Ever worry about getting stuck in the woods or another dead zone without a signal? A new smartphone accessory lets you text your friends without service anywhere in the world, and works even better from mountaintops. goTenna ($150 for a pair) is like a walkie-talkie for your Android or iOS device, but with a wider range and better features.
goTenna is a dedicated antenna that transmits messages using its own radio frequency. When paired with the free iOS or Android app, you can send messages and your GPS location (on an offline-ready map) to a specific individual who also has a goTenna.
The app also has a shout feature to let you send messages to anyone in the vicinity who has a goTenna, which is useful for looking for help during emergencies, such as hurricanes. Those who don’t want to be bothered can opt out of this feature.
What’s really cool about goTenna is its range. Because the device uses extremely low-band analog frequencies, goTenna’s transmissions have a far wider reach. It also interacts with less matter, so it won’t dissipate as quickly. This means that, depending on the amount of obstacles, the goTenna can communicate for up to 50 miles.
Here’s how you use it. Pull out the wand at the end of goTenna to turn it on, then pair it with your phone via Bluetooth. Then, you’ll start the goTenna app to configure your device. Give your phone a name and enter your number so you can find contacts who also use goTenna. For those who want a “burner cell” experience, the app can also generate a random number at this stage, but your friends won’t be able to find you with your number.
Security fans will appreciate that messages sent via goTenna are protected with 128-bit, end-to-end encryption. The device is also water- and dust-resistant and charges via microUSB. It will last up to 72 hours on a charge with intermittent use, and 30 hours if on all the time. The app requires iOS 7 and up or Android 4.4 KitKat and later.
goTenna’s founders created the device in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when downed cell towers led to people being stranded without a means of communication. The device can not only be used in the wake of disasters to seek help, but is also useful for those who want to travel without incurring roaming charges or keep an eye on loved ones while camping.