Hands-on review of the new Beartooth smartphone radios – Updated ( x2 ) and Compared to GMRS walkie-talkies 36


10/20/2017 Note:

I have received two new Beartooth units from the manufacturer and now believe at least one of our original units used in this post to have been defective. We have done new Line of Sight range testing with the new units and have posted updated ( better ) results in a separate post. All of the other information in this post that is not related to our range results is accurate, however, so please read that, then go to the new range results for the rest of the story

Thanks,
Eric

Original Article

In our travels we’ve been to many places where our cellphones don’t work. We’ve been to several national parks ( Yosemite is the most recent )  and events ( Overland Expo West ) where Jeanette and I found our cellphones next to useless much of the time. We fell back on small FRS radios, but in both locations we were not the only people using those bands and while we could filter out most of the other radio traffic, some still got through, which was annoying. We wished for something better that could send location data as well.

For about a year and a half I’d been aware of the Kickstarter for a device called “Beartooth”, which promised off-network connectivity of a sort to people who spend time in places without cellular network connections. Beartooth is now out of the crowd funding phase and is delivering units. According to an email sent to users in mid October, ’17, they’ve shipped about 13,000 units to all their backers and folks who ordered through about May, ’17. If you ordered after then, they’re making and shipping at a rate of about a thousand a week and are working to catch up with demand.

Beartooth is a small device ( about the size of a deck of playing cards, maybe just a little lighter ) that connects to a smartphone via bluetooth ( both Android and IOS ) to allow you to use your phone to connect with other Beartooth users to share location, short voice messages or text style messages over an advertised range of up to 10 miles ( 5 for voice ).  The Beartooth “network” is local and not connected to the Internet or any cell towers, so you can’t message outside of your nearby friends that have Beartooth devices active, but the concept is still an attractive one.

Pricing for Beartooth is $249/pair ( pre-order 50% off pricing ) for now, but once all backordered units are shipped, the pricing will go up to its normal level of $498/pair.

I didn’t participate in the Kickstarter ( I’ve been burned by Kickstarer projects before ) but my friend Taylor Banks ( http://thelearningbanks.com/ ) had enough faith to plunk down his hard-earned money and was kind enough to provide me with his two newly arrived Beartooth units for testing.

Here’s the specs from the Beartooth website:

A few notes about the specs: As of yet, Encryption and Mesh Networking are not functional features of the Beartooth units, so if those are critical to your application, I’d wait to buy. They will come with an update to the smartphone application and not to a firmware update to the Beartooth device itself, if I’m understanding correctly.

We’ve had a look at the output of a Beartooth on a SDR ( Software Defined Radio ) receiver and have checked out the signal it sends. While beartooth isn’t encrypted, it is using DSS ( Digital Spread Spectrum – it hops from one frequency to another very, very quickly in a pseudo-random pattern ) to transmit all messages. To intercept a message, even though it’s not encrypted, you can’t just turn on a radio that can tune to the ISM frequencies and listen in like you can to nearly every consumer available MURS/FRS/GMRS walkie talkie out there. All you need for those is a radio that tunes to the right frequency, and that’s really easy and cheap.

Instead, to listen in on a Beartooth transmission, you’d need one that follows the same pattern of hops as the transmitting unit and can decode the digital signal and re-assemble it as an output. That’s not easy and you can’t just go down to your local radio shack and buy a receiver like that, in fact, if you asked me where to find one, I don’t know of any.

So it’s not like someone is going to just be listening in on Beartooth communications without some serious research and work. It’s possible, but highly improbable and likely a lot of work and a fair amount of tech know-how and money.

This makes me less concerned about the lack of encryption ( we use normal walkie talkies all the time anyway – we’re not transmitting secret information ), though I’m dismayed that Beartooth doesn’t make the lack of advertised features more known prior to purchase. From a practical standpoint, I’m more concerned about the lack of mesh networking, which could make a big difference to usable range if you had more than two of these in use.

Unboxing

The Beartooth devices come nicely packed with Micro USB charging cables and a pair of short Micro USB to USB-A female cords to allow you to plug in a normal USB charging cable and top off the batteries in your phone.

The quick start guide is just a link to the Beartooth site to view a video or download a .pdf. That’s nice for Beartooth because they can easily update the guide as new features or software comes out, but I’d like to see a bit more general guidance included in the package.

The beartooth device itself is small and light, with a single amber status LED and two buttons on the top with the USB charge port, which is used to charge the Beartooth device itself and with an adapter, to charge your cellphone if needed.

In this photo, the power button is on the right, the bluetooth pairing button is on the left. The unlit amber status light is over the micro USB socket.  I found the buttons to be a little frustrating because when you press them it’s not immediately apparent anything is happening and the status light is confusing. Long presses are apparently needed to turn the device on and off and the status light flashes when the unit is starting up, when bluetooth is attempting to pair and when it’s paired but waiting for the application to connect, but it’s not obvious which flash is which.

A separate light for bluetooth status would be nice, as would more colors for the status light. Red for unconnected, green for all connected, something like that. There are modes where the Beartooth device is still on, but the status light is not on at all, leading a user to think the device is off. More about this below in the battery life part of the review below.
The buttons are recessed to prevent accidental application, which is nice.

The case is all black plastic and flexes a little, feeling just a bit cheap at their $250/pair introductory price and more so when the price goes up to $500/pair. It’s small and light enough that you won’t know it’s in a backpack, but it would take up a fair amount of pants pocket space. It is not ruggedized in any way, though it’s light enough that a drop onto dirt from a moderate height ( 4′?) is unlikely to damage it. Hard surface drops may damage it.

When paired with a phone, a particular Beartooth device can by distinguished from others by its ID number, which is printed in very tiny type on a label on one side of the case and displayed in the Beartooth properties in the app. There is no easier way to identify one device from another, just this and the label looks like it could become illegible after a few weeks in a pocket with some car keys. It’s probably not a big deal if you only have two of them, but if you’ve got a larger number it can start to be a problem. We marked ours with hand-written labels covered with transparent tape, but will probably re-do this with a paint marker.

Charging time is advertised as 4 hours and I found the devices to meet this claim when I charged them before I first used them.

Bonus content: Want to see inside a Beartooth? Here’s a link to the FCC teardown of the units, which is part of the certification process that every radio-related item sold in the US undergoes before sale. The device is mostly battery, with two small circuit boards at the very top, where the USB port is. The top board has the LED light and the switch hardware, the lower one is the radio board. The 900 MHz LoRa antenna runs down alongside the case, next to, but separated from the battery.

