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Give iPhone or Android satellite messaging powers with this handy device

The Motorola Defy Satellite Link is the perfect accessory to keep you connected at all times, especially in times of emergency and with little to no signal.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Motorola Defy on a table.
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Cellular coverage has expanded over the years, but if you spend time outdoors, you will find areas of the world with little to no coverage. While it is a relief to get off the grid at times, if you are injured, delayed, or isolated, then you may want to communicate with family, friends, or emergency responders.

Also: This rugged satellite-enabled Android phone looks nearly as sleek as an iPhone

The new Motorola Defy Satellite Link functions as a satellite hub to pass messages, or an SOS signal, to others from your connected smartphone, whether that be an iPhone or Android. While you cannot send messages directly from the device, it is more affordable than a standalone satellite messaging device, and Motorola's satellite subscription is priced at a level that is easy to justify if you spend any amount of time in remote areas of the U.S. or Europe.

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How does it work?

In order to use the Motorola Defy with your iPhone or Android smartphone, you must download and install the Bullitt Satellite Messenger app. Simply walk through the steps to connect the Motorola Defy through the app via Bluetooth and you will be off and running.

Once the gadget is paired with your phone, you can send messages through the Bulitt Satellite Messenger app just like how you would on any other platform. That includes sending emojis. 140 characters is the limit for each message, and the app shows the available character count as you enter text. 

If you want to receive a delivery receipt, keep in mind that it will use up one of the messages in your monthly allotment. When you send messages to people, they will be prompted to install the Bullit app to communicate with you. While a recipient will receive your message in their default text messaging application, replies cannot be sent back to you unless it's through the Bullitt Satellite Messenger application.


The Defy is compact yet rugged.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

You can also send a check-in that will include a brief pre-selected message (ex. "I'm here", "Come and meet me here", etc.) along with your specific location (latitude and longitude). One contact can be set up for the check-in functionality, and a press and hold on the center-left side button of the device will send a check-in so you can initiate it when a phone isn't in reach. 

The Motorola Defy hardware is built to last with an IP68 dust/water resistant rating, MIL-STD-810H drop testing exceedance, and an attached D-ring for easy attachment to your backpack or gear. It is designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -22°F to 141°F. The satellite link unit has a 600mAh battery that is designed for providing up to four days of battery life, rechargeable via USB-C.

Also: What is a rugged phone and which are the best?

There is a large orange SOS button on one side so you can quickly and easily notify emergency services. I would actually prefer to see this button positioned under a cover or put in another location so that it's not as easy to activate. Garmin's inReach devices have such a design that helps prevent accidental activation, but I also understand the desire for quick access in case you are in distress and have limited means to initiate the emergency call. 

Once activated, staff members at the FocusPoint International team will be notified and begin to provide response services. 

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

A feature coming soon that is of particular interest to me for trail running and hiking is the tracking capability. This new feature will enable pin drops on a virtual map at preset intervals so that your family and friends can monitor your location. Sessions will vary up to 48 hours.

Also: How to schedule the sending of texts on Android

The Motorola Defy Satellite Link worked reliably while I was testing it off the grid. It was easy to attach to a backpack and I'm now carrying it with me when I go hiking, fly fishing, and trail running. It would be even more useful if the device had an accelerometer to detect extreme changes in position, such as if I fall into a river, in order to send a message to a friend or family member to confirm my safety.

How much does it cost?

The Motorola Defy is reasonably priced at $149 with satellite subscription plans that make it a must-have for anyone who travels in an area with no cellular coverage. It measures 82 x 62 x 11.2mm and weighs only 70 grams, so it's easy to pack.

All U.S. customers who buy the Motorola Defy will receive free premium service from now through September 30. Starting on October 1, you can choose from the following plans that all include unlimited SOS messages:

  • Essential: 30 messages per month. Free for 12 months, then just $4.99 per month.
  • Everyday: 80 messages per month. $4.99 for 12 months, then $9.99 per month.
  • Premium: 300 messages per month. $24.99 for 12 months, then $29.99 per month.
  • Freedom: Up to 250 messages per year. $59.99 per year.

There is currently coverage provided in the US and most of Europe, with plans for expanded coverage in the future. It's worth noting that other devices, like the Garmin inReach, provide broader coverage. The Defy is also not used for navigation purposes or weather reports, but it is much more affordable than these other advanced satellite messenger and navigation devices. And it works well for two-way text communications. 

Also: The top satellite phones and gadgets for reliable off-grid communication

The plans are affordable and provide an excellent level of comfort knowing that people can find help if the situation warrants it. The price for the hardware and subscription makes it a device that is perfect for your car or RV emergency kit. If you spend time outdoors where there is no cellular connectivity, this gets my recommendation.

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