ZOLEO Improves SOS With Step By Step Updates

It’s spring and that means an update from ZOLEO is on its way. I got alerted across all my social channels this week on the news of the new Progressive SOS feature along with a system update for the ZOLEO device.

ZOLEO Progressive SOS Updates

The new Progressive SOS feature provides ongoing status updates when a SOS is triggered from a ZOLEO device.

Upon activating an SOS alert, ZOLEO users receive ongoing status updates throughout the incident via the free ZOLEO app and can exchange messages with the emergency response coordination center. This enhanced SOS experience offers ZOLEO users added peace of mind by providing:

Confirmation the SOS alert has been received by the 24/7 emergency response coordination service.

Verification the device users’ GPS coordinates have been sent.

One-touch access to chat with the emergency response coordination service.

A detailed log of events via the app.

Easy cancellation of the SOS alert should it no longer be needed, and confirmation the cancellation has been received.

ZOLEO Press release

Next time you spark up the ZOLEO and update the ZOLEO messaging app on your smartphone and tablet, you will be prompted to update the device firmware. After 10-15 min your device and smartphone should be ready to go if you ever need to use this new feature.

What To Expect In ZOLEO Messaging App?

For this specific feature we see some minor tweaks after updating the ZOLEO messaging app firmware update.

First thing you will see is that the SOS message group is now a deeper shade of RED and renamed ”Response Agent” instead of ”SOS”. Once you click into this message group, you’ll see a few more UI tweaks. Here you see the test SOS I ran last year with GEOS as I was working on the SOS video for ZOLEO which you can see below.

But what I like the most update this update is the new instructions / training screens that allows the user to know in more detail how to use the ZOLEO and what happens when they trigger a SOS or when the schedule a test with GEOS.

More About ZOLEO


How Does Iridium Satellite Communications Work When Using the Garmin inReach and Zoleo for Communicating With Family and Friends

With the increase in popularity of outdoor activities, Garmin and Zoleo have made it easier to stay connected with friends and family. Satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach mini and embedded products and Zoleo Satellite communicator can now send text messages, GPS locations, SOS alerts for emergencies, as well as tracking data from these devices back home to those who are concerned about them. However, there is a lot that goes into satellite communications technology before this type of device works properly. This blog post will outline how Iridium satellite communications work when using these types of devices so you can make an educated decision on whether or not they’re right for you!

Iridium Satellite Network

First thing is to know about the Iridium satellite network. The Iridium satellite constellation is a network of 66 low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 48 degrees north and south latitude, which means they are able to provide service to two-thirds of the globe. This also includes much of the polar regions where other satellite networks do not have coverage. This means that you can use satellite phone or text devices that use the Iridium network to communicate from anywhere around the globe except for these location:

  • The poles
  • Underwater
  • Inside a building or cave

The Iridium satellite network was designed for use in the most extreme environments and is the only satellite network that has coverage over both the North and South Poles. This also makes it an ideal choice for marine applications as well as other outdoor activities where cell phone service is limited or non-existent.

Obviously when using a satellite communication tool, your device needs a clear line of sight to the sky. Garmin InReach and ZOLO satellite devices both use the Iridium network.

For an emergency it is a great tool to have when you need help. This device allows you also both tracking and navigation even in remote areas, which makes this tools a must for hikers, climbers or mountain bikers that venture into the wilderness alone.

Another interesting feature worth mentioning of these devices is that they can be paired with your smartphone.

What Happens when you trigger a SOS?

Your emergency contacts will receive an email or text message with your GPS coordinates and a link to a tracking page where they can see your location in real-time. They will also be able to communicate with you through the two-way texting capability of the device. And, if help is on the way, they can follow your progress until you are in safety.

GEOS is the main emergency response monitoring service found on both Garmin inReach and ZOLEO. They have a team of highly trained professionals who are available 24/365 to coordinate emergency responders in your area.

If you’re ever lost, injured, or stranded and need assistance from GEOS, just push the SOS button on your device and help will be on the way.

Remember that an activated SOS is not only going to notify your emergency contacts, but GOES will also triage down to the local authorities.