The Smartphone App

To use a Beartooth device ( you need at least two of them, since they don’t talk to anything else other than another Beartooth) the device must be paired with a smartphone and the Beartooth app loaded on the phone. We paired them variously with an iPhone, a Motorola G4 Plus and later with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablet for testing. Most of the time the Bluetooth was stable, but the G4 lost the connection once and needed to be re-paired, or it might not have because the status light is so useless so i couldn’t tell. My experience with bluetooth in general is varied at best, so this might not have been a Beartooth issue.

The Beartooth application provides your phone with the tools to manage settings on the Beartooth, manage your Beartooth contacts and send/receive messages. I found the app to be buggy ( I’ll be pointing out the bugs later in this article ) and kind of clunky but stable.

Once you’ve connected the app with the Beartooth, you set the name that others will see when they scan for nearby Beartooth units and scan for others.

Here’s the main menu for the app on Android, showing the app connected to the Beartooth device, but unable to read the battery level. It was rare for it to successfully read the battery level on both Android devices I tested, which hampered my ability to test battery life.
People takes you to your contact list.
Groups lets you combine people into groups to message multiple people at once. I only had two devices, so I never used this feature.
Talk shows you open conversations with people or groups.
Maps shows shared locations and where you are.
Settings allows you to change a few things about the Beartooth unit.

The first thing to do is add other people.

You hit the “+” button to scan and save nearby Beartooth units ( identified by the name set by the user of that Beartooth and the serial number  ) as “People”. Once you’ve got people in the list, you can message them or add them to a group for group messages. When searching for other Beartooth units, they must be on and have a phone paired to them with the app running. If there is no smartphone working with a Beartooth, it will not show up in the scan, even if it’s been paired with a phone and is powered up. If you know the serial number of another Beartooth, you can add it manually as well.

This shows two “conversations” listed. If you click on one of them, you can see the actual conversation and chat with that person.

The Maps screen allows you to see where you are, shows location points shared by other Beartooth contacts in chats with you and allows you to download the maps for offline viewing. It’s critical to do the map download of the area where you’ll be using your Beartooth BEFORE you get out of range of an Internet connection. There are several map types, including road maps, topographic maps and a satellite image view.

Location points can be clicked on to give you a few more details, the most important one is lat/long, though the locations have been redacted in this image.

 

Here’s the settings screen. You can change the name your Beartooth appears as to other devices, reduce the output power to save battery life or check for firmware updates.

Chat conversations look like this. In the image below, I’ve sent a message “This is a test” to the tablet.
The tablet user replied, then sent a location link and a 3 second voice message. Voice messages come out of the speaker of the receiving smartphone almost in real time. At the bottom of the window are the blank spot to type text for a new message, as well as “buttons” to send location and voice messages.

One of the software bugs is illustrated here. The dimmed out location button on the right is, according to the quick start manual, what you tap to send your location. On both the G4 and the Tablet I tested, this button has always been dimmed out and non-functional. Rather, it’s the button to it’s left that sends a location message to other devices.

I have no idea what that button might actually do.

Battery Performance

Charging happened pretty quickly, both tested units charged in under the 4 hours suggested in the quick start guide. I test charged the G4 Plus from one of the Beartooth units, it charged fairly fast, but its phone battery is nearly as large as the Beartooth battery, so you’re not going to want to do much phone boosting if you’re planning on using the Beartooth for its original purpose, since a full phone charge would leave the Beartooth battery drained.

The status light is another issue. Several times in the testing of these units they’ve been put away with the status light dark, but apparently still on, only to be pulled out a few days later with flat batteries. This appears to happen when the Beartooth phone app is off, or disconnected for some reason, but the bluetooth on the phone is still on. This leaves the Beartooth on and connected to the phone, but not the app and the status light out. The unit appears off, but is not.

The status light patterns aren’t different enough to fully indicate what’s going on, they might be on, or off, or if flashing, either searching for a bluetooth connection or waiting for the Beartooth app to connect. It’s all very puzzling to everyone here who’s tried them and we’re not new to portable tech.

Battery life is advertised as 4 days ( @ 5/5/90, which is 5% of the time transmitting, 5% of the time receiving and 90% of the time on standby, which is pretty normal for rating battery life on radio gear, I believe ). Our testing probably had them standing by >99% of the time, but I found battery life to be less than two days, based on 55% battery life remaining after less than a single day of use.

Worse, it was rare that the battery life was readable at all. Nearly every time I went to check the battery life, the battery display on the Android app just said “reading” and would not show a charge percentage.

Range Testing

 

10/20/2017 Note:

I have received two new Beartooth units from the manufacturer and now believe at least one of our original units used in this post to have been defective. We have done new Line of Sight range testing with the new units and have posted updated ( better ) results in a separate post. All of the other information in this post that is not related to our range results is accurate, however, so please read that, then go to the new range results for the rest of the story

Thanks,
Eric

The Beartooth website says this about the distance you should be able to transmit:

In the Tech Specifications, it says:

  • LOS ( Line of Sight ) Range: 5 Miles for Voice, 10 Miles for Text
  • NLOS ( Near Line of Sight ) Range: 2 Miles for Voice, 4 Miles for Text

Our testing found real world performance of the Beartooth to fall far, far short of this and to have significant limitations beyond just a limited range.

First, the good things we found.

-Because there’s seems to be a digital handshake between the sending and receiving units, you know that your message has gone through. If a transmitting Beartooth is unable to contact the receiving Beartooth, you get a “Couldn’t reach ________” message. It’s a PITA to not have your message go through, but at least you KNOW it didn’t go and can try again. Sort of ( see below ).

-Text messages and location messages have a much longer range than voice, perhaps 3x as far.

-Voice messages come out of the receiving smartphone with only a second or so of delay, so if you’re prepared for it ( phone already in hand ) you can use these somewhat like a walkie talkie.

-Sending one’s location worked well and the mapping portion of the application worked well for me. I liked the different various maps.

The bad things we found:
-Voice messages fail as you press the button to record if the recipient can’t be reached, to resend just try again. Text messages let you type a message and then fail when you press the “send” button, however, if your message didn’t go through, the Beartooth app will not automatically retry to send your message.  Worse, you will lose your typed message if you don’t manually resend successfully immediately. If you close the window, put your phone to sleep, or do anything that takes you away from the message screen, the app will delete the text and you’ll have to retype it to resend it.

-On at least two occasions, messages that were listed as successfully sent by the transmitting Beartooth did not appear on the recipient app, they just vanished into the ether.

