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Garmin's InReach line provides a way for those who frequently travel outside of cellular service to communicate with friends, loved ones, and emergency responders using satellite communication.
The InReach Messenger is a $300 gadget with a small display on it. You can use InReach Messenger when paired with your smartphone or as a stand-alone device to send and receive messages, including sending an SOS message to the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Center.
When it's paired with the Messenger app, you can send and receive messages with individual contacts or in group messages. The app will automatically pick the best network to send the message through, be it cellular, Wi-Fi or satellite.
The InReach Messenger has 28 days of battery life, is IPX7 rated for immersion in up to 1 meter of water, and takes up little space, measuring 3.1 by 2.5 inches and weighing 4 ounces. If your phone dies and you need to use Messenger, you can charge your phone using the small device to give you enough power to call for help.
Any messages you send in the Garmin Messenger app will require the recipient to sign up for and use the free Messenger app on their mobile device. There's no fee to use the Messenger app on its own.
Garmin has had satellite communication products for years. In fact, I tested the InReach Mini earlier this year and just about had to use it to call for help after a friend and I decided to go hiking in very deep snow while being completely underdressed and underprepared.
But Garmin's timing couldn't have been better. Satellite communication via a smart device is a hot topic right now, thanks to Apple's announcement, and the conversation will no doubt will draw a subset of users who want broader and more capabilities from a satellite communication product.