Back before Windows Phone 7 hit the market, one of the interesting developments for Windows Mobile was the Terrestar satellite phones. The sat phone was designed to be a hybrid, utilizing conventional, earthly bound, wireless networks but when no such network was available, the phone could tap into a an orbiting satellite to make calls.
A key feature of the Terrestar Satellite Phone, the Genus, was its size. Most sat phones were bulky with a big fold-away antenna. The Genus was compact, not much larger than the Treo Pro and lacked that big, bulky antenna.
The New York Times was able to spend some hands-on time with the Genus and found it to be a series of compromises. While it lacked the fold-away antenna, if you held the phone a certain way you would block the signal. You would also have to make sure the Genus was oriented towards the Terrastar satellite and you needed to use the ear facing the satellite or your head would block the signal.
Then you have the lag times with it taking up to two minutes for the Genus to initialize and connect to the satellite. You also have pauses between you speaking and the listener hearing what you’ve said. With all the performance issues, the $1,070 price tag (optional external antenna runs $300) one has to wonder why bother.
I guess if you frequently travel out into the great beyond and loose all your wireless reception, having to wait a few minutes to make a call via satellite might be a compromise worth making.
The Terrestar Genus is being offered over at AT&T and will run $1,070 ($800 for AT&T’s Small Business and Government customers). The Genus isn’t available through AT&T Retail and for more information you’ll need to contact AT&T’s Business Programs.