-On at least two occasions, the text that came out the other end had gibberish characters added to it ( see below, those should be just numbers ).

-The range was abysmal.

We tested in three scenarios.

First: Close together ( <100′ ), with each Beartooth in an RV. We did this right after setting up and pairing the Beartooth units for the first time.  We were able to send text messages reliably, but twice in just a dozen or so various test messages we had voice messages fail to go through.

Keep in mind, the two RV’s were this close together – we could have opened windows and yelled back and forth:

The second scenario we tested was to leave one of the Beartooth units next to an open window in my RV facing the trail and to take the other one ( in a mesh pocket in the exterior of my backpack ) and walk up the road, texting regularly to see how far away I could get before messages failed to go through. I got .14 mile of almost flat terrain with just a few skinny pine trees between me and the RV before that happened. Here’s an aerial view, with the measuring tool on Google Earth. The RV was at the bottom end of the yellow line and I walked as far as the top end of the yellow line before being unable to send messages, even if I held the Beartooth over my head.

Here’s the view from the road, looking back at the RVs, which are circled in red and visible through gaps in the trees. This is not a heavily forested area.

Let’s call this “Near Line of sight”. The manual calls for a range of up to 2 miles for voice, 4 miles for text. I was able to achieve a few hundred feet for voice, about .15 mile for text if I held the Beartooth over my head. Beyond that, no connections were possible.

There was one more pretty major complication. If I turned around to face the RV with the Beartooth still in my exterior mesh backpack pocket, the Beartooth lost the ability to even text from here.  Essentially, to achieve even this limited range, the Beartooth had to be exposed and on the same side of me where its partner was.

My third test scenario was full line of sight. I drove out to a nearby flat gravel road and parked my car with my tablet inside connected to a Beartooth device placed above the dashboard on my phone holder. My Jeep does not have a heated windshield or a tint. Then I walked up the road with the other Beartooth in the exterior mesh pocket of my backpack again.

I first tried voice messages, but those began to fail almost immediately at about .1 miles from the car. At .2 miles I got my first failure of a text message, though a resend worked and I didn’t get another failure for about another .3 miles. Text messages failed occasionally after that ( .5 miles), but a resend would usually get them through until about .55 miles down the dirt road from the car. At that point, it was about a 50/50 chance that a message would get through, even with a resend. I continued on just beyond .6 miles, where the odds of a message getting through decreased even lower and then I gave up and turned around. I couldn’t imagine using these if the chances of getting a message through is less than half, particularly since if the Beartooth app window closes, you have to retype the message.

Once I turned around and headed back to the car, the Beartooth was behind me in the backpack, so my body was between it and it’s partner. Again, it totally lost the ability to communicate for most of the return trip. I continued to walk closer to the car and found that it wasn’t until I was at about .2 miles from the car that I got my first text through and it wasn’t until about .15 miles from the car that messages began to go through reliably.

Performance Conclusions

While Beartooth claims 2-4 miles for voice communications and up to 10 miles for text/location messages, I found the range to be far less than their claims. In NLOS conditions, .15 miles for a text message seemed to be the limit, with as little as a few hundred feet being the limit for voice messages.  In more open LOS conditions, .1 miles for voice and .6 miles for text were the limits I found. Keep in mind that simply turning and putting your body in between the devices severely limited even these short ranges, often by >50%. I imagine that two users with Beartooth devices in their backpacks who inadvertently face each other will be unable to communicate using them until nearly the point that they can just yell back and forth.

Overall Conclusions

I really wanted to like these, since they’d fill a niche in our communications arsenal that our two way radios don’t quite solve. I found the glitchy software to be a manageable issue, one I’m assuming will be fixed with updates. Some garbling of the typed texts isn’t a huge deal in my opinion, either, though the dropped messages is a larger one. I’d hate send someone a message for help, only to find it didn’t actually get through. I suppose if something is important enough, you need to get an acknowledgement from whoever you’re talking to, rather than taking the device at face value that it went through.

The range issue, however, is a deal breaker, and I don’t see that being resolved simply with firmware or software updates.  Yes, I know that nearly every two way radio manufacturer lists ranges for their radios that are almost equally fanciful ( GMRS radio makers routinely claim 30+ mile ranges ) but we use radios like those and their range typically fills our need, even if it’s not as great as promised. The range that I’ve seen from the Beartooth devices I tested seem barely useful. If I can walk out of range in less than 5 minutes, it’s not a great hiking tool for keeping in touch with my companions.

My recommendation is to pass on Beartooth, pending resolutions of the range issue, if it’s fixable. Particularly at the full price of  $498/pair.

If you need off-grid communications, my suggestion is some moderately priced UHF two way radios, like these Midland GMRS radios. http://amzn.to/2w0YZxq  $65 for a pair with rechargeable batteries, headsets, chargers, plus they have weather radio capabilities. There is no text or location communications, but LOTS of folks have these and they’re simple to use.

Another company called Gotenna has a product similar to the Beartooth ( no voice capability ) that I have not tested, but their latest model ( Gotenna Mesh ) is somewhat cheaper ( $179/pair ) than the pre-order price of Beartooth and both mesh networking and encryption are functional features. I’m hoping to get a pair of these to test soon.

Range testing, part 2. 

 

10/20/2017 Note:

I have received two new Beartooth units from the manufacturer and now believe at least one of our original units used in this post to have been defective. We have done new Line of Sight range testing with the new units and have posted updated ( better ) results in a separate post. All of the other information in this post that is not related to our range results is accurate, however, so please read that, then go to the new range results for the rest of the story

Thanks,
Eric

We’ve had some feedback from folks and a few emailed questions comparing these to FRS/GMRS UHF consumer grade hand held two way radios. We were also so surprised at how poorly the Beartooth units worked in my tests and wanted to retest and confirm or refute my range findings.

So we grabbed a pair of $70 Motorola MT350R   radios and found a good spot to test – We were camped along Lake Creek rd., just north of Ketchum, ID and had a clear 1.2 mile unobstructed view in a valley, plus another half mile of near line of sight ( edge of a hill in the way ) and then another half mile beyond that with two hill edges between our chosen points. Unlike my last test, the area wasn’t simply flat and open, it had hills along each side to try to keep some of the signal in the valley, so we were hoping for better
results.

These are the radios we used. They claim a maximum range of 35 miles in a mountain valley, 6 miles on water and 2 miles in an urban environment. All of those are optimistic in my estimation, but we’ll be testing them along with the Beartooth to see which has the best range, is the most practical and reliable  for both regular and emergency use. After testing, we’ll decide which we’d recommend for folks to keep in touch outdoors.

