AT&T has teamed up with satellite phone service provider TerreStar to produce a smartphone that offers both terrestrial cellular capability and satellite connectivity for remote wilderness travel.
Called the GENUS, the phone costs $799, and will be available in retail stores later this year.
When the phone is taken out of the range of 3G towers that smartphones typically use it switches to satellite mode – providing convenient, if pricey, contact with civilization. It costs $25 a month to add the add the satellite functionality and 65 cents a minute to make satellite calls.
Checking email or surfing the web while in satellite mode will cost a staggering $5 per megabyte. Text messages will be a far more reasonable 40 cents each.
The GENUS, which resembles a BlackBerry but runs Windows Mobile 6.5, is the first honest-to-goodness smart phone with satellite capabilities, and is much sleeker and application-rich than your typical sat phone.
Mobile phones with dual satellite/terrestrial connectivity were produced by both Sprint Nextel and Verizon back around 2000, but neither took off due to lack of mass market demand.
The phones only work in North America for now. You need and open view of the southern sky to make satellite calls – but if you’re in the market for one of these bad boys, that’s probably not a problem.
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