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Garmin inReach vs. Spot vs. Zoleo: Pros & Cons and Final Verdict 2024

Garmin inReach vs. Spot vs. Zoleo: Pros & Cons and Final Verdict 2024

    People are increasingly exploring wild places, adventuring to remote locales, and pushing their limits. In order to ensure the safety out on the trails, you needs extra forethought, and preparation. As a more reliable alternative to a cell phone, satellite communicators are ideal in emergency situations and wilderness. They can be used for various wilderness communications: from SOS signaling to alert search & rescue to an emergency, to tracking your route and sending two-way messages to keep in touch with loved ones. Garmin inReach, Spot, Zoleo are three most popular brands for portable wilderness communications on the market, do you know what's the pros and cons of them? Which one should you choose? In this guide, I hash out the differences between Garmin inReach, Spot, Zoleo to help you decide what kind of device might meet your needs.


Brand Introduction of Garmin inReach, Spot and  Zoleo

Garmin inReach

The InReach family of devices has been growing over the past few years. Originally manufactured by Dulorme, the company was bought out by Garmin in February 2016. With inReach satellite technology from Garmin and an active satellite subscription, you can stay in touch globally. You can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to a 24/7 staffed global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.


All Garmin products enabled with inReach technology offer GPS navigation, tracking and more. Some even come with preloaded Garmin TOPO mapping, direct-to-device Birdseye Satellite Imagery downloads or coastal charts.In case of emergency, trigger an interactive SOS1 message to the Garmin IERCC, a professional 24/7 staffed emergency response coordination center. Trained staff is available to respond to your messages, track your device and contact and coordinate with emergency services or others to provide assistance – giving you peace of mind. In addition, the Garmin Explore™ and Earthmate® apps let you view your current location, plan and navigate routes, set and manage waypoints, and more from your smartphone or tablet.


SPOT, LLC is owned and operated by Globalstar, Inc. with Global Headquarters in Covington, Louisiana. Globalstar is a leading provider of customizable Satellite IoT Solutions for business or personal use around the world. A pioneer of mobile satellite voice and data services, Globalstar allows businesses to streamline operations by connecting remote personnel and automating data to more easily monitor and manage mobile assets and employees. SPOT offers peace of mind, using 100% satellite technology. 


SPOT products keep you connected to the people and things that matter most. It allows you to track assets, send and receive messages, send your GPS position and status, mark waypoints, track your progress on SPOT Mapping and notify search and rescue officials in the event of an emergency. For adventure seekers, SPOT allows you to pursue your passion. From backpacking, camping, fishing and hunting to snowmobiling, off-roading and cycling, SPOT devices support all off-the-grid adventuring, making them the ideal tracking and communications gear for recreational users.


ZOLEO Inc. is a joint venture between Beam Communications Pty. Ltd. and Roadpost Inc. Together they are committed to offering consumers and enterprise users affordable global messaging connectivity, plus a safety system you can count on, from the moment you leave cellular coverage to your return. Providing a familiar smartphone messaging experience that transmits seamlessly over satellite, cellular and Wi-Fi, they are reinventing global messaging — the way it should be.


Wherever you go, ZOLEO provides SOS alerting with 24/7 monitoring, check-in and weather forecasts. Featuring the industry’s first progressive SOS, you’ll receive timely status updates throughout your emergency via the free app. ZOLEO offers unmatched peace of mind for you and for everyone waiting at home.The compact ZOLEO device links with your phone/tablet to provide messaging coverage everywhere. Uniquely, the ZOLEO app seamlessly delivers messages over cellular and Wi-Fi. You'll always get the message, even if your ZOLEO satellite communicator device is turned off!

Next, I will compare the most popular models of each of the three brands in more detail, that is Garmin inReach Mini 2, Spot X and Zoleo Satellite Communicator.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 vs. Spot X vs. Zoleo Satellite Communicator: Overview

| #1  Garmin inReach Mini 2

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The flame red Garmin inReach Mini 2 Satellite Communicator helps you keep home with you when you're off the grid—adding peace of mind to every adventure, without adding weight to your pack. The Mini 2's global satellite coverage keeps you connected when cellphones can't. In an emergency, send an interactive SOS message to our coordination center. With TracBack routing, find your way back if you happen to get lost. Expand the capabilities of your inReach device by using the Garmin Explore app. Stay on adventures longer with up to 14 days of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode.