Taylor ( my friend with the Beartooth units ) paired his iPhone with one Beartooth and took a GMRS radio. I took the other radio and paired my Android phone with the other Beartooth. I’m not an IOS user, so Taylor pointed out an odd software bug on the IOS version of the iPhone Beartooth software. When you click on the text line to write a text message, the line scrolls up off the screen so you can’t see what you’re typing. We caught this on video, also capturing one of the text message failures while both Beartooth units were in the same room, literally right next to each other.

Before we did the testing, I fully charged the Beartooth units. After pairing, we had some difficulty successfully scanning for the other beartooth unit, despite being in the same room. Rebooting the Beartooth devices fixed that, but it was annoying.

Unlike my last testing, my phone seemed to have a moderately difficult time staying connected to the beartooth. Several times over subsequent several hours I found that the Beartooth app showed that it had been disconnected from the unit, despite both BT being enabled on the phone, the Beartooth being on and everything in the same room. I brought the charged unit to Taylor ( about 100 feet away in their RV – photo below ) and he had several failed text messages before walking to the back of his RV and successfully sending a voice message.

Testing

Taylor stood on this little hill in a valley ( here viewed from 1.1 miles away, measured by GPS and verified by Google Earth ) with the Beartooth  on his head, which made it as reasonably high as he could get it and seemed to produce the best range.  After dropping him off, I drove away, stopping every tenth of a mile to try to send a text and voice message via Beartooth, then confirming the reception via the GMRS radios. My car is a diesel, so there’s no electrical ignition noise to interfere with the radios.  On the outbound run I would hold the beartooth at arm’s length out the window so the metal of the car would not be affecting range. We’d go as far as each communications method would reach, recording our impressions.

On the return trip we’d shift the Beartooth units into our pockets ( front first, then rear )  to see how much of a range reduction  effect the different stuff surrounding the Beartooth would have.  Then we’d meet to discuss our impressions and decide which system, Beartooth or GMRS, we’d each choose for our own mobile off-grid communications needs.

Range Results

Our Beartooth range results were somewhat better than last time. I chalk that up to the valley being quite narrow and Taylor being on top of a short hill. Our first dropped text was at just .2 miles, when Taylor set his Beartooth down on a large rock next to him momentarily, obscuring its view of it’s partner with long grass and sage. Lifting it back up above the grass let us continue, but demonstrated that it didn’t take much of an obstruction to restrict the Beartooth’s range.

Voice range was significantly better than before, with regular reception out to .8 miles and one voice message getting through from the 1 mile point, though it was unintelligible. There were regular failures from the .3 mile test all the rest of the way out, and a few of our .1 mile stops were unable to get any voice messages to go through, or would result in a voice message that looked like it had gone out, but had not been received. Some would arrive without content.

Text messages were more reliable, generally, but again, beyond the .3 mile point we would have regular failures. Occasionally, we’d be unable to send any messages with Beartooth, but then I’d drive another .1 mile and find that on my next test, 50% or more might get through.

Location messages seemed somewhat more reliable than voice, somewhat less reliable than text.

Still, it was pretty frustrating to have to try that many times to get a message through, only to find that it wasn’t actually received. On my end, I would often see the Beartooth app on my phone go dark at the bottom and show the word “Receiving”, only to not receive any sort of message.  The maximum range we got from any Beartooth message was 1.1 miles, at which point we stopped getting any more messages of any type through. This was still line-of-sight: I could easily make out the road on the hill Taylor was standing on, though I could not see Taylor without binoculars.

Throughout this testing, the GMRS radios worked flawlessly, despite the fact that I used my radio from inside my car while I put the Beartooth out the window.

At the end of Beartooth range, I kept driving, going over one small hill, and then around two more far enough that I could no longer see Taylor’s hill. Static on the GMRS radios began about 1.5 miles distant ( no longer direct line-of-sight ) and it was bad enough by 1.7 miles that I needed to get out of the car to talk. Still, we got a solid 2 miles out of the GMRS radios before it became impossible to make out what the other person was saying.

On my return trip, I placed the Beartooth in my front pocket of my pants, Taylor did the same. This put it under the dashboard of the car to some extent, out of sight of Taylor’s Beartooth, but not by much. On the return trip, I started trying to text at 1.1 miles, but was unable to get a message through until I was just .3 miles away. For a comparison, I put the GMRS radio in the center console at the same point and was able to hear Taylor clearly for the entire 1.1 mile test.

At .2 miles from Taylor, I moved the Beartooth to my back pocket ( where it would be most convenient to carry it without a pack ) and was unable to get a message through. I even tried getting out of the car, but apparently my body was too much of an obstruction for the Beartooth to transmit through.

This image is at .2 miles away. Taylor can’t really be seen, but he’s at the top of the little hill where the road goes. I was standing out in the open with the Beartooth in my back pocket ( as was he ) and it was unable to reach Taylor’s Beartooth at the red arrow.

With my body between the Beartooth and my phone as well, I began to have difficulty getting my phone to talk to the Beartooth as well, something I had not experienced with the Beartooth in a pack on my back. Taylor and I were again unable to get messages through at the .1 mile mark and even experienced failures as he stood next to the car at the end of the test. I don’t attribute this to the Beartooth not having the 6 feet of range between us, I attribute it to the Beartooth being unable to talk to my phone over bluetooth.

Interrupting the line of sight appeared to have a very large effect on the range and effectiveness of the Beartooth devices. Having your body, a car, a hill, trees or even tall grass between the transmitting and receiving Beartooth can cut your range severely or prevent any messages at all from getting through, even at very short range.

Unlike the Gotenna and Gotenna Mesh, the Beartooth design does not include a loop or other method of easily attaching it to the outside of a pack or strap. It doesn’t even have a small lanyard loop or anything on the exterior to hook or loop through. Instead, it’s design would seem to encourage a user to place it in a pocket and thus restrict it’s already limited range. So if you’re using these, try to do what you can to place them on the exterior of your garments or pack, and if possible, on the side of your body facing any other Beartooth devices. So exterior pockets only, near the surface. Maybe a small cloth bag and a carabiner to clip to your backpack shoulder strap?

