Garmin inReach Messenger VS ZOLEO Deep Dive Messaging

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In this first deep dive comparison between the Garmin inReach Messenger and the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator is the primary function both units try to improve on; messaging experience. We’ll be focusing on the messaging functions on both smartphone apps.

How ZOLEO Introduced Messaging Flexibility

Before we start our deep dive, lets go back to what made the ZOLEO very interesting alternative to other Iridium Satellite devices; the focus on messaging.

ZOLEO at launch almost three years ago offered vast improvements on how messaging should work and not be tied to the device only. So they did a few new things to make the ZOLEO messaging app more like any other messaging app you have on your smartphone.

Garmin Messenger app
ZOLEO app

ZOLEO Provides Dedicated SMS number And Email

The main driver of the flexibility is upon activation of your ZOLEO device, you are given dedicated SMS number and ZOLEO email address. Why is this a big deal? Well these are two items that are not dedicated on the Garmin inReach architecture at this point.

Garmin inReach sms numbers are recycled and the device email address is meant only for device to device messaging. Meaning that you cannot have your contacts initiate a message to you unless they already have an inReach device activated. So you as part of your planning, you need to send messages via your inReach before you leave for your trip so that your contacts can message you, most times this step is easily forgotten or you don’t update the contacts on the inReach device.

Sending Messages From Cheapest to Most Expensive

ZOLEO also introduced the concept of sending messages over whichever network the paired cell phone had access to from cheapest to most expensive. This meant that your ZOLEO device wasn’t necessary to continue your conversations with contacts as the app would try to send over wifi, cellular and finally over the Iridium network in that order. Only messages sent over the Iridium network would count against your subscription plan.

Garmin inReach Messenger emulates this functionality in their Garmin Messenger smartphone app.

Garmin Messenger sent this over wifi or cellular based on message type

ZOLEO app shows a satellite icon when it sends it over the Iridium Network

ZOLEO Send More Characters Over Email or App To App

Messages sent to SMS numbers can be up to 160 characters in length that both ZOLEO and Garmin inReach can do easily.

When sending a message to an email address we see that ZOLEO can handle well over 200 characters while inReach Messenger still sends 160 characters on top of making the recipient click through a web form to reply. ZOLEO messages sent to an email address can be replied to by any mail client as a reply as any other email.

This leaves us with the final message type; App to App. This is where your contacts can download the ZOLEO messaging app or Garmin Messenger app and create an account without a device.

For ZOLEO users this is very useful as the number of characters sent is close to 1000 characters. Got inReach Messenger, you are still at 160 characters. ZOLEO app users have the added bonus of being able to see the Location Share+ tracking points but we’ll keep that for later.

Garmin requires you to reply to an email message via a webform
ZOLEO email messages can be replied from any email client

Leverage Your Smartphone Contact List

The benefit of ZOLEO messaging app or Garmin Messenger app is the ability to use your smartphone contact list to send a message. Garmin inReach users can still maintain a contact list that is stored on the device itself along with check-in & SOS contacts. ZOLEO on the other hand just maintains check-oil and SOS.

Garmin Messenger Contact Options
ZOLEO Contact List

Verdict- ZOLEO app Offers Better Messaging Experience Than Garmin Messenger

Garmin comes very close to match ZOLEO messaging features but until they solve the sms number, email address and message length issue, ZOLEO still leads in this area.

Messaging FeatureZOLEOGarmin
inReach Messenger
Dedicated SMS number
Dedicated email address✅ (Internal only)
SMS messages up to 160 Chars
email messages over 200 char
app to app messages over 1000 char
email reply via mail client
Smartphone contact list access
Device only contacts

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By Jim Cyr

Exploring Nova Scotia with a constellation of satellites to guide me along the way. Producing hiking, outdoors, local drink & food videos, you can find Jim's contributions on novascotiablogs.com and a few other places. Jim carries a ZOLEO Satellite Communicator for all of his outdoor adventures.

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