Sunday, October 12, 2014

Iridium Go, Mail and Web Apps

Application: iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch iOS 6.0 or later, Android
Function: Satellite voice, text, data, SOS and Internet
Rating: *****
Cost: Iridium Go $799, apps are free

I don't usually write about many hardware devices but when a piece of electronics becomes a game changer for the industry, I have to give it some press. The Iridium Go is just that. It is the latest satellite communicator to find its way into the cockpits of pilots, sailors and world travelers of all types who want world wide communications at any time. The cool thing about this device is that it is affordable and the flexible monthly plans won't break the bank. A compatible Iridium Go IOS and Android apps are used to connect you mobile devices and make phone calls, text, track, Tweet and SOS.  The Iridium Mail and Web app allows access to email, weather, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. I am not sure why they need two apps, it would have been nice to have all features in one app. 

This awesome new portable satellite device eliminates the no cellular service problem. The Iridium GO offers 100% global coverage for smart phones to make and receive calls, send and receive instant messages, send & receive email, browse the Internet, send files and track your GPS location.

The Internet connection is quite slow at 2.5 Kilobits per second. It is enough to do the basics such as sending small files or checking the weather from a online weather sites. The GO is a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 Apple  or Android devices. Connections can be made up to 100 feet (30 meters).

  • Dimensions: 4.5″ x 3.25″ x 1.25″ (114mm x 83mm x 32mm)
  • Weight: 305g
  • Antenna: Internal Iridium
  • Concurrent GNSS: US NAVSTAR GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
  • Durability: MIL-STD 810F
  • Ingress Protection: IP65
  • Operating Temperature Range: -10°C to +50°C
  • Storage Temperature Range: -20° to 60°C
  • WiFi Frequency and Range: 2.4 Ghz b, g, n (up to 30 meters)
  • WiFi Interface: Iridium GO! API
  • Included Applications: Iridium GO! (Phone, SMS, SQS) and Iridium Mail (Mail, Photo, Weather)
  • Number of Users: Up to 5 with Iridium GO! App
  • Battery Specs: 3600 mAh providing up to 5.5 hours talk time/ Up to 15.5 hours standby
  • Battery Charge Time: 4 hours
  • Interface Connectors: SIM, Micro USB, External Antenna
  • External Antenna: TS-9 (TS-9 to TNC adapter available)
  • Regulatory Certifications: FCC, Industry Canada, CE, ITU, RoHS
  • Phone - Make or receive phone calls on your smartphone with a new satellite phone number.
  • Email - Send and receive email and email attachments via the Mail and Web App.
  • Instant Messaging - Sent a text to any phone number or email address. 
  • Web Browsing - via the Opera Mini (iOS) or XWeb for Android devices. 
  • Files - Send files or photos from the Mail & Web app.
  • GPS & Tracking - Show current position - GPS button instant texts/email once or at selected intervals.
  • Twitter - Send a tweet directly from the Iridium Go app.
  • Facebook - Connect to your Facebook account through the Mail and Web app.
  • SOS Button - Send an emergency message, or set up to send an SOS to a defined text address/email.                        
  • Weather App - Press the weather button inside the mail and web app for local conditions.
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot up to 100' (30 meters) from the device. May connect up to 5 devices (Smartphones and Tablets only).
  • 100% Global Availability, Pole-to-Pole, land, sea, air
  • No roaming charges.
  • Voicemail, Contact Lists.
  • Offline email composition. Write emails anytime and send only when you connect.
  • Advanced Screens - Firewall controls, Wi-Fi security, device passwords, Tracking configuration
  • Compatible with Iridium external antenna
  • Display shows signal strength, data Internet access, number of connected users.

Satellite Network

The Iridium satellite network is the most complete and offers world wide coverage. The 66 LEO, low Earth orbiting satellites provide coverage to every corner of the earth. This is great for world cruisers who are often crossing remote oceans and are out of touch with land based communications. The network was originally designed for voice communications so it is not a high speed datalink. 

Iridium Go Hardware

The Iridium Go is a ruggedly constructed device which is designed to be waterproof and shockproof.  It has a compact form factor of only 4"x 3".  It can be mounted in a variety of ways but must have clear view of the sky to pick up the satellites. Simply flip up small antenna and the unit turns on automatically.  An optional external antenna can be used to provide more mounting options.

While turned on the unit provides a WiFI hotspot for up to 5 mobile devices connected simultaneously.  The unit connects with either an iOS or Android version of the app which are used to make voice calls, text, download files, send SOS and browse the internet.  The unit has a rechargeable battery and will last about 8 hours of active use or about 15 hours in standby.

