Smartphones are practically everywhere. But if you're in the middle of nowhere without a signal, that iPhone 5s or Galaxy S4 won't do you much good. Many people already turn to satellite phones when they're at sea or in other far-off places, but a new device from Iridium takes a satellite signal and turns it into a Wi-Fi hotspot for your existing mobile devices.
The Iridium Go! is a lot like a portable hotspot device that you might pick up at your local wireless store. Only instead of picking up a local 4G signal to send to your tablet or laptop, it supplies some of those devices with the same data that you'd get from a satellite phone. The downside is that this data is going to be ridiculously slow (Iridium tells me "up to 2.4 kbps"). But the upside is that you'll have a connection to the outside world no matter where you are.
The Go is a fairly small and portable device, measuring 114 x 83 x 32 mm (4.5 x 3.25 x 1.25 in) and weighing 295 g (10.4 oz). When you need to send for help, check for typhoon warnings, or just check in with a loved one, you merely flip up the device's antenna. This powers on the Go and activates its hotspot. Open the companion Iridium Go app on your smartphone or tablet (available for both iOS and Android) and enjoy internet speeds you haven't seen since the mid-90s. Iridium says the rugged device is built to withstand harsh conditions, charges via microUSB, and can connect to up to five mobile devices at a time.
I joke about the slow data speeds, but, like satellite phones, the Go obviously isn't designed for modern luxuries like browsing Facebook, watching Netflix, or uploading your Antarctica journey to YouTube. It will, however, let you place a call at a critical time, send or receive a basic text-based email, or send someone your coordinates (it has built-in SOS and GPS capabilities). Like satellite phones, it's an emergency backup plan for those places where you have no other options.
The Go is also compatible with Iridium Next, the company's upcoming satellite network that can supposedly boost those speeds closer to modern 3G/4G levels.
Pricing is still a mystery, but the Iridium Go will start shipping sometime during the first half of 2014. You can read more at the product page below.
Product page: Iridium