Lightest and smallestHigh price — double the price of the competition
Can text from phone and deviceNo seamless messaging
Excellent trackingOne of the more expensive monthly data plans
Downloadable waypoints and GPS trackNo dedicated phone number
A large number of custom pre-set messages that reduce typing
Great battery life

| #2  Spot X Satellite Messenger

The SPOT X provides 2-way messaging communications to help protect and connect employees beyond the reach of cellular. Featuring a full QWERTY keyboard for messaging or paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth, users can check in with managers, colleagues, and family, or communicate directly with 24/7 search and rescue services. Managers can pinpoint the location and monitor the movement of remote employees, and with its unique mobile number can initiate messages directly to the SPOT device at any time.


Affordable base unitBulky
Simple app integrationNo maps
Intuitive message sending/receiving Less satellite coverage than Iridium
Functions independently of auxiliary devices (no smartphone needed)
Excellent battery life

| #3  ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

The ZOLEO satellite communicator is extremely affordable, and perfect for anyone who wants to stay connected and secure when travelling beyond mobile coverage zones. Iridium® based and designed to withstand harsh conditions, the compact ZOLEO device connects via Bluetooth® with a free companion app on your own smartphone/tablet. The app offers a familiar interface for seamless global messaging to/from any SMS number, email address or another ZOLEO app user, and also supports two-way global SOS alerting, easy check-in, on-demand weather forecasts, location sharing and more.Unlike other satellite messaging devices, ZOLEO includes a dedicated SMS number that can be shared with contacts, and only ZOLEO follows you in/out of mobile coverage. When you’re beyond mobile coverage, the ZOLEO device transmits messages via the Iridium® satellite network, the only network with coverage everywhere. When you’re within mobile coverage, the free app seamlessly delivers messages via cellular and Wi-Fi®. You enjoy seamless message delivery whether you’re off-the-grid or back at home!


Uses Iridium, the best satellite networkNo on-device message viewing or composition
2-way messaging using either cellular, Wi-Fi or satellite

Heavier than close competitors

Reasonable cost message data planTracking functionality is basic
Dedicated phone number for messaging transparency
Good battery life
Low Cost

Garmin inReach Mini 2 vs. Spot X vs. Zoleo Satellite Communicator: Full Comparison


Garmin inReach Mini 2 Spot XZoleo Satellite Communicator
FunctionsSatellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS) + some navigation featuresSatellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS)Satellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS)
Weight3.5oz / 100g7.0 oz (198.4g)5.3oz / 150g
Battery LifeUp to 14 days (10 min. tracking intervals) 240 hours (10 days) in 10-minute tracking mode200 hrs / just over 8 days (if checking messages every 12 mins)
Messaging capability2-Way Messaging2-Way Messaging2-Way Messaging
Preset MessagesYes (up to three customizable messages)Yes
You can customize 14 preset messages
“Okay” check-in message button only (no preset messages).
Standalone MessagingYes
Messages can be read and typed (albeit painfully slowly) using its small screen and virtual keyboard
SPOT X is the only device with a keyboard.
There is a physical Check-In button, but you must use the mobile app to send custom messages.
Custom messagingYes (satellite only)YesYes
Dedicated phoneNoYesYes
Ability to Navigate/ follow routesYES, when connected to your smartphone with the Earthmate AppNONO
Weather-Resistance RatingIPX7IPX67IPX8
Operational Temperature -4°F to 140°F-4F to 140F -4°F to 131°F
Weather forecastYesYes Yes
MapsYesLimited (you can only get access to maps when synced with your smartphone when you are in cell service) Built-in compass and programmable waypoints.Yes
Does it floatNO ($10 for a flotation lanyard)NONO ($10 for a flotation lanyard)


The inReach Mini 2 and Zoleo both use the Iridium Satellite network, while the Spot X uses the Globalstar network. Network coverage will affect whether messages will be delayed and  your chances of your device acquiring a satellite fix. In terms of satellite coverage, the Iridium network is still the best option.


