Two-way text messaging from 14,000 feet

As those of you who followed the Grand Teton Climb map updates know, the Big City Mountaineers adventure on the Grand Teton was a huge success! We reached the summit at 10:30AM last Wednesday and made it back to the trail-head at 5:30PM that evening. Messages were sent all along the trip and I very much appreciate all of the comments and well wishes that came in from people watching the climb through DeLorme’s Twitter posts and the MapShare page. The weather was perfect, the climbing was amazing, and I had a great time learning more about Big City Mountaineers’ efforts to expose kids to the wonders of nature and the great outdoors. For those interested in learning more, check out their Summit For Someone program and plan your own adventure!

I was very excited to see all the activity on the blog when I got back. I understand that there’s been a lot of comparing and contrasting between the subscription plan information that we posted last week and other systems that are out there. I wanted to take a few minutes and actually post the wrap-up e-mail I sent to our management team while I was flying back to Maine late Thursday evening. Returning from my first multiple-day backpacking trip with the inReach really gave me a chance to appreciate how the game has changed since the last time I made a blog post about sending messages from the top of a mountain….

I wanted to send an e-mail to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to represent DeLorme and participate in the Big City Mountaineers Outdoor Industry Leadership Climb of the Grand Teton. It was an amazing opportunity to showcase all of the hard work that has gone into the DeLorme inReach and Earthmate PN-60w, as well as a once in a lifetime opportunity for me personally.

Climbing to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides High Camp.

The inReach was well received by industry leaders on the climb; several used the device to send messages to family, friends, and colleagues. Some that were part of the first climbing group exchanged messages with the second group while they watched our progress on summit day. All climbers joined in on a spontaneous DeLorme Twitter challenge the morning of day 2 and pooled quite a collection of prizes for the first Twitter follower to bring bacon, a birthday cake, and other supplies to base camp. Unfortunately none of the people that responded to the inReach message were able to make the climb to cash in but it was nice to see how the group embraced the messaging beyond cell phone capabilities (thanks to Iridium) of our new product.

Sunrise while crossing the Saddle between Middle Teton and Grand Teton.

We released my blog post about the climb on Monday morning inviting people to follow the trip on my Grand Teton Climb MapShare page. I sent 189 tracking messages during the trip representing over 30 hours of activity including a full summit day that started at 5:30 am and finished at 5:30 pm. I sent 140 messages over the trip including messages to Twitter, Facebook, friends, family, and co-workers. I was able to say goodnight to my wife and daughter from 11,000 feet and reassure my mother that I was paying close attention to the guides and wouldn’t be doing anything dangerous. She will not be viewing some of the climbing pictures!

I received messages from over 40 different people; many co-workers, lots of friends and family, and a large number of people that read the blog and wanted to offer encouragement. Some of my favorite messages came at times when I was huddled in the tent with the wind thrashing or standing in the dark waiting to rope in to start the climb. All were amazing to receive so far away from home and reinforced the significance of what we’re doing every time the PN chimed to let me know someone was watching.

“Good luck! I’m on the other side in Idaho.” –Twitter follower

“Dear Chip, we’re following you from Italy, Abruzzi mountains! Wishing you all the best for a nice climb! –Klaus” –Twitter follower

“Watched your progress and can’t wait to get the inReach. Congratulations on a great hike!” –Twitter follower

“Abby is having lunch with us. She says you are a good climber. We love you.” –My mom

“When you reach the ridge line between Grand and Middle, look west. We might be able to capture you on the TetonCam web cam.” –Co-worker

TetonCam shot after sending Saddle message, we're in there somewhere!

“Everyone in my training class wants to say hello.” –DeLorme training coordinator

“Sweeeeettt! What a great climb. Far different than the one in California. You are now a true mountaineer!” –Member of Climb 1

“Get your tail moving!” –My supervisor

“Stay close to the experts.” –My mom

“Awesome, so what route are you using for the climb?” –Co-worker

“Doing good so far. I would love to meet you at the top with bacon and whiskey, but alas I have to be at work. How about a box of cookies when you get back?” –Twitter Challenge responder

“Really cool to be able to show the girls where you are, which rock are you hiding behind? :) Get good rest for tomorrow.” –My sister

“Shouldn’t you be holding onto the rope not texting?” –My dad

“I just zoomed in to where you are with the aerial imagery. Yikes!” –Co-worker

“Wishing you tight ropes, solid footing and clear skies.” –Co-worker

“Great! I hope you had a good time, and I’m glad you’re on your way towards home because we miss you!” –My wife

DeLorme inReach & Earthmate PN-60w sending message on Grand Teton.

