App Lets You Chat Even If You Don’t Have Internet or Cell Connection

The next time you’re at a crowded place unable to send a message because of a congested network or poor signal, hold off on tearing out your hair. FireChat is a messaging app that lets you chat with others without a connection — Internet or cell.

Thanks to an iOS 7 feature called Multipeer Connectivity Framework (MCF), the app tethers you to devices around you and sends messages directly via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct.

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As its name suggests, the Multipeer Connectivity Framework (also known as mesh networking) makes use of multiple iOS 7 devices (or “peers”) and creates bridges between them. In doing so, the technology extends the Internet connectivity and signal in the area, creating an ad-hoc network that any MCF-capable device can jump on.

Image: Firechat app
FireChat is an app app tethers your device to devices around you and sends messages directly via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct. LAPTOP

“As long as there is a Firechat-enabled device in the node in the chain, there’s really no geographic limit to how big the ad hoc network can be,” creator Micha Benoliel told GigaOm.

This is the same technology that Apple uses in its built-in AirDrop file transfer service, and has been relatively unknown until FireChat was featured in the App Store last week. FireChat is only available for iOS 7 devices for now, but creators Open Garden already have an Android app called Internet Sharing that shares Internet connections between laptops, tablets and phones without requiring root access.

MCF technology can be extremely helpful not only in big sporting events, in the subway or when traveling abroad, but especially in case of natural disasters that jam cell networks. We look forward to seeing this technology being used by more people and devices, making it more useful.

— Cherylynn Low, LAPTOP