The Spot Gen4 is a rugged outdoors focused GPS tracker. It's specially made to function perfectly in the most remote of terrain making it ideal for the adventurous person who wants peace of mind when they're out in the wilderness.
High accuracy tracking is paired with long battery performance to withstand longer trips. The addition of an SOS button, that contacts emergency services, is a great addition for anyone that wants to have back-up when out in nature. Custom message send-outs is another nice feature but more on that below.
This makes the Spot Gen4 a very specialized piece of kit, and it's a large unit. So, we wouldn't recommend this for those wishing to track their kids at school, for example - it's an outdoors device. It sits high on our list of the best personal GPS trackers for this very reason.
Spot Gen4: Design and features
The Spot Gen4 is rugged with a solid and chunky build that's made to let this strap to the outside of a backpack – for ideal GPS and cellular connection – without the elements affecting its innards.
The five ounce Gen4 features a strap and a carabiner for easy pack attachment right out of the box. The orange mid line makes it easy to spot even in darker conditions.
At 3.5-inches tall and 2.7 inches wide, this is one of the larger GPS trackers out there but that's because this is crammed full of features and offers an extensive battery life.
Everything is IP68 rated meaning its good for five foot water submersion for up to half an hour. It also means you don't need to worry about dust, dirt or sand affecting the device. So leaving it on your backpack, outside, is fine no matter the weather conditions.
This features GPS and cellular connectivity but also uses the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) to notify emergency responders. This SOS button is cleverly hidden under a protective cover that must be lifted off, so as to avoid accidental pressing.
Messaging, which uses the cellular network connection, allows you to pre-set messages to be sent to certain recipients at the touch of a button. A useful feature which can be setup with the connected smartphone app before setting off.
The device runs on AAA batteries which can be easily replaced. Or you can use rechargeable batteries in the slot to allow for recharging too.
Spot Gen4: Performance
This is a device built for emergency responses, at its core. This couldn't be tested, but the company's track record of over 7,493 rescues, at time of publishing, goes to show how well this works already.
For less emergency related situations, like a break-down for example, you can use the message feature. This is easy enough to setup using the app, allowing you to send a message to a set contact – like "come help please" to a buddy, which will have your location too. Or, for fun, "bet you wish you were here", to up to 10 contacts, where they can then see on a map your location.
Battery life is great with features like sending track updates only activating when you are moving. This means you're good for around 1,200 check-in messages or 436 hours when set to 10-minute tracking intervals. Since you can easily replace the batteries you should be able to plan for your adventure accurately without battery life being a worry at all.
The mapping service is more robust than ever, keeping your history for up to three years. You can store over 50 points on your map with the option to customize position icons. You can also set geo fences, which are great if you don't want to wander outside your safety zone without someone being notified. You could also setup a zone to auto message, letting someone know when you arrive at a waypoint, without you having to do anything.
This all requires setup before you head out. Or can be edited using your phone, presuming you have connection and battery in the phone where you're out. Tracking interval options help here with lots including 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minute intervals.
Spot Gen4: Service plans
In order to have the Spot Gen4 working properly, you need to take out a service plan with Saved By Spot. There are two options available - Contract and Flex plans. Contract runs for 12 months, and you are tied into this service, while the Flex option lets you pay one month at a time.
Contract is $12 per month for the basic plan, and you can add extreme tracking options to that, if you're planning to head out into extra remote areas. This obviously comes with additional cost. Flex is $15 per month for the basic package and, again, you can add more extreme tracking if you feel you need it.
Each of these services come with a $20 activation fee, which feels excessive, and if you want to use the Flex service there's also a $25 Flex charge, which appears to be little more than a hidden penalty for not taking out the 12 month contract, as there's no benefit associated with it. Add all this up, and the Spot Gen4 starts to get very expensive, very fast.
Should you buy the Spot Gen4?
The Spot Gen4 is an adventurer's tracker built to be strong, accurate and useful. That SOS feature and the messaging make it a really powerful tool for tracking in the wild. This does require a subscription to a cellular network to get the best of those features on offer. This isn't for those wishing to track their children at school, for example, and you're better served by the Samsung SmartThings Tracker or AngelSense Guardian for this use. The device is expensive, but for what you get the price seems fair. The service plans, however, can really add to the price, especially if you want to stay flexible with payments.