Grand Teton Climb MapShare showing climb from Saddle to Summit.

My only disappointment from the trip was minor, the message that I sent from the summit did not actually transmit. I was concerned about temperatures so I created a predefined message forgetting that the feature wasn’t fully implemented. The feature has since been completed but for this trip the track log and following picture from the summit will have to prove that I did stand on top of the Mountain… here is the text that I meant to send to all of you before coming back down:

“Standing on the summit of the Grand Teton, breathtaking! Thanks to Big City Mountaineers, Backpacker Magazine, and DeLorme for this amazing opportunity!”

Standing on the summit of the Grand Teton, breathtaking...

It truly was a breathtaking view and an amazing opportunity and I thank you all for letting me represent DeLorme and participate in this grand adventure!

Chip Noble
Team DeLorme

I hope that sharing this report to our management team helps explain why I’m confident that the two-way messaging capabilities of the DeLorme inReach are going to change the way we stay in touch on the trail and in the back country. It’s not just about sending messages anymore!

Chip Noble
Team DeLorme

13 Responses to Two-way text messaging from 14,000 feet

  1. Steve S. says:

    Freakin’ awesome! Thank-you so much for giving us the inside track with information about the inReach.

    I’m planning to pre-order this much anticipated device…and I notice that there seems to be two different versions: one for Android phones, and one for the PN-60w.

    Are there really differences between the inReach two models, and if so what are they? I could certainly see myself using a single inReach with multiple devices, as long as there were no compatiblity issues.

  2. Steve S, that’s great news that you’ll be pre-ordering the device. I know that you’ll enjoy the two-way capabilities. You’re correct in saying that there are two models. The Android model uses BlueTooth while the PN-60w model works with the 802.15.4 wireless chip. The two inReach models work exactly the same. They both have standalone features for tracking, three predefined messages, and SOS. When paired they both can send 160 character text messages and receive messages from your friends and family, as well as GEOS Search and Rescue.

    The only difference between the two systems has to do with the non-satellite communication features. The Android model displays a DeLorme Topographic map but does not have the full handheld GPS features that the PN-60w does. If you are looking for waypoints, tracks, and routes the PN-60w is still your best bet. It also offers a profile and compass page as well as Sun/Moon, Tides, and Hunt/Fish pages.

    If someone is looking for a great handheld GPS device with satellite communication capability I would point them to the PN-60w and inReach. If they are looking for satellite communication capability with basic mapping features for the Android phone I’d point them to the Android model of the inReach.

    Rainy day… long winded answer… sorry about that! Send me an e-mail when you get your inReach, I might have some tips and tricks for you to help get you started!

    Chip Noble
    Team DeLorme

  3. Oliver says:

    Awesome job with the blog; nice work! I’m looking into buying the InReach (initially to use in standalone mode) for my solo hiking & backcountry ski trips in the NE. When will it be available to purchase? Thank you.

  4. Richard Fitzgerald says:

    Pricing comparison:

    I have the cost of this trip PN-60W INReach Only

    189 tracking messages, 140 outgoing text, 40 incoming text.

    Safety $9.95/mo plan – $119/yr
    Total messaging charges for this trip:
    Including Free Messages in plan – $302.25
    Monthly Free Message Allowance Exceeded – $317.25

    Recreation Plan – $24.95/mo – $300/yr
    Total messaging charges for this trip – $70.00
    Monthly Free Message Allowance Exceeded – $90.00

    Expedition Plan – $49.99/mo – $600/yr
    Total messaging charges for this trip – $15.00
    Monthly Free Message Allowance Exceeded – $45.00

    ———————————————–

    Same cost using SPOT Connect for tracking/Outgoing Text
    InReach for Incoming Text Only

    InReach Safety $9.95/mo plan – $119/yr
    SPOT Connect $9.95/mo plan – $119/yr – $220/yr total

    Tracking and Outgoing text. @ 10¢ per text 500/text bundle. (IOS and Android)

    Total Messaging charges for this trip. 140 outgoing @ 10¢ $14.00
    Total Incoming Messaging charges. 40 Incoming InReach $60.00

    Total $74.00 and you have two emergency beacons.

