What's the best Satellite Phone for Sailing? Here's a List of the Best SatPhone for Sailors!

Water covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface. And most cell towers are based on land. Therefore, your phone might not have service for a big part of your ocean adventure. And it could be one thing many sea voyagers want. Being in the middle of the vast waters gives you that unique opportunity of getting to know yourself better. You can reflect on thoughts like no other way. It also gives you freedom, albeit perhaps temporary, from all the worries and stress the world has imposed on our lives.

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But just like anything else in this world, there’s actually peeves of having to miss out on what’s happening on land. Most of us have family who worries about us. There’s also the issue of being unable to get help when you need it right away. Although most ships have their own communication systems that can broadcast emergency SOS to the nearest port or nearby ships, it would be prudent to compliment it of our own phone just in case the worst of the worst happens.

One good way to connect back to the world is using satellite phones. And we’ve picked the best satellite phone packages currently in the market that could suit your needs.

Satellite Phones for Sailing - Quick Answer

1. Iridium Extreme 9575
2. Iridium GO Satellite
3. Iridium 9555
4. Thuraya XT-PRO
5. Thuraya XT-PRO DUAL
6. Garmin inReach explorer & SE
7. Inmarsat IsatPhone 2
8. Globalstar GSP-1700
9. DeLorme AG-008727-201
10. DeLorme inReach SE

Comparison

Things to Consider when Getting a Satellite Phone

1. The Trip

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  • It is common wisdom in travelling that you should at least have a basic idea of where you are going. And that is even more true and important when you go sailing in the ocean where there’s no obvious landmarks that serves as reference in figuring out your own location.

  • Consider the area you’re going to. There could be a lot of nearby islands that have cell sites. That would have been a waste of your minute subscriptions. Also, many communication companies provide coverage at certain areas for a cheaper cost than the worldwide coverage provided by Iridium phones

  • The type of weather might also affect your Sat phone’s capabilities to communicate outside

  • Have a timeline that tells you which days are you going to arrive at a certain specific place. Granted, you may not always have a very accurate estimate but at least, having a basic idea will also tell you how many minutes you may need for the Sat phone.

2. Buying Versus Renting

  • You can either buy satellite phones or rent them. These options exist to accommodate a variety of sailors or outdoor travellers in general. What’s best depends on your frequency and how long each sail is going to be in a year.

3. Portability (dimensions, size, and weight)

Photo by  Garmin.com

Photo by Garmin.com

  • This may seem to be of dull importance at the outset. After all, you’re going to be sailing and you’ll be staying inside the vessel for the majority of the voyage. There’s no need to be carrying around the Sat phone all the time right? Well, in case you and your crew need to abandon ship, you may consider otherwise.

  • Most have their own antennas built into the device, just like most mobile phones. However, the antennas are larger and most visible. (And yes, your “smart phone” has an antenna, it’s just not visible). Most antennas can be stacked and folded within the phone. But some have auxiliary antennas to amplify signals especially if stronger internet connection is desired

4. Battery Life and Power Source

  • Currently, the only way to recharge your satellite phone is to plug it in conventionally to an electric power outlet. It won’t be a problem under normal sailing conditions since almost all yachts and ships have power sources for electronic devices. But as mentioned earlier, in case of the need to abandon ship, it’s good to bring a spare or two fully charged batteries.

  • A fully charged one normally can last up to two to three hours of talk time. Factors affecting battery life include the type of batteries and temperature. Extreme hot or cold can shorten battery life.

5. Other features

  • Some Sat phones have an SOS Button. You pay for a subscription of it and the idea is that, when you press it, rescuers will come to your aid. A popular subscriptions service is from GEOS. They are available for 140 countries and respond & dispatch help 24/7.

  • Most system also support a low bandwidth internet access. Granted, the connection you’re gonna get is not as fast as 3G or LTE services.

  • Some systems are also able to broadcast your precise GPS location. This is very handy especially for rescuers as they can track you easily. You can also give your loved ones some peace of mind by having to know where you are.

  • Since we live in the era of “smart phones” now, it would be very convenient for Sat Phones to be able to sync with the common iPhone or Samsung phone. Granted, a lot of apps will remain unusable.

  • The ocean’s weather is always variable. That’s why a good Sat Phone must also provide weather updates that are as recent as possible.

More details of the Best Satellite Phones in the Market

Iridium Extreme 9575

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • It is user-friendly

  • It has an IP65 rating. Dust, water and shock proof

  • It includes vehicle Mag-Mount antenna which can be used for indoors external antenna

  • Battery life can last up to 3.5 hours of talking time, 30-hours of Stand-by

  • It has simple e-mail and SMS messaging capabilities

  • It has integrated speakerphone

  • It has a handsfree headset with on-wire volume control with an answer button & microphone.

  • It has a 200-character brightly illuminated graphic display.

  • It has pre-programmable International Access Code (00 or +).

  • It has 100 entry internal address book.

  • TheI call history retains received, missed and dialed calls.

