Part of the problem with technology creeping into everything we do is it gets complicated. Things require all sorts of calibration, setup and pairing.
The beauty of the Somewear Labs Global Hotspot is that it doesn’t require much for setup. Pair and it’s ready.
What is a Global Hotspot?
Our phones are great if we’re in cell reception but as soon as we head out of that area, any sort of communication is toast. GPS still works but messaging is out of the question.
The Global Hotspot clipped to a backpack strap.
Satellite communicators like this Global Hotspot from Somewear Labs let you message from your phone anywhere in the world. It doesn’t require a cell tower to connect to. It gives you a satellite connection to message with any other cell phone just like texting.
With a hotspot, like wifi, you don’t get phone but you can easily text, get weather and send an SOS to search and rescue.
Specs on the Somewear Labs Global Hotspot
1000+ messages per charge
Last over 10 days with 10 min tracking.
Small and light
IPX7 water resistant 1m for 30 mins
-4F to 140 F
10 days battery life with 10 minute tracking
100% global coverage with Iridium network
Blue and black colors
Elastic strap on back
How do you connect the Somewear Labs Global Hotspot?
Turning it on for the first time will put it into pairing mode. It will show up in your bluetooth menu on your phone to connect to it just like a pair of headphones. Holding the power button a bit longer will put it into pairing mode again it was already connected to something.
As soon as it’s paired to your phone, open the app and start texting. That’s it.
The app has to be downloaded on wifi or cell before you head out so set it up at home before going hiking the first time.
What does it look like texting?
Once you’ve paired with the satellites, you’ll be able to send text messages through the app. The screen looks just like any other texting app on the iPhone. It’s very easy to use. Just write out the message and send. You can send a message to any other phone or any other Global Hotspot. You can’t send to Spot or inReach but they are working on that.
Receiving a message looks exactly like a text message on an iPhone. It’ll show up as green bubbles because it’s something other than iMessage texting you.
As with all Satellite Messengers, you won’t know the number until your friends and family receive it. I like to test any of my new devices or old ones if I haven’t used them in a while before leaving home. Then you know the device work and the person definitely can receive the messages.
Texting through the Somewear Labs Global Hotspot looks just like a texting app
Receiving text messages from the Global Hotspot looks just like a regular text message.
Sending your location
Through the text app you can send your location. It shows up on the other end as a link to a map so if you want to meet with someone or they would like to know where you are, then can just click on the location link you send. This is just a one time send when you feel like it. You can enable tracking to regularly put your location on a map for others to see.
One downside to sending the location is the person receiving it has to sign up for an account on the Somewear website. I’d rather this be wide open with some special URL you can send out. No everyone will figure out how to sign up and it’s yet another thing to sign into. So if you are going to send out locations to anyone try to set them up in advance and make sure they get logged in.
Sending a location link through the Global Hotspot
Tracking shows your location on a map on the web at regular intervals. People with the link will be able to see your location on the map on their computer or phone at home. The tracking can be set anywhere between every 10 minutes and ever hour.
One downside to tracking is that you have to sign up for an account on the website before you can view the map. Try to get people to sign up for accounts before you leave and make sure they can get signed in.
Another note is that this isn’t a GPS showing a track of where you’ve been but it will show your location at the tracking interval. The Gaia GPS app or a can give you an exact GPS track after your hike.
The tracking maps in the app don’t go offline automatically, so if you want to have them on your phone when you go out of cell range, you need to download them with the little orange down button on the tracking page.
Tracking will show your location at regular intervals on a map you can send to other people.
The Global Hotspot has another very useful feature of being able to pull weather reports for your location. You can’t choose other locations to see weather for but if you’re wanting to know weather to make your plans for the day out of cell range, this is very handy.
Pull weather reports out of cell range to make plans.
The SOS button is hidden behind the top cap. To send the SOS, hold the button for 6 seconds and the LED light will blink white. It will turn solid white after it’s sent.
A new conversation with the GEOS emergency centre will start in your messages and you’ll be able to message with the dispatchers.
You can cancel an SOS by holding the SOS button for 6 seconds and both Sending SOS and SOS Delivered lights will blink. When they stop blinking the cancellation has been sent.
The Global Hotspot is usually $349.99 USD but is $299.99 for the holidays.
Just like a phone there’s also a plan to get the device to work. There doesn’t seem to be a Canadian provider but it works anywhere in the world. Prices will just be in US dollars.
Ultralight $8.33/month USD
10 satellite messages or 75 satellite pin drops
$1 each for additional messages
Plan 1 $15/month USD
20 satellite messages or 150 satellite pin drops
$.50 each for additional messages
Plan 2 $30/month USD
75 satellite messages or 600 satellite pin drops
$.50 each for additional messages
Plan 3 $50/month USD
unlimited satellite messages
unlimited satellite pin drops
unlimited additional messages
*Prices from December 17, 2020.
I usually get the cheapest plans I can with the messengers unless I need the tracking and then you need to get one of the higher plans. Additional messages are only $.50 to $1 each so I can use them when I need them. Tracking can be a really good safety feature though so if you can get one of those plans they are useful. Setting the tracking to 1/hour won’t use up your pin drops as fast as 1 every 10 minutes.
The Hotspot is extremely easy to use and set up. I didn’t have to look at a manual to get it set up or start using it. Pair then text is really all you need to do.
No pre-canned messages
The only downside to it’s simplicity is that you can’t send any sort of pre-canned messages after your phone runs out of battery.
The SOS still works whether you have your phone or not which is obviously nice to have. Phones run out of battery quickly when using GPS, especially in the cold. Always have backup battery for your phone if you’re using it as your satellite messenger or GPS!
Have to sign up for a Somewear account to see tracking
To see tracking or location links from a Somewear labs requires an account on the Somewear Labs website. This makes it a little more difficult if your friends are tech savvy. It is only a couple steps but it would be nice to go straight to a page any time to see tracking or location links without having to sign in or remember a password.
The Somewear Labs Global Hotspot is an easy to use, lightweight satellite messenger. I was impressed with how easy it was to set up and use. It doesn’t offer a whole lot of complicated features but that keeps it simple and easy to use.
The prices start around $8.33 USD (around $10.60 CAD) which is a pretty good price for a satellite messenger with messages and 24/7 SOS. There’s excellent coverage with the Iridium network around the world so it doesn’t matter where you are.
If you are looking for a small, light satellite messenger to text friends and track where you are, I highly recommend the Global Hotspot from Somewear Labs.