The Garage Tools

Initial Impressions: Spot X Is an Old School Phone That Works In the Woods

Do you even remember how to text with physical keys? I sure don’t.

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Of my hobbies, and things that make me reassemble my fractured mind after a long week of work, my most dangerous are those when I venture off into the woods. Whether it’s driving my Can-Am X3 project, taking a motorcycle deep into the unknown, or hunting the backwoods for non-existent elk—they’re clearly government psyops to fund public land—all of them carry risks thanks to the lack of cell service and my penchant for hurting myself. But that’s why I carry either Garmin’s killer inReach Mini 2 or Zoleo’s satellite communicators

But to paraphrase one of my absolute favorite IPs, “There is, however, another.” Say hello to Spot’s X satellite communicators, a safety device a host of folks entrust each and every weekend, but one that I haven’t had the chance to test out. Until now. Let’s get into it. 

Buttons? Physical Buttons!

Yep, you read that right. As more and more pieces of technology move away from physical anything, Spot’s X satellite communicator has physical buttons for literally everything. And that includes a full QWERTY keyboard, just like your old Motorola. There are also buttons for its SOS function, tracking, and the power On/Off. 

The Spot X is a lot like both the Garmin and Zoleo, as it’s designed to take a beating and keep on keeping you safe. As such, it carries an IP67 rating, which lets you throw it into the water—up to three feet—for up to 30 minutes without issue. It’s also shock and dust-resistant, which helps ensure you can stay in contact even after gnarly falls. Spot also states that the battery is good for up to 240 hours in 10-minute tracking mode, which is perfect if you do get lost or are in need of backcountry assistance. 

It is, however, larger than the Garmin, but about the same size as the Zoleo. Finding a good mounting point on my backpack was slightly a challenge, as I went for the strap connection instead of the carabiner. I’ll probably switch to that, but I’m not a fan of the included carabiner as it felt a little light for my rough-and-tumble tastes. 

Does It Work, Though?

It does. I’ve now used the Spot X a handful of times to stay in contact with my wife while I was in the woods, including when I went out riding and camped for the night attempting to locate an elk. The latter did not pay off. 

Each time, the messages worked fairly quickly. I also had my Garmin with me to see side-by-side how fast each worked and they were comparable. What doesn’t work as well as the Garmin is the Spot X’s app, which kept logging me out of my account or killing the Bluetooth signal every time I wanted to text my wife back. I’ve seen a few similar concerns from other reviews, too. 

I also have a few concerns about the Spot X’s long-term longevity, as I put it through the same rigorous tests I did with the Garmin and Zoleo, and the Spot X’s exterior is looking a little thrashed. It hasn’t stopped working, but though I like physical buttons—especially since the app was a little wonky—it’s more to fail when you need it most. 

As for price, the Spot X will set you back $250 without any messaging or SOS plans, though plans start at $12 a month, which isn’t bad when you compare it to the Garmin and Zoleo plans and initial price. 

I’m going to keep using it and really get a better sense of the Spot X, and whether or not it can dethrone my current favorite, the Garmin inReach Mini 2. But what else do you want to know about the Spot X? Sound off in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them when my full review hits.