smartphone onyx

The Onyx tethers with your smartphone, allowing you to communicate hands-free with your climbing, pedaling, or ski partners. Photo courtesy OnBeep

Sure, your smartphone is a digital Swiss Army knife that’s capable of doing many different things. But there are times when you want it to do just a single thing: help you communicate with a person or a team. That’s a novel idea, huh--using your phone to TALK to someone? Weird. Who are you, Alexander Graham Bell?

For those times when you want to chat with a person or small posse without touching your phone, the Onyx harnesses your smartphone and turns it into a walkie-talkie. It’s expected to ship in early December.

All you need is your phone complete with the OnBeep app, the Onyx device, and access to cellular data. Choose the person or people you want to chat with and just push a button on the Onyx to communicate. Weighing less than 2 ounces, the device is about the size of a tin of Copenhagen and the unit’s battery life is reported to be about 12 hours.

But, most importantly for skiers and riders, especially those who like storms, it’s water resistant. So you can keep your phone safe, cozy, and dry and still use it to communicate. And for those who keep their phones in their backpack, you can throw it in there and still use it.

smartphone 1

Always wanted a Star Trek Communicator Badge? Your prayers have been answered. Photo courtesy OnBeep

It works across different carriers, just as long everyone is connected to wi-fi or data (i.e., if you don’t have a signal, you're SOL). Unlike traditional walkie-talkies, you’re never out of range (as long as you have a signal) and you’re always on a private channel.

The CEO, Jesse Robbins, is also a volunteer firefighter and EMT, so he knows his way around emergency communications.

Most attach the Onyx to their shirt, jacket, or bag strap, within a foot or so from their face so they hear and be heard. And it should stay put during active use.

“Our designers spent a lot of time making sure the clip didn’t mar clothing/material, but it also was sturdy and secure,” says company spokesperson Samantha Braman. "It’s a very lightweight device as well. So, during the design process, we made sure that the materials we used were strong yet lightweight, so it doesn’t weigh down your shirt or sweater collar, etc.”

Pre-order pricing is $99 for one or $195 for a pair. And the units have a headphone jack that supports stereo headphones as well as headphones with built-in microphones.

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