The SPOT Gen4 was officially released today. This fourth-generation device remains a one-way messenger, and both its hardware and software has been updated from its predecessor, the Gen3 (my review), which was released more than six years ago.
Like the Gen3, the Gen4 can send outgoing messages only, limited to:
- Check in/OKAY, and,
- Custom, which must be pre-programmed in the user’s online account.
The Gen4 is also capable of location tracking, in frequencies of 5, 10, 30, and 60 minutes (all included with the basic subscription), plus a 2.5-minute interval with a service upgrade.
A few improvements have been made to both the Gen4 hardware and software.
The device now has IP68 rating for dust and water. SPOT also describes it as having a “sleek new look, with improved grip and secure design features that snap in place.” I have not handled the device in-person so I can’t verify this; I don’t recall the Gen3 unit feeling flimsy, so their starting point was already high.
Location tracking can be motion-activated (instead of just running continuously), thus conserving battery life. And no longer must the tracking be reset after 24 hours, which was an annoying quirk.
Specs and service
- 5 oz with lithium batteries
- 3.48” x 2.66” x .93”
- $150 MSRP
- Service plans start at $12 per month (with annual contract) or at $15 per month (on a month-to-month plan)
Without seeing this device in-person and using it in the field, my evaluation should be taken with a grain of salt. But don’t dismiss it — I’ve been using satellite messengers since 2008 and I’ve stayed atop the category.
I appreciate the improvements in the Gen4, but overall I feel like this device misses the mark. SPOT’s one-way messaging was groundbreaking in 2008 when the first-generation device was unveiled, and it was still acceptably high-tech in 2014 when the Gen3 was released.
But in 2020, I struggle with offering a compelling reason to buy it. I think most consumers would be happier with a:
- Personal locator beacon (PLB) like the ACR Electronics rescueME ($290), which offers SOS messaging only (no “I’m okay” check-ins) but which will be more economical in the long-term; or a,
- Two-way satellite messenger like the Garmin inReach Mini (my preview), ZOLEO (my review), or Somewhere Global Hotspot (review forthcoming), which are a bit more expensive to own and operate but which are capable of two-way messaging, which is vastly more helpful and useful for both those in the field and at home.
Is there any case for the Gen4 still? Yes, I can think of two. First, consumers who want the option to check-in regularly but who don’t need or want those back home to check in with them. Second, consumers who want the option to check-in regularly but who can’t afford to the marginal extra cost for two-way messaging.
These audiences seem small to me, and I’m waiting for SPOT to develop a Gen4-sized unit that offers two-way messaging like its SPOT X device (my review).
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