I can’t imagine that there’s anyone reading who hasn’t been in this situation: you’re at a conference, or a concert, or some other big event where you’re surrounded by way, way too many people. Your cell phone’s signal meter promises that everything is okay… and yet, nothing actually works.
The Beartooth smartphone case, launched at Disrupt SF 2014 this morning, keeps you connected to your friends even when the network tanks.
So how does it do it? A smartphone case can’t pull signal out of nothing, after all. Instead, the Beartooth creates a network — a peer-to-peer network made up of you and other nearby Beartooth users.
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The Beartooth case is actually two handy tools in one — it’s one part 2,000mAh backup battery and one part VHF/UHF radio. Wrap the Beartooth around your handset, launch one of their apps, and you’re now connected by voice and text to anyone else with a Beartooth case within a few miles (like a walkie talkie, range will vary a bit depending on geography). In time, Beartooth intends to open up their development platform to expand its functionality
As it’s a wraparound case, it’s not available for all phones right off the bat. Instead, Beartooth is starting with the handsets with the largest potential userbase — for now, that means the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S5.
Beyond just keeping concert-goers connected, Beartooth hopes to find fans amongst rock climbers, hikers, and others who find themselves off the grid and far out of cell network range on the regular. Oh, and a little added bonus for those folks: the Beartooth adds backwards compatibility for legacy walkie-talkie frequencies to your phone, allowing you to use your smartphone as a walkie-talkie in a pinch.
Beartooth doesn’t expect to start taking orders for a few weeks, though they put a small batch of units up for pre-order just for Disrupt. The final price is as of yet undetermined, but this first batch will cost $250 per case.
Do you have competition?
We have the pre-existing radio market, the battery market. Currently, we don’t think we have any direct competitors, but it’d be foolish to think others won’t respond
What’s your manufacturing plan?
We’re already talking to both Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers
Any legal/certification issues?
Absolutely — our lawyers will thank you for asking that. We can’t ship these until we get approval, though we’re currently going through that process.