When Apple launched its Emergency SOS via Satellite technology late last year, it was heralded for being forward-thinking. The technology allows users of an iPhone 14 to reach the emergency services, even when they're outside of cellular signal range.
It's not without limitation, though. For starters, users have to use the latest iPhone to make it work. Once in use, the service requires users to move around to connect with a satellite – not exactly easy if you're injured, or in a more challenging environment.
Fortunately, there's a solution. The new Motorola Defy satellite link is a rugged, Bluetooth-enabled add-on to your existing smartphone, which gives you all the benefits of the Bullitt Satellite messaging service, regardless of which phone you're using. That means you don't have to have the latest handset to use the service – any phone with iOS 14 or Android 10, or newer, will work. The device takes the satellite messaging hardware from another new Bullitt Group product – the rugged Cat S75 smartphone – and houses it in a standalone unit.
The Defy satellite link is tested to Mil-Spec 810H standards – that's the US Military to you and I – and features IP68 waterproof and dustproof credentials. A 600mAh battery is enough to keep it powered for several days, and it even has the ability to provide its own location data, to check in without being near its paired smartphone.
SOS assistance is a core part of the offering. Via a button in the app, or on the side of the device, users can make an SOS call if they find themselves in need of assistance. Once pressed, the app will show a three second countdown, in case users have hit the button by accident, before sending the users location data.
That goes to a company called FocusPoint, who are a specialist SOS case handling organisation. They take over 6,000 calls per month, and have successfully completed over 100,000 rescues, so you know you're in safe hands.
The app will then offer a series of prompts, to get a better idea of the scenario you're in. It includes questions about the terrain, any injuries and so on, with the aim of getting the most appropriate assistance for your situation.
Bullitt Satellite Messenger goes beyond just SOS use, though. Users can send messages to anyone they would with a normal cellular service. The idea, they say, is to keep people connected, even when they aren't in a life-or-death situation. Users may just want to check in with friends or family, to set their minds at ease, for example.
In practice, the whole thing is remarkably seamless. The user who is outside of cellular range will need to have the app downloaded, and will use that to message their chosen contact. If the recipient has the app already, they'll get the message just like WhatsApp, or any other messaging app. If not, they'll be prompted to download the app to read the message.
In the app, the recipient can send messages back to the user as well, at no cost to them. When I tested the app, messages would land on the new device within 20-30 seconds, which is remarkably quick considering the data had travelled just shy of 50,000 miles in that time.
There's no scrambling round to find a satellite, either – as long as you have a clear view of the sky, you're good to go. This is because the Bullitt platform uses geostationary satellites at a much higher altitude. In theory, that will add a smidge of latency, but it does away with the need to manoeuvre into a position to get connected.
Motorola Defy: Pricing
Perhaps the most impressive part about the Defy satellite link is the price. In the UK, you'll be able to get the unit alone for just £99 / $99. That's remarkably good value for money, particularly if you don't want to shell out and switch handsets just to get satellite connectivity.
There's also a bundle on offer, which will snag you the Defy and a year of the Essentials Messaging service plan, for just £149 / $149. For me, this represents the best value for money, and is likely to be the most popular option. It's an effortless, plug-and-play style offering, with 30 messages per month, and the SOS Assist.
All of that for less than £150 seems like a no-brainer for anyone who spends time out of signal range. It's perfectly priced for a great gift when Christmas rolls around, too. The Motorola Defy will be available from Q2 2023.