It’s not easy being a travel writer and a dad. I’m not complaining—I love my job. I get to travel to the ends of the Earth, sometimes literally, on my “business trips.” (My wife insists I add the quotation marks there.)
But those same trips often involve a week or more of trekking in remote mountains where getting even one bar on my cell phone is a pipe dream. My son is nine; my daughter, seven. It’s hard for me to be away from them, and even harder being in a place where I can’t check in to make sure everything is okay at home. And when I’m at risk of plummeting off a mountaintop “for work,” my wife and kids like to hear that everything is fine with me, too.
Enter the Iridium 9555 satellite phone. For my most recent trip, a long trek through the Andes in Peru, I rented the Iridium 9555 from satphonestore.com with the hope of being able to check in with my family once a day.
I contacted the rental company and told a customer service representative about my planned trip. My question: Would I be able to get reception on the satphone in a mountainous region where I’d be a hundred miles from the nearest cell tower?
“The Iridium 9555 would be a great choice for your trip to Peru,” the representative told me via email. “And the phone does both voice and SMS messaging.”
All right, I thought. Let’s give it a try. Here’s how it worked out for me.
Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone Review
Price and Where to Buy the Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone: I rented the Iridium 9555 satellite phone from satphonestore.com. The base price for the rental is $49 for one week, with the option to rent for additional weeks or up to six months ($625). You also buy prepaid airtime (I bought the least expensive package, 50 minutes for $77, with the option to go as high as 300 prepaid minutes for $357) and can choose to add additional accessories like a solar charger, spare battery, etc. All told, my three-week rental came to about $280 for the phone, the prepaid minutes, a case, a spare battery, rental insurance, and a prepaid return slip. You can buy the phone outright for about $1,000.
How the Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone Rates:
Usefulness: 9/10. Every night around 7:00 p.m., I turned on my phone, waited a minute for it to find the network, and then dialed home. Nothing beats hearing your kids’ voices when you’re camping in the mountains 4,000 miles away. The phone also has voicemail and texting, neither of which I used beyond testing for the sake of this review, but they also worked as expected. It can receive calls, too, but I kept it turned off except when I wanted to make a call in order to preserve the battery life.
Reception was inconsistent—I’d get the occasional choppy voice, and the sound was a bit tinny at times, but I didn’t expect 4G service. My average calls were just a few minutes long: Enough to say “hi” and hear about everyone’s day, but not long enough for in-depth conversation. The calls would often cut off after a few minutes, and if I wanted to call back I’d have to wait for the phone to find the network again.
Value: 8/10. Can you put a price on peace of mind? The phone rental is expensive, no question, but in this case there were truly no other alternatives for keeping in touch. I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Portability: 10/10. The Iridium 9555 satellite phone is fairly light and about the size of an old-school cellphone circa 2005. The whole kit—battery, charger, and all., couldn’t have weighed more than a pound and took up almost no room in my bag. It’s worth noting that the batteries are lithium ion, though, and cannot be packed in checked luggage for flights, per TSA regulations.
Final Verdict: I recommend the Iridium 9555 satellite phone rental to anyone who plans to be outside of cellphone range and wants or needs to stay in touch for personal or safety reasons. I’ll definitely use it for future hiking, trekking, and camping trips when “work” takes me to the remotest regions of the world. Everest Base Camp, here I come.
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