SPOT Global Phone

Gearflogger reviews the SPOT Global Phone

Satellite phones are awesome tools. If you're old enough to remember the first cell phone you owned and the feeling of freedom plus communication, it's pretty much that all over again.

The SPOT Global Phone is a feathery 7.1 ounce (with battery) communicator that uses the Globalstar satellite system. There are two major caveats to this phone. The first is the Globalstar network, which apparently can be, well, spotty. It worked fine for us testing it in Alaska, but ask around to find out which network (Globarstar, Iridium and Thuraya are the three big ones) works where you'll need it to. The other caveat is that pricing contracts are not transparent, so again, do your research.

That out of the way, the SPOT Global Phone worked like a champ for us all around Southcentral Alaska. It's small and light (for a sat phone) and the antenna makes you look well-endowed in polite company. The screen is also on the small side, displaying a row of status icons and just four lines of twelve characters each of text. It's rated at four hours of talk time and 36 hours standby, but you can push both of those a bit. Durability-wise, the light weight of the SPOT made us more careful with it than we might have been with a ruggedized unit, which it definitely is not. If you're the fumble-fingered type – you know who you are – get a case and use a lanyard. There's no lanyard hole, so you'll have to rig your own around the space between the antenna and the battery compartment.

Call quality is fair to good, usability is better than average, the more so since the SPOT has a dedicated US phone number. One feature that apparently has been dropped is Short Message Service, a.k.a. SMS or texting. Bummer, because that's useful. Data capability is available but slow, like in early 1990s dial-up slow. Last gripe: the charger is ginormous. Seriously, the brick and cord together are almost as big as the phone itself. Is USB compatibility (hello, solar chargers!) that difficult?

Overall, the SPOT Global Phone has some tradeoffs, so look into it to make sure it will work for you. If you can decipher the calling plans, live with toting the charger around, and don't care about texting or data – in other words, if you're just looking for decent quality voice calls – check out the SPOT.

$499.95 at REI


Note to readers: As of November 1, 2022, Gearflogger no longer participates in affiliate programs or accepts commissions on links to products. We’ll find some other way to make money. Maybe get a real job. Maybe not.

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