— Mobile Technology
Iridium Go! hotspot can turn your smartphone into a satellite phone
The Iridium Go is a satellite-based hotspot for your smartphone or tablet
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
About the Author
Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post.
Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
All articles by Will Shanklin
Depending on the price, this could be a much better solution than existing Iridium handsets, because the customer will have access to familiar apps on their smartphone, e.g. email clients and Maps, etc.
Also multiple handsets means some backup devices always available. And it will presumably remain below deck / inside a dwelling and be less likely to fall overboard or get damaged.
I have used an Iridium phone when doing long-distance sailboat deliveries. Mostly, I used it to send periodic emails to people giving my GPS coordinates, speed and heading, plus an "All is well" word.
Then, if disaster should happen and my Emergency Locator Beacon works, or not, rescuers would have a good idea where to start looking for us. It was not that expensive to do. It might have been priceless, though.
Under $800? 2.4k? Look at the Globalstar SatFi. About $100 and 256k up, 1mb down. Iridium satellites are close to end of useful life. Globalstar has launched all new 2nd generation sat constellation. My money is on Globalstar, sorry.
It's been many years since I have used a satellite phone and know the charges to use a satellite were quite expensive (Cheep if it saves a life though).
I have no idea about these types of systems, am curious where these satellite connection charges go to, and how are they passed onto the end user if they even are?
Also, being the user of a kayak, am curious about water resistance. There is a mention of rugged construction, but no mention of water resistance. Anyone know how wet one can get before it packs it in?
I just bought Inreach & have not yet tried it out. If the price & performance are right on Go, I could be interested.
I'm thinking global star if you live in Montana....
I think it would be great in emergency sitiuations. With hurricane sandy in NJ, the cellular network was down. Having a cell phone in that situation was useless. Being able to make ones cellular phone into a satelite phone would be really useful.
I have been thinking about getting a good hotspot for my phone and this sounds like a really great option! I had no idea that there was this possibility when it came to get smartphones and satellite options. It would be really interesting to try this out to see how it worked. Thanks for the post, I will probably try this out soon!
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