Personal Locator Beacon or Satellite Communicator?

melensdad

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the only problem with mounting on the bike is if you depart the bike and need the SOS (which is the situation I'm most concerned with), you're out of luck. I keep mine in a jacket pocket and it seems to work well ... but your side by side test is very interesting. I view my Spot as an emergency communication device (SOS, etc.) ... the tracking is a nice to have addition but not the main reason I have it (even though I'm paying for the 5 min interval plan).
And we are in 100% agreement on this point.

I am very conflicted about the bike mount and would prefer it in my jacket pocket or hanging from my jacket in some manner.

There are slots on the top and the bottom of the SPOT X that would allow for Velcro attachment points. I may end up at a local seamstress with a strip of Velcro and have her sew it to my mesh jacket. Not sure about doing that on my other jackets. But it seems to me that wearing it on my left side at roughly collar bone level could be ideal (assuming I don't land on it)
 

MZ5

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I think I got lost somewhere. What’s the concern about leaving the bike? If you walk away, take it with you. If you’re concerned about crashing and having the bike’s GPS coordinates rather than your body’s transmitted… How much different do you think those two locations would be? What am I missing here?
 

670cc

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I think I got lost somewhere. What’s the concern about leaving the bike? If you walk away, take it with you. If you’re concerned about crashing and having the bike’s GPS coordinates rather than your body’s transmitted… How much different do you think those two locations would be? What am I missing here?
I may be totally wrong because I have not used Spot X, but I think you need to push the SOS button to activate an SOS request. If you have been ejected from the motorcycle and you are disabled, and the device was contained within the motorcycle, you probably can’t reach the button.
 

melensdad

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I may be totally wrong because I have not used Spot X, but I think you need to push the SOS button to activate an SOS request. If you have been ejected from the motorcycle and you are disabled, and the device was contained within the motorcycle, you probably can’t reach the button.
You are correct.

You need to push a button.

So if you slide into a tree and break a leg while the bike slides into a ditch you might have a problem getting to the SPOT.

__________

Pretty much thinking that if I am riding with my wife then the SPOT is going to be on the cradle. If I crash, my wife can probably get to the SPOT and signal for help.

If I am riding alone then it is likely that I'll carry it in a chest pocket. From my tests, a chest pocket carry will successfully transmit FEWER tracking points because the antenna is not reliably oriented to the sky, my body may block the signal, etc. Based on some test rides, it is clear that chest pocket carry will transmit SOME of the tracking points but not all.

__________

On a side note, both the SPOT X and the Garmin InReach Mini clearly state you need a clear view of the sky for reliable service. In a test, setting the SPOT X on my windowsill, I was able to transmit a check in message to my cell-phone. My home has 4' eves and the window in question has a large walnut tree and heavy woods directly outside, there is no view of the sky but the SPOT X was able to send out the message. I was surprised.
 

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I carry the SPOT on the bike and take my chances about the ability to send an SOS in favor of sending as many tracking points as possible. I found that if I mounted or carried the Spot too close to a phone or GPS it would sometimes not get a signal out successfully so I carry the SPOT flat on it's back in a tankbag on the RT, In the frunk bag of the NC and in a cradle mounted on one of the passenger grab handles of the Goldwing.
 

MZ5

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You are correct.

You need to push a button.

So if you slide into a tree and break a leg while the bike slides into a ditch you might have a problem getting to the SPOT

Okay, yes, I see where you’re coming from now. Thanks for explaining.

FWIW, we generally have our guys mount them on the ATVs if they go out with ATVs (including the roll cage equipped machines), keep them in the pickup if they just have the pickup, and maybe take them with them if they’ll be away from a vehicle for a while. It’s not quite the same situation as you’re worried about, though ATV crashes have caused some of the most serious injuries over the years. They definitely won’t ‘cover’ you in all circumstances.
 

melensdad

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… I found that if I mounted or carried the Spot too close to a phone or GPS it would sometimes not get a signal out successfully so I carry the SPOT flat on it's back …
FWIW the SPOT X actually flashes a message on the screen to make sure the antenna is pointed straight up to the sky.

