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Thread: Zoleo: a new competitor to Spot and Garmen

  1. #1
    Senior Member B the Hiker's Avatar
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    Zoleo: a new competitor to Spot and Garmen

    Outside magazine has a highly favorable review of Zoleo's new satelite communicator.

    Seems to be the right price point and the reviewer liked that communications through the device and read by the device are seamless.

    I would be interested to hear from anyone who has used it.

    Brian

  2. #2
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B the Hiker View Post
    Seems to be the right price point
    For whom?

    $200 for the device, plus required monthly service plan ($20 to $50 per month, or $4 per month to hold)

    I've had my wife keep an eye on me just for grins and the find-my-iPhone feature is pretty darn good, even with spotty coverage. Given a plan/route, even having it check in once an hour would very likely lead anyone to my location. I'm sure it's not foolproof, but I'm already paying for it. There are definitely dead spots in the WMNF but mostly an SMS gets through.

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

  3. #3
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    For whom?

    $200 for the device, plus required monthly service plan ($20 to $50 per month, or $4 per month to hold)

    I've had my wife keep an eye on me just for grins and the find-my-iPhone feature is pretty darn good, even with spotty coverage. Given a plan/route, even having it check in once an hour would very likely lead anyone to my location. I'm sure it's not foolproof, but I'm already paying for it. There are definitely dead spots in the WMNF but mostly an SMS gets through.

    Tim
    I assume by "the right price point" he means competitive to the other offerings. That is in the same general range of InReach devices by Garmin and their plans are similarly priced. Spot is cheaper but in my experience they are far less reliable to InReach, at least in the Whites. Despite what others have mentioned about cell service in the Whites I still find I rarely have it in most of the places I go (Verizon). Could be my phone I guess although it isn't that old (maybe 3 years).
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

  4. #4
    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    I have had Spot3 for several years now, so over time I got some idea of what to look for in a satellite communication device. I think the things I care about fall primarily into these categories:
    • communication features
    • tracking
    • reliability
    • size
    • batteries
    • cost of the plan
    • cost of the device
    • ease of use


    In details:

    Communication features

    Spot3 has pretty limited functionality given only 3 buttons - Ok, Custom & Need Help. If I ever had any emergency I would not be able to communicate nature, severity & urgency of the emergency. inReach is clearly better in that department as I think it has functionality for pre-defined messages and ability to connect to a phone. While pairing with a phone is appealing it may not be that useful in certain types of situations like extremely cold weather. From the review it sounds like Zoleo's strong point is functionality available through the phone and without it the device may be comparable to Spot3.

    Tracking

    This is something that I use most. First of all my wife never cares where I hike, so in an emergency my track would give a lot of information to anyone who would go to look for me - "Where did I park?", "Which way I do the loop?", "How fast am I moving?" Also, if my emergency was sudden e.g. falling off a cliff or being attacked by an animal the tracking might be the only information available. According to the review Zoleo does not provide tracking, so I already know it's not for me.

    Reliability

    Spot3 is kind of weak in this department. I often see gaps in reported locations and accuracy has been questionable quite a few times although it seems to have gotten better recently. People who own inReach seem to be pretty happy when it comes to reliability - perhaps the satellite system that Garmin uses has better coverage than what Spot relies on. I guess Zoleo does not have much track record here yet.

    Batteries

    I love the fact that I can replace batteries on Spot3 - it really makes it self-serviceable. Build-in batteries, no matter how great at the beginning always tend to degrade over time. Also I really want the batteries to last well over a week. My backpacking trips are usually less than a week, so I would want to have a buffer of at least few days on top of that. inReach seems weaker in that category. I guess this could be remediated by external backup battery but you better hope that this charging cable does not go bad during your backpacking trip. Zoleo seems to have a built-in battery, so I would put it in the same bucket as inReach.

    Cost of the plan

    Spot3 was pretty good at the beginning but then the cost of the plan & charges started to go up. At some point I just go fed up and discontinued the annual plan and I only pay when I have bigger hikes planned. Still I find it pretty expensive - most recently I had to pay around $60 to turn on the service for a month when my son needed it for a multi-day canoing trip. The thing is that any one of these devices can instantaneously become a lot more expensive to use with user having practically no control over this. What is a $4 monthly fee to keep the plan active today may turn into a $14 fee tomorrow. Also $20/month feels pricey to me. I guess only competition can keep the prices down.

    Cost of the device

    Perhaps cost of the device is the only reason why I haven't switched from Spot to inReach yet.

    Ease of use

    Spot3 device is pretty easy to use, however, I find the Web interface for managing the device really messy. I often get confused how to set up notifications and sharing and I just realized that with most recent Web site "improvements" I no long know how to export my tracks or how correct the time zone for displaying track points (it defaulted to Central Standard Time while I would prefer Eastern Standard Time.) I can't comment on the other devices.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    On a related note, are their old school rangers looking for people? In driving the same place in the last two weeks with my son who is just learning, he had forgotten the turns we made to get to a lumber yard. (for his Eagle Project so he should be invested in the destination) As he explained it, since his generation is dependent on so much technology (he's a teen) they don't pay any attention to directions, or remembering places is not essential. (A reason some old folks like me comment when people venture into the woods with just their phone and when the service is lost, so are they)

    Since at best, my phone without any apps may allow someone to find me with the GPS feature, if I ever get lost, will someone be able to find a hiker that isn't wired into the grid? Will that be the case when the current SAR staff are retired?

    (Okay, I've been gone the wrong way on a trail once in a place with dozens of trails and early tech without a map was vague on my location 10 years ago, both in CT, one Park, one Forest, where I might venture into the roads without researching anything because, how lost in CT can you really get?)
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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