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New Garmin satellite device allows you to text anywhere, even with no service
- The Garmin InReach Messenger uses satellite communication to give you the ability to text from anywhere.
- The device will automatically switch you from Wi-Fi, cellular, and satellite connections, taking out all the guesswork.
- It starts at $299 and requires a subscription that will control how many texts you can send each month.
Garmin’s InReach products are designed for extreme adventurers. They allow you to stay connected with SMS messaging, get GPS tracking and navigation, and send out an emergency distress signal — all while never needing a cell tower.
However, since these devices do so much, they are very expensive. Additionally, what if you’re not an extreme adventurer but would love a way to stay in touch with folks while you’re away from a cell tower? Why would you need all the other aspects of an InReach device? Enter the Garmin InReach Messenger, which focuses mostly on the messaging aspects of InReach products and drops the price significantly.
See also: The best Garmin watches you can buy
The InReach Messenger connects with the Iridium satellite constellation to enable two-way communication. Essentially, you send a text message from your phone to the InReach Messenger, which then sends that message to a satellite. The satellite then sends the message to the recipient. This enables you to text from pretty much anywhere in the world.
Garmin InReach Messenger: No guesswork
Now, the other InReach products Garmin’s had for years can do this too. The real cool feature of the InReach Messenger, though, is that it takes the guesswork out of when to use the service.
Let’s say you’re vacationing at a remote cabin. The cabin has its own Wi-Fi and you can sometimes get a cell signal in certain spots around the cabin. With another InReach product, you would need to check to see which connection would work best for your situation. Are you on Wi-Fi? Can you get a cell signal? Is satellite connectivity the only option? It’s not a fun process.
The InReach Messenger and Garmin Messenger app automatically choose the best method of communication.
The new Garmin Messenger app solves this problem. When you’re connected to the Garmin InReach Messenger device and using the Garmin Messenger app, you never need to check what system is best. If you have Wi-Fi, the app uses that. If you don’t, it uses your cell service. Only when those two situations don’t work does it use satellite communication.
Do note, however, that if you already have an InReach product from Garmin, there’s a chance Messenger support could land on your device. Garmin said it is working on bringing support to older products, but didn’t say which ones nor when that could happen.
Thankfully, the InReach Messenger also keeps some of the features of other InReach products, most notably the SOS button. This button acts as a distress signal. It connects you with the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), which is manned 24/7. Once you hit the button, an IERCC representative will attempt to communicate with you to determine what’s wrong. If you can’t communicate back, the rep will immediately send rescue services to the GPS coordinates of the InReach Messenger, assuring that you’ll be safe should something go wrong during your rustic getaway.
Price and subscriptions
The Garmin InReach Messenger will cost $299. However, the device itself won’t be super helpful for you without a subscription. The subscription fee is what will allow for Iridium text messages and activating the SOS button.
There are three tiers for the subscription:
- Safety at $14.95 each month: Unlimited SOS activations and 10 satellite text messages with additional messages costing $0.50 each
- Recreation at $34.95 each month: Unlimited SOS activations and 40 satellite text messages with additional messages costing $0.50 each
- Expedition at $64.95 each month: Unlimited SOS activations and unlimited satellite text messages
Remember that you only need to pay for satellite-based texts. In other words, with the Safety plan, you can send as many Wi-Fi and cellular texts as you like, but can only send 10 texts when you have zero connectivity.
Also, there are no commitments with these subscriptions. You can sign up for the Safety program one month, cancel, and then sign up for the Expedition plan months later. You can cancel for a year and then sign up again for the Recreation plan before canceling once more. Garmin does offer discounts if you sign up for an annual plan, however.