Messaging for a 2-way satellite messenger is one of the most critical aspects, and each of these devices handles things differently. Still, the Zoleo actually takes the crown in this specific category. Only Zoleo transmits messages over satellite, mobile network and Wi-Fi for a truly seamless global messaging experience. That’s beauty of using Zoleo, it takes advantage of mobile and Wi-Fi when it is available, and transmits over the Iridium satellite network when it isn’t! You enjoy a truly seamless global messaging experience that simply isn’t available using other satellite communicators.

Subscription Plans

Garmin inReach Mini 2:

Safety – $14.95 ($11.95 annual) – 10 messages; Send/track points and location requests – $0.10 each)

Recreation – $34.95 ($24.95 annual) – 40 messages

Expedition – $64.95 ($49.95 annual) – Unlimited messages

All annual plans require a $29.95 activation fee (no fee to change plan).

Enrollment in Freedom (monthly) plans requires a $34.94 annual fee.

All plans include unlimited preset messages (3 different customizable).

Basic weather is 1 message for Safety and Recreation plans.

Premium weather is $1.00 each.

Tracking maximum is every 10 mins for Safety and Recreation plans, every 2 mins for Expedition plan.

Overage charges – $0.50 each for Safety and Recreation plans.

Spot X:

Basic – $14.95 ($11.95 annual) – 20 custom messages ($0.25 each additional)

Advanced – $29.95 ($19.95 annual) – 100 custom messages ($0.25 each additional)

Unlimited – $39.95 ($29.95 annual) – unlimited custom messages ($0.25 each additional)

All plans require a $19.95 activation fee.

Annual contract Plans can be paid monthly or if paid one time get all allotted messages in advance.

Flex charge plans require an annual $24.95 fee.

No charge applies to changing to a more inclusive annual plan; a $24.95 fee applies to changing to a less inclusive annual plan.

All plans include unlimited check-in and predefined messages.

Basic plan has no movement alerts; other plans have 30 min, 60 min, 4 hr, 12 hr alerts.

There are additional services you can choose, including enhanced mapping, the Global Overwatch & Rescue™ Plan, a product replacement plan, and SPOT S.O.V. (roadside vehicle assistance).


Basic – $20 (25 satellite messages; $0.50 additional messages; unlimited cellular and WiFi messages)

InTouch – $35 (250 satellite messages; $0.50 additional messages; unlimited cellular and WiFi messages)

Unlimited – $50 (Unlimited satellite messages; unlimited cellular and WiFi messages)

All plans require $6 add-on to get unlimited preset messages (with location sharing) and tracking $20 activation fee.

No account suspension in the first 3 months; suspended plans incur a $4 per month fee; re-enable a suspended plan without activation fee.

Battery Life

The internal, rechargeable lithium battery  of Garmin inReach Mini 2 gives you up to 14 days use at the default 10-minute tracking mode and up to 30 days in power saving mode.

Spot X will offer 240 hours (10 days) of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode.

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery of  ZOLEO satellite communicators will lasts for 200+ hours.


All of these two-way satellite messengers are solid decisions, and there isn’t one definite winner. Each model has specific instances that might make it the best option for you. A lot of it comes down to personal choice, the features you want, the features you actually need, and your budget. 

TheGarmin  inReach Mini 2 is  best two-way texting satellite device on the market, but also with a high price tag. If you only want the best of the best and don't care about price, the inReach Mini 2 is the way to go right now.

The SPOT X fills a small niche. This is a two-way, satellite-linked, backcountry messaging device that works entirely on its own. The built-in physical QWERTY keyboard distinguishes it from all of its competitors. If you will rely on your device as your primary means of communication, then the Spot X makes the most sense: it doesn't rely on any other devices to work, can send and receive messages, and tracks your position.

Except for sending and receiving messages over the Iridium satellite network,  the ZOLEO will automatically send over your phone’s data networks if they are available, saving you the cost of a satellite message. So if you primarily use your smartphone as your outdoor navigation device, and are looking for satellite messaging and SOS when out of cell phone service , the ZOLEO is a great option.

2022-09-06 19:181915