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Does This Underwater Cell Phone Sink or Swim?

I’ve spent large portions of the last two weeks on a plane, which means that on more than one occasion I’ve found myself browsing through the Sky Mall catalog to see what kitschy, fun gadgets I could be spending my hard-earned cash on. And on my last flight, I found it: the underwater cell phone, for $1,790. The pitch for the phone system made by Ocean Reef begins with, “Have you ever wanted to make or receive a phone call underwater?” and grows more absurd from there.

I don’t scuba dive, yet this product piqued my curiosity to the point that I made numerous web searches trying to learn more. Namely, I wondered why one needs a cell phone underwater given that divers seem to have a wire line or radio connection back to their ship and to one another, at least judging by what I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel. And as the Ghostbusters so eloquently put it, “Who you gonna call?”

OK, let’s say you forgot to tell the office something important. Or rather than appreciating the rare view nature has afforded you at that moment, you feel like chatting. Is this thing gonna work? It appears that the phone floats on top of the water in a buoy, so at least we’re not looking for more bars under the sea. But given that most boat captains rely on satellite phones because there’s no cell coverage far from shore, I’m wondering how good the network is, and if your call will go through.

So this gadget, which is pretty much a Bluetooth headset in a mask attached by a 40-meter cable to a waterproof box containing your cell phone, joins others like the underwater cell phone and mobile TV released by NTT DoCoMo last year as something that would sink instead of swim. But divers, I’d love for you to weigh in.

4 Responses to “Does This Underwater Cell Phone Sink or Swim?”

  1. I think the error in your logic here is that you are assuming that everyone uses their cell phones strictly for voice communication. Many people are using their cell phones to keep track of stocks, follow up on email, etc. For those who cannot be away from their stock trades or email for even a second (I can personally think of about 7 people I know who fit this description), this gives them the opportunity to stay “connected” and still take some recreation time. This is not necessarily for avid divers, although, as @Mark mentioned, there are times when it is necessary to have diver to diver or diver to boat communications. I believe this is intended more for the workaholic vacation diver.

  2. well, if you check their site for a regular communication system, the prices are about the same. I could see someone getting this instead of the ALPHA PRO X-DIVERS because it’s more versatile (talk to anyone, including the boat) vs. just talking to the boat. it only makes sense if you need a communication system, but don’t think it’s intended as “use your cellphone underwater” i think (hope) it’s more of a “here’s an alternative to the other communication system we offer that uses your cell phone”

    @Hadley – do you dive in situations that require communications like wreck diving or salvage/repair? are you a recreational diver or is that your job?

    @Dan – all underwater communications use a face mask, it’s not unique to this product, so the risks of not being able to share the regular are not unique to this either. see dive HELMET

    it’s a 40 METER cable, and radio doesn’t work so well underwater. the pro system is also hardwired (50m).

  3. There are many problems with this sort of thing, two of which come immediately to mind.

    1. Talking underwater is a tad hard to do; you are surrounded by water, not air. I assume that’s why the photo shows a face mask which covers the regulator mouthpiece, so maybe it might be possible if very awkward. However, in an emergency situation such as when a dive buddy needs access to one’s regulator, he could be in a heck of a mess.

    2. A 40 foot cable running from the flotation device lurching around on the surface would also be a nuisance, and could easily get snagged on something. Coral comes to mind, and coral is protected in many places where people dive.

    Oh – a third: $1,600 could instead pay for a nice dive vacation.

    No thanks.

    Dan Miller