Iridium GO App

The Iridium go app is your user interface to the hardware unit.  It was designed for a variety of tasks. Your phone is connected to the Iridium GO unit with a WiFi connection. You can then make voice calls, sent text messages, Tweet, track your GPS position and send an SOS if case of an emergency.

The main screen of the app has icons for the various functions. At the top of the display it shows connectivity and battery strength.

You will need an Iridium service plan and a login to access the network.  Iridium Go has 4 Monthly Rate Plans ranging from a minimum of $49 to the unlimited plan for $125. Two Pre-paid Data Plans are also available. The monthly rate plans provide an increasing number of GO Data minutes per month. There are no roaming charges when you use Iridium GO. There is a one-time activation fee of just $50 with any of the Monthly Rate Plans.

Pre-paid plans offer you a pre-set number of GO Data Minutes that you can apply to all your data, voice and messaging needs. So, if you want to make a voice call to any landline or mobile device you will use have a set number of minutes of voice calling.  There is no activation-fee with the prepaid plans. Prepaid plans can be re-new at any time, and un-used minutes roll over when you renew your plan before the expiration date. 

Voice Calls:

Satellite communications systems were developed by a couple of Motorola engineers back in the 1980s.  Iridium had the first operating satellite network system which started offering service in November 1998. 

Voice calls are made using the Iridium GO app. Simply connect to the Go WiFi network and access the keypad for dialing.  The app can access all your contacts so it make it easy to make calls.

You can make and receive calls from your smart phone over the Iridium network.  All incoming calls are free. However if someone calls your Iridium number they will rack up a pretty large phone bill. This is because they will be charged international rates.

Iridium does offer a cheaper way to do this. The user must set up a +1 number to allow the caller to first call an access number and then dial the Iridium users phone number.  The caller will then pay standard long distance rates.
 Text Messages
Texting is almost more popular than talking these days.  I know I do more texting with my kids than talking.  The ability to send and receive satellite text messages is probably the best feature of the app.
While your in remote places exploring the world it is a nice feature to be able to send you spouse or loved ones a quick text letting them know you are ok and still alive.  You can update them on your travels and any change in your arrival times to put their mind at ease.
Tap the Message icon on the main screen to access the text feature.  A familiar looking screen show your conversations.  Messages can be up to 1000 characters.  Two of the Iridium Go service plans allow unlimited texting. 
SOS, GPS Position and Tracking
The Iridium Go has an an board GPS receiver that can be used to provide your location.  This location information is useful and can be sent in a Text or Email.  These position updates can be sent out manually at anytime or they can be set up to be sent out at regular intervals.  The recipient of the message can then view the position data on a map.  This is a position only and not a tracking feature.
The SOS feature is a free service and can be used in an emergency situation to summon help from anywhere in the world.  The feature is set up ahead of time by providing emergency contact information so authorities know who to get ahold of.   The SOS messages are monitored by the GEOS Alliance. If they receive an SOS from you they will initiate contacts with local law enforcement and rescue personnel. The SOS can be started with the dedicated button the Iridium Go unit or on your phone under the SOS Icon
The Tracking feature is accessed with the Tracking Icon. It uses the GPS data of the Iridium GO module to provide a track of your travels. This is a bread crumb like trail of where you have traveled.  This can be used for tracking mobile trucking assets, planes, ships and hikers if needed. 
Social Media
Social Media can be accessed also.  If you want to Tweet or post an update you can do that also through Iridium GO.  The Twitter Icon lets the user access a Twitter like feed. This is an Iridium app so the functionality will not be the same as the regular Twitter app.
Iridium Web and Mail App
I am not sure why Iridium has two different apps. The main screen of the Web and Email app is shown on the left.  It also has a Twitter icon, Facebook, Weather, Web, Photos and Mail.
The Mail, Facebook and Twitter icons are self explanatory just select these to email, post your status or Tweet.
One of the coolest features is access to the Internet.  This not going to be a high speed connection. It is more like the old dial up modem speeds if you are old enough to remember those.
To access the Internet you will have to use the Opera Mini app.  Make sure to set the Image Quality settings to low to maximize compression of images. You will not be able to stream videos or visit other broadband intensive sites.  It can only be used for basic web browsing and file downloading.
Iridium has made an awesome device that can be interfaced with about any mobile device.  The price of the device is kind of steep at $800 buck but the monthly service plans for unlimited service is only $125 per month.  I pay almost that much for my family plan for a few cell phones.  If you travel to remote locations it might make sense to pick one up. If your a world cruiser it will give you worldwide communications and the ability to download GRIB weather data files for programs like Predict Wind or Weather 4D.  Is anyone using the Iridium Go while cruising?  I would love to know what your experience has been.
~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)