Jun 26 2012

Riding a motorcycle with a passenger can be even more fun than riding alone, as you get to share the experience first hand. That’s if you can actually share it effectively. One thing that can keep you from doing that is the fact that strong winds can make any verbal communication impossible, forcing you to resort to hand gestures, or simply keeping your thoughts to yourself, which is not quite as fun after a while.

While preparing for a week long motorcycle road trip around Eastern Canada, we knew it would be so much more enjoyable if we could talk instantly and precisely, instead of just pointing, gesturing, and discussing things we saw along the way at rest stops. There are specialized communication devices for riders that are installed onto helmets, but the idea of using them was not that appealing, for several reasons. The quality of sound is degraded because the speaker is located on the helmet, away from your ears and overshadowed by wind noise at highway speeds; you would have to pack additional chargers and make sure to charge the devices regularly; finally their cost is higher than the typical “let’s just give it a try” threshold. But we did have iPhones, and perhaps, there was an app for that?

Admittedly, there are quite a few “walkie-talkie” type apps already, but none fit perfectly to the purpose of using the app for talking while riding. After testing some of them out we decided that the perfect rider-passenger communication app must have the following features:

  • it starts up, finds the other phone and starts a voice chat without the need to press any buttons or make any selections
  • it reconnects automatically if the devices temporarily get out of each others range (helpful if one person wants to dismount the bike and take a short hike to take to photo, etc)
  • it can work while in background
  • it minimizes battery use as much as possible
  • it is fully peer-to-peer (using Bluetooth), requiring no internet and no wifi to operate

And that’s what InstantTalk has become. It does all of the above and a little extra. Pair it with your favourite in-ear headset for a voice chat that keeps going and going. With the screen darkened the battery lasts about as long as during regular phone calls, 6-7 hours. Add an external battery pack like Mophie for those full day, 12+ hour rides.


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