goTenna Lets You Send Texts Without a Cell Signal or Wi-Fi, Proving That the Future Is Now

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What would you do if I told you that in the future, your phone won’t actually need a cellular signal in order to send and receive text messages? Even better, what would you do if I told you that future is now? Because it is, thanks to something called goTenna, which lets you stay in contact even when you’re out of range. Nuts, right? But also super, super cool. I mean, I only learned that cell phones can send text messages via Wi-Fi a couple of months ago — and now apparently even that is outdated information.

According to Wired, Daniela and Jorge Perdoma, a sister-brother team based in New York, got the idea for goTenna during Hurricane Sandy. With cell towers down, those who were in the path of the storm had no way to communicate with friends and family to ensure they were safe. Said Daniela: “I was thinking, ‘Is there any way to make cell phones communicate, so even in the worst case scenario like Sandy, when you have no power or Wi-Fi, you can still communicate?’ The only thing that does that is Bluetooth, and for that you have to be within 20 feet, so you might as well just speak loudly.” That, in turn, prompted the bright idea: “We figured out the only way to do that was an external piece of hardware.”

Here’s how it works: goTenna consists of a physical device about the length of your hand — the antenna — and a smartphone app. The app pairs the device with the phone it’s installed on; and from there, it kind of works like a walkie-talkie. When a text is sent from the goTenna app, the device grabs onto radio frequencies and transmits an analog version of the text to its recipient. There are a few catches: It can only communicate with other goTenna-enabled phones, and it only works over a distance of about 50 miles. That said, though, if it catches on, it’ll likely be a godsend during disasters like Sandy; it can even group message and send its current location to your contacts. According to StyleCaster, the device can be clipped onto a bag with ease, and will last around 30 hours if it’s turned on continuously or three days when used sparingly. For the curious, it looks like this:

PC Mag suggests that goTenna’s communicative abilities could also be harnessed during events like concerts, when getting in touch with friends can be tough due to the high volume of mobile device users hogging the connection; at $150 a pop during presale and a whopping $300 afterward, though, it’s probably best invested in for reasons other than Coachella. That said, though, at least it’s sold in pairs — that way, you know you’ll be able to communicate with at least one other person once you’ve got yours all set up. If you preorder, it'll ship in the fall (just in time for back-to-school).

Of course, if cell phones communicating with one other without the use of a signal becomes the norm, it’s really only a matter of time before all our technology becomes sentient. Skynet is coming, you guys. For reals.

Want more details? This video should enlighten you:

Images: WiffleGif; goTenna