Somewear Global Hotspot – Simple, Sleek, Reliable, and Affordable
I spend a lot of time off-grid in my mountain pursuits. While I believe in the value of solitude, there is a certain peace of mind provided by a solid, reliable satellite communication device. This summer, I had the opportunity to test the innovative new satellite communicator from Somewear.
I became well-acquainted with this awesome little device, using it everywhere from a flyfishing trip deep in the Flattops Wilderness of Colorado to the summit of the Grand Teton. The device is just so dang easy to use – To put it simply, it turns your phone into a satellite communicator. There is some stiff competition in the satellite communicator market, but the Somewear Global Hotspot stands strong as a top contender.
The unboxing and setup of the Somewear Global Hotspot device was incredibly quick and intuitive. The device communicates with the sleek and user-friendly app when paired with a phone via Bluetooth. I experienced no pairing or connectivity issues. The app feels akin to iMessage – smooth, fast, and fun to navigate. Upon downloading the app, there was a basic yet helpful tutorial that provided a tour around the app.
The app shows your connectivity level with bars (much like your LTE cell signal), which I thought was clever. Additionally, I really appreciated how the app syncs with your contacts, so you can message anyone on your contacts list with a single tap, rather than having to type the number in manually (like with other satellite messengers).
I also love the unassuming look of the device. Many other satellite messengers are obnoxiously colored and dangle from your pack strap like a Christmas tree ornament. The Somewear secures subtly to a pack and is easy on the eyes.
The first time I used the Somewhere messenger was on a flyfishing trip deep in the Flattops Wilderness of Colorado – a good two hours from cell service in any direction. The main goal of this trip was just to get away from civilization with several of my buddies, so I felt like I was cheating when I broke out the Somewear messenger to let my wife know we were okay.
Unlike with other satellite messengers, I immediately got sucked into a back-and-forth text string with my wife and forgot I was using a satellite messenger— it was that fast. No more waiting several minutes with fingers crossed between messages… Somewear has changed the game.
The satellite connectivity of the Somewear seemed on par with that of Garmin, which is impressive considering Garmin has been in this space (no pun intended) for such a long time. There were periodic lapses in connection when the device switched from one satellite to another; however, this was quickly remedied when the device picked up its new satellite 10 seconds or so later. One unique feature of this device is that it pairs seamlessly with WiFi and cellular networks – a great benefit for those who are frequently moving in and out of cell range.
Somewear claims that the battery will last for over 1000 messages, or for 10 days with 10-minute interval tracking, which is unrivaled by any other handheld satellite messaging device that I’m aware of. The device features a clever “sleep mode” which saves battery life while you’re not sending or receiving messages.
I also used the Somewear when my wife and I climbed the Grand Teton via the Upper Exum Ridge. I had some connectivity concerns at the lower saddle due to the fact that we were surrounded by vertical walls and jagged peaks. I was pleasantly surprised when the Somewear device performed like a champ, and Mom was able to sleep easy that night knowing that we were down safely.
How does it stack up against the competition?
Full disclosure, I had always been a Garmin guy through and through. I have multiple Garmin devices including a couple of watches and an InReach Mini that I have used faithfully for the last few years. Needless to say, it was going to take a lot to win me over from Garmin, but the Somewear has certainly given the InReach Mini a run for its money.
Both devices come in at exactly 4 ounces, on the dot. The Somewear is slightly larger across (about the size of the palm of your hand), but it is thinner and more streamlined than the InReach Mini.
The InReach Mini can be secured to a pack with an aluminum carabiner, and while arguably more reliable, can cause it to dangle and swing around like a pendulum. I really grew to appreciate how tightly the Somewear could fasten to a pack strap without swinging (I did experience minor issues with the reliability of the nylon bungee – more on that below).
I conducted multiple tests to see which one was faster at sending and receiving messages. I composed identical messages on each device and hit send at the same time and asked the recipient to tell me which one was delivered first, and by how long. The Somewear outperformed the Garmin every single time; In fact, in most cases, I had already received a response on the Somewear before the Garmin had even sent the first message.
In my opinion, the only edge that the InReach Mini has on the Somewear is the fact that the InReach Mini has a screen and can still be used on its own, without a phone (It’s worth noting that the SOS functionality on the Somewear should still work even if your phone is dead, but you won’t be able to compose custom messages). If you carry a battery bank for your phone as I do, this should be a non-issue; otherwise, it could be a worthwhile consideration to have a device with a screen.
It’s also worth noting that there is no option to send unlimited preset messages with the Somewear like there is with the InReach Mini; However, I believe this is offset by the fact that the Somewear plans are much more affordable.
Price and Subscription Plans
This is where the Somewear is a clear winner. While the features are similar between the Somewear and the InReach Mini and the weight/size difference is negligible, the Somewear sends/receives messages faster – and it’s $70 less!
It gets better… the subscription plans are some of the most affordable in the industry. There is no annual subscription plan (only a reasonably priced one-time activation plan) and no fee for pausing or resuming your service. The $15/mo plan, for example, offers 20 satellite messages, which is double the number of messages on Garmin’s plan at about the same price. If you want to opt for the unlimited plan, it will only run you $50/mo, which is relatively affordable when compared with other plans.
Room for Improvement
While talus-hopping on our descent off the Grand Teton, the nylon bungee kept popping loose, and the device would fall from my pack strap to the ground. This happened several times before I decided to shove the device into my mesh water bottle holder. No big deal, since the device is super burly and we were moving slowly – But it would have been a different story if it had popped loose while skiing. I would like to see a more reliable fastening system on future iterations of the Somewear device, even if that means adding a few grams.
This is the first satellite messenger I’ve used that feels more like using my phone than using a satellite communication device – to the point that I often forgot I wasn’t just texting normally on my phone. It’s everything you want in a satellite messenger – simple, sleek, reliable, and affordable. There is no reason this shouldn’t be at the very top of your list when considering a new satellite messenger.
Jace is a third-generation Coloradan, raised in the foothills of Evergreen. He fell in love with the outdoors at a young age, summiting his first 14er at 8 years old. He studied business at the University of Denver, where he was an All-American Rugby player.
He lives to play in the mountains with his wife, Taylor, and their super-mutt Samson. You can find them (usually together) playing on Colorado’s high peaks… Backpacking, mountaineering, snowboarding (split and solid), trail running, and mountain biking — these are a few of their favorite things.
He has an affinity for high-quality gear, but he’s not afraid to use it and is notorious for testing his equipment to its fullest potential.