Satellite 'Global Phone' Now Available At Smartphone Price

From a wifi-connected laptop, I typed in a test message. It arrived almost instantly to my sat phone, which emitted a series of beeps to signify the incoming note.

The text message goes only one way — you cannot text back from the Global Phone. You can, however, call the person who sent you a text to confirm or communicate.

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Online form to send text message to Global Phone

As for costs, there are several options for calling plans, including an entry point of $24.99/month for 10 minutes of talk time. As noted above, $149.99 is the price for monthly unlimited voice. Spot lists the options in a rate chart on its site.

Roaming charges apply when calling between some geographies, from almost no cost to over a dollar a minute. For example, a call from Croatia to the U.S. is about $1.30 per minute. Roaming fees replace the rate plan; sometimes it may be higher or lower than the per-minute plan you buy.

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Spot Global Phone

Spot has coverage all around the world, and its parent company, Globalstar Inc., recently launched a new satellite network to enhance its coverage and reach. But a portion of the world, including the poles and swaths of the oceans, are still out of service.

India, Central America, and the southern two-thirds of Africa are not yet in the full coverage area. The company cites “coming to service in 2013” for these regions. You can see a full coverage map below or here on the Spot site.

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Global Phone coverage map (as of Sept. 2013)

The phone worked well in Jordan. The connection was immediate and almost scary good — it seemed like my wife was right there speaking to me.

We talked a few times during the weeklong trip, and the phone was reliable, though more than once a call was “dropped” and we had to re-dial. I’ve had similar experience using different sat phones in Nepal, Chile, and other places.

If you’re traveling out of cell range this year, look into a satellite phone to stay in touch. Units like the Spot are priced similarly to the smartphone in your pocket.

The emergency link could save a life. For me, it’s also worth the money just to keep in contact and hear my wife’s voice from across the world.

—Stephen Regenold is the editor of GearJunkie.

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