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If you’ve ever been on a hike, out of the country, or at a crowded concert with no service, goTenna is aiming to be your connectivity solution. The hardware accessory combined with an application for both iOS and Android says it will allow you to create a local network that works reliably. The network is based on a group of people each having a goTenna stick connected to the iPhone. The video from the company, below, explains it well:

The antenna connects wirelessly to your phone over Bluetooth, and allows you to text message other phones connected to a goTenna over vast distances. The company tells us, depending on conditions, that the antennas can communicate up to 50 miles away. Your mileage definitely will vary though depending on mountain ranges, nearby bodies of water, and nearby obstructions such as buildings.

The hardware itself looks small enough to carry in a large pocket or to clip onto a backpack. Unfortunately, the battery life is not fantastic for long hiking trips: the company says that if the device will last 30 hours in continuous usage mode. With moderate daily use it will last 72 hours, and with no use it will last approximately a year and a half. You can re-charge the goTenna over micro-USB, but I don’t think this will be too helpful in all environments.

goTenna explains a bit more about how the product works here:

The device pairs wirelessly over BluetoothLE to the goTenna app (available on iOS and Android), allowing you to send and receive text messages and share GPS locations on beautiful offline maps via low-frequency radio-waves over relatively high range (up to 50 miles). The goTenna app has automatic message retry and will let you know when your message has been delivered to the intended recipient. You can create your own networks with goTenna, with the ability to designate specific individuals or groups as your message recipients, as well as opt into public conversations with others within range. Not only does the service offer end-to-end encryption and optional self- destructing messages, enabling users’ privacy, thanks to goTenna’s advanced networking protocols, no messages will interfere or overlap with each other.

As of now, the goTenna can only power an in-house application for text messaging and sharing map coordinates. The company tells us that it is working on a Software Development Kit so third-party developers can integrate the hardware in apps for the future. The app has a few functions: you can start a group chat with nearby goTenna users, you can message privately with a user of your choice, and you can share and view map coordinates. These features are shown off in the video and screenshots above.

goTenna is launching its campaign today on its website, allowing users to pre-order a two-pack of antennas for $149. The devices are said to ship late in 2014.

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10 Responses to “No service? goTenna hardware and iOS app let you text off-the-grid”

  1. why couldn’t it just provide satellite wi-fi to relay your text messages instead of making you download yet ANOTHER social app?!


  2. “Everything on goTenna is private.” Oh my god, that scene was hilarious


  3. I can see a return on investment for goTenna by international travelers. Roaming charges and international phone rates, plus up to 3% foreign transaction fees on credit cards used abroad add up (fast). I see value here; I like it.


  4. coolfactor says:

    Great concept! Peer-to-peer networks between phones (and tablets?) The pot-smoking scene didn’t sit well with me, though. I’m sure they are just trying to catch the attention of the broader audience with that placement.


  5. Yay, lets advertise smoking & dealing pot! Idiots.


  6. herb02135go says:

    Yea, it’s great for hiking … unless you are near a mountain or a body of water.


  7. What a waste of time & money! Like all this proprietary tech it’s only any good if you & the people you want to communicate with buy a bunch of these, carry it all the time, keep it charged and are in the same area; and of course have an iOS device. Why not just buy a bunch of cheap walkie-talkies from radio shack if your planning a trip where you know cell coverage is going to be a problem? Totally agree that the pot smoking scene is bogus. I’m the DEA & counter terrorist units around the world will love this device!


  8. alexkent says:

    interesting device, but the weed smoking (plus dealing) and drinking in the promo video is incredibly ill advised.


  9. Am I the only one that understands what demographic they’re after? Weed is decriminalized and legal here in WA, like it should be. I don’t want to make this a conversation about marijuana, but I believe they’re after the festival-goers and outdoorsy 20-somethings. It’s a social tool, more than a survival tool. Overall, lighten up. It’s just pot.