(Updated 03/03/2010) While I was away this weekend the replacement for my recalled SPOT 2 arrived, as promised. This morning I unpacked the padded envelope and found a few surprises. Besides the reworked SPOT with a “You’re good to GO!” sticker on it (more on that shortly), there was a $2-off coupon for Energizer lithium batteries, a new set of adhesive-backed instruction decals for the back, an Addendum to the User’s Guide that originally came with the SPOT 2 and a spare black rubber band that goes around the SPOT 2, hiding the joint between the two halves.
I called and asked why they included the band and was told that it must have been a mistake because it wasn’t supposed to be included and nody had a clue why it was in my package. Guess I am just lucky.
A quick examination of the “new” SPOT 2 showed it had clearly been reworked, it was not a new unit, which was confirmed by SPOT. The case showed some signs of having been used, with black marks on the back. I was told that besides fixing the battery minding circuit by replacing the incorrect out-of-spec part originally used, they also made another modification.
In the recess on the back there are now two very small pinholes (see image). These are backed with a Gore-Tex membrane, effectively making them one-way pressure relief valves. Apparently the battery warning issue wasn’t the only problem that was discovered in the original SPOT 2. Seems that when taken to higher altitudes by pilots, the unit would turn itself on during the descent as the vacuum created by the lower pressure inside the unit sucked the buttons down (the opposite problem we saw when taken to depth and pressure outside activated the buttons). The new one-way “valves” prevent that from happening. The Gore-Tex membrane allows air through, but not water.
Speaking of which, the Addendum changes the original depth rating of 5 meters for up to 1 hour to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. We were told this was a precautionary move since it was feared that the original seemed to encourage users to take it diving and such, with potential for problems to occur, and they didn’t want to encourage that sort of use. I’m not sure I agree with their reasoning and even then, not sure why they would reduce it by so much. Why not halve it, if that was a concern? Only time will tell if this has any negative consequences for users. We know that at least a few warranty claims were rejected on the original SPOT, with a similar 1 meter for 30 minutes rating, when they quit working while running a river and the like, even when it wasn’t immersed that deep or that long. With the original SPOT 2 specs, which we tested to and found to be accurate, we were encouraged that the SPOT 2 was substantially better in this respect. UPDATE 03/02/2010: While SPOT initially claimed that there was no actual reduction in how waterproof the SPOT 2 is, they have now confirmed that this is an actual reduction due to the Gore-Tex membrane “valves.” I’d have to say this is a disappointing move by SPOT. If anyone has any issues with the waterproofness of the new SPOT 2, please drop us an email. We’ll be testing it again at our earliest opportunity.
While on the subject of waterproofness, we noticed that the battery cover didn’t seem to fit very well on what was clearly a new seal. Both the top and bottom of the cover were raised when the cover retention screws in the middle were tightened down. SPOT told us that the seal would still seal just fine. The cause, we were told, was that the new seals they could get in a reasonable time-frame were a harder durometer rating than the original, so don’t compress as much. They said that waiting for the original seals would have added considerably to the time it would have taken to return the units to customers. All I can say is that it doesn’t look great, but it isn’t so bad as be more than a minor annoyance. We’ll see how well it works when we test the SPOT 2 at depth again. I suspect that SPOT may end up replacing a lot of these seals with the correct one for some disgruntled customers.
The Addendum has revised battery life times and a fair number of cautions about situations that could shorten the battery operating life. There is also a caution about dropping the unit and potential battery failure and a suggestion to replace the batteries if dropped. That is a bit worrisome. Only time will tell if that’s just lawyers being cautious or going to be a real problem for users who might bet their life on this device. Click here to read the Addendum:
It may be a few weeks until we have time to do much testing. After inserting the batteries in the replacement SPOT 2, we did a Check OK test and it properly showed up on our account and sent a text message. That confirmed not just that it was working, but also that SPOT had replaced the original EIN on the account with the new EIN as their previous email indicated they had done. A check of the billing also showed the promised free three-month extension of service.
We’ll let you know how well everything works when we have time to do some testing.