Garmin InReach+ data plans: Garmin Vs. ProteGear

Have you bought a brand new Garmin InReach+ or another 2-way communication satellite device for you next adventures? Do you know there is an opponent to the Garmin market about the services plan they offer and that, probably, it worth the value? Keep reading….

I bought some weeks ago a brand new Garmin InReach+ Explorer device for my next trip to Africa and, reading a lot in the jungle of forums available on the web, I discovered that Garmin is not the only provider for the satellite communication based on Iridium out there.

The Iridium satellite constellation provides L-band voice and data coverage to satellite phones, pagers and integrated transceivers over the entire earth surface. Iridium Communications, originally developed by  Motorola and conceived in the early 1990s, owns and operates the constellation, additionally selling equipment and access to its services. The constellation consists of 66 active satellites in orbit required for global coverage and additional spare satellites to serve in case of failure. Satellites are in low earth orbit at a height of approximately 781 km ; orbital velocity of the satellites is approximately 27.000 km/h.

Who got into the business?

ProteGear is a company located south of Germany which offers many satellite-linked services like the one for the gps/security-beacon devices as the InReach+ (Garmin or DeLorme), Spot and actually all the ones that operate through Iridium and GEOS Search & Rescue. Their range of services stands out in the market providing more specific additional features like the dead-man switch ( SOS is automatically operated if the human operator becomes incapacitated, such as through death, loss of consciousness, or being bodily removed from control), a settable altitude limit, dangerous zones, drifting limits (open sea), geofence, crash alert, avalanches, low battery etc..

Situations which, when the position goes out of the limits you configured, trigger the SOS or send preset help messages based on the escalation of the situation.

The Smart Safety option (Global SafeTrack Systems)

As anticipated before, one of the most useful features of ProteGear is the Smart Safety (that comes as an option at a “ridiculous” price of € 9,95 per month); this service makes ProteGear wins hands-down versus Garmin, placing the company in an operational range way larger and structured than the famous brand, becoming definitely more actractive and usable for consumers who step into hard expeditions and extreme sports such as paragliding, hanggliding, air sports, water sports, mountain sports..and even for lone workers, rangers, guides..

The Smart Safety applies to multiple devices too, allowing to track and monitor them in real-timewith “full informations”, so you can see statistics of the current session, with states, notifications, speed, altitudes and more. You can also initiate manual rescue navigation without the need to be online: all alarms will be sent automatically by SMS, email, API and rescue navigation to standard rescue facilities or your individual rescue chain, friends or team.

Let’s get into the comparison

Available informations on the Garmin web-page are not so exhaustive as the ProteGear ones, even if actually this last is a little bit confusing and not properly “user-friendly”.

Garmin is leader in the gps market and, after buying since a few time the DeLorme company which had originally developed the InReach+ and after re-designing it to be more attractive (but with a concrete step up in the final price), it fully stepped into the satellite communication market. The amount of clients can only grow up and its 40 years history marketing is definitely stronger than ProteGear.

Anyway, after having spent some hours in comparing the two business and their relative services trying to keep them on parallel lines to don’t misjudge and, with great success, after having had many chats with ProteGear technical service and customer care through their chat available on the web-page, I ended up to a conclusion: I decided to opt for and give my trust to ProteGear.

My conclusion is definitely subjective but based on a solid objective ground and a bit of “will of adventure” and to discover a new company growing up with great potentials.

How do I compared the two services

First of all, I rawly compared the main features without drawing conclusions: I just placed side by side the common features advertised on both the web-pages and then merged everything into a single schedule.

After, I got deeper in analyzing and comparing the two main data plans of each company to be able then to evaluate rationally which one to choose from a practical side, based on three different cases: a short medium risk trip, a large low to medium risk trip and a short risky trip.