I’ve not noticed any issues with iPhone interference with the satellite signal. Mine either seems to connect almost instantly or it takes 3+ minutes. No rhyme or reason I can tell why it either connects nearly instantly or why there is a delay. I was under open skies today and experienced it both ways. Of course I have no clue where above the satellite was located.
 

melensdad

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Couple more observations.

The satellites move across the sky, from horizon to horizon. Near as I can tell the "check in" and "messages" take longer to send sometimes than others. I can only presume this is based on the location of the satellite when I hit the send button. Just guessing but if the satellite is higher in the sky I'm thinking the transmission is much faster than if it is lower in the sky. I've had some signals send, and then received back to my cell phone, in mere seconds. Others took 5+ minutes to send and another couple more to receive.

I've spend a few days riding in almost completely "open sky" with very minimal tree cover and mostly farm fields and suburban houses around me and the send/receive times seem to change from fast to slow to fast to slow over the course of travel. So I am thinking it must be related to the location of the satellite.
 

dduelin

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Couple more observations.

The satellites move across the sky, from horizon to horizon. Near as I can tell the "check in" and "messages" take longer to send sometimes than others. I can only presume this is based on the location of the satellite when I hit the send button. Just guessing but if the satellite is higher in the sky I'm thinking the transmission is much faster than if it is lower in the sky. I've had some signals send, and then received back to my cell phone, in mere seconds. Others took 5+ minutes to send and another couple more to receive.

I've spend a few days riding in almost completely "open sky" with very minimal tree cover and mostly farm fields and suburban houses around me and the send/receive times seem to change from fast to slow to fast to slow over the course of travel. So I am thinking it must be related to the location of the satellite.
Yes, I believe you are correct. I was thinking the low earth orbit satellite system that picks up 406 MHz beacon signals was geostationary and always in the same relative positions in the sky but that was wrong. These satellites orbit the earth about every 102 minutes in polar orbits so there are times when the satellite cannot immediately relay transmit the signal to a ground station. In these instances the satellite stores the signal info and transmits it as soon as a ground station is in position to receive it. I’m thinking this accounts for the variables in time between signals being sent and recorded.
 
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melensdad

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It’s not supposed to work but it frequently does. Sitting on a table on a 2 story covered porch. 4’ from the edge of the covered porch. With a 4’ roof overhang above the porch. Light woods to the west and to the north. Obscured view of the sky. It still worked.

2 photos one from the west, one from the east. Showing the SPOT sitting on the table. Instructions clearly state it needs an unobstructed view of the sky.

I’ve had 1 failure. I hit the check in button while parked next to a 2 story brick building.

Mostly what I’ve learned is:
  1. It is reliable
  2. My family is annoyed with my toy. 3585C966-3A08-4F66-A8E7-F8D5B0B00BFA.jpeg4DABB2E1-657A-4124-8377-5C2292404A9A.jpeg
 

mudtrack

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I guess I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy. When I travel I mount a Garmin InReach Explorer on my bars. Downside is if I am separated from the bike I can't get to the SOS button. However I do take it off the mount and carry it in my pocket if I ride in difficult spots. I like being able to see the gps map display and compare with my Garmin Zumo.
(Belt and suspenders)
 

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melensdad

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I guess I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy. When I travel I mount a Garmin InReach Explorer on my bars. Downside is if I am separated from the bike I can't get to the SOS button. However I do take it off the mount and carry it in my pocket if I ride in difficult spots. I like being able to see the gps map display and compare with my Garmin Zumo.
(Belt and suspenders)
Actually as long as you are within bluetooth range of your Explorer you should be able to connect via your phone app and send the SOS from your phone. I suppose that means if you and your bike are separated you have to hope you both stop within 30' of each other.

------------------------- 0 ---------------------------​

I have been playing with carrying my SPOT X in the my pocket verses in the bike mount. I remounted the Ram Mount on my bike and also remounted my phone, which acts as my navigation.

