Why Garmin's New Messenger Might Be More Useful to You Than the iPhone 14 - Update

Staying connected through satellite

  • A new satellite communications device released by Garmin allows you to send SOS and short messages anywhere in the world. 
  • Experts say the Garmin Messenger might be a better choice for adventurers than the iPhone 14, which also offers satellite communications. 
  • One cybersecurity expert warns that satellite communications devices are vulnerable to hacking.
Someone hiking along in the wilderness.

Stephen Leonardi / Unsplash

Apple is advertising its new iPhone 14 lineup as a method for emergency communications, but some experts say you might be better off with a dedicated satellite device. 

Garmin's new 4-ounce inReach Messenger device allows you, wherever you are in the world, to send and receive messages, trigger an interactive SOS, and be notified that help is on the way without a cellphone. The iPhone 14 models allow you to send an SOS via satellite but only to emergency services. 

"Backcountry enthusiasts should not replace their satellite messaging devices," Harding Bush, the manager of security operations for Global Rescue, a provider of medical, security, evacuation, and travel risk management services, told Lifewire in an email interview. "A satellite messaging device allows you to send SMS messages and emails to anyone—not just the local municipal 911 emergency response service."

Reach Out and Touch Someone From the Wilderness

Garmin’s new $300 Messenger works with a companion app for smartphones. In an emergency, the inReach Messenger and Messenger App can send an SOS message to a center staffed around the clock by Garmin. 

Garmin users can sync their smartphone’s contacts list with the app, sending messages, posting to social media, or communicating with fellow adventurers through a cellular or Wi-Fi connection when available. The app automatically switches to the global Iridium satellite network when you are no longer in cellular or Wi-Fi range.

The new Messenger companion app supports group text chats with friends and family, even those without inReach devices. Users can continue in-app conversations at home using their Wi-Fi or cellular connection without changing settings.

Unlike the iPhone 14, Messenger works as a standalone device and does not require a cell phone. Users can quickly notify contacts of their trip progress, send location updates, start or stop tracking, and declare an SOS directly from the device.

Bush said that dedicated satellite messaging devices like Garmin’s Messenger usually have a tracking feature. This technology allows the user to send a message to specific recipients, and the recipient can follow the movement and location of the sender with a map graphic including the location, geographic coordinates, direction of travel, and the traveling speed of the sender.

Not Invulnerable

Satellite messaging devices can offer peace of mind, Patricio Paucar, the chief product officer at the wireless marketplace company Navi, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Having a satellite connection is something that consumers would theoretically want for that dreaded time they find themselves in a compromised situation in the middle of nowhere, but the reality is that very few consumers will actually use it," he added. 

Jonathan Poston, a business growth consultant, said he is considering upgrading his current iPhone to the iPhone 14 because he often hikes in the Appalachian mountains where there is no cell signal. "I believe there are already enough people like me who could make use of a feature like this as a way to be safer in the backcountry," he told Lifewire via email.

The Garmin inReach device with a camping scene behind it.


But you might not want to rely entirely on satellite communications. Satellites are vulnerable to hackers, and if they are attacked, it could compromise their ability to provide service in an emergency, Christiaan Beek, the head of adversarial and vulnerability research at the cybersecurity firm Trellix told Lifewire in an email. 

"We saw this earlier this year when actors targeting Ukraine used attacks on satellites to take communications channels offline and disrupt services across the country," he added. 

Emergency preparedness expert and meteorologist Bruce Jones, who works for two-way communications company Midland Radio, told Lifewire in an email that satellite service has been used by savvy hikers, campers, and adventurers who understand how to keep themselves out of trouble or deal with it when it happens. 

"However, this feature may act as a false security blanket for those who are inexperienced at the activity that they are doing," he added. "Furthermore, this misconception of the universal effectiveness of the feature can push novices too far and may/will result in injury."

Update: Apple isn’t the only company getting into the satellite-to-smartphone communications market. SpaceX says it will upgrade its Starlink broadband constellation to provide direct-to-smartphone connectivity starting in the US next year in partnership with T-Mobile.“The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” said SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk in a news release. “We’re incredibly excited to do this with T-Mobile.”

Was this page helpful?