First generic comparison

As anticipated, in the first comparison I just placed side by side the common features advertised on both the web-pages and then merged into a single schedule; here the results :

Comparison 1 - ProteGear Vs. Garmin
 ProteGearGarmin InReach
Usage area100% global100% global
Shortest activation periodPer year / month / week / day (B2B)Per year / month
Shortest tracking interval30”2'
GEOS & rescue coordinationinclusiveinclusive
Explorer+Mapsall maps availableonly Europe + Northern Africa
SMS
inclusiveinclusive
Email send & receiveinclusivesend directly, response only by website
Real Email-address per deviceinclusiven/a
Team Trackingavailable, needs?more data volumeonly in enterprise
Smart Safetyavailable as an extran/a
Rescue Navigationincluded in SmartSafety?n/a
inreach.garmin.com & MapShareinclusiveinclusive
EarthMate App (iOS & Android)inclusiveinclusive
TripShare / TripViewinclusivenot available
REST APIavailable on demandonly in enterprise
Tracking position messages1=1 messageunlimited

ProteGear

– pros: weekly and monthly subscription, entire world maps, real-email address (with Garmin, people have to write/anwer you through the web page), smart safety available as an extra

– cons: limited tracking position messages subtracted from the total ones

Garmin

– pros: unlimited tracking position messages

– cons: missing of a weekly subscription, Europe and north-Africa maps, messages answer and mails only through the inreach webpage, no optional similar to the ProteGear Smart Safety available

Neutral

– the 30″ tracking option available for ProteGear would be a great advantage for short and extreme part of the trip if it wouldn’t sucks the battery and the amount of available messages in a few time. It’s even true that the system itself can be setted up to automatically switch to an 8hrs tracking if not moving out of a fixed range (let’s say 100 meters).

In this first comparison it seems that ProteGear wins hands down even if Garmin has the solidity of its name by its side, with a feature like the unlimited tracking position messages that can make a big difference depending on the use; having a limited amount of them can take a user to dilate the range of pin-pointing the position trading his safety for some euros more on the bill..

Anyway, for this first comparison I would go for:

ProteGear 1 – Garmin 0

Second comparison – detailed data plans

As already said, in the second comparison I went deeper into the data plans selecting the most similars and the more attractive for a common user. What did I get? Look at the schedule:

Comparison 2 - ProteGear Vs. Garmin
 ProteGearProteGearGarminGarmin
Freedom 500Freedom 800Freedom RecreationFreedom Expedition
SOSUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Text message50080040Unlimited
Max char 1 message5050160160
UpgradeFreeFreeFreeFree
Stand-by€ 5,95€ 5,95€ 4,00€ 4,00
Weather infosFreeFree1 messageUnlimited
Track Interval10'->8hr30”->8hr10'+10'+
Pinpoint tracking1 msg1 msgUnlimitedUnlimited
Extra message€ 0,10€ 0,10€ 0,650
Una tantum activation€ 29,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly Price€ 37,95€ 45,95€ 44,99€ 79,99

ProteGear

– pros: selectable tracking interval starts from 30″ against the 2′ of Garmin. It’s also too much for a common user, even if in an expedition or while doing some extreme sport…: it might have sense for extremly dangerous sections such as in mountaineering at high altitudes etc..

– pros: another pro of ProteGear, the price of 0,10€ for every extra message out of the data plan compared to the 0,65€ of Garmin. It’s even true that with ProteGear is easier to get into this problem than with Garmin

– cons: 500/800 messages, even if not unlimited, are anyway a good data bundle; a sat device should be used only in case of emergency or to maintain a contact when no net is available. If we agree in 8 messages per day (in between sent and received), in a month we would fire 240 messages getting respectively 260/560 still available. Real problem of ProteGear are two: the limit of just 50 chars for every message (a policy probably based also to keep the spirit of these kind of devices that actually are not smrtphones..) and, mainly, the fact that every tracking position message discount 1 message. This is the real shame because, even if the system itself can be setted up to automatically to switch to an 8hrs tracking if not moving out of a fixed range (let’s say 100 meters), in case of constant moving (hiking, sailing, auto, moto..) and tracking at, let’s say, 10′..in 6 hours 36 messages would be lost; in a week, an average of 240 messages (plus, the ones sent and received).

Garmin

– pros: in terms of messages, Garmin wins. Expedition data bundle even gives an unlimited amount of them. Messages are of 160 chars (against 50 of ProteGear) and, mainly, are independents from the tracking position ones.

