What is FireChat and why is everyone talking about it?

The new messaging app has some interesting features…

Ever been hilariously bantering with a group of friends on Whatsapp only to have the signal cut out as you think of an absolute zinger, seriously destroying your comic timing? Or been unable to pick up your Snapchats on the Tube when you’re at your most bored? It’s really annoying.

Sometimes you really want to communicate with people, despite having no internet connection or phone coverage. Well, as always, there’s an app for that.

How is FireChat different to the communication apps we use already?

FireChat allows you to communicate while “off the grid” as it sends messages via Bluetooth and mobile Wi-Fi, without needing a router or network. It means you don’t need an internet connection or phone signal.

How far does it reach?

It has a range of 70 metres, but can piggyback on other phones to reach much further.

When would it be useful?

Not needing any kind of signal means you could use it on the Tube, in a tunnel, or in a basement. The app actually improves as more people in an area use it, so it’s perfect for crowds or events with a lot of people – Glastonbury springs to mind.

FireChat said: “Whether you’re on the beach or in the subway, at a big game or a trade show, camping in the wild or at a concert, or even travelling abroad, simply fire up the app with a friend or two and find out who else is there.”

Why are people talking about it now?

It’s been reportedly used by Iraquis, as well as Taiwanese students during the anti-Beijing protest.

Most recently, it’s being used in Hong Kong among pro-democracy campaigners and was downloaded by more than 100,000 people there over the weekend.

Tweet me your thoughts @robynvinter

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