    ————————————————-

    Globalstar Satellite phone – $19.95/mo unlimited calling (currently impaired service) and incoming (only) text messaging. (36 characters)

    Total $19.95/mo
    $240/yr

  5. Thanks for putting all of this together Richard, it’s an interesting comparison of the inReach and SPOT pricing plans.

    When making these comparisons I think it’s important to remember that the two systems really are only similar in their tracking capabilities. Using the Iridium satellite system the inReach delivers two-way, 160 character messages with delivery confirmation and global coverage. The SPOT delivers one-way, 42 character messages with no confirmation through the somewhat restricted Globalstar satellite system. Comparing the value of the two systems requires more discussion than just a straight dollar analysis.

    Having said that, I’d still like to talk through my billing for the Grand Teton climb. Since it was a very special climb for me I knew I was going to be sending a lot of messages to family, friends, and co-workers. I took advantage of the ability to move up and down in the pricing plans and selected the Expedition Plan, something I could have changed before or after my climb. DeLorme included this flexibility for special events and seasonal use to let people pick the plan that is right for their activity. I definitely wouldn’t send this many messages without bumping my message plan up to the Expedition Plan.

    With the Expedition Plan I paid $49.95 for the month and got unlimited SOS and Tracking. I got 120 messages included and paid $15 ($0.25 each) for the remaining 60 messages I sent during the climb. Since I wasn’t planning any other expeditions after the climb, I bumped my plan back down and paid the $25 fee to get back to the Recreation Plan.

    The big question is then, considering the importance of my Grand Teton climb, was the $65 in plan and overage fees worth it to have unlimited tracking and send 180 messages back and forth with my family, friends, and co-workers while they watched my climb play out on their map?

    Well, I’d say yes but then, you probably guessed that was what I was going to say.

    Not to get too detailed, but you notice I mentioned the 160 character versus 42 character message count difference. That’s quite significant for me since only three of my 16 favorite messages highlighted in this post are short enough to fit in a 42 character message.

    Thank you very much for the comment though Richard, it really is important for everyone to know exactly what the plans are and how the billing will work. We don’t want anyone to be surprised when they look at their monthly statement. We want them to see the value in each plan and manage their usage to best serve their needs.

    Chip Noble
    Team DeLorme

  6. Richard Fitzgerald says:

    Chip:

    Thanks for your reply.

    How does the upgrade plan work? Let’s say I have some friends who suddenly want to go on a trek early next week, but I am currently on the Safety Plan, but my billing cycle does not roll over until December 8th. So I need to upgrade to Expedition before my normal billing cycle roll over. Do you pro-rate the current billing cycle for the 2 weeks, and then move my billing cycle to the date of the upgrade to the higher plan, or do I pay for the full month? Can I upgrade on any date during a billing cycle? Or, do I have to suspend my trek until December 8th until my normal billing date arrives and I can then move up to the higher plan?

    How many days notice do I have to give to move the plan down before my physical billing cycle so I won’t get charged the higher price for an additional month?

    Also, I assume there is some sort of web management to defeat incoming text messages after a trek? Can you block texts from a specific person? As the sender, you are ultimately in control of sending text messages and their eventual cost. But, how do you police people who continue to text AFTER you are done with your trek. Don’t really want to be back on the Emergency Plan and turn on my InReach after a couple of weeks dormant, and have a bunch of texts in your back office queue starting to be delivered @$1.50/ea a coupe of weeks later? That would not be a pleasant phone call to your customer service department.

    Also, is the message fee a worldwide “flat fee”? Antarctica to Zimbabwe?

    So these are just follow on questions as to exactly how the billing will work, since you agree that it is important for everyone to understand exactly how the billing will work?

    Richard

  7. Richard Fitzgerald says:

    Another quick question on the 1 year contract. If I move to a higher plan (Expedition) or back down to a lower plan (Safety), does this require me to extend my contract for another year? Sorry to ask so many questions. But, anyone whom has a cell phone knows that when you make any changes, you have to recommit to a new full length contract. Most telecom providers have a Terms of Agreement, required by law, that details any “gotchas” that are part of the contract. We recently added some ISatPhone Pro’s to our rental inventory and the TOS document was like a book.

    Ultimately, we think that this is may be a good rental item for those who have that once a year “very special climb” and want a more, Interactive experience with their friends and family without the long term commitment. However, this is a very different animal than a satellite phone due to the way they operate. With our satellite phones, if you don’t know the incoming number, you don’t answer, and you don’t get billed. But, with a Text message based system like this, it appears to be a completely different ‘can of worms” and would require an extensive set of management tools on the incoming text side of the equation.