Getting Weather Forecasts From inReach and ZOLEO

Both inReach and ZOLEO offer weather forecasts provided by DarkSky.

DarkSky is a weather forecasting service that provides hyper-localized forecasts for specific locations.

Their entire forecast system operates on an algorithm which calculates the local temperature, humidity levels, wind speeds and direction, pressure readings from multiple sources (including NOAA), cloud coverage percentages throughout the day, precipitation amounts/type over time as well as sun rise and an outlook over 3 to 5 days. DarkSky was purchased by Apple a dew years ago so it remains to be seen if they will continue to provide access to the API.

Sharing your location while hiking

Another feature of these devices is to allow your friends or family to track your progress by viewing your position on a map. This is done by sending an “I’m OK” message from the device which will include your location coordinates. You can also share your location with specific contacts for a period of time, or indefinitely. This can be helpful if you want someone to know where you are in case of an emergency.

Check Out Our Tutorials

Want to know more about inReach or ZOLEO? Just watch our short how-to tutorials.


inReach Mapshare versus ZOLEO Location Share+

In this video, I’ll be doing a deep dive comparison between the inReach Mapshare feature versus the Location Share+ feature on ZOLEO satellite communicator. I’ll be looking at the portal settings for both along with how each of the smartphone apps (Earthmate va ZOLEO) handles this functionality.

Mapshare vs Location Share+

Mapshare was a feature in the early days of inReach, back when it was Delorme, so much has changed since then. ZOLEO launched the location share+ feature in May 2021, leveraging the messaging app. There are a few approaches that Garmin & ZOLEO have made to make this feature work within their ecosystems.

The point of this feature on each device is to share your location while out in remote locations. Contacts can follow your progress based on update interval and able to send messages to you while in the field.

InReach Mapshare is essentially a public URL of the map page from the inReach portal. You can lock things down as per access be enabling a password, select how much of you track history to display and if people with the Mapshare URL can message you or find your location. The point here is that anyone with the URL can view your Mapshare page, so setting things right for you is important before you go.

ZOLEO on the other hand bundles the Location Share+ as an add-on feature that you can add to your monthly service plan when needed and it’s part of the check-in & SOS contacts section. You can specify up to 5 people to send location share+ information and they need to use the ZOLEO messaging app in order to receive the updates.

Both Mapshare & Location Share+ has a feature to not send updates to your location if you have not moved. This is very useful when you are progressing at a slower pace and stopping for lunch or other pauses, the contact viewing your updates can see from the messaging app when was the last time you moved, as compared to Mapshare where it’s not very clear unless you do some math during the time intervals.

Since ZOLEO Location Share+ updates are to specific people with the app, your updates will be seen in the respective message ballon of the app. So the person can send you app to app messages and flip over to see your location updates.

Mapshare URL is generic, so even if you share your Mapshare link with a contact, they will either get a email or SMS which directs you to the Mapshare site and if the options are enabled the person on the other end can send you a sms or email by providing their contact details.

Both use similar intervals as to when to send the updates from 6 min to 4 hours. InReach interval default is 10 min while ZOLEO default is 1 hour, but you can set it to 12 min to get close to inreach.

Social Sharing on your progress either via twitter or Facebook is only possible with Mapshare. I’ll be hones to say that this was a big feature I used a lot when I was using inReach but with ZOLEO and not wanting to share everything about my hike to the public, the social share isn’t as important to me and I don’t miss it on the ZOLEO.


Garmin inReach versus ZOLEO Messaging Types

In this video, I’ll expand on a question I got recently which was if it was possible to send messages from a Garmin inReach to a ZOLEO satellite messenger? The answer is yes, but in this video I’ll expand on this to send messages between both devices and see the differences when sending SMS, email and app to app messages.

I’ll be using the Earthmate app with a Garmin Explorer+ and the ZOLEO messaging app on an iPhone. You’ll be able to do the same using an Android phone.



Both devices uses the iridium satellite network for sending messages. The ZOLEO has the added benefit of being able to send and receive messages when your paired smartphone or tablet has access to cellular or wifi. Meaning that when they are available messages sent doesn’t count against your service plan as opposed to inReach where all messages are sent via the iridium satellites.


