Smartphones sending messages via satellite has become a hot topic recently after ads from T-Mobile/SpaceX and Apple. However, this has been a function that Garmin has offered for years now, albeit with third-party hardware. Garmin inReach Mini and Mini 2 were popular and compact options, and now the company has come out with a new option – Garmin inReach Messenger.
Unlike the iPhone 14 series, you can use satellite messaging for general text chats and not just in emergencies. And you don’t need to manually point it at a satellite. But you do need a subscription and most of these come with a limited number of messages – only 10 with the basic plan for $15 per month, and each message after that is $0.50. This needs more clarification, but we’ll get to that.
The most interesting thing revealed today may be the companion app for Garmin Messenger. It’s a public chat app that sends messages over Wi-Fi or cellular data when it’s available and via satellite when you’re abroad. The app will automatically switch between the best way, so you don’t have to worry about checking the connection first (messaging over Wi-Fi and cellular are free of course).
Your phone must be connected to the inReach Messenger device to send and receive texts via satellite. However, you can create individual and group chats to keep in touch with friends and family even if they don’t have their own device – of course they’ll need an internet connection, but the app is a great way to reassure them that everything is running smoothly. Previous inReach devices could send texts, email, and even tweets, but this app should provide a much more straightforward user experience.
And if all goes well, Messenger has an SOS button that will connect you to Garmin’s International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), which operates 24/7 and will call rescue services near you.
inReach Messenger is designed for long trips with up to 28 days of battery life at default settings. This includes sending a location report every 10 minutes, so loved ones can monitor your progress (and so emergency services can find you). The Messenger is IPX7 rated, which means it can survive 30 minutes submerged in one meter of water.
The device itself is fairly simple and has a small screen – enough to show incoming messages and guide you back along your path if you need to retrace your steps. However, it is primarily designed for use with a smartphone and other Garmin devices: mobile devices, marine and aerospace equipment as well as Garmin wearables.
Garmin inReach Messenger is now available for $300 from Garmin.commaking it a cheaper option than the $400 inReach Mini 2. And it has better battery life as well, the mini only lasting 14 days with 10 minute location reports.
Below are the prices for the monthly plans. You can easily subscribe and cancel every month, but you can get a discount if you pay for a full year (for example, the security value drops to $12 per month on a 12-month subscription). Also, unlimited SOS activations are available with every plan, so even the most basic ones will do if all you want is peace of mind. With each subscription, you can also send an unlimited number of pre-defined messages (eg, “I’ve arrived”, “I’m going home”, etc.) for free, and only free-form texts count toward the monthly allotment.
|safety||15 dollars / month||10 messages||$0.50 after that|
|Entertainment||$35/month||40 messages||$0.50 after that|
|Mission||65 dollars / month||Unlimited||–|
Note that Garmin uses the Iridium satellite network (you can learn more about its coverage over here). Besides messages, the network can also provide weather forecasts, but those cost money, especially the more detailed ones aimed at sailors.
If you already have an inReach Mini or similar Garmin device with satellite messaging capabilities, the company is working on adding support for some of them in the companion Messenger app, though it didn’t say exactly which ones or when this update will arrive.