Neutral:

– price of the stand-by months is slightly cheaper with Garmin but ProteGear compensate with the monthly fee, the una-tantum and the cost to change plan.

Let’s talk about prices

I didn’t talk about prices in the previous pros/cons part because there are several variables that can influence the judge, not only the mere sum. It’s clear that ProteGear actually has better prices but the best way to make a judgment, in my opinion, is through a comparison of real possible scenarios.

Possible scenarios:

1 trip per year with the remaining months in standby (1 activation, 11/10 standby)

Case 1

Traveller profile: low to medium risk

Travel duration: 12 days

Example: a trip around Kenya with a 4×4 and with/without a guide, safaris etc..

Case 2

Traveller profile: low to medium risk

Travel duration: 60 days

Example: a trip to New Zeland north to south with a motorhome, trekking, hiking, stopping wherever..

3 trip per year with the remaining months in standby (3 activations, 9 standby)

Case 3

Traveller profile: high risk

Travel duration: 15 days, 2 of which demanding with a high risk component for 7 hours/day

Example: a mountaineer hiking to the base camp and then climbing above glaciers to the top and down for 2 days. He travel 3 times a year.

Cost-benefit analysis case 1

 ProteGear Freedom 500ProteGear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 29,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 37,95€ 45,95€ 44,99€ 79,99
Stand-by€ 65,45€ 65,45€ 44,00€ 44,00
Total cost€ 132,40€ 140,40€ 113,98€ 148,98
Msgs used4604604040
Msgs left403400unlimited

Stand-by=monthly stand-by fee x 11 months

Msgs used= estimate of:

6 hrs/day x 10′ tracking = 36 msgs

2 hrs/day x 30′ tracking = 4 msgs

16 hrs/day x 8hr tracking = 2 msgs

4 messages received / day = 4 msgs – Tot. 46 x 10 days = 460 msgs

* Tracking messages doesn’t apply to Garmin because are unimited

* Messages sent and received (2 way communication): I estimated 4 messages sent and 4 received for a total of 8 messages; due the fact that, for both Garmin and ProteGear, preset messages doesn’t count, just 4 are to be count (for both of 160 chars).

* I removed from the count 2 days (as travel days)

As you can see, if we were going to rank them, we would obtain:

By messages

1- Garmin Freedom Expedition

2- ProteGear Freedom 800

3- Protegear Freedom 500

4- Garmin Freedom Recreation

By price

1- Garmin Freedom Recreation

2- ProteGear Freedom 500

3- ProteGear Freedom 800

4- Garmin Freedom Expedition

Merging everything:

Overall case 1

1- ProteGear Freedom 800

2- Garmin Freedom Recreation

3- Garmin Freedom Expedition

4- ProteGear Freedom 500

Cost-benefit analysis case 2


ProteGear Freedom 500Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 29,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 75,90€ 91,90€ 89,98€ 159,98
Stand-by€ 59,50€ 59,50€ 40,00€ 40,00
Total cost€ 164,40€ 180,40€ 154,97€ 0,00
Msgs used17001700200200
Msgs left-700-100-120unlimited
Extra msgs€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,65 /cad.unlimited
Extra cost€ 70,00€ 10,00€ 78,00unlimited
Total cost€ 234,40€ 190,40€ 232,97€ 224,97

Stand-by=monthly stand-by fee x 10 months

Msgs used= estimate of:

3 hrs/day x 10′ tracking = 18 msgs

5 hrs/day x 30′ tracking = 10 msgs

16 hrs/day x 8hr tracking = 2 msgs

4 messages received / day = 4 msgs – Tot. 34 x 50 days = 1.700 msgs

* Tracking messages doesn’t apply to Garmin because are unimited

* Messages sent and received (2 way communication): I estimated 4 messages sent and 4 received for a total of 8 messages; due the fact that, for both Garmin and ProteGear, preset messages doesn’t count, just 4 are to be count (for both of 160 chars).

* I removed from the count 2 days (as travel days) and other 8 as a “rest week” with no need of tracking.

