April 3, 2014 7:06 pm
As the mobile messaging space becomes ever more crowded, true differentiation is required to rise to the top of the app charts. FireChat, which released an Android version today to match its recently launched iOS app, certainly fits the bill. Dubbed by developer Open Garden as an “off-the-grid” messenger, FireChat enables communication without the need for a network connection, or even cellular coverage.
FireChat takes advantage of mesh networking technology, which allows mobile devices to connect peer-to-peer via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi direct, Internet connections be damned. While FireChat was able to take advantage of Apple’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework for the iOS version of the app, no such framework currently exists for Android, so they built one themselves.
FireChat has two main conversation modes: “Nearby” mode, which is for private conversations with those close-by, and “Everyone” mode, which functions like a global ICQ chatroom (with everything that implies). The effective range for offline “Nearby” conversations is around 30 feet, which will expand as more users adopt the app. Unfortunately, iPhone and Android users cannot speak to each other while off-the-grid, as the two mesh networks are not currently compatible.
Still, FireChat is at the very least a unique app, and one that could provide significant utility in emergency situations where cellular connectivity can be spotty. Give the app a try and let us know if you prefer your conversations on or off the grid.