GMRS could have some of the same obstruction issues, but the 460 Mhz bands where GMRS is are less directional and affected by objects in the line of sight than the 900 Mhz bands that Beartooth use. Also, since you have to hear a GMRS radio and hold it to respond, it’s far more likely to be out in the open than Beartooth, which is used from your phone, remotely. When I carry a GMRS radio in the field it’s clipped to the top of my backpack strap, with the antenna over my shoulder.

There’s at least one other complication with the Beartooth units. They appear to be just radio receivers that connect to a phone via Bluetooth audio. They don’t appear to have much smarts of their own and it seems that the phone is the device doing the listening to the radio signal and converting it into a text, location or recording the voice message.

What does this mean? Well, if you’re phone loses the connection to the Beartooth, your message isn’t waiting for you when you reconnect.  If the Bluetooth connection between your phone is iffy, your messages won’t always get through, since your phone has to be connected and listening when the message is sent. This is in contrast with the advertised capabilities of the Gotenna ( both the 1st generation and the new mesh version ) which claim to have enough flash memory to hold several hundred messages, which would be stored and delivered when you reconnected to the device, if I’m understanding their advertising. ( Note: We have not yet tested Gotenna )

This also means that the Beartooth is essentially useless without a phone paired and actively assisting it. Even when mesh networking comes to the Beartooth app, without major changes to the Beartooth hardware, it’s not going to work without a phone managing it. So, unlike the advertised capabilities of the Gotenna Mesh and others, which can use one of their devices as a standalone mesh node, you can’t just place a beartooth somewhere by itself and have it relay messages, unless you leave a phone with it as well.

Several times during the testing my phone disconnected from the Beartooth. Without the phone connection, no messages get received ( the sender gets a message that the message didn’t go through ) and when you reconnect, none are waiting.

I’ve seen several people on the Beartooth facebook page say they’re eager to get a pair for communications in the woods, and for emergencies, in case something happens while they’re out in the boonies. I see a few issues with this. First off, if you are injured, you’re likely to be laying down and this will severely limit the range of a Beartooth device, which isn’t great to begin with. The other big issue is that whoever is looking for you needs to have one and your Beartooth’s unique ID number entered.
You can’t just “call” everyone in range, you need to have that person’s Beartooth in your contact list FIRST. So, anyone looking for you will need to have a Beartooth radio, have your ID in their contact list, and be within your Beartooth’s limited range.

Summary

In our testing, under ideal line-of-sight conditions, we were able to get two Beartooth units to reach slightly over 1 mile, frequently much less than that. Even at short range, the reliability of our messages was not good for a variety of reasons, including objects obscuring line-of-sight, bluetooth failures, and just unexplained flakiness of the whole system. We had dozens of failed texts, voice and location messages, some of which appeared to go through from the transmitting end, but were not received.

Beartooth’s app is really buggy and missing important features. From being unable to see the text you’re typing the the IOS version, to being nearly unable to read the battery state in Android and IOS, it’s not ready for prime time. The missing features ( mesh networking and encryption ) are big gaps as well, since both of those were major promised features and mesh networking could help to somewhat alleviate the poor range. Based on my understanding of how Beartooth seems to work, I’m not expecting mesh networking any time soon without big changes to the internal design.

Comparison to the GMRS radios

While the Beartooth was difficult to use and had range and reliability issues, the GMRS radios worked pretty well. No, they didn’t produce their claimed 35 mile range, but they worked at twice the effective distance as the Beartooth and far better in near line-of-sight conditions. I suspect if we had a longer flat spot to test in we’d have found even greater range.  Whereas we were barely able to eke out a mile with the Beartooth, we hit nearly twice that with the GMRS radios and that included some hills between the transmitting and receiving radios. To get a mile out of the Beartooth, I had to hold it with my fingertips out the car window, while the GMRS radio worked well at the same distances inside the car.

Also, unlike the Beartooth units, as the GMRS radios get farther away you being to get some static in the reception. This tells you you’re nearing the edge of your range and you need to either raise the radio or head back towards the transmitter to get better reception. If you can’t understand what’s said over the GMRS radio you can ask someone to repeat.  The Beartooth reception either works or it doesn’t, you get no feedback, so if you missed something, you don’t know.

We struggled a lot with Beartooth when testing. One or the other of us would transmit and the other person would get nothing. 10 seconds later, we’d try again and it would work. This would have been maddening if we’d have been using them for regular communications, rather than just range testing. At the same time, we actually used the GMRS radios to coordinate our testing. The GMRS radios just worked. We were able to hear and understand at all Beartooth ranges and beyond. We had to make almost no requests for a repeat message, and then only at the very edge of range.

For emergency use, GMRS wins again. Longer range, compatibility with HAM radios and the ability to buy them nearly everywhere means that if you leave a note on your car windshield ( or with a friend/family ) telling the GMRS channel or UHF frequency, rescuers could easily get a compatible radio ( or might already be carrying one ) and can broadcast to all receivers in the area, not just ones they know about.

No, cheap GMRS radios don’t transmit location, but if you’ve got a smart phone and a GMRS radio connection, you can always tell someone your lat/long and they can put it into map software. It’s another step, but since GMRS works at least twice the range of Beartooth, I’d say it’s a better option for most folks. Besides, GPS coordinates aren’t always accurate or helpful, particularly in large crowds and urban environments. I was recently trying to find my wife in a crowd of people at an outdoor music event, and while GPS got me within 300 feet or so of her, I needed her to describe where she was to actually connect.

After a discussion, both Taylor and I were in agreement – GMRS won handily over Beartooth and they’re our clear choice for backwoods, off-grid communications.  They’re cheaper, have greater range, are easier to operate and call. GMRS is not as private as Beartooth, but that privacy is a disadvantage if you’re calling for rescue or listening for rescuers. The lack of location sharing with GMRS has workarounds.

Beartooth has a poor quality app, hasn’t delivered on several important features and has poor range at best, sometimes shockingly poor. Message reliability is poor as well, even when connected and close, particularly since you don’t know if you miss a message and they’re not stored in the Beartooth.

My recommendation is to avoid Beartooth, at least until they deliver on their promised features and get their range and message reliability fixed. I suppose it’s possible that we had faulty units in some way, we’re reaching out to Beartooth to see if they’d like to ship us different ones for testing, but even with better range, it’s not going to fix the app and feature issues.

 

In related news, I just got four Gotenna Mesh units in for testing. Look for another blog post reviewing those ( including meshing! ) in a few weeks and eventually a head-to-head comparison of Gotenna Mesh and Beartooth.