As you can see, if we were going to rank them, we would obtain:

By messages

1- Garmin Freedom Expedition

2- ProteGear Freedom 800

3- Protegear Freedom 500

4- Garmin Freedom Recreation

By price

1- ProteGear Freedom 800

2- Garmin Freedom Expedition

3- Garmin Freedom Recreation

4- Protegear Freedom 500

Merging everything:

Overall case 1

1- ProteGear Freedom 800

2- Garmin Freedom Expedition

3- Garmin Freedom Recreation

4- ProteGear Freedom 500

Cost-benefit analysis case 3


ProteGear Freedom 500Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 29,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 113,85€ 137,85€ 134,97€ 239,97
Stand-by€ 53,55€ 53,55€ 36,00€ 36,00
Total cost€ 196,40€ 220,40€ 195,96€ 300,96
Msgs used20222022156156
Msgs left-522378-36unlimited
Extra msgs€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,65 /cad.unlimited
Extra cost€ 52,20€ 0,00€ 23,40unlimited
Total cost€ 248,60€ 220,40€ 219,36€ 300,96

Stand-by=monthly stand-by fee x 9 months

Msgs used= estimate of:

7 hrs/day x 2′ tracking x 2 days = 420 msgs

16 hrs/day x 8hr tracking x 2 days = 4 msgs

8 hrs/day x 30′ tracking x 11 days = 176 msgs

16 hrs/day x 8hr tracking x 11 days = 22 msgs

4 messages received / day x 13 days= 52msgs – = 674 msgs x 3 = 2.022 msgs

* Tracking messages doesn’t apply to Garmin because are unimited

* Messages sent and received (2 way communication): I estimated 4 messages sent and 4 received for a total of 8 messages; due the fact that, for both Garmin and ProteGear, preset messages doesn’t count, just 4 are to be count (for both of 160 chars).

* I removed from the count 2 days (as travel days).

As you can see, if we were going to rank them, we would obtain:

By messages

1- ProteGear Freedom 800

2- Garmin Freedom Recreation

3- ProteGear Freedom 500

4- Garmin Freedom Expedition

By price

1- Garmin Freedom Recreation

2- ProteGear Freedom 800

3- Protegear Freedom 500

4- Garmin Freedom Expedition

Merging everything:

Overall case 1

1- ProteGear Freedom 800

2- Garmin Freedom Recreation

3- ProteGear Freedom 500

4- Garmin Freedom Expedition

Final analysis

How the device is used does the difference, that’s clear.. so each user have to make his calculations. By the way, what is evident is that ProteGear won in every scenario even if Garmin still can be of course a good option in trips and expeditions where a lot of tracking points and/or messages are needed.

Now, it’s up to you to modify the schedules above and calculate your cost-benefit, to be able then to decide what’s the best for you.

Another point to ProteGear goes to its technical service and customer care way more fast and present than Garmin; the guys there are really “on-air” via chat and via mail to solve every problem for you.

To conclude, the new ProteGear option “Safety Smart” for just € 9,95 per month with an infinite potential for every kind of trip give it all.

The new ProteGear option: Week 150

Since a few time it came up on the market a new weekly data plan, comparable to a Freedom 600: it’s called Week 150 and includes 150 unit-messages per week.

Let’s have a look:

 ProteGear Week 150
Active data plan per week€ 9,95
Standby-time€ 0,00
Basic Fee€ 79,00 / year
Change to and from stand-by modefree of charge, every day possible
One-time activation fee€ 0,00
SOS-Message (incl. GEOS Connection)Unlimited
Earthmate-App Navigation (iOS & Android)Included
ProteGear GlobalMail (unique email-adress per device)Activation included
Usage per email: 50 chars = 1 unit
Optional: ProteGear WeatherInfofree of charge / 4 message units needed
Included message units (Email, SMS send & receive, presets or each 50 chars) / track points150 per week
(complies with Freedom 600/month)
Tracking-intervals (shorter intervals consume more datas and battery)starting with 2 minutes, 5 , 10 ... up to 8 hours.
Overage fees per unit€ 0,10
Optional: ProteGear SmartSafety 
with automatic dead-man switch€3,95 / week (+ SMS-alarms)

