FireChat ‘off-the-grid’ messaging app now available for Android and iOS

Douglas Soltys

April 3, 2014 7:06pm

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.

  • JB

    Totally unsecure messaging app. I WOULD NEVER use something like this.

    • DKvanB

      Right, because the messages you send through this app would be highly confidential information that hackers are dying to read.

    • JB

      Oh so I assume you dont have blinds in your home…..correct?

    • DKvanB

      Your making the assumption this application is openly accessible to anyone who wants to read your messages. Its not like blinds in your house.

    • JB

      We’re running around in circles man…..I would never use this crap, you feel its worth while…..agree to disagree.

    • Anaron

      No. You’re wasting our time. There’s no need to say you’d never use something like this. This app wasn’t made for you.

    • Anaron

      Nice strawman argument.

    • woopwoop

      Hey, IMO feedback is better than none at all. Just curious JP, why do you think this app is insecure?

    • wahwah

      Don’t be such a reject. Or at the very least don’t show others how stupid you are.

    • It’s Me

      Yeah, much better to send your messages over the public internet or through servers that have been known to be vulnerable to snooping or over the completely plain text SMS protocol.

  • ineptone

    This feature is completely pointless. If you’re within 30 feet of someone why the hell do you need to message them? Have an actual, face-to-face, conversation. It’ll probably do you some good.

    • JB

      Another excellent point. This is a niche app for weirdo hipsters…

    • Anaron

      No, it isn’t. If you don’t like it, then don’t use it.

    • woopwoop

      I disagree…I see this app as a rapid, scalable platform for very localized communication

    • Anaron

      What if you’re within 30 feet of someone but are also within 30 feet of 10 other people? Sometimes, you want to say something private. This is an app for that scenario and many others. If you don’t like it or think it’s useless, then simply don’t use it. There’s absolutely no point in saying “This feature is completely pointless.” when you wouldn’t use the app.

    • wahwah

      Its easy to depict the childish wankers from comments like those left. They’re probably all blackberry l-users and as such its understandable that they’d act the way they are.

  • bigshynepo

    Love the ICQ reference!
    I remember when have a low ICQ number was the “in” thing…
    Why did you have to buy my favorite messenger, AOL?

  • Balls O’Steele

    This is a kludge that only has value because the Toronto transit commission is too incompetent to put cell service in its subway tunnels.

  • Matt Welke

    This could be useful as an emergency service. In dense areas, in the event of a complete internet catastrophic outage, communication can still happen.