At CTIA today, we caught up with Elektrobit, a small firm who's doing their best to reinvent the formerly-clunky satellite phone into the sleek, Windows Mobile PDA/phone you see at left.
Elektrobit's Satellite-Terrestrial Reference Design, shown at left, is a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional phone that looks like a somewhat chunkier Motorola Q. We first saw the concept at the previous CTIA show six months ago; now they have a working model. The keyboard is interesting, with small raised dots on each key. The device resists cold and heat well, but it isn't formally ruggedized.
The Elektrobit phone runs on Wi-Fi when it can, on 3G networks such as AT&T's when it's in cellular range, and on satellite networks when it's out of range. Elektrobit said it works on a system known as S-Band, a system that the TerreStar network will use when it launches next year.
Specs are pretty decent. The phone runs on an unusual STN 8815 Nomadik processor, which is a 300 Mhz ARM9 unit. It's got a 3-megapixel camera, and runs for 4 hours of talk time on 3G networks or about half that on satellite. It'll probably cost only 10-15% more than comparable non-satellite phones, company execs said.
Elektrobit doesn't plan to sell this on their own - they're looking for OEMs or carriers to launch the phone. Look for it next year.