If we were going to make another comparison, in example, for case 1

Cost-benefit analysis case 1 / Weekly


ProteGear Week 150Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 79,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 19,90€ 45,95€ 44,99€ 79,99
Stand-by€ 65,45€ 65,45€ 44,00€ 44,00
Total cost€ 164,35€ 140,40€ 113,98€ 148,98
Msgs used4604604040
Msgs left-1603400unlimited
Extra cost€ 16,00€ 0,00€ 0,00unlimited
Total cost€ 180,35€ 140,40€ 113,98€ 148,98

As you can see, the Week 150 rate is not a good option for a traveller such the one of case 1.

Cost-benefit analysis case 3 / Weekly


ProteGear
Week 150
Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 79,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 59,70€ 137,85€ 134,97€ 239,97
Stand-by€ 53,55€ 53,55€ 36,00€ 36,00
Total cost€ 192,25€ 220,40€ 195,96€ 300,96
Msgs used20222022156156
Msgs left-1122378-36unlimited
Extra msgs€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,65 /cad.unlimited
Extra cost€ 112,20€ 0,00€ 23,40unlimited
Total cost€ 304,45€ 220,40€ 219,36€ 300,96

Yet again, the Weel 150 is not a valid option

So when can be a good choice to go for the Week 150?

Let’s suppose to do, for work or pleisure, one week every two months at the same conditions as the previous case 1.

Every 2 monthsProteGear Week 150Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 79,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 59,70€ 275,70€ 269,94€ 479,94
Stand-by€ 35,70€ 35,70€ 24,00€ 24,00
Total cost€ 174,40€ 340,40€ 318,93€ 528,93
Msgs used13801380120120
Msgs left-4803420120unlimited
Extra msgs€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,65 /cad.unlimited
Extra cost€ 48,00€ 0,00€ 0,00unlimited
Total cost€ 222,40€ 340,40€ 318,93€ 528,93

MonthlyProteGear Week 150Protegear Freedom 800Garmin Freedom RecreationGarmin Freedom Expedition
Yearly fee€ 79,00€ 29,00€ 24,99€ 24,99
Monthly fee€ 119,40€ 551,40€ 539,88€ 959,88
Stand-by€ 0,00€ 0,00€ 0,00€ 0,00
Total cost€ 198,40€ 580,40€ 564,87€ 984,87
Msgs used27602760240240
Msgs left-9606840240unlimited
Extra msgs€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,10 /cad.€ 0,65 /cad.unlimited
Extra cost€ 96,00€ 0,00€ 0,00unlimited
Total cost€ 294,40€ 580,40€ 564,87€ 984,87

Here we are: it’s a good option in case of a user that monthly or every two months does, let’s say, hiking with the need of being tracked for a couple of days a week.

GEOS insurance

Key: probably the most important thing to value after the decision to contract a satellitar service with a “search & rescue” option (that is, 2 way communications or just personal beacons), is an insurance that cover all the costs of it… like the ones that directly GEOS offers and that is possible to contract and set-up even through ProteGear.

You got stuck in the middle of the ocean, lost in the jungle or injured seriously while climbing to a peak…just press the SOS button: the automatic mechanism that start to save your …..life….., is made of several persons, helicopters, planes, special teams etc… and the entire system has big costs.

With just about $17.95 or $29.95 you can get a SAR50 or SAR100 individual membership to GEOS insurance thatcovers members for up to $100,000 in unpaid search and rescue related expenses per year, for as many incident that occur up to the maximum coverage of $100,000 (an average SAR operation can easily costs € 50-70.000 …).

Final conclusions

Both the companies offer top level services: Garmin has a respectful historial and seriety, ProteGear has hunger for growth and development while offering competitive services and prices.

Personally, I had a great feeling while chatting with ProteGear via chat and mail that I decided to opt for a Freedom 800 for my next trip to Uganda.. (wanna plan a trip to Uganda? Look how to do and what to see here and what to take with you here!)

And you? Made up your mind yet?

If this article helped you in some way, well…let me know, comment… and if not, still let me know, comment…

Good Safari!

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