We’re also closely following two other competitor devices that are currently crowdsource funded and expected before the end of the year.
Sonnet: You connect to this device via WiFi ( as opposed to Bluetooth ) through a browser, which allows use with any web-enabled device, including a laptop. It’s promised to be capable of offline text messaging, location sharing, mesh networking ( up to 16 hops ), has an external antenna port and even internet sharing. Bonus – surprisingly inexpensive. IP66 waterproof.
goTele Focused more on real-time tracking than the others, (up to 30 members ), it can also send text style messages. Ruggedized and about the size of an old-fashioned pager, it includes a GPS built into the device, so it can send your location or an SOS ( It’s got a dedicated SOS button ) even without a phone. No mesh networking, but they claim the wireless protocol they use is good for 3-5x more range than mesh. IP67 waterproof.

If we can get our hands on these to test, we will.

 


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36 thoughts on “Hands-on review of the new Beartooth smartphone radios – Updated ( x2 ) and Compared to GMRS walkie-talkies

  • Ron 04

    GMRS or MURS on VHF would be a far better choice.

    I’ve been arguing with this company since they first announced – telling them they were full of S%^T.

    Apparently I was right.

  • Bruce M Lewis

    Ordered mine in March 2017 and still have not received them. Have contacted law enforcement. Will investigate possible fraud or ponzi scheme.
    They current advertise August 2017 orders to be delivered Sept 2017. Do where is my order?

    • Eric Post author

      I can tell you that the friend who I borrowed the Beartooth radios from for testing has had them for over a month prior to my playing with them.
      You should have gotten yours, I don’t know what to tell you. With any luck, they’ll get better over time and when you eventually get yours, I hope they work better.

  • Taylor Banks

    Really bummed by the performance of these. 🙁 I was hopeful that our second test would provide some new hope, but I’m not terribly optimistic. Even if these devices got 300% better, they’d still be far short of my expectations (and *needs* for an “emergency off-grid communications device”, which is how these devices are being marketed.”

    At this point, I’m thinking Beartooth might ought to consider pivoting and turning these into… restaurant “table ready” buzzers? Dunno. Just thinking out loud, here. Also, they might not be able to communicate all the way across a busy restaurant if there are actual *people* inside, so maybe that’s not such a good idea? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Jeremy

    Another Beartooth backer here. Thank you for your review. I’ve been waiting to see how these would perform in the real world and it looks like they won’t work for what I need. Perhaps they will update the devices and get better range but this is quite disappointing. For the other backer who bought in March, I bought in February and their most recent email claims:

    If you ordered between September 2016 and October 2016 your units are in the warehouse and should ship imminently.

    If you ordered between November 2016 and early March 2017 your units are in transit to the warehouse and will ship in a few weeks.

    If you ordered between March 2017 and today your units are being made and will ship in late September, plus a buffer of a few weeks.

    So it looks like we may see ours by the end of this month or at least the end of October. And hopefully we will experience better results.

    • Eric Post author

      Thanks for the comments, hope yours arrive soon. Please check back in and let us know what you think! We really wanted these to work well, we’re disappointed they did not. It would be better for everyone else if we got faulty units, but I’m having my doubts about their execution compared to some of the other systems out there. Look for a Gotenna Mesh test soon.

      • Eric Post author

        I did a solid review, you just commented on it.
        I’ve read the longrangehunting review, and my impression is that his results line up pretty well with mine in terms of range. From the longrangehunting review:

        During testing, if a general line of sight was maintained between the transmitters, they would work great up to about a half mile away. As we put more distance between us, crossed over a ridge line or were in the deep bends of the trail, connection between transmitters became more difficult.

        Later, in a valley, the reviewer gets better results ( as we did ), but a half mile range with Line of Sight? That’s nothing like what’s promised by Beartooth and 900 Mhz has issues with near LOS and non LOS conditions.
        I see nothing in his review about the issues with the app, the dropped messages, non-functional features, or the fact that as you reach the end of range you get no warning ( as conventional radios do with static ), you just get no messages. The last issue is one that we might not have realized, except we also stayed in touch with GMRS and knew when Beartooth failed.
        The reviewer also contends that Beartooth would be a great resource for Emergency communications when out in the woods, and I still think there are major issues with that. Yeah, if you stay in range of your friends, they could be OK, but I’d rather depend on GMRS and a GPS for that.

        In the end, I can tell you this – when in the woods, we found that Beartooth failed to send messages a very significant portion of the time, and began to completely fail at distances not much more than a few tenths of a mile. Their performance was poor enough that we are not using them for offline communications, we’re using our GMRS radios. I could not recommend the Beartooth devices.

  • Stewart

    Thanks for the detailed review – this reflects my limited experience with my pair so far. I am extremely disappointed with the lack of performance of the Beartooth radios.

    • Eric Post author

      Stewart,
      Email support@beartooth.com and check about exchanging yours. We’re got two replacement units and now believe at least one of the original pair was defective, causing range and possibly message reliability issues. We’ll be revising this article soon, but our preliminary range testing showed a marked improvement over our first set of devices, with line of sight range tested out to 4.5 miles ( ran out of time and road ).
      You might have the same issues.

  • Matt

    I would highly recommend AGAINST anyone buying these after my customer service experience in trying to find out where my order was. I pre-ordered the products from this company in June of 2017 and was told they would ship before the end of August. After receiving no updates at the end of August I contacted them via “support” and received a very generic response of “hey we’re a small company” if you order was placed on these dates you should see your product on X, Y or Z date. That date came and went and I gave them an additional two (2) weeks before reaching out to support again asking if they needed my address or why i didn’t receive an e-mail yet… only to be responded to with the same generic delivery schedule that OBVIOUSLY was not accurate. When I asked them to actually read my e-mail and respond with a little care they told me they had cancelled my order.

  • Hyline Farms

    I have a pair of Beartooth radios that we use daily on our farm. Our results have been much better than your testing shows. We used them almost daily in the fields between two tractors with no issues. Our range for voice was well over a mile and text was even further. I think you left out some cool features like how they enable you to relisten to a voice message. We have used a lot of two way radios on Our farm over the years and I think these are on par or better than most. Also take into consideration that they are first generation and improvements are likely to happen as they go along. Also they are they only company even offering voice and not only text so ripping on their voice ability is kind of a weak argument.

    • Eric Post author

      I’m glad you’re getting better results than we did. We like the concept of the Beartooth device, just not the execution. They are, as noted, the only ones currently offering voice as a communications option in this type of device, though Sonnet ( funded on Indigogo, est. delivery Dec ’17 ) promises voice and a lot more. We found the operation and the reliability of messaging ( especially voice ) to be so poor that we could not recommend it, but you’re right, it’s a useful feature that isn’t in a two-way radio. The screen capture of messages showed the ‘play’ button for messages, so I’ve edited the text to include how that works and put saved messages in the good features of Beartooth. Thanks.