This is the most basic type of message that both inReach and ZOLEO supports over the iridium network. Both will send messages up to 160 characters in length. Sending a SMS to your ZOLEO is easy as each activated devices is given a DEDICATED SMS number. inReach recycles SMS numbers, so it is hard to initiate a message to an inReach without having the inReach user send the person a message first and then reply to that message thread.


The next type of message available on both inReach and ZOLEO is sending a message to an email address. inReach agains caps the message length to 160 characters while ZOLEO offers over 200 characters. inReach has this message type hobbled as it directs the email message via a no-reply email address and the receiver of the message cannot reply unless they go to a webpage. ZOLEO on the other hand can send emails to any email address and users can reply back and forth just like any other client because ZOLEO also gives you a DEDICATED EMAIL address for each activated device.


Both inReach and ZOLEO users can send internal messages to themselves. inReach users are given an internal email address which must be shared. Again 160 characters length messages for this type. ZOLEO offers over 1000 characters for internal messages and the ability to send messages to users who don’t own a ZOLEO device. Simply get people to download the ZOLEO messaging app just like any messaging app and you’ll be able to send these extra long messages. ZOLEO knows if a SMS number is also registered using the ZOLEO app and will change the character length on the fly from 160 to over 1000.


An un-official message type is weather forecast, both provided by DARK SKY (purchased by Apple in 2019). inReach can request weather from multiple location, while ZOLEO only has the single location. However ZOLEO can request free weather when cellular & Wifi is available. inReach can only get weather via satellites.


Both inReach and ZOLEO can do Check-in and SOS from the device or the smartphone app. SOS monitoring is performed by GEOS (purchased by Garmin in 2021) for both inReach and ZOLEO.


What To Consider When Buying inReach vs ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

If you’ve poked around the website over the past 8 years, you would have seen my many posts about the Delorme (now Garmin) inReach satellite communicator device. This was a 2-way communicator mainly geared towards the outdoorsy people. Over the years the technology was slowly moving towards an all-in-one GPS + Satellite communicator.

However, over time I’ve been receiving feedback that the main drawback of trying to go full inReach is that most of the time people don’t want to get yet another GPS device or unable to use their Garmin maps on the new device.

Another drawback is the cost of buying a new device that is essentially used for text messaging and with the use of smartphones, you are working between two ecosystems. Another problem is that the SMS number assigned to you would rotate so that you are constantly telling your contacts to expect a text from an odd number. On top of that, the messages you exchange on stuck on the device and not on your smartphone.

Three Things To Consider When Buying inReach vs ZOLEO

  • Year round usage vs part-time usage
  • All-in-One Device vs Standalone
  • Locked into Garmin Ecosystem vs Flexibility
  • 12 Month Total Cost of Ownership (Device + service plans + fees)

Year Round vs Part-Time Usage

This is a simple criterion: how often will you be outside of cellular or wifi coverage? Depending on your job or interests, you might be out in remote locations every week or have an employer willing to pay for a monthly subscription. In which case annuals plans make a lot of sense. However, for the average person out there, having month to month flexibility is important.

Both providers (although they do not promote this) offer a safety plan where you don’t have to terminate a subscription plan, but rather put the device on ice. Kinda like when you have a satellite dish at the cottage and only use it during the summer, otherwise there is a “winter plan”. When you need to for those few weeks during the summer or fall it’s there and you can easily move from plans rather than paying for the fees to disconnect & reconnect the devices.

My recommendation is to go monthly but put the device on the safety plan and flip it via the portal to the middle or top tier plan for the month that you are out. Once the month is past, switch it back to the level you are comfortable with. For ZOLEO this makes a lot of sense as your dedicated SMS number & email won’t recycle. InReach is not much of an issue because you don’t have those dedicated items.

If you are going to be using this service full-time, then it makes sense to have an annual plan. However, consider those slow months where you won’t be out as often in the field and stuck at the office.

