If your search for a good satellite phone leads you to the IsatPhone 2 page on the manufacturer’s website, the words, ‘Ready. Reliable. Robust.’ will confront you in bold letters. That is the first impression Inmarsat wants you to have of the phone. As a marketing tool, it is very clever.
But is the phone really what it is cracked up to be? Regular users of Inmarsat satellite phones would hope this one is an improvement on the IsatPhone Pro. This IsatPhone 2 review though will not be a comparison piece between the two. That is for another day.
So what do you expect from a sat phone made by one of the world’s leading makers of these devices? Certainly, the basic functions must be excellent with several more unique functions to justify that bold statement on the website.
Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Review
First impressions and description
Satellite phones are usually chunky affairs compared to regular smartphones. From the design of this IsatPhone 2, you can tell immediately Inmarsat tried to do something different with the phone in terms of size.
But at almost 7″ long and over 1″ thick, it is still a rather chunky phone if you are still sticking to the ‘mobile phones vs satellite phones’ theme. Like most handheld sat phones, the overall look will instantly remind you of the cell phones of a bygone era with a simply alphanumeric keyboard and a display above it.
You will love the large buttons on the keypad that makes it easy to use even if you are wearing gloves. The display comes with a color screen and at 2.1″, you have enough real estate to view numbers and letters on the screen easily.
If you position the device upright and take a step back, you get the impression of a bloodhound with extra-long ears. That is what the foldable antenna does to the overall looks of the device when it is folded downwards. At 5″, it is almost as long as the phone.
Since it is foldable, you’d have to extend it upwards anytime you want to use and fold back down when you are done. The obvious advantage of this is the convenience when you wish to store it.
The plastic shell looks cheap but it solid and should provide enough protection to the components inside. According to the features, it has an IK04 rating. That is a decent impact-protection rating of 0.5 joules which is the equivalent of 250g mass dropped from a height of 200 mm.
Further protection is provided by the IP65 rating which means exposure to dust and water splashes would have no detrimental effect on the functions. Essentially, you should be able to use it during light rain, dust storms or snowy conditions.
Talking about extreme weather, the phone can be used in temperatures of between -20 and 55 degrees Celsius (-4°F – 122°F) with a humidity tolerance level of about 95%.
Finally, you would love the way the edges of the device are perforated. This provides excellent grip simultaneously ensuring the phone doesn’t slip out of your hands easily.
What is in the box
- 1 quick start guide
- 1 BlueCosmo SIM
- 1 Rechargeable Li-ion battery
- 1 Wall charger with international plug adapters
- 1 10 – 30 volts CLA Auto Charger
- 1 Micro USB charging cable
- 1 wired headset
- 1 custom holster
- 1 lanyard strap
- 1 USB memory drive
IsatPhone 2 was designed with simplicity at the heart of its operations. That simplicity also extends to the setup. The pack comes with a Quick User Guide that details how to install the battery and SIM and get it ready for use.
The SIM slot is located at the back of the device and after clipping in the battery, you’ll be prompted to extend the antenna to initiate satellite reception.
The device then prompts you to configure the internal compass. This is done by waving the phone around in an ‘8’ motion until it is done. A progress bar on the screen would inform you when to stop. It takes a maximum of 30 seconds.
The phone will now search for the closest satellites in your location. If there is a problem locating, hooking up and establishing a connection to a satellite, the ‘pointing mode’ is automatically activated to help you locate the nearest satellite. This involves lining up the phone with the satellite shown on the display.
Once a connection is established, you can now start making and receiving calls.
The global Inmarsat satellite covers a large part of the world with an almost 100% availability at all times. With your IsatPhone 2, you are guaranteed voice connection in any part of the world in theory.
The reality is not so rosy though. The company prioritizes communication in areas above 44°0’S 0°0’E Latitude. Though you might still get service below this latitude, don’t expect it to be of top quality.
However, when you are in a good service area, the call quality is very good. But you’d wish for a noise cancellation feature in very windy areas.
One of the best features of this device is the ‘Assistance’ button at the top. When configured, it is like a shortcut key so that pressing it would help you make a call, send an alert, text message or email to a preset number. This is especially handy in the case of an emergency.
As stated earlier, when service is good, the audio is quite clear. In urban areas where there are tall buildings, you might not get the same level of reception and service. In some cases, the network is even very poor. But, who bothers using a sat phone in the city when you can always use your smartphone?
Battery life – At about 8 hours of talk time and 160 hours on standby, it is pretty decent. Considering that people generally don’t spend too much time talking on their sat phones, you won’t have to charge the device every day with 8 hours available to you.
As always though, it is a good idea to have a spare battery close especially when you are going to a remote location.
Internet services – The predecessor of this phone hyped the Internet connectivity of the device. But it was very slow. For the IsatPhone 2, it is also possible to use it as a modem to connect to the Internet. But the speed is so slow it’s better to forget the idea of even trying.
If you have to use the phone for data services, you might consider getting a satellite phone WiFi hotspot device. There are good excellent ones capable of squeezing out more speed from the sat phone. You could then connect to the Internet with your computer or any device with a WiFi function.
Summary of Features of the IsatPhone 2
- Bluetooth for hands-free operations
- Assistance button to call and send GPS location to a preset number
- Incoming call alert with ‘undeployed’ antenna
- Conference calls functionality
- Call divert
- Fixed number dialing to limit calls/text to numbers in the FND list
- Keypad lock to prevent accidental dialing
- Phone lock to prevent unauthorized access
- Close User Group functionality
- Rugged waterproof device
- Decent global coverage
- It is easy to use
- The battery is easily replaceable
- Long battery life
- Good audio quality
- Poor Internet connectivity
- No noise cancellation feature
It is obvious from this IsatPhone 2 review that it is an adequate device to carry along if you are going for a trip where there is no normal cell phone network or in emergencies. It is rugged and is unlikely to be damaged if it is exposed to weather conditions such as light rain and dust.
However, you won’t get a decent Internet service with it. And in some locations, including city centers, network coverage is a bit flaky. The utility of the phone though outweighs the disadvantages. The biggest drawbacks are not even peculiar to it.