  • Call Forwarding, Call Blocking, Call Waiting, Call Holding are available.

  • Optional Keypad lock (unlock with pin number) is available.

  • It has 4x16 alphanumeric, backlit keyboard.

  • It has multiple languages, the clock on display (GMT), Vibracall.

  • DD key, call forward, voicemail, SMS, (160 characters).

Iridium GO Satellite

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • It is not strictly a satellite phone but it can connect to your iPhone or Samsung for it to be a satellite phone

  • An existing cellular number will work out of range if connected to Iridium GO

  • It cannot make a phone call and be on the internet at the same time

  • It takes on average 20 seconds for SMS Instant messages to be sent by the GO or the recipient.

  • Other texting Apps (that are not Iridium Go like iMessage or Whatsapp) will not work over the Iridium Data network

  • Internet speed (advertised as 2.5 kB/s, 1 kB/s realistically), is not very good. For optimized usage, the GO terminal must be under a very wide-open sky.

  • Wi-Fi radius is about 100 feet or 30.5 meters. You can work inside the cabin while the Iridium GO is outside

  • Laptop and computers cannot connect the internet through the Iridium GO

  • Existing apps won’t work over the Iridium GO data network. Internet access is only accessed through Iridium GO apps (links down below)

Iridium GO apps: Apple StoreGoogle Play Store

Iridium 9555

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • Almost has the same features as the Iridium Extreme 9575

  • It is a cheaper alternative to Iridium Extreme

  • It has no GPS, nor the automatic Emergency SOS button

Thuraya XT-PRO

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • You can select your preferred navigation system: GPS, BeiDou, Glonnas

  • It has the longest talk time: 9 hours and standby time of up to 100 hours

  • Built for harsh conditions

  • The screen can be read even under extreme glare of the sun

  • Even the phone is switched off, the SOS button can work if pressed

  • It can easily fit in your pockets

  • Can connect laptop or PC to the internet

  • Can send fax, make calls & fax messages

  • It has the most reliable satellite network and the most advanced omnidirectional antenna that ensures uninterrupted signal

Thuraya XT-PRO DUAL

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • Looks almost exactly as the Thuraya XT Pro

  • Can communicate both in satellite and GSM

  • Make and receive calls with the satellite and GSM at the same time!

  • The rest of the features are the same as with the Thuraya XT Pro.

Garmin inReach Explorer

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Where to Buy: Amazon, West Marine

  • You can broadcast your location to friends and family

  • It has a world-wide coverage using the Iridium Satellites

  • It can sync with your regular mobile phone through the free Earthmate app to access maps and aerial imagery

  • It has an optional weather forecast feature.

  • Emergency response solution supported in more than 140 countries. Your SOS call will be handled by GEOS who stand by 24/7 to dispatch help

  • It is very affordable. It costs about half as much as the popular Sat Phones

  • It has unlimited cloud storage to store your trip plans, routes, preset messages, TOPO maps, links to social media, location tracking, etc.

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • It can handle both extreme hot and cold conditions

  • It has global coverage except from the poles

  • Notifications can still be received even with antenna stowed

  • It can broadcast your location to people you want

  • Costumers on monthly plan can from a free of charge world-wide emergency assistance from GEOS.

Globalstar GSP-1700

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • Weighs 7.05 oz or 200 g

  • It has 9.6 kb/s of uncompressed data speed

  • It has 4 hours of talk time, 36 hours in standby mode

  • It has backlit color display with 4-line 12-character LCD for outdoors viewing

  • It has illuminated keypad for nighttime usage

  • Standard 2.5 mm jack for connection to a noise-cancelling headset, vehicle/marine kit handset, or Bluetooth module

  • Optional Installation Kit comes with maritime or vehicle antennas

DeLorme inReach SE

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • Housing is water-resistant and dust-proof with an easy to read colour display.

  • Trigger an SOS and interact back and forth with GEOS, our 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center

  • Send and receive 160 character free-form text messages with GPS coordinates to emails or cell numbers anywhere in the world.

  • Adjustable tracking intervals from 10 minutes to 4 hours allow you to track your trip and share your location including GPS coordinates, elevation and speed

  • Uses Iridium’s constellation of 66 satellites for coverage of the earth's entire surface. Messages are buffered for up to a day.

  • Virtual keyboard allows you to compose text and email.

  • Stores predefined text messages for anticipated situations to send as needed.

  • Tracking feature allows your friends and community to see your progress.

  • Social media function lets you post messages and waypoints to Facebook, Twitter, or your own shared map.

  • Free DeLorme Earthmate app available from iTunes and Android Marketplace. Allows you to download maps and nautical charts to smartphones and enables inReach and iOS communication features such as native GPS to display location.

  • The internal rechargeable battery uses long-lasting lithium technology.

  • Requires a separate satellite plan to activate

DeLorme AG-008727-201 inReach

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Where to Buy: Amazon

  • Practically almost the same as DeLorme inReach SE. Communicator with Built in Navigation

  • A better fit for Sailing although the DeLorme inReach SE would still function as good

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