Berkanan is a Bluetooth-powered group messaging app

A new messaging app is looking to give folks a way to communicate in situations with poor or no cellular connectivity.

Berkanan, founded by Zsombor Szabó, is a group messaging app that uses Bluetooth to send and receive messages. This means that Berkanan works in a plane, at a festival, camping, or anywhere else where cellular coverage is disappointing.

Imagine people on a plane asking each other for top movie recommendations from the in-flight entertainment system, or folks at a festival figuring out a rally point to meet up between sets. Public messages auto-delete after 24 hours.

Alongside group messaging, Berkanan also allows private one-to-one messaging, as well as audio calls placed over Bluetooth. The range for these calls and messages is about 50 meters, but if there are people between you and your intended recipient with the app installed, Berkanan can send messages further by going through other users devices.

Berkanan will also show users if they are getting closer or further away from the user they’re messaging with, without ever showing either person’s exact location.

Group chatting with strangers in your location might seem a bit icky at first glance, but group chatting with strangers is essentially the basis of Twitter. With Berkanan, however, a common location replaces the #topic.

Berkanan is entirely bootstrapped, but Szabo has implemented a somewhat unconventional method of generating revenue.

Inspired by games like Fortnite, which make money off of custom skins, dances, and other virtual items, Berkanan will charge users to edit their profile. When a user logs on, their profile will consist of the name they assigned to their iPhone and their profile picture will be their initials, similar to the iOS Contacts interface.

Users can pay to add their own profile picture and add a short bio to their profile.

To be clear, it’s already possible to send SMS via Bluetooth. But Berkanan offers a way to broadcast that message to everyone (with the app) in your location. Of course, user acquisition is critical for the app, which is why Szabó is considering ways for the enterprise to take advantage of the app.