kpeter wrote:Here is my thinking, for what it is worth.
I was an early adopter of SPOT and have never regretted it or had any kind of failure with it.
I used mine for 4 years, I think. Many times, when I still had tracking service, it simply never sent a signal out all day, even though the LED was doing the double flash it has to do to be in that mode. Last time I used it was a month ago on Isle Royale, and out of 15 "OK" messages only 2 arrived. This was with wide open sky at the shore of Lake Superior, not moving for hours. I never hit 911, which based on my OK experiences I highly doubt would actually work. Even if it did, I'd not want to rely on a device with such sketchy performance over time when not in emergency mode.
Now that said, my sat phone also had a full day of outage just one week into owning it. It later turned out to be because of some Brazilian election data being routed over the Inmarsat satellite that day, which crashed the entire satellite and it took almost 18 hours to "reboot." They didn't tell me that when I subscribed , but I guess all systems have some chance of failure. Iridium was too expensive for me, but I guess their multi-satellite setup is more reliable, as long as none fail permanently like on Globalstar (i.e. Spot's network, which is "spotty" due to some holes in coverage. They've been working for years to launch new satellites, and one day they'll actually have them back up there, I suppose).
I also don't own a smartphone - all the gizmos on the market that rely on a smartphone to send texts just aren't confidence-inspiring: let's add one more point of failure, more battery charger issues, more device failure in poor weather conditions.
From a total cost of ownership point of view, my Inmarsat phone and 2 year pre-paid 100 minute plan was just over $600. Big one time expense, but for 2 year I am covered. Add on a few minutes in 2 years to extend the service plan, or just switch it to monthly pay as you go when on the trail, disable when not. The operating cost of a sat phone has dropped so much that it now is a viable alternative.
So far I barely used 2 minutes on a 2 week trip (testing it, a few texts with weather info, that's it), but I love having the ability to call rangers, talk to a doctor when things aren't quite right, get help when in a situation that doesn't warrant the 911 all or nothing button on a Spot.