SPOT has started shipping their new SPOT Satellite Messenger device and are hitting the PR wires heavily, as are their dealers (including some catering to the aviation market), so expect to see a lot of publicity about this new device. The question is, should you consider one in lieu of a 406 MHz PLB?
You can read about SPOT here:
I have informally tested a pre-production unit in a variety of wilderness settings, but am withholding judgment until we get production units to test and can test them in an organized manner and comprehensively under difficult real-world circumstances. The sort of circumstances that a pilot or backpacker might find themselves in. I am expecting test units from the manufacturer shortly and then will commence our testing. I hope to have results by early December.
Unless you simply must have the latest and greatest gadget, money isn’t an issue, and you’re not really buying it as a distress alerting device, my suggestion for the moment is to sit tight until we have a better idea how well this device really works. Consider that this is the equivalent of version 1.0 software. Most of us know better that to be beta testers when something critical is on the line. While SPOT has received a great deal of publicity, it is not built to any recognized specification, has not been thoroughly tested by any independent authority, nor is there any operational history. It’s got some very cool tricks and a nice feature set, but I’m not inclined to suggest that you bet your life on the device at this time. Let’s see how it really works first.