In-Depth Review: Motorola Defy Satellite Link

The range of satellite communication devices for adventure travelers increasingly focuses on smartphone technology. Last year, Apple added satellite capabilities to the iPhone 14, and Qualcomm is readying its Snapdragon Satellite service.

Joining these, Motorola recently released the Motorola Defy Satellite Link. This palm-sized device pairs with an Android or iOS app via Bluetooth to allow two-way messaging and emergency calling capabilities. The Link is designed and manufactured by the Bullitt Group in the UK, who are known for producing the CAT and Land Rover tough phones.

Over the past few months, I tested the Defy Satellite Link to get to grips with the device’s potential use in the backcountry. First, here’s an overview of the key device features (full specification here) and how it works.

Key features and how the device works

  • Two-way satellite messaging
  • Location sharing
  • SOS assistance
  • Check-In and SOS function without phone connection
  • Estimated up to 5 full days battery life (600 mAh)
  • Waterproof (up to 1.5m for 30 minutes)
  • 85 x 62 x 11. 2mm and 70g

The Defy Satellite Link pairs to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and connects to a network of satellites that are in a geostationary orbit around the equator. To send text messages when out of regular cell phone or Wi-Fi connection, you must tap into the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app (your phone will require iOS 14 or Android 11). It allows you to text, share a GPS location point, and send a distress call. When activated, the SOS function sends the user’s location to Focus Point International. This organization then communicates via text with the user to assess the severity of the situation. If required, it alerts local emergency services.

The Motorola Defy Satellite Link and Bullitt Satellite Messenger app. Photo: Ash Routen


There is no screen or keyboard on the device itself. Instead, all messaging capabilities (to a phone number, not email) rely on a connection to a smartphone and the use of the app. The device does have a physical “check in” button, which allows users to send their location as a text message, with accompanying latitude/longitude with a Google map location link. The app detects mobile connectivity status and sends and receives all messages via satellite when not in range.

Field performance

I tested the device in the British mountains, across locations in the Peak District National Park with limited or no cell phone coverage. The setup was fairly straightforward. The instructions guide you to download the app and register your phone. The app itself is fairly basic and intuitive, with the main interface displaying options to send a text message, send a check-in message (wording can be pre-customized) to your designated contact, and a tracking function. Tracking is not available for Defy users yet, and a launch date has not been announced.

Initial tests at home ran smoothly. The Defy locked on to a satellite connection (more on that later) in clear view of the sky, and I was able to send a message to multiple contacts, which were received. At this point, however, it is worth noting that the recipients were unable to reply directly to these messages via SMS.

On this, the Bullitt Group states: “For the foreseeable future the way that the service works is app-to-app. This is how the service was designed and will give users the best experience. Although recipient gets notification by SMS, they do need to download and use Bullitt Satellite Messenger to enter into a two-way conversation.”

Field testing the Defy in the Peak District National Park. The device is best clipped to a backpack strap, although it does not come with a mini carabiner itself. Photo: Ash Routen


Drop-proof, waterproof

Out in the field, satellite connection was almost always seamless. On occasion, the signal was briefly lost or the initial connection required some patience. In our experience, this is not uncommon with other brand devices. Some early users in the United States have reported connection issues. For those in the northern hemisphere like me, orienting the device toward the south (where the satellite network is located), with a clear view of the sky, may help.

I hit no issues when sending text messages. These were sent and received within a few minutes (tick icons display delivery and read status). However, beyond the initial SMS, recipients did not receive notifications of further incoming messages via the app, which is a current design limitation.

Like many modern satellite communicators, the device is billed as durable and drop-proof. I dropped the device from standing height onto small rocky outcrops and continued to use it with no issues. The only concern, especially when kept in a well-stuffed backpack, is that the SOS button on the side of the device is uncovered. It would, however, take significant pressure to inadvertently deploy an SOS message.

The Defy is rated as fully waterproof for up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. A submersion test in a glass full of water confirmed it would have no issues with use in prolonged rain. Photo: Ash Routen


Battery life

Battery life for the Defy is advertised as “up to 5 full days,” although this will of course vary based on usage frequency. I found this is the case with intermittent use, but battery life will likely last around 2-4 days with heavier use.

By comparison, I recently used a Garmin InReach Mini 2 continuously for 10 days hiking in Greenland, with heavy tracking and message use. Plenty of juice remained at the end.

Users should note that a smartphone battery will take a hit with continual Bluetooth connection to the device, and with the app open in the background. However, most backcountry travelers should know to connect to the device only when necessary. Charging is straightforward via an enclosed USB-C port.


Coverage for the Defy is live in Western and Central Europe and the United States, with roll out to other regions in the coming months. “This [the coverage map below] will be updated in the coming weeks though as we prepare for the rest of our North American coverage to go live. Next month, we will be bringing online most of the Canadian land mass and retailing in Canada,” the Bullitt group told ExplorersWeb.




It is important to note that the Motorola Defy Satellite Link uses the Inmarsat and Echostar geostationary satellite networks. These groups of satellites revolve around the equator at an altitude of around 35,000km. This means that coverage for the Defy is limited to around 70 degrees of latitude both north and south. This rules out parts of Alaska and the polar regions.

Comparatively, the Iridium network (used in some other satellite communicators such as the Garmin InReach Mini), relies on satellites in a near-polar orbit at lower altitudes, which allows for near-global coverage. However, the Defy was designed more for everyday adventure, as opposed to expeditions at extreme latitudes.

Cost and subscriptions

The Motorola Defy Satellite Link is very competitively priced and currently retails for $149 in the United States (or £159 in the UK). This includes a 12-month “essential service” plan that covers up to 30 messages (sent or received) per month, as well as SOS assistance. There are various other 12-month subscription plans available, as well as a one-off, no-contract plan. The everyday plan includes up to 80 messages per month and should cover most users’ needs ($9.99 per month).

The competition

Other obvious direct competitors include the Garmin InReach Mini 2 and the Zoleo satellite messenger. These do offer global coverage, some additional functionality such as navigation tools, and longer battery life. However, they cost more for the device itself (particularly the InReach Mini 2 – $399.99), and the basic subscription plans are more expensive. Apple iPhone 14 users already have a satellite messaging service, but this requires an outlay for an expensive iPhone.

The messaging interface. Photo: Ash Routen


The Motorola Defy Satellite Link offers a functional, compact, and durable tool for those wanting basic two-way satellite messaging and SOS assistance in the backcountry. The device is easy to set up and use and has a very competitive price. It will become more attractive to backcountry travelers when the teething issues (e.g. lack of recipient notifications) are ironed out. It may be worth waiting for a few months after it launches in your region to confirm backcountry coverage.

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is a writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, mountaineering, science, camping, hiking, and outdoor gear for 7 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Gear JunkieRed Bull, Outside, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid backpacker and arctic traveler who writes about the outdoors around a full-time job as an academic.