As far as satellite phones go it is always function over form. After all, as long as you manage to make your SOS call, who cares if the device seems clunky and hardboiled, with an antenna that serves as a reminder of telecom evolution, right?
Thuraya, provider of satellite telecommunications in over 140 countries, seems to have found a much sleeker alternative. The new SatSleeve is a device into which you fit your iPhone to turn it into a satellite phone. If the thought of getting lost in Makalu gives you sleepless nights before you even embark, adopting this nifty solution could be a step in the right direction.
The SatSleeve is, basically, an adapter that looks like a two-tiered iPhone jacket. Fit your phone into the smaller one and then latch this union to the larger one with an antenna on the left. Once you pair these via Bluetooth and download Thuraya’s SatSleeve app from the App Store, you are ready to go.
If this combo feels a tad expansive, it’s because SatSleeve also comes with a battery pack. Should your iPhone’s battery drain, the backup available on the Sleeve will charge it up at the flick of a switch. It also comes with its own sim card, mic and speaker, and a button for SOS calls, meaning you can have your phone switched off and still make a call. Who you call is programmable through the app and should you get lost, the GPS on your set will make sure your signal beeps on a locater.
For now, the SatSleeve is limited to voice and text exchanges through the iPhone. But plans are afoot to offer mobile data and make it available for Android devices. Thuraya says it will explore other wireless media for pairing, but has not come up with any timeline.
Battery life extends to two days on standby and four hours on continuous talk time. Of course hardly anyone will exploit the latter option to the fullest, but if your pockets are deep enough to recite the Mahabharat on a time-lag phone call through space, do so by all means.
A SatSleeve for the iPhone 5 has been released worldwide but is yet to arrive in Nepal, so the one available in town works only with iPhone 4 and 4s. At Rs 90,000, it is cheaper than an actual satellite phone, yet does the same job.
Yantrick’s verdict: Get the sleeve if you routinely find yourself in lonely corners of the world with no one to relay Mayday to.
Coverage 140 countries
Calls $ 0.89 to $ 7.2 per minute
SMS $ 0.44
Charge time 2.5hrs