99.99 percent of the population has no "need" for a phone capable of switching between GSM and satellite reception on the fly, but let's be clear: that has absolutely nothing to do with us wanting one. We checked out the reference design for Elektrobit's satellite-GSM hybrid smartphone powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 today, and here's the thing: it's not the best-looking device in the world -- nor the thinnest -- but when you consider the raw radio firepower it's packing, your mind should be fully blown. Unlike Iridium-based handsets that require huge, unsightly external antennas to connect you to outer space, Elektrobit's device connects to TerreStar's entirely IP-based network, meaning voice is sent over the interwebs and you can get relatively high-speed data even if you're in some lean-to in Wyoming just seconds away from being consumed whole by a grizzly. When you're closer to civilization, you've got HSDPA and WiFI, so this is basically the total package as connectivity goes. On the downside, the keyboard's mushy and uncomfortable with little dimples in the middle of each key -- and, you know, satellite service isn't the cheapest stuff in the world -- but hey, Elektrobit says there'll be a Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade available later in the year. Sold.
Elektrobit's satellite-GSM hybrid smartphone reference design in the flesh