All-In-One vs Standalone Device

Who does not like having everything under one device? We’re talking about GPS functions + satellite communications. There’s a lot to like about this setup. However, consider the following:

  • What activities will you be doing?
  • What about your current GPS & Custom maps?
  • Do you want to pay that much money?

If you are driving off-road vehicles most of the time, then you’d want one of the large screen devices, but what about if you want to go hiking? Are you going to carry a 5 or 7-inch screen in your hand as there is no hiking accessory for it?

Another point, what about your current GPS? Do you need to upgrade? Does your job require using specific devices? Are there any customize maps or other criteria that you need to use your current GPS? If yes, then you may not want an all-in-one. GPS devices are meant to last a few years, unlike smartphones where we expect to upgrade them every 2-3 years.

Another downside about the all-in-one is the price tag: they are EXPENSIVE.

The alternative is a standalone device that you can use Bluetooth and pair to either your smartphone or GPS device. Standalone devices are my preference as a satellite communicator is usually clipped to your backpack or mounted and you can either use your smartphone or compatible GPS device to consult maps, send a message, check-ins, etc.. Standalone also has the advantage of you doing check-ins or SOS without the paired device. Meaning that if your satellite communicator is secured on your backpack or vehicle and you somehow damage your handheld unit via drop or other accident, then you are still covered.

Garmin Ecosystem Or Have Flexibility

This last point is your ability to do everything within an ecosystem. Going with inReach means that you will have to use Garmin products and software. As history has shown, the software has been the lagging side of Garmin. Choosing ZOLEO for example only means using the ZOLEO messaging app for messages, check-ins, SOS and weather. If you have preferences to use other mapping products like GaiaGPS or any other software that you can use with your GPS then you can accomplish a bit more in my opinion.

Those are the problems that ZOLEO are attempting to solve with their new satellite communicator and associated smartphone app:

  • Unified messaging app to send sms or email messages across cellular, wifi or the iridium satellites based on the best option.
  • Offline messaging in wifi (when the device is off)
  • Dedicated SMS number & email until you unsubscribe from the service (like when you are selling the device)
  • Check-in, Weather & SOS functions found on inReach using iridium satellites

Cost Of Ownership

I did a quick Cost-Of-Ownership compare table to show the difference between the ZOLEO, inReach and SPOT which are the main competitors in this space (at least in North America).

For service plan between the three, I selected the middle plan and plotted out 12 months. Prices are in USD$ and updated as of July 2021.

Buy ZOLEO online via Roadpost here.

FeatureZOLEO + In Touch planGarmin inReach + Recreation planSPOT + Advanced plan
Device Price$199.99$349.99 (iR mini)
$399.99 (Explorer+)
$599.99 (GPSMAP 66i)
$699.99 (Montana 700i)
$249.99 (Spot X)
12 month subscription$420.00 ($35/month)$299.40 ($24.95/month annual)
$419.4 (34.95/month freedom plan)
$239.40 ($19.95/month annual plan)
$359.40 ($24.95/monthly plan)
Activation fee$20.00$19.95 + (29.95 or 34.95 annual fee)$19.95 + (24.95 annual fee on monthly contract)
Suspend Service?✅($4/month after 3 months)✅(1 month free, then auto-resumes)
Weather via Darksky
Dedicated SMS & email address
✅Montana 700i
❌iR mini
IP ratingIP68IPX7IP67
Battery life200hrs90hrs (mini)
100hrs (Explorer+)
35hrs (GPSMAP66i)
18hrs (Montana 700i)
Message Allocation25040100
Message Overage fee$0.25/ea$0.50/ea$0.25/ea
Add-ons$6/month (Location share+)
12 Month TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP$639.99$699.99 (mini w/ annual)
$824.29 (mini w/ freedom)
$749.29 (Explorer+ w/annual)
$874.29 (Explorer+ w/freedom)
$949.29 (GPSMAP66i w/ annual)
$1074.29 (GPSMAP66i w/ freedom)
$1049.29 (Montana 700i w/ annual)
$1174.29 (Montana 700i w/ freedom)
$534.29 (annual plan)
$654.29 (monthly plan)

Learn more about ZOLEO here:

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