Having never had a chance to write a review about a satellite phone I was pretty motivated to respond yes to the good people at Iridium when they asked if I wanted to run their newest device the 9555 phone through its paces. In order to do a thorough review I took it with me on my travels and made calls in various places where there was typically no cell coverage.
The device itself won't get mistaken for an iPhone - it is many times thicker and has a smaller black and white screen. But what it does do better than any gadget you might read about on popular gadget sites is work everywhere - except indoors. It is a bulletproof device which was designed with users in mind. Iridium execs explain that reliability is key with this phone and so is durability.
It seems like it is made of the same material as the black box on an airplane.
It is also interesting to note that when a company is sure about their market they can really cater to it. The evidence is the company's terminology in their brochure:
THE ULTIMATE SATELLITE PHONE
The Iridium 9555 is the ultimate in dependable mobile communications. It is a ruggedly built tool, not a toy. It won't play games, take pictures, or play MP3s. What it will do is work. Everywhere. Without exception. Small, sleek and easy to use, it is waterproof and dust and shock resistant. Engineered to withstand the world's toughest environments, Iridium phones have never been more efficient, reliable and effective.
When you open the box the phone comes in you are presented with adapters for every country in the world and just trying to figure out which would work in Sardinia presented me with a challenge. Hint - it was of the two-prong variety.
Here are some shots of the Iridium 9555 from Sardinia
So is it easy to use? Dead easy, yes. I was impressed with the call quality and it even worked when I went indoors - as long as there wasn't a lot of steel over my head. There is also data modem connectivity I didn't get a chance to try.
Other than that there are the standard mobile phone features like SMS, voicemail, address books, etc.
As you might expect, Iridium hasn't launched an app store but one wonders if there isn't an opportunity for specialized applications pertaining to the markets they cater to such as military, oil and gas, etc.
If I had to ask for more features, a camera would be high on my list as sending MMS messages from remote locations back to the home office could be useful. Video too is another area the company will have to deal with eventually as there may be an opportunity to stream video or send clips in places only this device has connectivity.
Other than that, the Iridium 9555 just plain works. It's looks won't make you the envy of the patrons of your favorite bar or dance club but you will certainly be the popular one later that evening when the party moves to a place with poor or no cell phone reception.