Sending messages without cellular data or Internet? It's possible with TinCan

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: November 9, 2013

Some very interesting fads get started because of the apps that we have available to us on our smartphones. Never did I ever think that I would spend hours tossing birds at green pigs in order to knock down their forts, or speak almost explicitly through picture messages that only last a mere 6 seconds or so before vanishing. Even social networking, which started as a popular fad on computers, have come to an all-time high with the use of applications on smartphones. But despite all of the fads that we've seen on smartphones, there's still room for new applications to come through and become "the next big thing".

And I'm wondering if I've stumbled upon it. It's an application for Android called "TinCan".

So what is it? TinCan is an application that many are saying is the social network that runs from your smartphone without the Internet. It's a social network that can't use cellular data in order to communicate. Instead, the application basically serves as a walkie talkie with other phones in the immediate area, about 100 feet, that also use the application - just as long as they have WiFi enabled on their phone. I find this to be an interesting concept for quite a few reasons.

The first one being that this could mean good things for people who are in the middle of an emergency situation where cell phone service isn't guaranteed to work. It's also been brought up that it could be useful during protests where the same situation is prone to happen. TinCan can't use a cellular network to connect, it just needs a close proximity with other TinCan users. When I say that the phone basically serves as a walkie talkie I mean it, except it's more of a walkie texty, as this application is just another way to use walkie-talkie technology... except you use text messages instead of using voice, where it might be difficult to understand one another in a crowded or loud situation. You also have a bit of anonymity if you wish, because you select a username beforehand. Your real name and phone number aren't disclosed.

Which means that it's also good for more than just disasters and emergency situations. TinCan can also be seen as a way to communicate and meet up with people who into the same things as you, such as concerts, malls, gyms, or other local events. Generally when you go to these events, you'll be alone or will already have a group of friends that you stick with the entire night. You might meet some other people along the way, but TinCan can give you the confidence boost that many have when given the gift of anonymity over the Internet, or in this case, not the Internet (but still using something just as anonymous at first). It combines local gatherings and social networking into one, and seemingly make it quite a bit easier to meet up with new people that share similar interests and views who are already in the same location as you. A pretty simple, yet cool concept.

TinCan will go one of two ways - it will either be extremely popular, or it will flop. I don't see a gray area happening with this concept. To be quite honest, I think that TinCan has a real shot at being a really popular application sometime in the future. I think this will heavily depend on whether Apple will allow the application to appear on the iOS App Market or not. For now, development is only scheduled for Android (available in the Play Store now) and Windows Phone (in the future), which isn't a bad start, but leaving iOS users out is still a huge chunk of users that could really help bring this app to life. Although there isn't much hope right now from the developers for this to happen (because again, security issues within the application - phone-to-phone communication like TinCan is prone to spread malware and viruses, according to the developer) I wouldn't say nothing is impossible.

Regardless, the concept itself seems like a good idea. Even if I'm not sure I'm going to be using it an awful lot for socializing, it seems like a safe bet to have it downloaded and ready to go in case of some natural disaster or something where cell towers aren't working. I just hope that by the time this happens, other people have caught on to the concept as well, otherwise I'm going to be TinCanning by myself.

Readers, what are your thoughts about TinCan? Do you think that the concept is one that could catch on, or do you think that the security risks and the issue that Apple may never let TinCan get to the App Store stop this from ever gaining traction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!