Satellite phone calls: there’s an app for that, and Optus has it

There are some places where your local telco towers don’t reach, and that’s exactly where satellite phones often come in. These have generally been big, bulky, and designed in the shadow of a dumbphone, but if you have an iPhone, you can grab a new piece of hardware and app to make it be more than just a regular smartphone.

Designed to let you turn an iPhone 4 and 4S into a satellite phone, the Thuraya SatSleeve is an accessory that lets you snap one of the older 3.5 inch display-based iPhones into a special sleeve with the old school iPhone docking connector which will power the accessory.

With power supplied and an app running, the iPhone becomes a phone that can make calls and send texts via a satellite network, relying on the satellite phone sleeve’s SIM card.

A back-up battery is also included in the package, so the iPhone doesn’t lose charge when you need it most, while an SOS button means a pre-programmed number can be called in the event of an emergency.

“The need to stay in touch is vitally important for our customers in remote and rural areas, especially mining and agricultural businesses, as well as government and not-for-profit organisations, whose teams in the field need to remain in contact,” said Paul Sheridan, Vice President of Optus Satellite.

“Thuraya SatSleeve provides cost-effective satellite connectivity for Optus Business customers with iPhone users, combined with ease of access to all of their important contacts without having to carry multiple devices.”

It’s worth noting that the Thuraya SatSleeve will connect you to Thuraya satellites, with these devices orbiting the planet and providing access across pretty much every continent except Antarctica. Currently, only the iPhone 4 and 4S are supported, but Optus tells us that a sleeve made for the different design and Lightning dock of the iPhone 5 and 5S is coming, too, with availability in the near future.

Pricing for the SatSleeve comes in at $690, and while Optus has plans to roll this out shortly, right now, you’ll have to register interest on the Optus website to find out when it will be available for use.