Smartphones are fantastic, but venture to a place that doesn’t have cellular or Wi-Fi coverage and they turn into little more than a fancy glass slab for you to put your coffee cup down on.
Well, that is unless you have a satellite Wi-Fi hotspot.
In these situations you need the Iridium GO!
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The Iridium GO! looks like a regular portable hotspot device that you might use to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for your devices using the cellular network. But instead of connecting to land-based cell towers, the Iridium GO! connects to the constellation of Iridium communication satellites that orbit 500 miles above the Earth.
Your devices – up to five – then connect using Wi-Fi to the Iridium GO! (the deice created a hotspot some 100 foot/30 meters in radius) and allows you to do the following:
- Make voice calls
- Send a quick GPS or check-in message
- Configure your settings
- Send Twitter updates
- Activate emergency SOS
The Iridium GO! is built to MIL-STD 810F spec and is water- and dust-proof to IP65. It comes with a battery that’s good for some 7 hours of usage and 16 hours of standby.
Sounds good, right? But there are some downsides.
First, it’s not cheap. The device alone will set you back around $800, and then there’s the data. An Iridium GO Unlimited Data and SMS gives you 150 minutes of talk time, and well as unlimited text and data for $149.99 a month.
Alternatively, you could opt for the Iridium GO Prepaid Service, which gives you either 500 voice minutes, or 1000 “data minutes,” or 3000 texts for $795.
The data speeds are also slow. Eye-wateringly slow compared to even 3G speeds. You’re looking at a maximum of 10kbps, and that’s using Iridium’s approved – and highly-optimized – apps (compatible with iOS and Android). This tool is not suitable for regular internet browsing, so will not provide you with a hit of new cat videos when away from civilization.
Despite the downsides, if you want to or need to remain connected when off-the-grid, this is one of the quickest and easiest to use solutions out there, and works surprisingly well as long as you are aware of the limitations of the Iridium network, and don’t expect 3G/4G style performance from the service.