TRAVELING

The Best Buy Satellite Phone: The Forgotten Must-have Travel Tool

Woman using sat phone
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Nowadays, everyone has a cell phone. It’s rare when you hear someone that says, “I don’t have a phone.” All these questions being to pop up – “how do you communicate with people?” is a major one. But has anyone ever thought about what would happen is a telecommunications tower is down?

How are you going to communicate with people then? You’re going to need another cell phone, one that doesn’t rely on your local cell towers. So, we’re going to show you the best buy satellite phone.

What is a satellite phone?

Good question. A satellite phone is a type of mobile phone that connects to satellites rather than telecommunication towers. Normal cell phones such as a smartphone or android such land-base cell towers.

What are satellite phones good for?

You may be thinking why you would need a satellite phone in addition to your cell phone. Satellite phones are designed to handle extreme weather conditions. Because your cell phone relies on local cell towers, that places them in a vulnerable spot if there was a hurricane, flash flood or fire.

Hunter using satellite phone

Once a telecommunications tower is damaged, you won’t be able to get coverage for your cell phone until the tower is repaired. With a satellite phone, you bypass this problem entirely. So, in short, satellite phone are great for emergency situations and general or remote travel.

Cell phone vs. Satellite phone

We talked a little bit about what satellite phones are used for, however, let’s take a closer look at the differences between a cell phone and satellite phone.

Cell phone

Everyone has one and we’re all tied to some sort of contract or plan. However, cell phones only cover 10% of the world’s surface. In addition, if you don’t have a dual sim card feature, you bear the risk of having to additional roaming fees for out-of-state traveling.

Though in comparison, cell phones, specifically smartphones, are now equipped with apps, high-quality cameras, etc. So, cell phones are ideal for city use as opposed to traveling

Satellite phone

If you’re planning to travel to uncharted waters, you’re probably not 100% sure if your cell phone will be able to get reception. When you’re traveling, that’s definitely the thing you don’t want to worry about. Satellite phones have the benefit of getting great coverage because they don’t rely on local cell towers.

Satellite vs mobile

So, in terms of reliability, satellite phones win hands down. In addition, satellite phones typically offer cheaper roaming rates then of cell phone companies.

Advantages of satellite phones

Since you’re considering a satellite phone, it’s important that you know about the benefits of them. So, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of the satellite phone. If you’re thinking about purchasing a satellite phone, here are some of the benefits:

  • Highly useful in emergency situations
  • No installation required
  • Standard performance regardless of location
  • Uniformity in phone number
  • A great addition to any emergency kit
  • Large network coverage, they basically work almost anywhere in the world
  • They work during power outages because they do not rely on local cell towers

Reading some of these benefits may have now put you in a confused state. You’ve probably heard about satellite phones being bulky or expensive. However, it’s now time to get updated on those outdated myths.

Myths of satellite phones

There’s always a misconception regarding satellite phones, however, we’re going to clear them up.

Satellite phones are huge: Sure, if you’re in the 90’s. However, technology has changed and now you can have satellite phones that look basically like your normal cell phone. Of course, larger satellite phones do exist on the market, however, it just depends on what you’re looking for and your needs.

Satellite phones are expensive: This is another myth that used to be true. When they first came out, they were expensive. However, of course, time has passed and technology has advanced so satellite phones aren’t going to take a bite out of your wallet. Now, you can find a satellite phone for $500, which is cheaper than an iPhone.

Satellite phone myths

You don’t have internet access: Now, you’re able to send texts and receives emails on your satellite phone. Some even have the ability for a Wi-fi feature. So, in short, you do have internet access on a satellite phone, especially now that the world has gone technological.

They don’t work in bad weather: Well, that’s kind of the whole point. Satellite phones are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and support you during emergency situations such as flooding or fires.

They don’t work when the power is out: Well, this is also wrong. They’re designed so that they don’t have to rely on any type of grid. With a satellite phone, you’re fully independent.

