Adaia taps BMW for adventure smartphone design

Adaia taps BMW for adventure s...
Design concept sketch of the ADAIA adventure phone being designed by BMW's design arm
Design concept sketch of the ADAIA adventure phone being designed by BMW's design arm
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Design concept sketch of the ADAIA adventure phone being designed by BMW's design arm
Design concept sketch of the ADAIA adventure phone being designed by BMW's design arm

In the future, there will be no excuse for becoming the next Aron Ralston. Within the past few months alone, we've seen survival watches, tablet computers and satellite phones built specifically for adventure use. Add to that the latest BMW, which isn't a car but a collaborative mobile phone project with mobile company Adaia. The phone will offer both business and adventure modes and will include advanced emergency communications capabilities.

BMW Group Designworks USA, a subsidiary of BMW Group, announced the project earlier this week. Adaia, a Finland-based niche communications manufacturer founded by former Nokia employees, commissioned the design firm to do the work.

"When I destroyed my fourth smartphone last year while sailing, I knew there was a need for a durable smartphone capable of weathering the toughest environments," explained Adaia CEO and co-founder Heikki Sarajärvi. "I also realized the durable function had to be coupled with a dynamic and iconic design for consumers to want to use it. That is exactly why we brought on DesignworkUSA to create a solution that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing."

The new phone will be an Android smartphone with two modes: office and adventure. Given that BMW merely mentions office in passing, it's the adventure aspect that will really set the BMW/Adaia handset apart. The phone will include an emergency rescue beacon function that keeps you on the grid even when you're located far away from cellular infrastructure. The beacon function will connect you with an emergency response team via a satellite network. Simply hit the "SOS" button and send out a virtual "flare signal" for rescue.

BMW's press materials mention sending text messages from Everest but don't mention receiving them. We clarified with an Adaia spokesperson who told us that the initial version of the phone will support one-way text messaging only. So you'll be able to send messages out but not receive messages or carry on a two-way conversation. The company is working on the technology for a two-way version down the road.

If Adaia is successful with a two-way version, it will really have something that exceeds what is available now. By allowing wilderness users to communicate back and forth, two-way rescue beacons add practicality, letting users hold a conversation with rescue workers, instead of just blindly sending a message out and hoping it's received. Other satellite beacons, like the Delorme inReach and SPOT Connect, allow for two-way messaging but need to be paired with a smartphone.

A phone that combines two-way satellite messaging with cellular communications and smartphone features would eliminate the need for the second device and would increase the likelihood that the owner has it on him at all times (assuming he carries his mobile phone at all times). That's certainly an advantage over a separate beacon device that could be easily forgotten on a given outing.

Given its adventurous objectives, the new phone will be built to survive the elements. It will be covered in rubber with a grippy back that has a layered design inspired by topographic maps.

While it is putting some emphasis on aesthetics, Adaia isn't just aiming for a pretty design piece with a couple of cool functions. It's aiming for a phone that fulfills the promise of excelling in the world's most difficult environments.

It plans to do R&D with leading adventurers and explorers, including world record-holding multi-sport adventurer Kevin Vallely and wingsuit pilot Jeb Corliss. Vallely will take the phone on an 1,800-mile (2,900-km) rowing trip through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage in the coming months and Corliss will put it through extreme temperature, impact and water testing.

Source: BMW Group

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I wonder why they would go with BMW for this collaboration, as opposed to another manufacturer more synonymous with ruggedness and adventure; like Jeep, LandRover, Hummer, Subaru, etc.