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Chat off the grid: goTenna lets you send texts without cellular service

Susie Ochs | July 18, 2014
Your phone is a pocket-sized supercomputer, but when you don't even have cellular coverage to send a text message, it feels more like a paperweight. goTenna is a portable RF antenna that lets you communicate even when your phone has no service whatsoever. You won't be posting selfies to Instagram or catching up on your Hulu queue, but goTenna lets you exchange text messages and GPS coordinates with other goTenna users who are within range--and that range could be a mile or so in a city to a whopping 50 miles if you happen to be standing on top of a mountain.

Good to go

So while goTenna would be a handy addition to your emergency kit, its ability to find and talk to your friends when the cell network is failing you would be great in a lot of situations. A group of pals toting goTennas could keep in touch at music festivals, on camping trips, while skiing, or even to avoid data roaming when traveling in foreign countries. The goTenna device comes in four colors to tell them apart, and a sturdy webbing loop lets you dangle it from a backpack, a hat, or even a tree to get better reception. It weighs only 2 ounces, and it's weather proof.

You do have to charge goTenna, via micro-USB, but it should last for two or three days of regular use, and if it's stashed in your emergency kit, it can hold a charge for up to a year and a half. While so far goTenna's app is focusing on text chatting and location sharing, goTenna's SDK will let other developers enable their apps to send data with goTenna, effectively letting them work without cell service too.

goTenna is taking preorders starting Thursday, with devices sold in pairs for $150, which is half the price goTenna will sell for when it ships in late fall. So it's not exactly an impulse buy, but it's cheaper than a satellite phone — and when you really need to communicate while stuck off the grid, goTenna's capabilities will seem priceless.


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