      As for a comparison with two way radios, we just got back from a two day off road trip into Canyonlands NP and used GMRS radios the whole time, since there is literally zero cell service. The radios gave us much better service than Beartooth devices would have. Between the failed messages, the short range and the lack of a real button to press to talk in a bouncing car, Beartooth would have been very frustrating and there were a lot of situations where we would have been without car to car communications.

      Yes, these are first generation units and there might be teething issues. Nonetheless, these are devices with a $250 price tag for two units, and that’s 50% off their eventual retail, yet there are major features that are not working yet. Clearly, some folks are having range issues and there appear to be delivery problems as well.

      We’ve reached out to Beartooth and are waiting to hear if they believe we have units that are not representative, but the fact of the matter is these made it through their quality control. We’ll retest if we get new ones, but for now, the poor results stand.

      I’ll admit to being a little surprised that you aren’t using a professional grade radio system in the cabs of your tractors with external antennas. FCC licensing isn’t that difficult, and you could see ranges far in excess of what either a handheld radio or Beartooth can produce, as well as communicate back to a base.

      • Hyline Farms

        Hey Eric thanks for the response and the updates. We do use cab mounted Motorola radios in some equipment for longer distances but found these very convenient for things like putting up hay when we are in closer proximity. Not having to mount antennas and radios in every tractor is a big plus to us. Hope your next test gives you the same results we get! Thanks again.

        • Eric Post author

          Well, we heard back from Beartooth and have new units in hand which are working far better than our previous ones. Please look for an update to the review in the near future and thanks for sharing your different opinion with us.

  • A. Human

    Just received my pair of Beartooth radios. I’ve not tried range experiments yet.

    After a few attempts, I did get a unit to pair with my iOS 11.0.1 iPhone 7 Plus.

    I am using the Beartooth app, downloaded from the App Store yesterday.

    Under the app Settings I experienced the following:
    Output power: Error
    Check for firmware update: Error
    Signal: “Spinner of Death”
    Battery: “Spinner of Death”

    Maps: The Map function is the current strong point based on very limited testing. I do get a display that seems reasonably accurate. It switches map modes quickly. I especially like the topo map.

    Talk: Not tested yet – I have to get someone to test with me.

    Contacts: Not tested yet.

    Possible “mitigating circumstances”: I’m guessing that most of the development work was done with iOS 10 since iOS 11 just came out. That could explain some of the current “fit, finish, and functionality” issues. Also, since this was crowdfunded, this – especially the first iteration – will not have the same capabilities as it might under Garmin, Apple, etc. (I’ve backed over 500 different crowdfunding efforts. Trust me when I say, never spend money and emotion on a crowdsourced funding effort that you cannot afford to lose.)

    “Hopes”: Between firmware update and app upgrades, I’d like to see a capability for the unit to issue receipts – confirmation that the message reached the intended other unit(s). Extra points for an actual read receipt. Also, change the text signal coding to lower the data rate while using processing gain to effectively boost the signal to noise. In other words – if it takes five seconds to transmit a text rather than one second, most people will not care – especially if you effectively increase the signal to noise (and therefore, range) via coding gain.

    Bottom Line Grade: Incomplete. I have hopes for a functional unit that has at least half the advertised range.

    • Eric Post author

      Mr. Human,
      Thanks for commenting. We’re not IOS users and all of the testing that happened with an IOS user as part of the mix occurred prior to the release of 11.x, but my understanding from comments on Beartooth’s Facebook posts is that there are major bugs with their app when used on 11. They say they have sent out an email to their entire customer base alerting them to this and telling them not to upgrade to 11 if they plan on using the device with a Beartooth unit.
      I don’t know what their timeframe is for an update, but their comments on Facebook seemed to indicate they feel the issues are the fault of Apple.

      Good news on your hopes, at least some of them are sort of features. While units don’t issue “receipts” for messages, if you try to send one to a device that isn’t available ( off, out of range, phone not paired, app not connected to Beartooth, etc. ), sending the message will fail with a “Unable to reach _______ ( Contact Name )”. So if the message sent, it should have been received.

      That doesn’t seem to guarantee that your message wasn’t garbled or something, but there is a handshake between the transmitting and receiving unit, so it’s not like a walkie talkie where you have no idea if the message was received – you just broadcast it out into the ether. In our testing, we had, I’d guess, about a 98% success rate with messages that showed as sent arriving as expected and a 100% accuracy for messages that showed the failure message.

      This also means that if you have two devices that can pair with Beartooth ( can use a tablet, too) you can test range and reception by simply turning both mobile devices and beartooth units on and sending from one to another. If the message sends, it’s working. I used this method for my first testing session, sending numbered messages from my phone to my tablet, such as “1”, “2”, “3”, etc. Then I could go back to the tablet, scroll up through the received messages and see if any numbers were missing. Since voice messages are saved for replay, you can do this with voice as well. If you have two smart devices and want to test your range, I’d love it if you’d get back to us with the results.

      As for the variable data rates, my understanding is that Beartooth claims to be using LoRa ( Long Range WAN ) and FSK ( Frequency Shift Keying ) modulation to send data. LoRa would include an adaptive data rate feature, though I don’t believe that FSK does. I can’t verify which method Beartooth is ACTUALLY using, and since LoRa includes encryption which Beartooth has yet to get working on their released app ( it’s coming as an app feature update, not a firmware change, according to Beartooth ) my guess ( and this is just speculation until I get an answer from Beartooth ) is that they’re using FSK until they get loRa working.

      • A. Human

        Eric,

        As I mentioned, I knew I was accepting risk when I bought the Beartooth units. I also figured that upgrading to iOS 11 was bound to result in certain issues. I’m not trashing the units, they are incomplete when it comes to Apple equipment.

        I do STEM consulting; one of my more popular services is examining prototypes and assessing their potential. (This is why I have over 500 projects backed on various crowdsource sites. The idea for Beartooth is a very good one. Once they get the various bugs ironed out and add a few logical features, this could become pretty popular among hunters, outdoors people, preppers, etc. – especially if this can operate in an ad hoc mesh manner. I plan to stay with the equipment instead of it occupying shelf-space.

        I also expect this device to attract a certain amount of competition. They will need to move quickly to take advantage of “Founder’s Advantage”.

