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FAQs

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How it works

What is goTenna?

Short story:

goTenna is a small device that allows you to use your smartphone to send and receive messages and share your GPS location with others even when you don’t have service.

Longer story:

goTenna is a small, rugged device designed to make “No Service” no problem. Just pair your smartphone with a goTenna and communicate off-grid with those near you who also have goTenna, anywhere on the planet, regardless of access to cell reception, wi-fi or even satellites. goTenna allows you to send and receive texts and share GPS locations on beautiful offline maps, without ever relying on central connectivity. Depend on it in all kinds of situations: when hiking in remote areas, traveling, attending music or sporting events or during an emergency. Plus, because goTenna is end-to-end encrypted, it’s not just for when you’re off-grid, but when you want to be.

Where can I use goTenna?

goTenna works basically anywhere. Take it with you on your next ski trip, vacation on a deserted island, music festival excursion, field study in a remote area, or simply keep it on you just in case.

How does goTenna work?

Pair your smartphone to your goTenna device wirelessly, using Bluetooth Low-Energy (BTLE). Your goTenna needs to be within 20ish feet of your phone, so that the two can communicate with each other. Use our free app to type out a text message or share a location. Your smartphone will send the message to your goTenna, which will then shoot it out, via long-range radio waves (151-154 MHz), to the intended goTenna(s). At the other end, the exact same thing happens, in reverse: the recipient goTenna sends your message over BTLE to the smartphone app its paired with. All of this happens in a matter of milliseconds.

Your goTenna will be able to transmit to any goTenna user within range. What kind of range can you expect? That's greatly dependent on your geography. Check out our How it Works page to get a sense for what kind of range you can expect in specific scenarios.

Who can I communicate with using goTenna?

Absolutely anyone else who has goTenna within range of you.

The reason you can't chat with people who don't have goTenna is due to the physics of radio waves. You need a properly designed RF receiver to interpret a goTenna signal. We would love to have our signals get to devices that aren't goTenna-enabled, but phones are designed to work with towers — exactly what we are working around — and regular radios aren't able to operate at the level of our super-smart networking protocols (plus, are analog radios, while we are a cognitive digital radio).

With that said, the goTenna Plus app upgrade enables a network relay feature, so you can reach people beyond your off-grid network. If a goTenna user nearby has cell service, they can transmit your message via SMS to your intended recipient.

TL;DR: We're the first and only ones doing this! #innovation :)

How does offline location sharing work?

goTenna leverages the GPS on your phone, which works all the time even if you don't have service. goTenna then contextualizes that "blue dot" on detailed offline vector maps and allows you to share it with others who have goTenna.

All our maps are free for download, and you can share your location, request others' locations, and also share points of interest. The maps are detailed enough to show specific city blocks and even some trails in certain parks.

Is goTenna approved by the FCC?

Yes. goTenna is approved under Part 95.

Is goTenna patented?

goTenna’s technology is patent pending.

Do I need to have my phone with me to use my goTenna?

You need your phone to send and see received messages, however goTenna can continue to receive messages without your phone being paired. In such a case goTenna would store your messages for upload to your phone the next time you connect.

This is also true if your phone battery dies. Your goTenna will continue to receive messages on your behalf and store them until you can recharge your phone and access the goTenna app again.

How far can my phone and goTenna be from each other?

goTenna uses Bluetooth Low-Energy to wirelessly pair to your smartphone. You'll probably want to have them within 20 ft (7 m) of each other, though you should aim to keep goTenna as close to your smartphone as possible, as Bluetooth can be unreliable at greater distances.

How many users can be in a private goTenna group conversation?

Groups can be up to 10 users, though we plan to expand the group maximum soon.

Where should I have my goTenna when I'm using it?

For the best performance, you should try to attach it externally to gear (rather than inside of any gear) and try to elevate the device as much as possible. Even wearing goTenna at shoulder-height rather than at the hip can increase performance by as much as 30%.

For instance, attaching goTenna to the loop at the top of your backpack is better than placing it anywhere inside your backpack. Similarly, in your chest pocket is better than attached to your belt loop.

Also note that goTenna is not designed to be held in your hand; in fact, doing so could noticeably decrease your range. (That being said, if you want to hold it up for more height, hold it from the nylon strap, avoiding touching the metal and plastic casing, as your body can attenuate goTenna’s signal.)

Device specs

What are goTenna's key hardware specs?

  • 2-watt radio
  • Flash memory good for 100's of messages
  • Rechargeable Lithium-polymer battery
  • Micro-USB connector
  • Bluetooth-LE data interface
  • Status indicator lights
  • Nylon attachment strap
  • Water-resistant
  • Dust-tight
  • Size: Roughly 5.8 in x 1 in x 0.5 in or 147.3 mm x 25.4 mm x 12.7 mm. When the device extends, its length increases by 2.2 in or 55.8 mm
  • Weight: About 1.8 oz or 52 g

Why is goTenna better than a walkie-talkie?

We’re glad you asked. Please get the full low-down here.

What do the indicator lights mean?

goTenna's LED light indicates multiple functions. It will flash a long, slow blink when the device is activated. It will blink repeatedly at one-second intervals while waiting to pair over Bluetooth (and will stop blinking once paired, this is important to note, a working and paired goTenna will NOT have any lights on, this is normal and it’s done to save battery). goTenna will also blink the instant a message is sent or received.

Is goTenna waterproof?

No, but it's definitely weatherproof and water-resistant. We've designed it to survive rainy excursions, and to stand a good chance of survival if briefly dropped in water, but it's definitely not designed to be submerged. Leave it with your smartphone when you go swimming!

Is goTenna dust-tight?

Yes.

What kind of warranty do you provide?

goTenna comes with a 1-year limited warranty.

Tutorials

Privacy

What type of encryption does goTenna use?

Private 1-to-1 and group messages sent over goTenna are end-to-end encrypted with 384-bit elliptic curve public-private key ciphering. The only exceptions are messages sent using the “shout” and “emergency” features which are by definition public conversations with others within range of you.

Why do I need to verify my phone number?

You will need to verify your phone number during account setup, and you need to be connected to a cell network (not wifi) to do so. Once you enter your phone number, you will be sent a 5-digit verification code via SMS text message. You will need this code to proceed with account setup. This step will occur only when first creating your account, and is done solely to verify the identity of the user. We do this so people know if a user on goTenna is using a phone number, you can trust it’s really that person!

How secure is goTenna?

Very. Beyond the end-to-end encryption, because there is no central server there is no proverbial “back-door.”

Can other people with goTenna devices gain access to messages I send?

No, everything is encrypted and our firmware doesn’t allow downloading one goTenna account’s messages to another smartphone anyway.

What information does my goTenna store?

Just the goTenna ID you’ve set to be your contact (i.e. either your phone number or a randomized string), and any messages your phone hasn’t pulled yet. If you opt in to telemetry, we’ll gather some basic statistics to help make goTenna better like battery life, device temperature, and so forth — absolutely zero actual messages or contact list information though!

What information does my goTenna device share with goTenna, the company?

None, though you can opt-in to share completely anonymized telemetry when you have a data connection, so that we can improve our service. Again, this is limited to basic data regarding battery life, device temperature, and so forth. No messages or contact list info are included.

Why should I believe goTenna cares about my privacy?

We feel you. It’s hard to sort out who pays lip service to privacy and who really means it these days. The sad reality is both the government and tech companies have disrespected our privacy, time and time again. Well, we have this to say about goTenna: we set out to build a consumer-ready, completely decentralized, end-to-end encrypted communication technology, without a “back-door” for anyone, because it didn’t exist yet, and we thought it should. We’ll leave it at that.