At this point I am of the opinion that if:
  • I am riding alone IN REMOTE OR RURAL AREAS then the SPOT X should probably be pocket carried. Basically if I go south of my house the SPOT X goes into my pocket. We live southeast of the southern edge of Chicagoland, cell signal is bad at our home but worse in every direction south of us.
  • I am riding alone in a suburban commute area where there is cellular signal and traffic, the SPOT X can be bike mounted because the reality is if I go down then a passing car will probably call for an ambulance. This would basically include anywhere north of my property as I ride toward the suburban sprawl cell signals becomes reliable and traffic dramatically increases.
  • If I am riding with my wife (my usual riding partner) then I can put the SPOT X in the mount, if I can't get to the SOS button then she probably can.
 

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went for a ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday -- road about 6 hours. Kept the Spot Gen3 in the side pocket of my Klim Induction mesh jacket. The Spot Map shows that is starting tracking at 0745, the next pin was at 0753 (8 minutes), the next at 0803 (10 minute), then every 5 minutes the rest of the day. I wonder if there's some "initialization" that has to happen in the first few tracks. I start up the Spot was I'm getting my bike out of the garage and getting setup so it have time to acquire the satellites. I also hit the Track button while I'm getting ready. Then it's in my pocket and stays there until I'm taking a break and send my custom "interim" message. At 5 min tracking, some of the waypoints are 5 miles or so apart, but at least you can tell where I was heading, and this was all on-road riding.
 

melensdad

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went for a ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday -- road about 6 hours. Kept the Spot Gen3 in the side pocket of my Klim Induction mesh jacket. The Spot Map shows that is starting tracking at 0745, the next pin was at 0753 (8 minutes), the next at 0803 (10 minute), then every 5 minutes the rest of the day. I wonder if there's some "initialization" that has to happen in the first few tracks. I start up the Spot was I'm getting my bike out of the garage and getting setup so it have time to acquire the satellites. I also hit the Track button while I'm getting ready. Then it's in my pocket and stays there until I'm taking a break and send my custom "interim" message. At 5 min tracking, some of the waypoints are 5 miles or so apart, but at least you can tell where I was heading, and this was all on-road riding.
I have 10 minute tracking (thinking of changing my package to go to 5 minutes) but I've noticed a couple times where the spacing was not quite 10 minutes apart. I chalk it up to finding the satellite when I start up the unit.
 

melensdad

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FWIW, many of the early reviews (pre-Bluetooth model) had complaints about the keyboard.

I've been using the keyboard to send messages and have not had any of the issues from the early reviews.

Those of us old enough to remember the Blackberry and TREO devices remember their tiny keyboards, but also remember they were very very good. They had raised keys, with the keys farther from the center of the QWERTY keyboard were raised higher than those in the center, they were responsive and tactile. The SPOT X Bluetooth keyboard also has raised keys with rounded tops, but all are at the same level. So not as good as the TREO or Blackberry but apparently better than the original SPOT X keyboard with the complained about flat keys.

I actually find the rounded and raised keys on the SPOT X Bluetooth very easy to use, tactile enough and I'd rate it as pretty darn good. Blackberry and TREO had better keyboards, but those units cost a heck of a lot more and neither had waterproof keyboards, which is a hurdle that the SPOT X needed to pass.
 

melensdad

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Got this message from SPOT


Screen Shot 2021-09-02 at 9.19.12 AM.png

Change to Search & Rescue (SAR) Member Benefits
Valued SPOT Customer,

We wanted to inform you of the upcoming changes to our search and rescue (SAR) Member Benefit offering and how these changes affect you.

After an extensive search, SPOT has chosen a new provider for its SAR Member Benefit coverage. This new coverage will increase security and medical benefits available to our customers. The new plan is called Global Overwatch & Rescue™ and will be offered to our customers worldwide. The new Global Overwatch & Rescue™ Plan, now offered to SPOT users, includes 24/7 multi-lingual crisis consultation and coordinated, in-country assistance, up to and including evacuations for medical mishaps, natural disasters, terrorism, pandemics like COVID-19, riots, strikes and civil commotion and much more.

