In the arena of first-world problems, being caught without service when you desperately want to send a text message ranks pretty high. And, come to think of it, it can be an actual problem in emergency situations. But now there's a way to circumvent traditional cell phone technology altogether and send texts via good ol' fashioned radio signal, thanks to a pen-sized device called goTenna.
Dreamed up during the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when cell towers in New York and New Jersey were knocked out for days, the device serves as a next-level (and much less annoying) walkie talkie-like setup, harnessing the power of Bluetooth and long-range radio waves to completely bypass the satellite and tower signals we've all grown terribly dependent on.
To use it, simply whip out the built-in telescoping antenna, pair the device with a dedicated smartphone app via Bluetooth, compose your message, and shoot it off to any goTenna user within range, which depending on your specific environment, can span up to 50 miles.
Depending on the direness of your situation, the app allows for several modes of communication. For example, if you're just looking to locate your buddies at a crowded music festival or event, you can send messages and ping your exact location to a specific user or group of people without fumbling around for a signal. Or, say you need to get in touch with someone during an emergency while out hiking or in an off-the-grid area; the "Shout" feature allows you to broadcast a message to anyone with a goTenna in range. Think of it as a modern-day S.O.S.
Of course, the usefulness of such a device is dependent upon other people owning and using them, too, so the starter pack—which is now available for a special pre-order price of $150—is sold with a pair.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He still communicates mostly by flare and smoke signal.