Now that the myths of satellite phones have been debunked, let’s look at the types of satellite networks that you have to choose from. These networks will allow you to receive data and of course, call out.

Types of satellite networks

You have two types of satellite networks that can be used for satellite phones: geosynchronous and low-Earth orbit. Don’t freak out by the complex name, they’ll be explained to you.

  • Geosynchronous satellites: these satellites stay hovered above a single point on the Earth, orbiting 20,000 miles from the surface of the planet. This typically offers an enormous range of coverage, however, have obvious transmission delay because of the distance between the satellite and Earth.
  • Low-Earth orbit: in comparison to geosynchronous satellites, low-Earth orbits travel lower to the Earth, usually between 400 to 700 miles from the ground. They’re very quick to orbit and can circle the Earth in less than an hour and a half. They usually provide more supportive coverage and also cover the most north and south areas of Earth.

Now that you about the types of satellite networks available, let’s take a look at the features you need to look for.

Features to look for in a satellite phone

There are some much-needed features that you need to look for in a satellite phone.

Battery power

You want to make sure that you have at least a minimum of 10 hours of battery time. Most satellite phones will have over 15 hours of standby battery time, with 3-4 hours of talking time.

signal and battery power

That should be enough time to assist you if you’re in a situation. So, make sure that the satellite phone has an adequate amount of battery standby/talking time.

Weather-resistant

You’re most likely going to be using this satellite phone when either traveling or in an emergency situation. This means the weather will be unpredictable. So, make sure that your phone is weather resistant and will be able to handle harsh weather conditions. Most come with humidity tolerance, dustproof and water resistant features.

SMS/ voice calling

This is obviously something that is crucial in a satellite phone. You want to make sure you can send SMS and make voice calls. These are essential when you’re traveling or in emergency situations. Nowadays, there are no satellite phones that don’t offer this as a feature.

Stowed Antenna

Many people get annoyed with antennas – they stick out and can create an awkward feeling when carrying the satellite phone. So, many satellite phones now offer stowed antennas. This way, when you’re sending an SMS or making a voice call, you simply pull out your antenna for connecting. Other than that, you can keep it stowed away.

GPS Tracking

Not all satellite phones offer this, however, it’s a nice feature to have when you’re traveling in remote locations. Also, in emergency situations, this is also a good feature to have. It may cost more, however, it’s well worth the investment.

sat phone with gps

Now that you know about the features you need to look for, let’s look at the six best satellite phones that are currently available on the market.

Satellite Phones In Depth Look

Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite Phone

Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite PhoneWeight: 8.64 oz

Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 2.4 inches

Specific Features: Military-grade durability, two-way SMS, weather-resistant keypad

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: The Iridium Extreme 9575 is made by one of the leading brands in satellite phones. If you’re looking for a satellite phone to travel with or to have in your emergency kit, then this is a good option. It’s built with military-grade durability and the highest Ingress Protection (IP) which are two factors that you want in a satellite phone.

It comes with up to 30 hours of battery standby time and you can talk for up to 4 hours. You’re capable of two-way SMSing as well as sending and receiving short emails. Another great feature is that it comes with a water-resistant keypad, so if you’re in extreme weather conditions, you’ll be able to send messages and outgoing/incoming calls.

However, if you’re looking for a phone without an antenna, this is not the phone for you. It’s not bulky but does come with a slightly thick antenna.

Related: The Disaster Preparedness Kit will keep your satellite phone and accessories all together in one place. It’s great to have if you’re going to be using this phone for emergency situations as it comes with an AC travel charger and 24-hour free global support. You can use this kit for traveling as well, however, it may be a tad bulky.

Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone

Iridium 9555 Satellite PhoneWeight: 8.64 oz

Dimensions: 5.51 x 1.06 x 2.36 inches

Specific Features: two-way SMS, compact size, prepaid SIM card

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: Another exceptional satellite phone from Iridium, the Iridium 9555 can provide you with the support you’re looking for in a satellite phone. It comes with a prepaid SIM card and uses Low-Earth Orbit satellites that give you high-quality voice connections to whoever you call.

