Exploring all the nooks and crannies of our beautiful world can be one of the most freeing and enjoyable experiences there is. Backpacking, hiking, skiing, camping, and sailing are just a few of the ways we can experience the outdoors by getting away from it all. Though this is where some of the truest beauty lies, it’s very often disconnected to the rest of the world. What makes it so alluring can also be risky when communication lines are unavailable. Luckily, we now have satellite phones that allow us to venture into uncharted territory while still being able to contact help in the event of an emergency.
Beyond that, family and friends know they can still contact you when needed. This can be especially useful if you will be away for quite a while. Comfort is knowing someone is just a phone call away when the need arises. Satellite phones allow both inbound and outbound calls. They work in remote areas where regular cell service is spotty at best and often nonexistent. Additionally, you can count on your satellite phone for GPS tracking as well as sending SOS messages for emergency situations.
Choosing a Satellite Phone for Remote Travel
Before purchasing or renting a satellite phone, you’ll need to identify your needs. Consider where you’ll be and how long you’ll be traveling for. You’ll want to think about what kind of coverage is necessary and how often you’ll be using your phone. Choosing a network and activating your satellite phone under a service plan will be necessary, as well. The networks available include:
- Iridium: The global leader in truly worldwide communications. This is your pick if you need coverage everywhere.
- Inmarsat: Considered the pioneer of satellite global communications. Think reliability that expands the majority of the globe.
- Globalstar: Operates as a bridge between LEO satellites and traditional communications by way of cell ground stations. Those not traveling too far off the beaten path will have the coverage they need at a lower price.
When choosing a network, it’s really about your needs as you travel and work around the globe.
Then it’s time to choose your phone. Though some satellite phones have upgraded options and equipment, we are focusing here on the standard equipment. Digital Trends identified 5 basic satellite phone options to keep you safe and connected during your remote travel. Here we will summarize their findings. Their top 5 included:
- Iridium Extreme 9575: best in class
- Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT: best for teams in extreme conditions
- Iridium 9555: best value
- IsatPhone 2: best for non-polar sailors
- Globalstar GSP-1700: best voice quality for the lowest price
1. Iridium Extreme 9575 – best in class
Digital Trends says: “Why you should buy this: True global functioning, ruggedness, integrated GPS and SOS button.”
Functioning on the Iridium network, this phone benefits from the world’s only truly global service. This means you’ll be connected wherever you go. If you are a world traveler and destined for even pole exploration, this phone is for you.
With this phone, you’ll find durability and reliability. Additional features include:
- location awareness
- customizable GPS
- fully integrated SOS button with emergency response service
- market-leading toughness (military-grade)
- reliable voice and data capability
2. Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT – best for teams
Digital Trends says: “Why you should buy this: Global service, one-button radio messaging, extra rugged, longer battery life.”
The Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT takes all of the best features of the Iridium Extreme 9575 and adds in an intelligently designed Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature. Still powered by the world’s only completely worldwide service, you can count on the reliability you need anywhere you go. This is the go-to choice for groups with the ability to adjust PTT coverage areas as well as talkgroup configurations over-the-air.
- jet-water, shock, and dust resistant
- integrated loudspeaker
- a rugged, high-gain antenna
- reinforced PTT button
- high capacity battery
- SOS feature in both phone mode and PTT mode
3. Iridium 9555 – best value
Digital Trends says: “Why you should buy this: Global service, expedition quality without unnecessary ruggedness.”
If you’re looking for a mix of far-reaching satellite communication with a lower price tag, this is your satellite phone. Though you won’t find the military grade toughness of the 9575s, many in the field won’t need that. This satellite phone still boasts durability and power you can count on while maintaining a sleek profile.
- hand-friendly form factor
- internally stowed antenna
- works everywhere as a critical lifeline
- hands-free earpiece with microphone
4. IsatPhone 2 – best for non-polar sailors and travelers
Digital Trends says: “Why you should buy this: Strong acquired signal, splash resistance, mid-range price, integrated GPS and SOS button.”
Running on the Inmarsat network, the Isatphone 2 is an excellent satellite phone for those staying away for the poles. Otherwise, this phone will work almost anywhere. Though not as far-reaching as phones utilized under the Iridium network, capability is still very reliable in almost all remote areas. The other unique characteristic of this satellite phone is the extreme conditions it can withstand.
- withstands 95% humidity
- robust enough to function through searing heat to icy blasts
- unrivaled battery life with 8 hours of talk time
- voicemail, SMS, email capabilities
5. Globalstar GSP-1700 – best voice for lowest price
Digital Trends says: “Why you should buy this: Best voice quality, cell phone number assignment, low price.”
As the smallest and lightest satellite phone on our list, the Globalstar GSP-1700 makes remote contact available even for those on a budget. Globalstar doesn’t have the far-reaching capabilities of Iridium or even Inmarsat, but Globalstar’s regional coverage areas still expand a wide range of the earth. As long as you plan to stay within the reach of their cell ground stations, this satellite phone is a great choice. Because they link with cell ground stations, you’ll also receive the best voice quality of any of the 4 previously listed phones.
- crystal-clear digital voice quality
- fast speeds at 9.6 Kbps
- Position Location Service
- Easy installation or use hands-free
- Mailbox for voice, numeric and text messages