By Bob Nesoff.
One of the interesting aspects of being a journalist is having the opportunity to see and try new things. Some are truly innovative while others barely make it onto retail shelves before disappearing. Some serve a solid purpose while others…well, they don’t.
A major annoying aspect for sportsmen, especially skiers, is the inability to connect with others using a cell phone. Because, of necessity, skiers are in mountainous terrain signals are often poor to non-existent. And, as well, because they are frequently in very lightly populated areas the major companies do not feel the necessity of installing expensive signal towers.
Skiers will often take the lift to the top of the mountain in an effort to obtain a signal, tell their party where to meet and then ski back down the mountain. It’s fun but frequently frustrating to take the time.
A new gizmo on the market, sort of a “Leatherman tool” for the cell phone, fills a major gap in that problem. The “goTenna” is a pocket-sized range extender that will reach for up to about four miles in open terrain and more than a mile in urban areas giving the user the ability to contact a colleague. It gives a clear and sharp connection where there is no cell signal available. This could be a boon in an emergency situation.
The same holds true for many sport stadiums. Yankee Stadium, for example, is notorious for the inability to obtain a signal. You are looking for a friend at the ball park but can’t locate him and you can’t get a signal. With goTenna, if your friend has a unit and it is operational, the problem is solved
With a bit of practice you should also be able to use it as an off-line GPS and other features.
Our test unit worked as advertised even though we were a bit skeptical at first. It was tested upstate New York in mountainous terrain. One unit was put in use at a home on a mountaintop while the other was across the valley.
This area, in Roxbury, a small hamlet about 45-minutes from exit 19 off the New York Thruway, is notorious for a lack of cell phone signal. Signals either fade in and out or are totally unavailable.
The goTenna was tried is a variety of locations in and around Roxbury and Vega Mountain. It worked as advertised in all circumstances. The unit is not physically connected to the cell phone but rather is similar to a Blue Tooth. It connects so long as it is in close proximity to the phone.
To put it in operation you’ll have to go to the App Store or Googleplay and download the goTenna app to your cell phone; make that both phones. Then make sure the unit is full charged. goTenna comes two to a box and includes charging wires. If the light on the unit is flashing, it’s charged.
To launch operation, simply extend the antenna section and you’re good to go.
The major catch her is that the individual you are attempting to contact must also have a goTenna unit and it must be in use. The unit, about the size of a large carpenter’s pencil, comes with a snap strap that’ll connect to a backpack, belt or most any possible location.
Instructions that come with the package could be a bit more informative and could leave you scratching your head. But by connecting to goTenna.com, you’ll find instructions on how to operate. Once you have the hang of it, use is very simple.
The units are not inexpensive and run about $145 for the pair. But in comparison with other electronic gizmos, this really isn’t too bad and if you need the connection, it is priceless.