You’ll be able to connect anywhere on Earth, even remote locations. It’s highly innovative and allows you to send and receive SMS and emails.Though it’s one of the smallest phones from Iridium, it’s the most powerful. This phone is more aerodynamic and has a stowed antenna, giving you sleek design. The lithium battery has 30 hours of standby time as well as 3 hours of talking time.

It also comes with a box that includes the rechargeable battery, AC charger, international plug kit, DC travel charger, hands-free headset, holster case, USB cable, and auxiliary antenna charger. So, you’re all set with everything you need.

Related: If you’re looking for something that’s not so expensive, you can try the Skyroam Mobile Hotspot. You get free coverage in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The unlimited data allows you to connect anywhere and anytime. So, this is a decent option if you need a satellite phone, however, have a limited budget.

Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro Satellite Phone

Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro Satellite PhoneWeight: 9.92 oz

Dimensions: 6.69 x 2.36 x 1.57 inches

Specific Features: Easy-to-use, Bluetooth support, GPS.

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: So many satellite phones have a bad wrap for being bulky and awkwardly designed, however, Inmarsat’s IsatPhone is completely the opposite. It’s thin and sleek in design, so it’s like having a normal cell phone in your pocket.

It comes with all the essentials: voicemail, text and email messaging, as well as GPS location. If you’re using this for traveling it is splash and shock resistant and well as humidity tolerant. So, no matter where you go, it’ll support you along the way. It’s very easy to use and use geostationary satellites that provide connections with minimal call dropping.

Interestingly, this is the only satellite phone to support Bluetooth, so it can be turned into a hands-free phone. It’s mid-range in price, so if you’re looking for a reliable satellite phone, however, don’t want to break the bank then this is a great option.

Related: If you need something more modest in price, we understand. So, you can always opt for the Glocalme G1S mobile wi-fi hotspot.It’s powered by Cloud Sim technology, so you’ll be able to travel without using a local SIM card.

However, this phone may not support you if you’re going to remote locations. If that’s the case, then it’s best to invest in a satellite phone that’ll provide you global support.

Qualcomm GSP-1600 Satellite Phone

Qualcomm GSP-1600 Satellite PhoneWeight: 13 oz

Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.2 x 4 inches

Specific Features: Battery meter, minute alert, lightweight

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: This is another great satellite phone that’s ideal for people who are looking for a phone that’s compact. It comes with all the necessary features that you’re looking for. It comes with a battery meter, a signal strength indicator, voicemail notification, and memory location.

The features of Qualcomm GSP-1600 Satellite Phone are exactly what you’re looking for in a satellite phone. In addition, you’ll able to be to use the usage control features so that you’re aware of your costs. It provides you with timers and minute alerts to help manage your costs. It comes with a keypad lock and security codes for additional security.

The phone itself has 19 hours of standby time with 3.75 hours of talking time. On top of that, it comes includes a North American Wall Charger and rechargeable lithium ion battery, so you’ll be all set. If you’re looking for a phone will all your basic necessities, then this is a great option.

Related: DeLorme InReach Explorer is another satellite phone that also comes with an on-screen map. This is ideal for people in both traveling or emergency situations as it comes with a GPS in addition to the SMS, SOS and emailing features.

For travellers, it even comes with a barometric altimeter, accelerometer and a digital compass. For the price, it’s an exceptional investment.

Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone

Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite PhoneWeight: 7 oz

Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2 inches

Specific Features: stowed antenna, backlit display, CDMA technology

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: Globalstar is one of the leading companies in mobile satellite technology. They wanted to create a satellite phone that gave you superior support and an overall solid product. The Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone is fully loaded with a variety of features including the fact that it’s extremely lightweight.

