The iSavi Wideye iSatHub is a device that allows you to have internet and mobile phone reception even in the most remote of outback locations.
Being gadget freaks, we took the ‘iSatHub’ away with us over the December-January summer holidays and put it through its paces in locations that were hundreds of kilometres from mobile phone reception.
We’ve come back with lots to say about the device, including all the good and not-so-good points.
We hope our review will help you out if you’re thinking about communications in remote areas when you travel.
Why Would You Want One?
That’s pretty easy to answer: safety and convenience.
Staying in touch with family and the ability to call for help whilst travelling in remote areas is probably the main reason you’d be interested in this device.
If you’re working in remote areas, or you’re a travel blogger/writer or journalist who needs to post content no matter where you are, then you’d also find this device really useful.
We’ve made a video review of the iSatHub.
It runs for about 5 minutes and shows the setup, pros, and cons of the device.
Not only can you make a normal call through the device using your smartphone, but with a data package, you can use the device as a wireless hub to access the internet.
This means that you – and anyone you’re travelling with- can connect a laptop or tablet/iPad with it.
In other words, the iSat Hub works like a wireless router. You can use more than one device to connect to the internet at the same time.
You can update Facebook, send a text message, post a photo to Instagram, or whatever else you might normally want do at home with your iOS or Android phone or tablet device.
What’s In the Box?
When you open the box you get:
- the hub (in two pieces)
- power cables
- USB cables
- a protective bag
- a quick start guide
- an ‘instant’ quick start guide on one page that you can use a ready reference to the LED lighting used on the hub.
The quick start guide is relatively easy to follow:
- You insert the sim card into the device
- Join the two pieces of the hub together, following the written instructions
- Set up an account and activate the hub prior to use. (We can recommend AST for this).
Once you have done this, download two free apps which connect the device to your smartphone or tablet:
- the iSatHub Control app will also help you point the device at satellites for the best reception
- the iSatHub Voice app which allows you to make voice calls and send SMS
Google Play Store (Android devices):
We won’t go into the apps too much here, but they are quite easy to use and will improve your experience using the hub.
Once you’ve downloaded the apps, the process is pretty much like this:
- Turn on the hub and allow it to acquire a solid ‘position’ for the first time in a new area (about 5 min). You will need to be stationary to do this.
- Whilst waiting for the hub to find a ‘position’, connect your smartphone/tablet wirelessly to the hub (see below)
- Make sure the hub is located away from any potential interference like metal objects or inside vehicles.
- There are two sets of LED lights on the hub that assist in aiming the hub at the satellite. One set operates up and down and the other set horizontally. Follow the printed instructions to align your hub.
This part I found quite frustrating.
The setup stage seems to ‘time out’ prior to proper alignment. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong, but I initially had some problems with this stage. I just couldn’t get the alignment right before the hub timed out and I had to start over again.
I got it in the end, but my advice is to use the control app from the start, as it has a pointing assist aid that tells you what reception you have and where to point the hub for maximum connection.
These are screenshots of the control app, showing how to align the hub.
Connecting Phones & Tablets to Hub:
- Connect to the hub with your smartphone or tablet when you first enter the app
- This is done in the same way you would connect to any wireless network on your smartphone. Simply click on the device in your wifi settings and enter the password (the default password is the SSID PW on the base of the hub)
- Once connected to wifi, you simply press the ‘connect data’ button in the control app to begin
- To end your session, you press ‘disconnect’ inside the control app.
Downloads for the hub run at 384 Kbps receive and 240 Kbps send.
Multiple users can use the hub and effective wifi distance is around 30m.
Just remember that multiple users will quickly consume data, so I’d be keeping an eye on the data usage via the control app on your smart device.
Make sure you turn off your auto updates (for your apps) on your smartphone or tablet otherwise you will rapidly use up your data allowance.
So what are the Pros/Cons?
- Compact and light
- Ease of use (once you’ve worked out the setup process), multiple users can use the hub at once
- Being able to keep in touch, family, social media, banking
- Checking road conditions, make bookings on the road
- Purchase price is around $1800AUD (at the time of writing, 2015)
- Initial setup/alignment was a little frustrating but once you work it out it’s ok
- Data is quite expensive ($5 per mb)
- Hub has to be stationary
If you need to keep in contact for business or pleasure when you’re in a remote area, then the iSavi Wideye Inmarsat Satellite Hub will be of interest to you.
It’s not cheap at around A$1800, but it can do so much more than a satellite phone and enable you to use your own smartphone to talk, send messages, photos and browse the web.
Data is a little expensive at $5/mb and talk is $1/min but you are paying for both the technology and the convenience as much as anything else.
You can use any wifi device, ie smartphone, tablet device or even wifi only devices to connect to the outside world so we reckon these will take off, especially for gadget minded people like us, people that just want to be connected and maybe even the grey nomads who want to stay in contact with family while they are spending their children’s inheritance.