smartphone it looses the features that make the Spot so great; like simply checking in with family to say you're alright.