How to turn any iOS or Android smartphone (or tablet) into a satellite phone

If you venture into places where there's no cellphone coverage, then a satellite phone might be just the thing you need to be able to keep in touch with civilization. With the Iridium Go! hotspot you can turn any smartphone into a satellite phone.

Iridium GO!

Want a satellite phone but don't want the hassle of swapping out your regular smartphone for some bulky device? The Iridium GO! might be just the gadget for you.

The Iridium GO! looks like a regular portable hotspot device that you might use to connect your devices to a cellular network, but instead of connecting to land-based cell towers, this devices connects to the constellation of Iridium communication satellites that orbit almost 500 miles above the Earth. Your devices - up to five - then connect using Wi-Fi to the Iridium GO! and allows you to do the following:

  • Make voice calls
  • Send a quick GPS or check-in message
  • Configure your settings
  • Send Twitter posts
  • 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 16hours of standby.

There are some downsides that you should be aware of though.

First, it's not cheap. The device alone will set you back around $800, and "data minutes" are expensive (1000 "data minutes" will cost around another $800).

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 will not allow you to watch Pewdepie or keep up with your favorite cat videos.

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.

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