Open Garden, a San Francisco-based startup specializing in connecting mobile devices with peer-to-peer features, has launched a neat iOS app today called “FireChat,” which enables chatting off the grid – when the Internet is not available.
You read that right. FireChat takes advantage of the Multipeer Connectivity Framework in iOS 7 that allows people to chat with those around them without having to rely on their operator’s service or a Wi-Fi router.
You could be on the subway, at a game, at the beach, and just launch FireChat and talk with friends around you, even share pictures. The developer doesn’t say anything about range (meters, yards, etc.) but it’s likely that your friends need to be close by to make FireChat work.
Open Garden says it created FireChat to enable communication for disaster scenarios, but it’s also practical for any situation where you can’t get a good signal. Some examples offered by the company include: “schools and colleges, public transportation, stadiums, clubs, concerts, conferences, conventions, construction sites or outdoor festivals.”
You can chat and share photos with one person or even a group. According to the features list, you can also “see what people are talking about everywhere, or create conversations that only people near you can join,” which is a fairly ambiguous description.
There is no login, so no password to remember, and Open Garden promises there will be “no significant impact on battery consumption,” which means there will be at least some noticeable drainage going on. We’ll give the app some time in the wild to put their claim to the test.
Micha Benoliel, Open Garden’s CEO, commented, “We may think that we depend on the Internet for everything. FireChat proves that it’s not always the case. People ask me: how does this work without an Internet connection? Thanks to the Multipeer Connectivity Framework introduced in iOS 7, we are now able to deliver a best-in-class peer-to-peer chat experience to anyone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.”
Localized in English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Russian, FireChat is specifically designed for iOS 7, which means it doesn’t work on older firmware. The software also imposes hardware requirements.
FireChat only works with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPod touch fifth generation, iPad second generation, iPad third generation, iPad fourth generation, iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad mini with Retina display.
Use the supplied link to download FireChat on your respective device and enjoy. Note that the interface has been optimized for 3.5-inch and 4-inch screens, but not for iPad resolutions.