We love the Garmin InReach satellite messenger around these parts, mostly for its ability to let you text way, way beyond cell reception deep in the backcountry. It’s also an SOS messenger, of course, and can do all sorts of cool tricks like drop breadcrumbs for nav purposes, report on weather, save maps, etc. But it costs around $300 and the cheapest monthly subscription to make use of its features is around $15 per month. And truthfully, the feature we use most is the text capability (“I made it to camp,” “I’ll be a day late,” “Fire up the lasagna, I’m headed home,” — that sort of thing.
But since the release of the iPhone 14, which bakes an SOS function into the phone, it’s seemed we must be getting closer to less expensive ways of backcountry communication. And we’ve just jumped a little closer with the release of Motorola’s new Defy satellite messenger device that pairs with your phone to turn it into a sat texting machine (they also sell a phone called the Defy 2, released at the same time, but the messenger will work with any phone). It costs $99 and subscriptions start at $5 per month.
That’s more like it.
The device is made by a communications hardware company called Bullit, which also makes the Defy 2 smartphone, which itself has the sat messaging ability baked in. Bullit uses satellites in geostationary orbit, which means it takes a little longer to bounce signals off of than some satellite services (like the one iPhones tap into). But it’s also a little easier to get the signals up to the satellites regardless of where you’re pointing your device.
The Defy looks like a big key fob, and it weighs around 2.5 ounces. It’s supposed to be pretty dust resistant with some water resistance, too. It’s meant to compete with devices like the Inreach and SPOT in terms of outdoor utility. There’s no screen, so battery life is reported to be decent, with at least 2 days of use. Plus, if the phone it’s paired to dies, you can still send SOS messages with the Defy. Pretty cool.
It won’t be released until April 2023, so we haven’t tested it ourselves, but we’re intrigued.