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Yacht Phone, A 'Burner' For The Boat

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 11, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

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I'm apologetic to all the manufacturers who've loaned me products I still haven't tested or written about -- so many gizmos, so little time! -- but maybe it was a good thing in the case of the Yacht Phone which I first saw (floating) at the Lauderdale Show. Because the $20 three-month 50 minute prepaid card included with the sample had run out, I bought another 50 minutes at yachtphone.net. The purchase process turned out to be easy, in a few minutes the phone was able to make calls (aside from 911), and customer service even answered a few questions within an hour on a Saturday.  Plus the phone itself exceeded expectations...

Not that I had high expectations of an unlocked GSM phone -- purportedly usable most anywhere in the world with the right SIM card -- that is also water- and shockproof and only costs $100 with that minimal 3-month service thrown in. Besides the purpose of the floating Yacht Phone is a back-up and/or accessory to the smart phone you don't want to drop on deck or overboard, and it certainly seems well suited to that. (Which is why I joke about 'burners', which is the term I learned from the truly great HBO show The Wire for disposable cell phones used by drug gangs to thwart wire taps.)
   At any rate, the YP is very light and tiny, as you can see compared to my Galaxy Nexus below, but note how its screen brightness pretty much matches the Galaxy at 100%. Note also the included USB charger and headset, which are conceptually a good idea -- there's only one port to cover -- but I've never had a USB phone headset before nor any USB cable with such a long male end. Customer service says that some other micro USB cables will fit the phone, but none that I have work. So don't assume that you can use alternate USB charge cables or headsets until you've tried them...

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But I had no trouble using the Yacht Phone's little controls and, for the most part, the operating system seemed easy to understand. I only used the manual to find the flashlight and Bluetooth menus, but, heck, they aren't even advertised features. Nor did I realize that the phone included an FM radio, as seen below, and I was pleased to find that it works quite well...   

Yacht_Phone_FM_radio_cPanbo.jpg

I've also tried a bit of texting and talking on the phone now and found no problems with either. In fact the audio seems quite good, usually even better than the Google Voice message I recorded below. I've also told Verizon to forward calls to the YP -- a suggested boat use -- and that worked fine. (A special thanks to my wife for helping with the test even though I was in South Carolina while she was digging out from the blizzard.)  But does a product with "Yacht" in its name cost more than it has to, as boaters tend to believe? Certainly the hardware Yacht Phone sourced is inexpensive but I can't find a cell phone that matches all that it offers for $100. Anyone?

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