As a SPOT customer, you can remain confident that your rescue benefit coverage will continue to cover unexpected costs associated with a rescue. We are also pleased to share that these improved benefits come with no increase to cost for our existing customers.

The new Global Overwatch & Rescue™ Plan will be in effect on September 1, 2021 and the transfer of your service from the current provider does not require any action on your part.

As an added benefit, the individual who has purchased the Global Overwatch & Rescue™ Plan will no longer need to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses, should they occur, as these costs will be covered for any qualifying event in a given year.

For complete details on the Global Overwatch & Rescue™ Plan, visit here.

For additional information, please consult our support section here.

Regards,
SPOT Marketing



---------------------------------------- 0 ------------------------------------




Link to their services --> https://content.findmespot.com/docu...nsition_Announcement_8_30_21&utm_medium=email


This is the basic list, but if you plan to use the service it would be wise to read all the details.

Security Assistance Benefits

  1. 24/7 Assistance Hotline
  2. Crisis Consultation (phone advice)
  3. Emergency Message Transmission during a period of travel
  4. Legal Referrals during a period of travel
  5. Lost Document Advice & Assistance, during a period of travel
  6. Lost Baggage Assistance, during a period of travel
  7. Access to Interpreters, during a period of travel
  8. Health, Safety, and Security Related Travel Alerts, during a period of travel
What We Provide: as a fully funded service, at no additional cost to you: Response to the following eleven (11) Crisis Events:
  1. Violent Crime
  2. Political Threats (extended to include civil threats caused by riots, strikes and civil commotion)
  3. Terrorism
  4. Kidnap for Ransom
  5. Blackmail or Extortion
  6. Wrongful Detention
  7. Hi‐Jacking
  8. Disappearance of Persons
  9. Natural Disasters
  10. PandemicThreat
  11. SearchandRescue(SAR)
Medical Assistance Benefits
  1. Medical and Dental Referrals
  2. Advance of Emergency Medical Expenses
  3. Medical Monitoring
  4. Translation Services
  5. Coordination/Assistance with Medical Payments
  6. Advance of Payment of Expenses pertaining to Emergency Transportation Services
What We Provide: as a fully funded service, at no additional cost to you:
  1. Emergency Relocation
  2. Medically Necessary Repatriation (nearest appropriate hospital)
  3. Repatriation of Mortal Remains
  4. Visit of a Family Member or Friend
  5. Return of Dependent Children
  6. Transport Escort
  7. COVID19 Illness Medically Necessary Repatriation, during a period of foreign travel
  8. COVID19 Government Mandated Quarantine, during a period of foreign travel
 

melensdad

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Just a bit of a follow-up. Got the SPOT X in early July. It is now early September and the SPOT X has been used almost daily. Literally every time I'm on the bike the SPOT X is on the bike.

What I have found is that the 10 minute tracking is pretty reliable. Most of the breadcrumbs it drops on the electronic map actually hit the map. There are those rare datapoints that are missed, but for the tracking purposes, if someone was trying to find me, they would still see my direction of travel and the prior point. If it is a data point in the middle of a ride then there is simply a gap in the data.

I tend to over-use the CHECK IN button but that seems to please my wife. Fortunately hitting the check in button is a free/unlimited service so it doesn't cost anything.

While out riding alone in rural areas I will hit the check in button at an intersection if I am making a direction change. That check in button drops a pin on my electronic map. It records that pin on the same map as the breadcrumb map. So while the electronic breadcrumbs ping every 10 minutes, the check in pings the map at the point where I hit that button. Should someone have to search for me they might be able to use that data to more closely find me.

