Read on to learn all about the SPOT Global Phone: a potentially life-saving device that you can use to make phone calls when outside of cell phone service.
Many of the best places to go hunting have limited to no cell phone service. While this is not a problem most of the time, it can make for a dangerous situation if you run into trouble and need to call for help.
SPOT Global Phone is a portable (~5.3 inches x 2.2 inches x 1.5 inches), lightweight (~7 ounces), satellite phone that is specifically designed to allow you to make phone calls from remote locations around the world.
Since it is a satellite phone, the SPOT Global Phone is not dependent upon cell service for communication. This makes it an ideal choice for people who spend a lot of time outside of normal cell phone service, like backcountry hunters, hikers, and campers.
Where the Spot Global Phone Works
As you can see on the map below, the SPOT Global Phone will work in a number of different locations all over the world. However, the locations where it has service are a little more restricted than the SPOT Gen3 GPS messenger.
For instance, the SPOT Global Phone will not work in much of Africa and Asia even though the SPOT Gen3 GPS messenger will. Additionally, the SPOT Global Phone has slightly different service areas depending on which type of service plan you use (more on plans later).
That being said, the SPOT Global Phone is advertised to work virtually everywhere in the United States (except Hawaii), which makes it a good choice for taking on a backcountry hunt.
Features of the SPOT Global Phone
Just like you would expect out of a satellite phone, the SPOT Global Phone allows users to send and receive phone calls in areas without cell phone service.
It can also receive text messages and voicemails so people can get in touch with you even if the phone is not on or in service at the time of the incoming call or text message. Each SPOT Global Phone has a standard 10-digit, USA-based phone number (mine has a 254 area code).
It also offers the ability for the user to call 911 in the event of an emergency. In this case, you call will be answered by the GEOS International Emergency Response Center who will then notify appropriate emergency responders about your emergency.
After the purchase of a data plan and a special data kit, the SPOT Global Phone can be hooked up to a computer and used to access the Internet and even send emails.
In order to use the SPOT Global Phone, you must first purchase a service plan. They have several different options, including prepaid and post paid. Their plans start at $.50 a minute and go up from there. More details on their plans are available here.
Also, you should keep in mind that their service area is slightly different for the prepaid and post paid plans. The postpaid plan service area is larger and is the one displayed above.
What I Like About the SPOT Global Phone
I’ve used my SPOT Global Phone while hunting in some isolated spots in Washington. In each case, I was in areas far removed from cell phone service. However, I was able to use my satellite phone to stay in touch with my wife with regular assurances that I was alive and well.
The call quality was generally pretty good and it never took more than a few seconds for me to get service after turning on the phone and extending the antenna. The phone displays the strength of signal by using the standard set of bars in the upper left hand corner and will also display a red house to show that it has optimal signal for making a call.
In addition to being able to easily send and receive calls, I was also able to receive text messages through the SPOT website. In order to send a text message to a SPOT Global Phone, you can either go to this website and enter in the phone number and message, or send it via email to the 10 digit phone number of the destination phone @msg.globalstar.com (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org).
You’ll receive the message as soon as you turn on the phone and extend the antenna to get service. This is a neat feature for someone to use in order to send you a short message with important information, such as telling you to call them ASAP.
What I Don’t Like About the SPOT Global Phone
The SPOT Global Phone is a nice piece of equipment, but there are few areas where I think it falls short. Some of these issues are just limitations with satellite phones in general. However, some of them are not.
First, even though it can receive text messages, you cannot send text messages with the SPOT Global Phone.
Next, I’ve had problems with calls starting to drop or really decline in quality after talking for a few minutes. For this reason, the SPOT Global Phone is much better for a short phone call to summon help than for a long-winded conversation.
You should also remember that this is a satellite phone, not a cell phone. It needs a clear view of the sky to work properly and will not work indoors or in a thick forest. It is also finicky about dropping calls unless the antenna is pointed straight up at the sky, so be cognizant of that if you like to walk around while talking on the phone.
Additionally, even though it is relatively small and portable for a satellite phone, it is still much larger and bulkier than a typical cell phone. Though it is not unwieldy when you’re talking on it, you won’t be able to carry it comfortably in your pocket.
Another issue that I have with the phone is that I spend a fair amount of time in southern Africa, which is outside the service area for the SPOT Global Phone. Though it does work well in most of the backcountry places I hunt in the USA, I would love to see SPOT start offering service in South Africa or Mozambique as well.
My last issue with the SPOT Global Phone is with the subscription service. Just like with the SPOT Gen3 GPS messenger, the company advertises a “monthly” cost, but if you read the fine print, it actually comes with a minimum of a 12-month term, so you cannot go month to month with your subscription. Their plans are also expensive (though not really unreasonable) if you are not used to the typical cost of a satellite phone plan.
Once again, not as much of a complaint as it is something to keep in mind.
All in all, I’m quite happy with my SPOT Global Phone and I recommend it to those who spend a lot of time away from reliable cell phone service. While the phone is not perfect, it is still a good way to maintain phone communications with your family and/or call for help when you are in remote and isolated areas.
Get one here for $499.95 or find a retailer near you.
For a limited time, SPOT is running a Christmas promotion where you can get a free SPOT Global Phone with the purchase of a new service plan. Learn more about it here.
All photos, unless specified, via John McAdams
Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt