Beartooth Device Converts Phone To ‘Two-Way Radio’

‘Turn your smartphone into a walkie-talkie.’ That’s a simple premise of the Beartooth device, a new kind of tech-outdoors product that goes on sale today.

beartooth-radio-device

I saw a prototype of this “off-grid communications device” last month in Utah. It’s a sleek, half-inch-thick unit made to be stashed in a jacket pocket or backpack lid.

The Beartooth functions as a two-way radio in tandem with your smartphone. Pair it via Bluetooth with an iOS or Android phone and it gives a 2-mile range using radio signals.

It does not require Internet or cell networks, meaning you can communicate anywhere.

Two Beartooth devices are required to talk or text phone-to-phone. Each phone needs its own unit. They sell as a set of two for $249 (early bird price) but will not ship until late 2016.

beartooth-radio-in-hand

Beartooth Device: Phone To Two-Way Radio

You push a button on the phone screen to talk. Beartooth uses radio signals that are sub-1GHz license free bands for its communication.

As noted, they work without any existing network infrastructure; cell towers, wi-fi, or other connectivity are not needed for Beartooth devices to function.

The Bozeman, Mont., company announced a version of its namesake product in 2014. That unit, which we covered in the article “Radio Device Allows Phone Use Off-Grid,” was built as a case with an antenna on top.

Michael Monaghan, company CEO, told me the fit-on-phone case design was too dependent on the cycle of phone model upgrades. The company would need to design a new “case” for each new phone model on the market.

beartooth-device
Beartooth was built rugged to be used as ‘gear’ in the outdoors

The new-generation Beartooth is the deck-of-cards-size unit that was unveiled today. It connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone. A free app is used to make calls, text, and work mapping functions.

Battery, Backup Features

In addition to its communication tools, the product can serve as a backup battery; a phone user can plug into the Beartooth for a recharge on the mountain or in the woods.

There are mapping features built-in, including GPS location sharing to “find your friends on a map” if they have a Beartooth on their person.

top-view-beartooth
Top view of Beartooth unit

The company has raised $3 million to fund its development and launch. Outdoor athletes including climber Conrad Anker and skier Scot Schmidt are part of the Beartooth testing team.

Beartooth Specifications

  • 2.43in x 3.98in x 0.49in
  • 4.5oz
  • 3000 mAh Li-ion battery
  • Works with iOS and Android Phones
  • Line-of-sight range: 5 miles for voice (10 miles for text)
  • No line-of-sight: 2 miles for voice (4 miles for text)
  • 900 MHz Digital Transceiver (US Spec: 902MHz – 928MHz)
  • 1W Transmit Power (30dBm)
  • Up to -148dBm Receiver Sensitivity, 178dB Link Budget
  • Mesh Networking for Extended Range
  • FSK and LoRa Modulation
  • AES 256-Bit Encryption
  • Bluetooth 2.0 Connection to Smartphone
  • 4 Day Battery Life (5/5/90 Duty Cycle)
  • USB Type-C Port With Fast Bi-Directional Charging (2.1A)

–Beartooth will begin shipping to U.S. customers at the end of 2016. See more info and look into pre-orders at Beartooth.com.

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By
Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.
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