The best satellite phones

Travel the globe without losing contact with these far-reaching satellite phones

best satellite phones silhouette of man in wild mountain landscape walk along yellow camping tent holding phone
alexbrylov / 123RF Stock Photo
best satellite phones of sattelite badgeBackcountry hiking, sailing, or exploring remote areas can be freeing and exhilarating, but escaping contact with civilization doesn’t always work out as planned. Even people who decide to live off the grid often want a method of communicating with authorities or family in the event of an emergency. When you’re heading out beyond cell phone range — whether you’ll be on land, water, or ice — a satellite phone can be a two-way lifeline for emergency calls.

Satellite phones let you make and take calls in the field. Sat phones use one of four networks of satellites — only three of which serve the United States. Many models also send and receive text and email messages. Sat phones often include GPS and tracking functions, to use as a backup GPS or send SOS messages. Data connections come standard with most satellite phones, but don’t think you’ll use them to post photos on Instagram or browse the internet. Satellite phone data connections currently max out at 9.6 kbps.

The options from the various networks include marine, aviation, and automotive packages, special antennae, enhanced internet-quality connectivity devices (at equally-enhanced equipment and service costs), and more. We focused on the basic equipment.

Satellite phones and service plans aren’t cheap, although they’re less expensive today than they were 10 years ago. You’ll want to consider your needs and where you’ll be traveling carefully before buying or signing up for anything. The first step is to choose a network. Satellite network coverage, reliability, voice quality, and service costs vary widely. Once you’ve chosen a network (see below), you’ll then choose the phone and service plan which best fits your needs. To help you select the right phone, we’ve assembled a list of the five best satellite phones available from the three satellite networks that service the U.S. and beyond.

At a glance

Product Category
Iridium Extreme 9575 The best satellite phone overall
Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT The best global sat phone for teams who work in the toughest conditions
Iridium 9555 The best bargain global sat phone for far-ranging travelers
IsatPhone 2 The best sat phone for non-polar sailors and travelers, especially if you get wet a lot
Globalstar GSP-1700 The best voice quality and lowest satellite and service price

Iridium Extreme 9575

The best

best satellite phones iridium 9575

Why you should buy this: True global functioning, ruggedness, integrated GPS and SOS button

Iridium Extreme 9575

Iridium's Extreme 9575 rugged satellite phone has an integrated GPS, an SOS button, and works anywhere on the globe, including polar areas.

Who it’s for: Frequent global travelers who need a phone that works anywhere, including the poles 

How much it will cost: $1,157

Why we picked the Iridium Extreme 9575

You’ll soon see that three of the five phones on our list are Iridium models. Iridium is the only satellite network with truly global service — including the two poles. Iridium is also the only network that currently offers more than one phone, although earlier models still function on their respective networks. Iridium’s top-of-the-line Extreme 9575 sat phone is impressively rugged, and both dust- and water-resistant.

The 9575 has integrated GPS and an SOS button and lets you send and receive text messages and email, receive voicemail, and use it as a mobile hotspot. Maximum data speed is only 2.4 kbps, so short messages work best. If you need a rugged satellite phone to use absolutely everywhere, the Iridium Extreme 9575 is an easy choice. Talk time per battery charge is up to 4 hours.

Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT

The best global sat phone for teams who work in the toughest conditions

best satellite phones iridiun extreme ppt

Why you should buy this: Global service, one-button radio messaging, extra rugged, longer battery life

Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT

Iridium's Extreme 9575 PTT satellite phone is extra rugged, works globally including the poles, and has a push-to-talk radio for teams.

Who it’s for: Teams that need dual function as a global sat phone and push-to-talk radio messaging

How much it will cost: $2230

Why we picked the Iridium Extreme 9575 PTT

Take everything great we said about the Iridium Extreme 9575, toughen it up even more, and add push-to-talk communications. This is the phone for working teams or groups that move around the area. In exchange for almost $300 more than the standard 9575, the PTT model is a true dual-purpose handheld communications tool. Fortunately, PTT minutes are free and don’t count against your satellite service plan.

The PTT’s larger battery powers just over six hours of talk time in phone mode and five hours in PTT mode. To enhance messaging in the field, the PTT button is extra rugged and the audio on this model is louder.

Iridium 9555

The best bargain global sat phone for far-ranging travelers

best satellite phones iridium 9555

Why you should buy this: Global service, expedition quality without unnecessary ruggedness

Iridiums Extreme 9555

Iridium's Extreme 9555 is the best satellite phone for general purpose use in non-extreme conditions anywhere on earth including both poles.

Who it’s for: World travelers who don’t travel in extreme conditions

How much it will cost: $930

Why we picked the Iridium 9555

If global sat phone connectivity is a must but you really don’t need heavy duty ruggedness or backup GPS duty and an SOS button, the Iridium 9555 is your best choice. The 9555 boasts four hours of talk time and 30 hours standby. Like the Extreme 9575, the 9555 has SMS and email capability. The 9555’s ruggedness is all most people need for truly global travel and use.