        • Eric Post author

          If you’re interested in this sort of device, we’ll be testing Gotenna soon ( we have 4 in hand ) and keep an eye on Sonnet – WiFi rather then bluetooth, lots of capabilities including 16 hop mesh networking, possibly Internet sharing and GoTele -focused more on location tracking with built in GPS, tracking of up to 30 other units and very rugged.

  • Andrew

    I received these a week ago and all I can say is I am terribly disappointed! I am using them paired to two iPhone 7+ running iOS 10.3.3
    They are constantly disconnecting from the phones, messages fail to send even while the other phone was less than 100 yards away of CLEAR view..I uninstalled/re-installed the app as well as unpaired/re-paired the radios to the phones . They work OK for a bit but then disconnect. I have yet to have a successful message send more than 100 yards away.
    Right now they are sitting in a drawer until further firmware fixes come out.

    Semper Fi

    • Eric Post author

      Hi, Andrew,
      I did most of my testing on Android ( Motorola G4 Plus and a Samsung Galaxy tab S ) and only experienced one verified disconnect on the G4, which has had some other Bluetooth oddness from time to time, so I’m blaming the Beartooth for that. Taylor used some variety of iPhone, but did not report disconnect issues specifically that I recall.
      I know that Beartooth has requested that users not upgrade to iOS 11.x, since they’re still working the bugs out on their app, but 10.x was their solution, so it should be working.
      I did have some issues with the Beartooth devices disconnecting from the phone when it was in my back pocket and my body was between it and the phone. I’ve had issues with other bluetooth devices ( mostly BT audio earpieces or headphones ) having audio gaps when under similar conditions, so my take was that it’s just a limitation of Bluetooth, not specifically of the Beartooth device.
      Have you tried contacting Beartooth support and seeing if they can help you? I’d be curious to know how good their support is.

  • Lou

    I am So glad I read this review. The promise of the Beartooth devices was intriguing, but I thought the positive comments on FB seemed to be manufactured. Reading your review has made my decision easy, no Beartooth for me, even at the “introductory” price. I am so glad I didn’t back this on Kickstarter, because I’ve been burned too many times.

    Now, I need to check out the Gotenna for those times when we have no cellular service.

    Thanks!

  • Guy Incognito

    Received my Beartooths recently and man am I disappointed, the range is far below what is advertised. I could measure the range in feet, possibly yards, and certainly not miles. A long wait for what turned out to be a very disappointing experience.

    • Eric Post author

      It’s true that the higher your radio frequency, the smaller your antenna needs to be, so a 900 Mhz radio like the Beartooth would indeed need a much smaller antenna to be as efficient as a larger one on a lower frequency. I’m no expert, but I believe it would need to be about half the length of a GMRS radio and about a sixth as long as an MURS radio. If cleverly packaged, that should easily fit in the Beartooth case.
      However, that tells us nothing about the actual design of the antenna, the radio, the power output, the modulation and the app, since the app appears to be doing all the decoding of incoming data. All of those, if poorly executed, could drastically affect the real world range of a device. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
      I think ( this is just speculation ) that after the items listed above one of the largest affects to range may be the exterior design of the Beartooth device. The design does not include any way to easily affix the Beartooth to your exterior. There’s no strap ( as the Gotenna has ) and not even a lanyard attachment point. Rather, it appears designed to fit comfortably in a pocket – it’s slim and smooth. However, putting it in your pocket next to your body, or in a backpack pocket, surrounded by other objects will reduce the range. In my review I suggested getting a small mesh bag and a carabiner or something to attach it to a backpack shoulder strap or something. Some guidance to users about how best to position the device for best results would also have been good.
      This is in contrast to how a conventional walkie talkie is used. Since the Beartooth uses your phone as it’s interface, if you don’t think about radio performance, there’s no reason to keep it handy. From that standpoint, as long as its within Bluetooth range of your phone, using it works fine, while a walkie talkie needs to be heard and picked up to respond. Consequently, they’re clipped to the exterior of a persons gear where it’s convenient to reach. This also puts the antenna in a relatively optimal position to send and receive signals. You don’t have to think about radio performance, putting a walkie talkie where it works best happens almost by accident.

      I’d be curious to have a qualified radio engineer with the right tools look at the output of these things, but as a consumer it almost doesn’t matter. Instead, the important thing for us is ‘How does it work in its normal, advertised application’ and so far, that answer for us and for some of the commenters on this blog has been ‘not very well’.

  • Royett

    I loved your writing because you cover the most points, in my opinion could invest in the development of home hardware for emitters fm and in programming an application for sending data through this route. and additional repeaters that can be located on the hiking trails?

    • Eric Post author

      Royett,
      Beartooth does not yet mesh, so they do not “repeat”. Also, they’re not weatherproof in any way, so you’d have to add some sort of case or waterproof bag if the weather isn’t going to be clear.
      It would be possible to build something similar, but Beartooth has not, AFAIK, released any information on their protocol and I don’t believe it’s a publicly available standard.

      For now, you’re probably better off using off the shelf hardware like Zigbee ( much shorter range, but inexpensive and available ), or giving Gotenna Mesh a try – they’ve got an interesting community with a discussion board ( check out MOAN – Mother Of All Nodes ), a map to locate other Gotenna Mesh nodes and even an SDK that can allow you to develop apps that securely move small chunks of data over a Gotenna Mesh network.

      We will have a Gotenna Mesh review posted soon, though we won’t be exploring the SDK.

      Beartooth does not yet have a similar community.

  • Jay

    I hate to say it but I completely agree with your entire assessment.. I think you were actually kind in many ways.. These are JUNK! At least at this point. I got in during the crowd funding phase and was able to get mine for about $60 a piece.. Bought 10. Every single one of them functioned exactly as you claimed in your review.. DO NOT BUY! I got my money back for mine less than a week after I received them. At least they honored that.

  • Bill

    Maybe my Delorme InReach subscription cost just got less annoying🙂🙂 This device sounds like the kickstarter laser razor that was defunede, due to not meeting kickstarter performance requirements. I passed on the razor, think I’ll do the same here…..

    • Eric Post author

      The InReach is a whole different class of product, one targeted at more intermittent communications and emergencies. Beartooth is not targeted at emergencies and is designed for folks to stay in touch over short distances. I’ll be reviewing that soon as well.

    • Eric Post author

      The cheapest Garmin Rhino, while good, is $350/unit, so $700 a pair. That’s 3x the current, albeit introductory, price of the Beartooth.