Similar to the goTenna Mesh, Sonnet lets you communicate with others even when you are out in a no service zone. Whether you are hiking with friends in a remote wilderness or simply traveling abroad and don’t want to incur roaming charges, this device enables you to keep in touch with those nearby.
Sonnet enables device-to-device communication through low-power, long-range radio frequencies, thus removing your phone’s dependence on the cell network to talk to each other. Sonnet connects via WiFi to your phone, which can then send data up to several miles away to other Sonnet-connected phones. The typical point-to-point range between two Sonnets is 5 km (or approximately 3 miles), but this range can be much longer if there is a line-of-sight.
As Sonnet works off a mesh networking protocol, you can relay messages through other Sonnet users to your intended recipient even when they are out of point-to-point range. This means of course that the mesh network becomes more reliable and more useful the more Sonnet users that are out there.
With the exception of public messages and SOS distress calls, which are meant to be received by as many people as possible, all communications done with Sonnet are end-to-end encrypted with AES. In addition, Wi-Fi connections between Sonnet and your smartphones are protected with WPA/WPA2.
Sonnet comes equipped with a 4000 mAh battery so it can serve double duty as a phone charger when you are on the go. It’s rugged and water-resistant, so can take a beating outdoors.
The accompanying phone app comes with offline maps so you can navigate without Internet or cell connections.You can even leave virtual breadcrumbs on the offline map so you can retrace your path back to the start if you get lost.
In case of emergency, the Sonnet App comes with a panic button. A long-press of the button for 5 seconds will activate the SOS mode, broadcasting your current GPS location and your distress message to all Sonnet users in range.
Even though I am still not convinced about the value of mesh-network communications outdoors versus a GPS-based messaging system, I concede they can be cool in certain situations — like if you are hiking or caravaning in a group and need to stay in contact should you get spread out. The Sonnet appears to be a bit more affordable at $89 for a pair compared to $149 for a pair of goTenna.