Like the other Iridium phones, you can get a signal anywhere but if you have long calls — more than 15 minutes — the constant satellite movement may cause signal dropouts. You can talk while you walk with Iridium phones, which isn’t recommended with Inmarsat phones. All Iridium phones have the same service rates. The Iridium Monthly Wave Runner Plan, for example, provides 90 minutes a month for $100. Extra minutes cost $1.54 each.

IsatPhone 2

The best sat phone for non-polar sailors and travelers, especially if you get wet a lot

best satellite phones inmarsat

Why you should buy this: Strong acquired signal, splash resistance, mid-range price, integrated GPS and SOS button

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2

Inmarsat's Isatphone 2 is a rugged, splash-resistant satellite phone great for marine use that works worldwide except for the polar regions.

Who it’s for: World travelers who stay within the 70th parallels, especially sailors

How much it will cost: $635

Why we picked the IsatPhone 2

The Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 doesn’t work at the north or south poles but as long as you’re staying within the 70th north and south parallels, it won’t matter much. Inmarsat has only three satellites compared to Iridium’s 66, all located over the equator, so you might have to move away from obstructions to get a good signal. Once you have a signal, Inmarsat reliability is better than Iridium’s because if you stand still the signal maintains its strength.

Reflecting its maritime heritage, the IsatPhone 2 is dust, shock, and splash resistant, and withstands 95 percent humidity. Battery life provides an impressive eight hours of talk time with 160 hours standby. The phone also has voicemail, SMS, and email messaging. A built-in GPS and emergency button sends a distress text to a pre-arranged number with your location. The IsatPhone 2’s price is lower than any of the Iridium phones but service plan costs are about the same. For example, Inmarsat’s IsatPhone Mid Plan costs $65 a month for 30 minutes, with extra minutes costing $1.05.

Globalstar GSP-1700

The best voice quality and lowest satellite and service price

best satellite phones globalstar

Why you should buy this: Best voice quality, cell phone number assignment, low price

Globalstar 40 LEO

Globalstar's GSP-1700 low-priced, regional coverage satellite phone has great voice quality and low operating costs.

Who it’s for: Anyone who travels within Globalstar regional coverage zones and doesn’t need an extremely rugged phone

How much it will cost: $500

Why we picked the Globalstar GSP-1700

If you’re traveling or staying within one of the Globalstar regional coverage areas — much, but not all of the world — the Globalstar GSP-1700 is the bargain lover’s satellite phone. The network’s service rates, while still much more than cellular service, seem extremely reasonable compared to the others. The Globalstar Orbit 200 minute plan provides 200 minutes for $100, with extra minutes for $0.99 each. If you need any more than 200 minutes a month, the Globalstar Orbit Unlimited Plan is $150 for unlimited talk time, which seems like a wonderful deal by comparison.

Because Globalstar phones link with cell ground stations, they have far and away the clearest voice quality. With its 9.6 kbps data transfer speed, Globalstar is the speed demon of the lot but again that’s entirely relative. The GSP-1700 doesn’t send or receive SMS messages and there’s no GPS, but you can get your longitude and latitude directly from the phone while in talk mode. The Globalstar phone also has voicemail.

Outdoors

Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding canoe for waterborne adventures

The Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding kayak that measures 15 feet in length when fully assembled, yet can breakdown and be stored in a small, easily transported box making it a great option for apartment dwellers.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Home Theater

These top-line smart speakers conduct the most sophisticated symphony: Your life

Stuck talking to yourself? Get an A.I. assistant to keep you company! Whether you put your stock in Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, we've picked out the best smart speaker for any smart home ecosystem.
Mobile

Looking for flexible and inexpensive phone service? Check out our favorite MVNOs

Looking to switch from a major carrier to something a little more affordable? Luckily, there are a ton of great MVNO options to choose from. Check out our guide to the best MVNOs, from Boost Mobile to Google Fi.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Outdoors

Lime’s dockless electric bikes land in London, but its scooters aren’t allowed

Lime has landed in London with its dockless bikesharing service. The pedal-assisted electric bikes are unlocked via Lime's app and can reach speeds of 15 mph. It plans to have 1,000 bikes on the streets before the end of the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Outdoors

Conquer the cold season with the best heated clothing and outdoor apparel

If you're thinking about going outside this winter, heated apparel is a must. Luckily, we've rounded up some of the best heated clothing, whether you're looking for battery-powered gloves or heated insoles.
Outdoors

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.
Smart Home

Tired of running outdoors? Check out the best treadmills of 2018

Running can burn up to 900 calories per hour, melting away fat and strengthening your muscles.  Compared to running outdoors, you're safer staying indoors on a cushioned track. We've rounded up the best treadmills on the market
Outdoors

Need gift ideas? Here’s what to get the skiers and snowboarders in your life

You can't purchase snow, but you can grab your favorite skier or snowboarder some sweet gear this holiday season. We've hand-picked some of the best available that'll wow even the most well-equipped terrain park junkie we know.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
1 of 2