The Skyphone: a hybrid between smart- and satellite phone that takes it to the next level

The Skyphone: a hybrid between smart- and satellite phone that takes it to the next level
When the iPhone 14 series launched, we got our first glimpse at how smartphones can combine with satellite connections. Limited in many ways, sure, but still pretty important — especially when it comes to saving your life. You could send a one way signal, containing all the important information about how rescuers can find you, and what condition you are in. Cool.

But what about... actual calls? Can you imagine going to the top of the Alps and calling home? Well, that would probably not be at the top of your to-do list, but we are exaggerating to make a point here.

The Thuraya Skyphone is an everyday smartphone... which can also connect to satellites

Thuraya is a UAE-based company with a lot of different branches and thus — resources. It has its own personal fleet of 5 satellites, so hey — makes sense to make a satellite phone, right?

But today's consumer uses a smartphone most of the time — it's the one tech gadget that's always on us. So, the Skyphone is what Thuraya calls "a universal satellite phone". We call it a hybrid, because it mostly works as a typical Android phone, but can seamlessly hop to satellite signal.

It's a somewhat hefty handset — it starts with the 6.67" AMOLED screen, and then there's hardware it needs to fit, including its retractable antenna. We wouldn't say it's unwieldy — it's on the thicker side, but we've rocked phones with rugged cases on them before, and this is about the same in size. It does also have IP67 rating for dust- and water-resistance.

The Android on board seemed pretty clean, a vanilla experience with no extra skins, icon packs, or bells and whistles.

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But who do you call? How do you call?

OK, this is what really grabbed our attention. So, most of the time, the Thuraya Skyphone is your basic smartphone — you pop your SIM card in, you get signal, you call numbers from your contacts list and they see your name.

When you are outside your home country, you connect to local carriers, who relay your data to your home carrier and you pay extra for the "roaming" (or you have it included in your plan).

With the Skyphone, when you are outside any network coverage, you hop onto a Thuraya satellite connection, which is relayed to your home operator then. So, it works just like roaming — phone numbers and all. And, just like with roaming, you pay extra on the minutes of talk you spend over the satellite connection. There's no subscription or pre-paid fee — it's "pay as much as you talk". We don't have details on pricing, and that would obviously be very different for each country.

Where can I make satellite calls?

Thuraya's 5-satellite fleet provides connectivity to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. So, basically, if you are planning on getting stranded, do it on one of these continents. You can choose the satellite service as if it's a SIM card, directly in your connections settings. And you should be good to go, easy as.

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