Comparing Relay with other family/group communication options


I put this table together as a convenient way to compare cost and features of Relay and a couple other popular options.

Comparison of Portable Group Communication Devices

Relay Basic Cellphone FRS Radio (UHF)
Initial Hardware Cost $99 $29 $29
Recurring Monthly Cost $6.99 $5-15 $0
Privacy Private Private No or Limited Privacy
Parental Controls Yes No No
Voice Half-Duplex Full-Duplex Half-Duplex
Text No Yes No
Communicates With Other Relay Units Any Telephone Any FRS Radio Within Range
Range Cellular or WiFi coverage Cellular coverage Up To Several Miles
Connection Mode Infrastructure Infrastructure Peer-to-Peer
GPS Tracking Yes No No
Ease-of-use Easiest Easy Easier
Form Factor Compact, Rounded Medium, Regular Medium, Protrusions
Pocketability Excellent Fair Fair-to-Poor


The “basic cellphone” column assumes purchase of a typical “burner” phone for each group member specifically for the task. Obviously, one could use existing phone and service and eliminate that cost for one or more members.

I also didn’t get into harder-to-quantify details, like bright kid-friendly colors and rugged construction of the Relay, or that FRS radios and cheap cellphones can be bought in any box store at a moments notice in case of loss, damage, or adding a new member to your group.

Also, what applies to the FRS radios also applies to amateur (ham) or CB radios, other than the hardware cost - and you might already have one or more of those. Most FRS radios can operate on rechargeable or disposable batteries - handy when you realize at the last minute that you forgot to charge your device.


Another potential option, estimated delivery April 2019, is the Light Phone 2:

More expensive startup cost and it’s unclear whether it only works on data, so possibly more expensive monthly too.


That looks pretty cool, if rather expensive. I like the e-ink display. It would pretty much offer (for this comparison) the same feature set I’ve listed for a cheap burner phone. It’s just more stylish and 10x the price :wink:


But also with the Wifi and GPS capabilities.


FRS has a practical range of under 1/4 mile due to low power and fixed, inefficient antenna. FRS/GMRS radios may reach 2 miles, but only in GMRS mode, which requires a license. It is easy to get, no test required, but expensive, around $85 for 5 years. But you only need 1 license for your whole family. A true GMRS only radio has a longer range, because you can have more power and more importantly, an effective antenna.

CB - Free use, range limited, highly sensitive to atmospheric conditions, Not a lot of walkie-talkie models available

UHF/VHF - Ham bands, license is cheap and good for 10 years, but requires a test for each person. Range up to 20 miles, or much further using “repeaters”.


“Expensive” compared to what? $6.99/month x 12 months x 5 years = $419.40.

Correct. So only one year of Relay service for one user costs as much as a five-year GMRS license for the whole family. Now tell me again which solution is “expensive”?


GMRS is expensive compared to a ham radio, or FRS, or CB or MURS or Marine Band. It is insignificant compared to most any cellular option. However, any radio technology has limitations that cellular technology does not. Range is limited, and any licensed radio has strict rules about what you can say and how you say it and in some cases, where/when you can say it.


Conversely, radio offers direct point-to-point communications. It will work as long as the stations are within the range afforded by the hardware, band, and mode in use. Cellular devices - phones or Relay - become paperweights if out of range of the infrastructure, or if said infrastructure should fail for whatever reason.

So advantages and disadvantages on both sides. That’s what I was trying to point out in this thread. Thank you for assisting me.


Given the weight of the Relays they wouldn’t even be good at this when out of range.


I’d add under “Ease-of-use” the size of the device. My kids aren’t going to carry an FRS radio around with them. They are too bulky, charing is a bigger hassle with many models, and they are poorly shaped to fit in a pocket. That’s one huge advantage to Relay. It’s small enough to be taken everywhere in a pocket.


Good idea! I’ve edited to add “Form Factor” and “Pocketability” lines. Thanks!