Saturday, 5 May 2012

DeLorme inReach will bring affordable satellite communications to iOS

Today, mobile phones are very good about getting a signal so long as you are in a place that is: somewhat inhabited, not an elevator, and not too far above/below ground. While those latter circumstances are difficult to overcome, satellite communications will help if you are out of range of standard 2G/3G/4G radio signals. After all, tower-based signals are great for blanketing large swathes of populated area, but once you get out into the backcountry they aren’t a feasible solution. DeLorme, and companies like it, have enabled consumer-level satellite communications for years and with the inReach they will include support for Apple’s iOS.

The DeLorme inReach is a two-way satellite communicator that can do thing like send SOS messages if you are in trouble. It has some cool perks that older satellite communication devices don’t, a primary one being that it’s two-way. For example, the Spot Connect (from early 2011) could bring GPS and satellite communications to your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, but it could only send out information. This was useful for telling people you were in trouble and where you were, but they could not confirm that they were coming. It was able to send emails, text message, and post to social networks, so long as you paid the monthly service.

The DeLorme inReach does all that, but it can also receive communications. This means it can handle two-way satellite messaging and interactive SOS. So you can distinguish between “I’m going to be late for dinner because I twisted my ankle” and “I’m stuck up a tree, surrounded by angry badgers”. The inReach has been able to work with Android phones, if you want to use something more advanced than the communicator alone, but version 1.5 will bring iPhone compatibility as well. So for $9.95 a month you’ll be able to text from your iPhone or send SOS messages from anywhere in the world, pole-to-pole (again, no elevators).

Keep in mind that the subscription plans means that this isn’t for emergency use only. The $9.95/month “Safety” plan gets users SOS support, 10 texts a month, and leaves out track support (essentially a breadcrumb trail of your latest movement in case someone has to find where you are and how you got there). After those 10 texts you have to pay $1.50 a pop. There are more robust plans, like the Recreation and Expedition, if you spend more time in the backcountry. 

                                                                              The InReach for Android is available now. It sells for $249.95.

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