The Spot Connect is a terrific product but there are a few areas where the system could be significantly improved. The first is the website user interface, which could do with some serious user experience design work. For example, adding a contact and including dashes in the phone number or too few numbers or entering an invalid email address produces the error message "The phone email has an invalid format," which is just lame. Also, the service doesn't recognize Google Voice accounts as being capable of receiving SMS messages! Come on! Really?
But much more disappointing are the smartphone apps. Available for Android and iOS (though not with an iPad-scaled interface), these apps have a "beta" engineering feel about them. I couldn't get the Android version to run reliably on a Samsung Galaxy S (which runs what is, admittedly, a pretty crappy fork of Android) without it locking up.
On an iPod Touch the software ran better but you have to enable the Bluetooth connection using the Settings applet despite the app apparently offering to handle this. If the Bluetooth connection isn't enabled when the app starts it will hang up. D'oh.
Oh, and the error message -- "due to an Internet problem syncing is failed" -- I got on the Android app is just pathetic. I can only assume the Spot Connect doesn't actually have a product manager.
So, let's bottom line this puppy: It's an excellent idea with some rough edges but there's nothing like it. And if you are going off the beaten track, it could be invaluable. Priced at around $150 with basic annual service at $99, I'll give the Spot Connect a rating of 4 out of 5.
Gibbs is located in Ventura, Calif. Your fix to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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