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Satellite phones span cells’ gaps

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The phone rang clear, then a voice picked up. It was my wife on the other side of the world. My feet were planted in sand on a remote desert track in Jordan. She was holding our newborn baby in the States.

Cell phones have demystified the convenience of communicating from almost anywhere. But there are still vast regions where cell towers do not exist.

That’s when satellites come into play. In Jordan, where I traveled this past spring, I brought a satellite phone from Spot LLC.

The company’s Global Phone model (findmespot.com) was released in May. It’s just 5 inches tall, and the body is made rugged for the outdoors. It weighs just 7 ounces and costs $499, about the retail price of a smartphone.

Calling plans with Spot start at 25 cents a minute or $149.99 for monthly unlimited voice.

Don’t expect to play Angry Birds or snap an Instagram with the Global Phone. The unit is made primarily for voice, though you can send a text message and check voicemail from afar. If you have a laptop along in the wilds, the Global Phone works as a wifi hotspot. Spot sells a kit to connect the phone to a computer, letting you get online to check emails, upload photos or post to Facebook.

Spot also includes a 911 emergency option. Users simply dial 911 and can be connected to a rescue center almost anywhere on the planet. In Jordan, I never even thought about the emergency mode. But as backup “insurance” in a remote place, the service can literally be a life saver.

If you’re traveling out of cell range, look into a satellite phone to stay in touch. For me, it’s worth the money just to keep in contact and hear my wife’s voice from across the world.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoor gear at gearjunkie.com.

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