What is FireChat and why is it revolutionary? FireChat, recently released on the Android platform, is an offline method of chatting with anyone in the world. Through FireChat, anyone with an Android phone can become a node through which conversations are indirectly transmitted. A peer-to-peer network, FireChat doesn’t rely on telephone service or any telecommunications company at all.
How Does FireChat Work?
FireChat creates a peer-to-peer network among other FireChat users utilizing their cell phones as nodes. If one person wants to connect to another person, the FireChat program will find all of the people who are geographically located between the two people and then transmit the data through each person. Functionally, this doesn’t operate very differently from the modern cell phone network. Modern cell phone networks do the exact same thing, but use cell phone towers rather than individual phones.
Why is FireChat on Android Unique?
Android has almost $1 billion users as of 2014. Though FireChat does exist for the iPhone, there are many more Android users in the world. Android has the potential to create a broad network on a virtually global level. Many Android users will be able to reach out to other Android users without having to utilize their data connections.
Are You Able to Get a Connection?
Whether you have a cell phone connection or not, you can still use your Android FireChat. You no longer have to worry about not being able to connect with people if you don’t have Internet or a cell phone signal, and this is a tremendous value. If you’re in an area with other people who have Android devices, such as a festival that is held outside of local service ranges, you can still talk to the people around you. Not only is this more convenient, but it’s also much safer.
Do You Have Privacy Concerns?
The Android FireChat application is a little complex as far as privacy is concerned. If you’re worried about being monitored or having your communications read by government agencies or data mined by companies, FireChat will increase your security. Of course, FireChat is a peer-to-peer protocol so your data will be flowing through multiple users; if your concerns are more about other users seeing your communications, you may have increased security concerns.
“Android users tend to be more conscientious about privacy because many of them are IT professionals or otherwise involved in security,” says James Green, an Android expert. “It’s the user base that has enforced security standards and even demanded changes to the Android platform to increase security.”
As it stands, the Android FireChat application should not be used to transmit confidential or private information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers or even full names and addresses.
Is Your Phone Bill Too High?
One major benefit to the Android FireChat application is the fact that it doesn’t use cell phone technology at all. You will not use up your data plan or your messaging service when you use Android FireChat; your communications are completely off the grid and completely free. You could potentially have an Android device, such as a smartphone or tablet, that doesn’t have a data plan at all.
Are You Tired of Your Data Provider?
FireChat isn’t just valuable in and of itself; it’s also an excellent first step towards reducing the reliance on data providers and cell phone service providers. Should FireChat services continue to develop, it’s possible that many users would be able to eventually ditch the cell phone providers completely.
Are There any Downsides to FireChat?
FireChat is still new technology, so there are still a few kinks to work out. FireChat does only work if there are other FireChat nodes open and accessible, so FireChat can’t be used until it is widely adopted. If you are alone in an area, you won’t be able to use FireChat the way you could use an ordinary signal. FireChat also may represent some security concerns, given the peer-to-peer model. However, all of these issues may very well be addressed and developed in the future.
"While FireChat may not completely revolutionize the cell phone industry, it’s an excellent step in the right direction," says the Android expert (twitter.com/ArmorForAndroid). Anyone interested in chatting offline, saving money and ensuring that they have access even outside of their cell phone network may want to download FireChat and give it a try.
Scott Garcia is a technology writer with a background in the mobile and wireless industry. He enjoys writing about startups. When Scott isn't writing, he enjoys traveling with his wife, Anne and son, Tyce.