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Old 21-03-2013, 09:17   #1
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Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

What is the latest thinking on these satellite phones?

I am ready to purchase a sat phone and was set on purchasing an Iridium Extreme. However I had second thoughts after reading this revew:
How And When To Buy A Satellite Phone - Forbes

My attention turned to the IsatPhone Pro, but then I read in another review it only connects reliably if the user stands still:
http://www.survivalblog.com/2011/04/..._inmarsat.html

My trip takes me from Duluth to Australia via the Erie Canal, east coast of North America and the South Pacific. The most important features of the phone are receiving weather information via email and SMS send/receive.

The IsatPhone Pro is much less expensive... but can it do the job?
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Old 21-03-2013, 09:44   #2
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

We have an Iridium 9555 and used it a lot in the summer of 2011, when we were in the Sea of Cortez and later along the coast of Cental America.

We found that extended calls tended to drop after 10-15 minutes, which is explained in your links.

We just re-charged the phone and it was $695 for 500 minutes or $1.39 (US) per minute. Iridium Products So for most this is not cheap!

What you need to remember is that Satellite Phones are not cell phones and should not be concerned reliable in all situations or locations, especially when considering safety... but they are a nice tool to have in the box with the Poo-Poo hits the fan.

Also, a suggestion.... Best to have your home country's emergency numbers (Coast Guard) programed into the phone, especially if you are in countries you don't speak the language. Your own Coast Guard can usually relay information much faster than a foreign country can find an interpreter to talk with you.
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Old 21-03-2013, 10:31   #3
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

I recently did a delivery through the Bahamas where the owner had an older Iridium 9505a which he had only used for voice com. I purchased the (unique) serial data adaptor and a Serial<=>USB adaptor (more advanced models may not need these add-ons) from satellitephonestore (dot com) so that I could use it to obtain weather grib files via email (it's probably better to get the serial<=>USB connector from Radio Shack since the one from the satellitephonestore required a bit of surgery to fit the data adaptor [easy but a hassle]). In addition to the pre or post-paid minutes for the phone you can get an spsmail account (~15.00 per month) and use the free software (uuplus) to handle your email batching and compression. It generally uses less than 2 minutes of airtime to send an email request (for weather) and then about the same to receive the files(I send a follow-up email about 10 minutes after sending the request). Works fine for me ... I've never used an IsatPhone
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Old 21-03-2013, 11:14   #4
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

Thanks for the perspective on the 9555, Tom. We can't afford to be making calls longer than ten minutes so the timeout might be helpful. We do want to get a new grib file daily while on passages. How did you send and receive email?

Conde, SPSmail is a good tip. There is a lot of info posted on the compressed email services, SPSmail looks like one of the better ones.
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Old 21-03-2013, 11:55   #5
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
Thanks for the perspective on the 9555, Tom. We can't afford to be making calls longer than ten minutes so the timeout might be helpful. We do want to get a new grib file daily while on passages. How did you send and receive email?

Conde, SPSmail is a good tip. There is a lot of info posted on the compressed email services, SPSmail looks like one of the better ones.
If you use the search engine on CF you will get a number of threads on the Iridium and the software needed for receiving GRIBS reliably.

FWIW, I found the Iridium 9555 to be a wonderful piece of gear and it worked reliably for two years without dropping calls longer than 10 minutes or data transfers. Don't plan on using it to surf the web.
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Old 21-03-2013, 12:07   #6
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

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Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
If you use the search engine on CF you will get a number of threads on the Iridium and the software needed for receiving GRIBS reliably.
Thanks! I am actively following a few threads regarding data connections. I was not able to find a thread comparing these three phones.

I am really interested to know whether the IsatPhone is a real alternative to Iridium 9555/9575 because it has some good features at a much lower overall cost then the Extreme (like Bluetooth for SMS and Location Messaging).
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Old 21-03-2013, 12:29   #7
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I have the IsatPhone Pro and have been satisfied. Always worked when I needed it (offshore, Bahamas, DR, Barbuda, San Blas). It like all handheld sat phones require you to be outside with a clear view of the sky. Ours does work under the canvas top, but not the hard top. When I purchased it, it was substantially less expensive both for the phone and prepaid airtime. And the airtime was good for 2 years. At the time, it did not work in continental US waters with prepaid airtime. I'm unsure if that restriction has been removed. It did work for us about 1/2 way to the Bahamas.

No matter which one you get, find a provider that will give you access to a free satellite email program by virtue of buying your airtime from them. I use Onsatmail, which is really UUPlus. Other providers bundle a private labeled version of GMN. This is a huge cost savings, and absolutely essential to minimize airtime.

I wrote a piece for Panbo on the Beam Oceana, which is an Isatphone Pro under the covers with a fixed mount and active antenna. I also discussed how to get and display marine weather. See:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2012/0...at_phone_.html

The active antenna is not essential, but does reduce dropped calls. It's not a huge problem, but the IsatPhone will drop maybe 1 in 20 data calls. The active antenna essentially eliminates the problem.

I'm leaving in a couple of hours for San Andres Island, if you have questions I probably won't see them till Saturday...

Good Luck, Bob
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Old 21-03-2013, 13:06   #8
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

Thanks for the link to your article, Bob. The IsatPhone Pro looks better with your input.

Has anyone out there used the IsatPhone Pro successfully in the South Pacific (French Polynesia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia)?
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Old 21-03-2013, 16:48   #9
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Re: Iridium 9555, Iridium Extreme or IsatPhone Pro?

I've used both Iridium 9555 and Isatphone for voice and for data (and posted above + on Sailing Anarchy gear forum if you want to search). I much prefer the Iridium 9555 for ease and convenience with data, and if you're going to use an external antenna then the price gap vs. Isatphone basically nullifies (Isatphone antennas+dock cost extra - as much as the phone!).

If you're very price sensitive, then try the Isatphone but make sure you get a chance to return it if you can't get it to work with data... (see below).

The boat's owner got the Isatphone first (cheaper), and then we never got it to work with data, so we bought the Iridium 9555 as primary for data and Isatphone as back-up for voice. Iridium 9555 setup was easy and it has worked great. In contrast, the Isatphone Pro is very tricky for data as far as I can tell - I spent hours trying to get it to work and couldn't (despite all the proper config changes/firmware/driver updates). Just this week the owner and a friend brought two Isatphones to the local dealer who couldn't get them to work on data either... Just saying! (the dealer is keeping them for testing so I'll update if it does end up working)

Of course the Isatphone does work for some users, but I do sense it's more finicky. Some of the more expensive software solutions (GMN...) do a good job of managing the satphone connection and might be able to make the Isatphone data connection trouble-free. But with cheaper/free Vizada Skyfile Mail/UUplus (which are great for email), I found the Isatphone just wouldn't connect. Again, my experience only.

One satphone dealer told me Iridium users tend to get better satisfaction, Isatphone users more often come back & return the unit to switch to Iridium...

My recommendation: go with Iridium if you want to save yourself the trouble.
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Old 23-03-2013, 08:10   #10
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Iridium is faster since the satellites are in a lower orbit. That improves the latency on what is already a painfully slow connection 1/4-1/10 the speed of ancient dial up service to begin with. I'm not sure how much faster, it will take about 1 minute to send a saildocs request and 2 minutes to download a 20-30k file on Inmarsat. The first 30 or so seconds are establishing the link. Maybe someone can comment on Iridium speed.

The only gaps in Inmarsat service I know of are the far northern and southern latitudes. You can google to see exactly what they are, but I remember it was far enough to be too cold for me to ever visit.

I've never actually used Iridium, so I can't comment on the ease of configuration. The IsatPhone was no problem for us, the drivers loaded and the app worked. But...plan on email only, web access is just not going to happen. We can suggest UUPlus from experience with this phone.
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Old 23-03-2013, 09:02   #11
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I found the following review online from a professional delivery crew that followed the route I intend to take:
http://www.yachtdeliverynews.com/201...at-versus.html
In the review the writer describes reliability problems with the reception of the IsatPhone Pro, especially in the South Pacific.

So as attractive as the Inmarsat pricing seems, I am going to buy an Iridium phone. It seems like there were some issues with the 9575 when it was first released but these issues have been identified and fixed in 2012.
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