I also now notice how bad the cellular signal is in the rural midwest. As someone who runs side roads and backroads I find if I am reasonably close to an interstate or a state highway then I have the ability to make a voice call. The farther aflung from those roads, the more likely I am to drop out of voice communication range. My typical solo rides have me in "1 bar" reception areas more often than not. When my phone shows 1 bar it is virtually impossible for me to get a call in/out, maybe 5% odds. If I have 2 bars then I can usually get a call out but the odds of transmission breakup is high. Even at only 1 bar, I can typically get a text message out/in. I'd say at 1 bar of cellular reception my odds of sending/receiving a text are 75%. So that said, I am rarely unable to communicate with home.

As I believe I have said previously, one of the strengths of the SPOT X is the ability to use its 14 pre-defined messages. And those 14 messages are pre-defined by me. I get to write them to say what I want, I upload them into my SPOT X from my computer. They are available to use FREE in unlimited quantities.

I typed mine up, in sequence of frequency of use, so:
1) I have reached my destination ...
2) I'm leaving here now to head home ...
3) Taking a short gas stop, back on the road in 30 minutes ...
4) Meal break, will be off the bike for 60-90 minutes ...
5) thru 14) . . . By the time you get to message 14 I'm asking for a tow truck, etc. But in various degrees of calm or urgency, depending upon the situation. I have one for minor mechanical issues that I can fix, like a simple flat tire.

The net effect is that I can keep anyone who needs to know very well informed and do so at NO ADDED COST to the basic $12/month subscription. When I looked at other devices like the Garmin InReach, Zoleo and BivyStick there was no way I could duplicate that level of service at the price. Zoleo has some serious communication power, uses both satellite and cell towers, picks the cell tower automatically if it is available, but it also has no screen and no keyboard so it requires a connection to a smartphone, which means both the unit and the phone have to be charged. The SPOT X, for me, being a 100% standalone unit, seemed to make the most sense as it does not require me to connect to my cellphone to use.

Mine is the newer SPOT X with Bluetooth. There are lots of bad reviews of the earlier SPOT X. The Bluetooth version seems to have corrected most of the flaws. But I will add that I almost never bother to connect my SPOT X to my cellphone because there is very little reason to do so. The cellphone doesn't add functionality, it just duplicates the functions. It does allow you to message thru the SPOT X from your phone, but you have to be within bluetooth range of the SPOT X to do so.
 
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melensdad

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I don't know if this is available on the SPOT Gen 4 one way communicators.

But I just noticed the feature on the SPOT X, it allows for group messaging. I had not noticed it previously so perhaps I'm an idiot? Or maybe it was included in the prior firmware update and I just never noticed it. Honestly no clue, but it MUST be set up on the web portal, then "synced" to your unit to work.

In any case it is something I had hoped they would add but just found.

With any satellite communicator the messages typically send slow and received slow. Sometimes you want to send the same message to multiple people, not necessarily and emergency message. Also not necessarily a simple 'check in' message.

SPOT X now has GROUPS, so I set up a group that includes my wife & daughter. Another group I call FAMILY which adds in some additional family members. SPOT X allows for up to 70 different 'contacts' and each group takes up 1 of those 'contacts'. My SPOT X contact list only has key people I need to stay in contact with for emergencies so I only have a small number of contacts. Adding a couple "groups" didn't really change that because the new "groups" are filled with subsets of my existing contacts so I am still well below the 70 allowed contacts.

The beauty of the GROUPs is that I don't have to type up the same message multiple times and send it multiple times. If I understand it correctly if there are 2 people in the group it still counts as 2 outgoing messages. 3 people in the group = 3 outgoing messages. But it makes it much easier to communicate with multiple people. I can now send multiple people one of my free/unlimited 'pre-defined' messages, of which I have 14 different messages allowed to be saved in my SPOT X.

