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No cell coverage? No problem. Any phone can text over satellite with this gadget
Thrusted into the spotlight by Apple, satellite connectivity on smartphones has been one of the bigger tech trends of the last year. Multiple companies from various parts of the supply chain have announced solutions for satellite-based communication on phones. Just at MWC, we’ve seen announcements from chip heavyweights Qualcomm and MediaTek, which bodes well for the development of this technology. And several phone brands have already announced plans to support this feature on future models.
But what if you want satellite communication right now, without buying a new phone? Bullitt Group (the company behind the Cat brand of rugged phones) has just what you need.
Called Motorola Defy Satellite Link, this $99 gadget connects via Bluetooth to any Android or iOS device and allows it to connect to a network of geostationary satellites. It allows sending and receiving short text messages, location sharing, and accessing emergency services. A clear view of the sky is just about the only requirement.
What if you want satellite communication right now, without buying a new phone?
The obvious target audience is outdoorsy people who want extra peace of mind when out hiking, fishing, skiing, or just exploring. Though we can also see it being useful to anyone who lives in remote areas or wants fallback communication in case of hurricanes, blackouts, or earthquakes.
The gadget features a 600mAh battery, which should last several days according to the manufacturer. It’s waterproof and shock-resistant, so it should be able to handle prolonged outdoor use with ease. Two physical buttons allow users to share their location or contact emergency services even when the Defy Satellite Link is not connected to a smartphone.
You won’t be able to simply connect to the Satellite Link and text via iMessage or WhatsApp. Instead, you’ll need to install Bullitt’s own messaging app called Bullitt Satellite Messenger. When connected to Wi-Fi or cellular networks, the app will work like your typical messaging app. In satellite mode, receivers will get texts as SMS messages that include a link to install the Bullitt app in order to text back. It’s a slow, rather clunky mean of communication, but in tough situations it could prove priceless.
Speaking of prices, besides the $99 cost of the gadget itself, customers will also need to pay a monthly subscription, with prices starting from $5/month. “Crisis response” aka contacting emergency services, will be handled through FocusPoint International. It’s not clear what functionality, if any, is preserved when the subscription runs out.
The Defy Satellite Link is powered by the same MediaTek chipset found in the Motorola Defy 2 smartphone, a rugged phone that also features satellite functionality. Together, they are the first two products to provide two-way (send and receive messages) on mobile. Apple has previously equipped the iPhone 14 Pro and Watch Ultra with limited satellite connectivity, i.e. texting emergency services.
In the long run, satellite connectivity is likely to become a standard feature of smartphones, smartwatches, and other devices, but until then standalone solutions like the Motorola Defy Satellite Link can fill in the gap. Plus, the convenience of being able to throw a Defy Link into your backpack or glove compartment, just in case, will likely always be a selling point.