It comes with a stowed away antenna so that you’ll be able to reduce bulk when you’re carrying it. It comes with 36 hours of standby power with 4 hours of talking time. The backlit display allows you 24-hour visibility with an LCD illuminated keypad. The backlight and keypad allow you easy usability anytime of the day. You have full global coverage, even when visiting remote places.

The CDMA technology gives you optimal voice clarity and limited call dropping. You also have a variety of price plans where you can choose what best suits your needs. In addition, it’s also weatherproof so you don’t have to worry about damaging the phone.

Related: If you like Globalstar’s products, however, want a satellite phone a little cheaper, then try the SPOT Global phone. It’s not ideal for travellers, however, if you’re planning on having it for emergency purposes, then this satellite phone will work.

It has no roaming fees and free long-distance calling to the USA & Canada. It comes with a lighted keypad for night time usage, as well as a long-life lithium-ion battery with 4 hours of talking time and 36 hours of standby. In addition, you have fast satellite data speeds of 9.6 kbps.

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite Phone

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite PhoneWeight: 11.2 oz

Dimensions: 6.65 x 1.14 x 2.05 inches

Specific Features: GPS tracking, SMS, emergency assistance button

Best Used: traveling, emergency

Description: The IsatPhone 2 is truly an all-in-one satellite phone which includes a SIM card which can either be set as a prepaid or monthly service plan. So, you’re given full control of what you need and how you’re going to use your satellite phone.

This phone comes with global coverage and no roaming charges. You’ll be able to send and receive SMS, voice calls, as well as track yourself with an easy-to-use GPS. This phone will support and cover you around the globe, excluding the extreme north and south poles. When you purchase this phone, it comes with a lithium-ion battery, international AC wall charger, DC charger, holster belt clip, Lanyard, USB cable, and a one-year warranty.

The phone itself is water resistant and dust resistant, so it can be stored away without damage. It’s highly reliable and comes with humidity tolerance and transflective display technology that increases visibility. In addition, this phone works with BlueCosmo which provides you with ultimate support in satellite communications.

Related: If you’re going to be keeping this as an emergency device, then you should opt for storing it in a proper case. The BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone Pelican case is waterproof, crushproof, dust-proof and floats in water.

This case will protect your satellite phone from literally anything happening to it. So, you’ll be able to have a piece of mind knowing that your satellite phone is properly protected by the Pelican case.

Conclusion

Now that you know what a satellite phone is, how it works and the features you need to look for in a satellite phone. Test them out and see which one suits you and your needs the best. With the advancement in technology, satellite phones are one of the best traveling and/or emergency kit items that you could invest in.

Call using satellite phone

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and check these satellite phones out. Don’t forget to let us know what you think about them in the comments below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Veronica Archer

    I completely forgot about satellite phones; which is funny because I am absolutely terrified of getting lost. I have a quick question about cost? They all seem so expensive. Are they really worth it? But then I guess that’s like asking…if my life in case of an emergency or when I’m lost is worth it and it completely is, of course! Just want to know, if I am in need, will the phone I bought work?

  • John Jacobs

    I was unaware that people still used these. I can understand why, though. Cell phones do not always have good reception and sometimes people still do get lost. I used to think there’s no way I could get lost, there’s GPS and roads and people everywhere! Until I took a back road to Vegas and realized there was no cell service or people and yes, I could still get lost. Might be a good investment. I will check out some of the brands you mentioned.

  • Jerry Mueller

    Satellite phones connect with satellites and not land-based cellular towers so connection pushes through even in adverse weather conditions. Your mobile phone, sorry to say won’t. As for costs, nope, due to advances in technology and demand, those satellite phones that used to be costly before is now affordable. You may want to visit a site that caters to satellite phone subscriptions. The surprising thing is that they’re relatively wallet-friendly.

  • Jerry Mueller

    Hi John! The great factor between satellite phones and mobile phones that is being compared: connectivity. There’s a huge difference between the two – satellite phones are dependent on space satellites while mobile phones on land-based cell towers. Believe me, even in the remotest jungle the satellite phone will work.

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