    Like you said, “I definitely wouldn’t send this many messages without bumping my message plan up to the Expedition Plan.”

    So yes, you can “self-manage” you outgoing messages, but how do you manage incoming messages? Can you totally restrict incoming text messages? Or set up “approved senders”?

    Richard

  8. Wow Richard… I’m not in the accounting department so I had to go over your post twice before starting this reply… I’d much rather you asked me tough questions about device use but here it is… and yes, I cheated by reading the billing rules, something customers will have access to when they sign up.

    At some point, before or after your trek with your friends and before the end of your billing cycle, bump up your plan to the Expedition plan. Your bill will be pro-rated at the Expedition rate for the remainder of that month and all of your overages prior to that date will be applied to the new Expedition values. Your following month will be charged at the Expedition rate when it comes around. So from your question… pro-rated for remainder of month and you can bump up at any time during the month.

    When you move down the lower monthly rate will apply for the next billing cycle and you will be charged a $25 fee. So from your question, you can move down any time during the month but it won’t take effect until the next month.

    We don’t have a white list/black list feature for web management. You control who has the ability to contact you by managing who you send messages to and who you give access to your MapShare page. People can’t e-mail your inReach device without going to a webpage so you don’t have to worry about someone getting your address and sending you messages. You can enable and disable your MapShare based on your activity. You can also let the friends and family you send messages to know that they should only message you when you’re on a trip or after you make first contact. I’ve been using the system for seven months now with design and testing and have only received two messages after my trip was finished and both of those were sent within hours of turning the inReach off. People don’t think of my inReach device as my primary contact info, they use it in response to a message I’ve sent them or when I send around a link to my MapShare.

    The fee is the same worldwide so schedule your international travel. Our world base map and aerial imagery are great for letting friends and family see your location.

    Thanks for the questions, I’m all for sharing the details…

    Chip Noble
    DeLorme

  9. Hey Richard… more good questions about the billing. Going up or down in your rate plan does not automatically extend your one year contract. At the end of your one year contract you will go to a month to month contract too, so that’s nice. There’s definitely complete documentation that will better explain how the plans work and I’d encourage you to review that should you sign up for the system.

    Like I said in my previous reply to your second billing comment, you control who can send you messages by being restrictive with who you send messages to with your device. People can’t send you messages without knowing your MapShare url or getting a message from you with the link to your map location and the reply options. I do not think you will find people frustrated by receiving messages from strangers.

    There’s no black list for messages although you can turn off the ability for your Map Share visitors to send you messages. This would let you send your Map Share to friends and family so that they can view your progress but the ability to send you messages would not be available. If you send a personal message to someone they will be able to reply to you.

    Thanks again for the questions Richard. I hope others picking up the details of our messaging plan by reading our discussion, you’ve asked a lot of good questions!

    Take care,
    Chip

  10. Richard Fitzgerald says:

    Chip:

    Thank you very much for those explanations, and that helps answer a lot of questions which I am sure others also have thought about. So your time is most appreciated.

    Earlier you said:

    “and yes, I cheated by reading the billing rules, something customers will have access to when they sign up”

    Can’t we see the “billing rules” before we sign up, without cheating?

    I think legally Delorme would have to clearly provide those rules before we buy the hardware on the Delorme web site. From a transparency stand point, I would think you would have them available on your web site for inspection? Perhaps they are, but I have been unable to locate them.

    SPOT clearly provides theirs under Terms and Conditions.

    http://findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=1700&action=showEntry&data=391

  11. Richard, by cheating I just meant that I didn’t have the billing rules memorized.

    You can see the Terms and Conditions here:

    https://account.delorme.com/Docs/DL_TCs_License.pdf

    The different plans are explained on our website here:

    http://shop.delorme.com/OA_HTML/DELibeCCtdItemDetail.jsp?item=31806&section=10820

    I’ll have to check at the office on Monday to see where the details of the plan change rules are. More later…

    Thanks,
    Chip

  12. Mike says:

    Any news on when/if the inReach will be available for iPhone?

  13. Congratulations! It must be wonderful to be able to do what you love the most and actually have company doing it – even if it is only via Twitter. You have a huge support group and I really think it is wonderful you have them at your back.

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