Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Getting Spotted


I’d like to give this a real shot sometime. Can you explain what equipment you use to accomplish this while on a summit? I’m familiar with AX.25 and APRS. Do the APRS enabled HT’s do this or are you using an APRS program while on a mtn top?




My HT is analog only and doesn’t do APRS natively, but there are a number of apps (aprsdroid for android and pocketpacket for iOS for examples) that will do it. All you need then is an audio cable from your phone/tablet whatever to your HT and you’re in business. If you have a APRS enabled HT you’re already in business. All you need to do is figure out how the messaging function works and bingo. As I mentioned earlier you gotta email Stewart - G0LGS to get on the list of users. Syntax of your message is important and that’s all documented over here: https://www.sotaspots.co.uk/Aprs2Sota_Info.php


My phone is Verizon, I’ve had good coverage in remote areas with it.



I’m thinking about getting a cheap Verizon prepaid phone for this purpose. Thanks Bob.


I use a Yaesu FT2D handheld with a Diamond RH-205 antenna. I send the APRS messages directly from the handheld. The user interface on the FT2D is pretty poor, but I have a set of pre-configured messages that I just tweak on the summit and launch.


That’s what I thought! Gonna have to set my sights on that HT next. Been meaning to upgrade from a VX-7R for awhile now. Thanks!


If you get the FT2D let me know and I can help you with the configuration. It isn’t straightforward and a lot of folks have trouble getting APRS to operate properly, especially transmitting.


Mainly I use these two. But often I find myself using SMS even when I do have perfectly good network coverage.

Why do I do this, even though the SMS path may introduce an unpredictable delay?

Because of the user interface. The SMS interface is carefully designed to encode everything in a single short string, and carefully avoids the need to find awkward punctuation characters. It’s quick and easy to use. You can easily cut and paste an earlier spot and make minor tweaks to it.

By comparison, the spotting function of the main website is dire when you’re driving it from a mobile phone under adverse conditions. It’s a “big screen” site being used on a small screen, so I have to zoom and scroll. It’s a form with multiple fields, which often seem to have boxes which aren’t quite big enough for the text being entered. The right thing needs to be in the right box. Mode selection is a particular faff on my phone; picking from the list is much more effort than just typing “ssb”. If you want to do another spot (e.g. for a band change) the common information needs to be keyed in again.

Constructive suggestion: Provide an HTTPS accessible form with a single text box which takes a string just like the SMS gateway uses.

Martyn M1MAJ


I use an Ekit Global SIM for this (other suppliers are available). There is no monthly charge, and the credit does not expire as long as you spend something every 3 months (a single SMS will do).

It is intended for global use, but the key feature for me is that it can roam onto several UK networks. In fact it works with all of them except Three, so by having my main phone on Three I get full coverage. I believe the number is registered in Jersey.

The supplier seems to want to upgrade the service every couple of years, which means a new SIM and unfortunately a number change. But they give you $5 credit as compensation when they do this. This is enough for quite a few spots. It’s years since I actually paid them anything!

Martyn M1MAJ


I save a sample spot SMS in the notes section of the contact list entry for the SOTA spotting phone number. There is a separate number for the US, UK and Australia, here is the entry I created for my UK trip with a sample text message ready to be copied and edited. (The email entry after the Home heading was Andy’s contact details which I won’t publish here. )

Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


Hi Caleb,
I’m sure you noticed that many of us active Colorado activators use CW and rely on the RBNHole spotting utility. It definitely makes it easy as long as you post an alert and the rbnhole server is up and running – which has been pretty reliable overall. I started out with just a 2m HT. I then went to HF phone and finally to CW. I rarely use phone anymore!

Like K0NR, I also use the Verizon service but I’ve definitely had issues with cell coverage on many W0C peaks. I can tell you though that the SMS messaging service usually works for me when data modes fail. I generally use SMS to spot other stations activating with me that only do phone or didn’t post an alert. It’s a good tool to have in your toolbox!

BTW, I’ve always been able to make more than four contacts on 2m FM (146.52) on all the front range 14ers (sometimes 20 or more contacts!). You should be able to work Wyoming and stations out further east with no trouble.

Good luck on your next activations!
73, Brad WA6MM


Hi Martyn, the majority of people who spot using 3G/Cell use a smartphone app to do it - eg RRT, Sota Spotter, SOTA Goat or any of probably half a dozen others. These give a formatted input form which can even pre-fill fields such as the SOTA reference for the summit.



That’s a really good point. I do have SOTA Goat on my phone but for some reason I’ve never explored its features for self-spotting. I should definitely look into the apps available. Pre-filling the summit reference would be really good as it is easy to make a mistake.

Martyn M1MAJ


I have an old Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone on SIM-only. It does everything I need (*at present) and seems to be significantly less fragile than other models of smartphone I have had.