I can send multiple people a 'custom' message, of which my plan allows for 120 'free' custom messages per year, if I go over 120 custom messages then I pay a small fee per message.
  • Of note, a reply to one of my messages is considered 1 custom message.
  • So if I send + receive a custom message, that counts as 2.
  • If I send one of my 14 'pre-written' message + receive a reply, that counts as 1 message.
  • To save on fees, most of my 14 'pre-written' messages include the statement "reply to my CELL # unless it is an emergency" so I will get a standard text message reply from the person at my regular cell number if I just send them a simple "Stopped for a meal break" or "Stopped for the night" type of canned message ... if I am out of cell coverage then I will receive that text next time I am in a cell coverage area.
After logging into the SPOT website, if you select your device, you then go to the EDIT DEVICE SETTINGS, that takes you to the next screen. Under the CONTACTS menu you have several options. Clicking on MY CONTACTS opens up a window. There are now 3 options. CREATE NEW CONTACT - CREATE NEW GROUP - DELETE MULTIPLE CONTACTS

If you click on the CREATE NEW GROUP you get a new window that asks you to NAME the group, then you simply select the people you want in the group. Hit the SAVE button when done and you now have a new group that shows up in your list of contacts. You have to SYNC your SPOT X with your computer at this point to get the group uploaded into your SPOT X.


Screen Shot 2021-09-12 at 9.14.12 AM.png



The SPOT X still seems to be the best satellite communicator/tracking device for simple communications. A satellite phone obviously would be a better tool but it would also be totally overkill for most backpacking, bicycle or motorcycle trips that include some on road and some off the beaten path adventuring.

I just did another comparison of features and costs comparing SPOT X with Zoleo, Garmin InReach and ARC BivyStick, which are the 4 major brands of compact satellite communicators. All include a simple SOS button to call in the cavalry should you have a light threatening crash, emergency, etc. All include a simple "check in" feature. Only SPOT X functions as a true fully functional stand-alone device. Garmin is capable of being used as a stand alone device for only very simple communication, but generally requires a connection to a cellphone for full functionality. Zoleo & ARC BivyStick require a cellphone for communication functionality. ARC's BivyStick, Garmin's InReach and Zoleo include the ability to check the weather, if you are off grid in a very remote area, this could be very useful; SPOT does not include that functionality. Zoleo includes the ability to communicate through either Satellite or Cellular towers but also requires your cellphone to be connected to the unit, so I don't really understand the point of sending a signal from a cell phone to a sat-com to a cell-tower just to send a simple text message ... maybe I'm missing something but if I have the ability to reach a cell tower with my phone then why would I need the Zoleo to do it for me? SPOT X also has the most economical messaging, with unlimited use of 15 different messages that you program into your unit which can pretty much say anything you want them to say if you can fit them into a SMS format. And SPOT X lets you send those FREE of charge to as many of the 70 contacts you have stored into your unit as you want. No other brand has anything that compares to that flexibility included in their basic plan.
 

melensdad

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Interesting observation, superficially it seems like the 10 minute tracking is hit & miss with the electronic breadcrumbs from the SPOT X. Yesterday while out for a few hours I was intentionally hitting the "Check In" button frequently. I also stopped several times for about 10 minutes each time.

Near the start of my ride I got an emergency call about our foster son, he was at the doctor with his grandma. We have a shared custody arrangement.

So I was in contact with my wife to get her in contact with grandma about the baby. This necessitated the stops and starts. I'd do a "check in" on the SPOT X.

From what I can tell, the SPOT X will skip the electronic breadcrumb pin drop if it is trying to send a Check In. So there are 'gaps' in the map. For example I actually went all the way around that lake in my map below. There are a few other places where, theoretically there could have been a pin drop on the bottom edge of my route as I was riding some gravel trails.

I'm not sure his is a problem or a flaw. As it really doesn't matter if I have a 'pin drop' at a specific time interval if I manually send a "check in" message, so to my mind, the "check in" should actually take priority. Both indicate my location at a set time. It takes a bit longer to send a "check in" message, more data is being sent and as the "check in" messages would take priority the simple pin drops appear to be eliminated.

I've NOT checked with SPOT customer service to confirm this.

Screen Shot 2021-09-25 at 10.40.17 AM.png
 
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