The Genus cellular-satellite phone is being offered to consumers for the first time this week by TerreStar Networks. The small handset, which has been in use by businesses and public safety organizations for months, is making a move to appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.
Offered online by TerreStar and a handful of its resellers, the handset is priced at $800. The Genus has been offered by AT&T to businesses, but there was no clarification in this week's announcement about AT&T's role, if any, in offering the handset to consumers.
The handset utilizes the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system in a lightweight 4.6 oz. form factor that resembles a BlackBerry. TerreStar is initially targeting the outdoor adventure and recreation market for the Genus.
"The Genus smartphone is ideal for adventure-seekers, skiers, boaters, hikers, and anyone who lives on the edge, but still wants to stay connected," said Jeffrey Epstein, TerreStar's president and CEO, in a statement. "The Genus provides the ultimate wireless backup capability, helping ensure users are prepared and have access to mobile communications in case of an emergency, disaster, or even an unforeseen weather condition, despite location or cellular network signal strength."
The handset's 4.7 inch x 2.5 inch x 0.8 inch form factor is a breakthrough, compared with the brick-sized satellite devices that have been available in recent years. The device also features integrated Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB and GPS connectivity, and a QWERTY keyboard. The Genus comes with 100 MB of memory and has a 2.0-megapixel camera.
The Genus connects to AT&T's cellular network for terrestrial use and TerreStar's commercial TerreStar-1 for satellite usage.
AT&T cellular voice and smartphone data rate plans, as well as a monthly satellite service, are required to use the Genus. Additional charges for satellite usage are levied for voice, data, and messaging.
Satellite phones for consumers are increasingly becoming affordable as more satellites are launched and the size and price of user-friendly handsets declines.
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