I allow the auto suggestion of entries for form-filling. So when I’m using it on a summit for a self-spot, most of the stuff is available on a single tap:

Callsign: I get suggestions of M1EYP/P, MW1EYP/P and EA8/M1EYP/P - tap.

Association: I get a suggestion of G - tap.

SOTA ref: I get a suggestions of SP-015 or SP-013 - tap, or enter the ref.

QRG: I type “1” and get suggestions of 14.013, 144.6125, 145.500, 14.316. I select one of these, and - if necessary - edit the last digit or two.

Mode: Drop-down menu; no issue.

Comments: Depending on what I start to type, I get suggestions of “QRV in around 10 minutes”, “Clg now - need 2 more” etc. More often than not, what I need has already been entered, and saved, before.

The whole process takes 10 seconds. It helps that I am a “creature of habit”.

*This morning I had a message from MyFitnessPal, an app I am using to help me lose weight. It’s really effective at tracking calories consumed, checking against a daily target, and receiving data from Google Fit about exercise completed and calories expended. I’m using it on all my SOTA walks. The message advised that as of June 25th, MFP will be introducing higher security requirements, demanding minimum Android 5.0+ or Google Chrome 30+.

My smartphone is Android 4.4 and unable to upgrade to Lollipop. Well I’ve heard there is a way to get a kind of version but it involves data back-up and a very techy sounding procedure. As Chrome seems to be version 66 (?) on my phone, I’m hoping I can just carry on using MFP via the browser, rather than the app. I’m not sure if the app will just stop working on 25th June, or if just certain bells and whistles mat become unavailable.

Bit annoying, I don’t really want or need a new phone just now! But I do need to carry on losing weight.


I recently investigated just how hard it is to upgrade a phone no longer supported by the maker to a new Android. My primary phone is a Wileyfox Swift, the maker has gone bust, it is on Android 6.x. There is a public maintained version of Android for many phones, LineageOS. A version is available for my Swift. Before I totally ruined my phone I wanted to practice. I have an old Motorola MotoG with Android 5 and I practiced on that.

  • I had to faff about to get a code from Motorola to unlock the software. Took an hour faffing about with websites and verification emails.

  • I had to get the software to program the phone over USB. In my case I used a Linux laptop to do this, it can be done from Windows. I “pulled rank” here, part of my job is working with Tier1 semiconductor companies getting their Android USB software working so I have experience running these tools on Linux. Installing it on my laptop was simple.

  • I downloaded the images for my MotoG 4G Gen1 (xt1039 model)

  • I held my breath and started following the instructions verbatim

Didn’t work, phone now less than functional :scream: OK, it turns out because my phone had used hard encryption before I had to do some reformat steps. I sort of knew what I was looking for so found the solution.

  • Did the reformat and repeated the programming.

  • God damn thing booted up sporting shiny state-of-the-art Android with all security fixes.

  • Entered Google account info and it sync’d contacts etc.

So someone with 35 years professional programming experience and experience with Android development had a few issues updating a non-supported phone. But… all the answers were out there for a Google search. It should be possible for a novice to do this but I would stress you want a few ‘burner’ phones to practice on before trying to update your pride and joy.

Best of all, I found a non-supported update for my Nexus 7 2012 tablet which became unusable with a Google update years back. That was a real pain to do but I now have a functioning Android 7 running. I can’t use the Play Store but can sideload apps. Running Oruxmaps on a 7in screen is bl**dy marvellous :smile:


To make it a little easier, when I use SOTA Goat app, I add the summits I’m going to activate into the “favorites” list. Then when I want to I go to “favorites” & pick from the short list of summits to start my spot




The app has the entire summit list on board. The phone knows my location. Calculating the nearest summit doesn’t sound too hard. Is there an app (for iOS) that just knows the summit reference?

I suppose it is theoretically possible to be in the activation area of a summit which is not the closest. It must be rare. Can anybody find an example?



I have occasionally used that “closest summit” feature, but on many of the summits I’ve activated, it takes too long to locate me & respond. I don’t have the patience to wait. ( especially if it’s fairly cold out.)

It’s probably a great feature, if there’s enough cell towers around to locate you quickly or if you have patience. I usually have neither.


Ah, yes, just found it, and I can do “new spot” from there. Just hadn’t noticed this before.

It has correctly found the nearest summit to my office. Pity it’s 73km away. I think I will almost always have a GPS fix on my phone so this looks like a good way to do it.



Martyn I use the SOTAGoat app and find the combination of nearest summit and add spot works well. The only issue with the app (IMHO) is when alerting. It adds the wrong correction for UTC and I tend to have to correct the time on SOTAWatch (using the opportunity to add other frequencies too. The app is best for alerting on 1 frequency only).