inReach SE, will the screen do it?
I was so focused on finally heading north that I forgot the April 1 announcement of DeLorme’s new inReach SE, even though one standard step in getting Gizmo underway these days is firing up the original inReach for tracking, messaging, and much more (as discussed here last fall). But my forgetfulness does not indicate a lack of appreciation for the new model (which I’ve already handled briefly in prototype form). To the contrary, I think the SE (Screen Edition) will likely make a lot of boaters as enthusiastic about the whole inReach concept as I’ve already become…
Just putting the color screen on the inReach makes it a lot easier for people to understand all that the system can do. It also makes the handheld a lot more versatile. A user will now be able to have a two-way text conversation with a search and rescue center without needing a smart phone or tablet attached via Bluetooth, which might not be possible in the circumstances. Similarly it will now be possible to type a custom email, Tweet or Facebook entry — with your position and a link to your mapped position — while, say, sitting on the rail of a racing sailboat (the SE is IP67 waterproof). Plus you won’t need to remember various flashing LED signals to know if you have an incoming message or that tracking is enabled…
I found the screen quite readable in daylight but can’t really report on how well the onscreen keyboard works because the rocker button was very much a prototype. It looks clever, though, with a virtual keypad and predictive. Besides, the SE does have Bluetooth and can work fine with the Earthmate iPad app that I’ve found excellent for (at least my kind of) boat use. But it’s only via the app that inReach works for alternate navigation. Some hiker/biker types like Rich Owings of GPS Tracklog are disappointed that the SE’s screen can’t show maps, tracks, and routes but apparently DeLorme is saving that level of “all-in-one” for another day. In fact, I think that only way you can see what the SE’s GPS is up to is to dig into its saved track points as show above…
Hikers probably aren’t excited the SE’s lithium polymer battery and built-in mount bracket either, but they’re great for boaters. The battery claims a 100-hour life with 10-minute tracking enabled and is charged via a micro USB port (that’s purportedly waterproof). Thus the Auxiliary Power Adapter I’m using with the original inReach won’t be necessary and RAM will no doubt come up with a simpler SE version of their current inReach mount systems (I’m using sticky-back Velcro ;-). Note that the total cost of the power adapter and original inReach is more than the SE’s suggested $300 retail.
Meanwhile, DeLorme has vastly improved the Explore web site where inReach owners can manage their account, see all their tracking and messages, and set up Twitter and Facebook satellite feeds if desired (as shown above). When I was back in Maine I also got a chance to see an impressive “enterprise” account that included multiple inReaches and that can be enabled with one minute tracking and other enhancements. Also improved is the inReach Share Map which you can set up so that friends and family can follow your tracking including some forms of messaging like Reference Points. Below is an EarthMate iPad screen of where I was yesterday morning but now I’m in Beaufort and headed soon to an Oriental creek to sit out a gale. Check out Gizmo’s inReach Share Map to see how that goes.
Thanks to those who let me know that these comments were messed up, as well opening paragraph for a while.
Totally weird that I would write about beyond-cellular communications and then find myself up a creek (really) without a decent connection. Hopefully am online now and these comments are working. Let’s see….
So yet another technical glitch this morning is the vanishing of a comment I posted shortly after publishing this entry. I wanted to point out to early readers that I had corrected a mistake in the SE battery life. It is indeed 100 hours with 10-minute tracking enabled, not the 10 hours first stated.
It was inReach developer Chip Noble who pointed out my error and I also linked to his blog entry where he’s seeking donations for his “Summit for Someone” hike up Mt. Whitney. It sounds like a very worthy event but Chip is adding a raffle to further encourage donations and the first prize will be the first inReach SE to be ready for retail sales (in a few weeks):
Wow, that looks impressive. This fixes the three main complaints I have with my 2nd Gen Spot (which I guess you had with the original DeLorme as well):
– Battery life => External power
– Unsure whether it is tracking => Display
– Bluetooth connection flaky => Display + buttons
I want one!
Last week I used my REI rebate to purchase the original inReach at REI and they offered a $50 rebate from DeLorme. I joked they must be wanting to get rid of them. So, I got it for free plus $50 back. An hour later I flip through a magazine and see the ad for this. Doesn’t it figure. Of course the original works fine but this new package has a lot to recommend it.
Do you think Delorme could be successful if they added weather as one of the features of InReach? You could sign up for a specific forecast zone and have text sent whenever it is updated.
First let me say that I’m not sure that inReach isn’t successful as is, or was before SE. I certainly can’t think of a product that’s won so many innovation awards in the marine and outdoor worlds.
But I have had the experience of trying to explain the system in person at places like TrawlerFest and it seemed like a lot of eyes glazed over after a while. What with the handheld, the apps, the Explore and Map Share web sites, it’s complicated. That’s why I think the color screen with easy-to-understand icons is going to help sell inReach even if there’s not all that much difference in what the system can do for a boater.
And, yes, a weather feature would also help. There’s not enough bandwidth with Iridium Short Burst Data (SBD) to do a lot but because DeLorme controls both the server and apps/handheld side they could maximize what’s possible. Plus the server can know where you are. I do believe that DeLorme is considering this and another reason I’m so bullish on inReach is the company’s apparent deep commitment to the system.
This is definitely an impressive gadget with some great improvements. I love the super long battery life, a major plus. This seems like something every boater should have with them for so many reasons. I personally don’t think the price is too bad considering all you are getting.
Just a note about their international pricing. If you look through their website it says that the rates are only for US & Europe residents. Aus, NZ, & Indonesian residents have a link to another website (not sure what anyone else does).
The Aus, NZ, & Indo rates are significantly more expensive.
Here are some examples (the A$ is about 1:1 with the US$):
The “Expedition” package (their top end I suppose aimed at global cruising people):
120 messages/mnth included
25c/msg over 120
unlimited tracking points included
40 messages/mnth included
50c/msg over 40
600 tracking points included
15c/tracking point over 600
It looks like a really bad deal for AUs/NZ customers.
If you’re truly using it as a means to keep in touch with people whilst cruising, then it’s potentially going to be significantly more expensive than the US/Europe subscription.
Given that it’s supposed to be a global service, and is mostly web & Iridium based, I can’t see where any incremental subscription cost would come from just for Aus & NZ customers.
Smells like a rip-off, which is a shame since it looks like a good service.
I’d be interested in hearing what De Lorme has to say about that.
DeLorme is offering a new “Freedom” plan for the inReach that looks like a good deal to me. For an annual fee of $25 you can suspend or change service plans every month if you want. The monthly Freedom fees are slightly higher than the annual equivalent, but it still looks like a money saver for a seasonal boater, even one who goes on a beyond-cellular adventure once in while during the off season. Details here:
DeLorme has new model inReach Explorer that’s quite like the SE but with added sensors for navigation and the ability to download routes from the owner’s inReach web site:
Also, OCENS just announced a new SpotCast weather service that can send compact forecasts to the inReachSE and Explorer: