GoTenna Makes Smartphones into Walkie-Talkies, Sort Of
Remember walkie-talkies? When some of us were kids, we had actual handheld voice radios. They sent signals over the air that were picked up directly by their mates. There was no middleman technology: No cell towers. No infrastructure to get overloaded. Nothing extra to pay for.
Now we all have smartphones, and when they don’t work on the cell network, for whatever reason, we can’t communicate. What we need are walkie-talkie iPhones.
That’s what goTenna is building. The new company has just started selling a hardware radio device that pairs with your phone (iOS or Android) over Bluetooth and sends radio text messages the old-fashioned way: straight from one device to another.
To say that again (since it is such a weird idea): GoTenna radios send and receive text messages using old analog radio channels. You use an app on your phone to access the goTenna radio and connect to the goTenna devices over Bluetooth. Even if your phone is miles from a WiFi or cellular signal, it can share messages with other people using goTenna. GoTenna can also transmit its location.
The device is a little too big for your pocket, but it clips easily to a belt or a backpack:
It has a clip for a backpack or similar.
The device is big because it needs a long antenna. It needs that because it uses a relatively low-frequency part of the radio spectrum, and the lower the frequency the radio uses, the longer the antenna has to be. On the other hand, lower-frequency radio waves travel farther, so you don’t need to rely on nearby cell towers to reach distant people. GoTenna says its devices will transmit up to three miles in the woods or eight miles over open water.
Obviously, if you’re a goTenna owner, you can connect only to other goTenna owners, so the devices are sold in pairs (two for $150 on introductory pricing). Communication between two people is encrypted (unlike the walkie-talkies we used as kids) so it’s private.
If you want to communicate to a larger group, goTenna also has groups, and even an open broadcast mode. This would be useful if goTennas were being used in a crisis or a natural disaster, which is one of the major use cases the founders see for their product.
GoTenna chat app.