Thuraya’s new sleeve transforms your iPhone into a satellite phone

By , Mar 20, 2013

The United Arab Emirates-headquartered Thuraya has been in the mobile satellite services business literally as long as I can recall seeing their ads on MTV as a teenager. Thuraya operates in 140+ countries across Europe, the Middle East, North, Central and East Africa, Asia and Australia, covering two-thirds of the globe. Last summer, the company also started providing roaming services in the United States through its partnership with T-Mobile USA.

Because Thuraya has been selling pricey satellite phones and access to its global communications network for ages, their very first iPhone accessory launch is totally unexpected, but welcomed. The aptly named SatSleeve enables global satellite coverage for your iPhone by tapping an accompanying app to talk to the sleeve and route your text messages and phone calls through Thuraya’s network of satellites. Wait, there’s more to this special case than meets the eye…

The SatSleeve also doubles as a 3.7V/2400 mAh battery pack (purposefully though: satellite networking is taxing on the battery) that extends your iPhone’s battery life and lets you talk longer.

The SatSleeve’s standby time is up to 48 hours and talk time is up to four hours. It takes about two and a half hours to charge an empty SatSleeve. And thanks to  the Hhigh Ppenetration Aalerting (HPA) capability, the SatSleeve lets you receive calls even if the satellite antenna is retracted.

From the blurb:

Thuraya SatSleeve is the world’s first satellite adaptor for the iPhone, providing users with easy and affordable access to mobile communication services delivered over Thuraya’s powerful satellite network.

You just insert your device into the sleeve to gain instant access to Thuraya’s satellite network that reaches even the most remote places on the globe. There’s also a built-in speaker, mic and a handy red emergency call button for calling a predefined number even without your iPhone docked.

One caveat: the SatSleeve doesn’t seem to sport the new Lightning adapter so we’re holding our breath for Thuraya to address the situation sooner than later.

For more information, check out Thuraya’s global coverage map and web store.

Being a fan of National Geographic’s ‘I Shouldn’t Be Alive’ series, I just cannot help but imagine myself in a life-threatening situation, freezing on a misty mountain top or dehydrating to death in a desert – with no connectivity to the outside world whatsoever.

Should I ever grow foolish enough to embark on a similarly risky adventure, I’ll sure as hell throw a pair of Thuraya sleeves in my backpack, just in case.

If you’re wondering how Thuraya got its name, it’s from the Arabic name “Thurayya”, which means “star”.

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  • YNN08

    Looks like does not work with iphone 5 as it shows 29 pin connector…

    • Johnathan Jennings

      30 pin. Not 29.

    • lakerfox

      There is an iPhone 5 version as well

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    So, is it free or does the price significantly vary based on where you are? Don’t see why I need to provide contact details to see the price.

    • firebird

      Google says the sleeve’s starting at 499$ (there will be a data version available, too) and pricing starts at 0.75$ per minute.

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        Ouch, yet a another greedy farmer out to milk iSheeps….

      • lakerfox

        This is the most cost efficient satellite connection out there, dont forget your making calls over a satellite, I say think thats pretty cheap

      • No Whammy

        It costs billions to put a satellite into orbit. Common sense much?

      • Law99

        Correct. Although I detect an exaggeration.

      • Law99

        You are getting votes for you on the basis that apple are sometimes rip off merchants. This is true – or at least I am of the opinion to agree somewhat if you don’t value their platforms.

        However, I’d like to see how much value for money you can get from a $500 satellite handset. Last I checked, you probably aren’t even in the ball park for purchasing one with that much cash. Just google Thuraya XT in shopping and you’ll see what I mean.

        This product allows all sorts of interesting policies. For instance, a work can initiate a BYOD policy and allow remote workers with iPhones to take affordable satcomms.

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        If it were a 1 time payment only, I would see it justifiable to have such a high price tag on a useless-without-another-device product. But no, it’s another monthly subscription to add to the bill.

      • Law99

        The product is a one time payment. If you look into price plans for the sleeve, you’d discover you can buy a SIM, and use pre-paid credit whenever you need it subject to expiry dates on credit/SIM. (Generally you get 12 months validity with a SIM) (Edit: What expectation is this you have for a phone with no communication costs anyway? Without meaning to sound insulting, I find this concept slightly misguided. This isn’t some sort of low level opensource VoIP app we’re talking about here)

        That is certainly not unreasonable. However, justifying to you, is not really the point here; it’s just an added bonus that for the first time it makes sense to the consumer. It’s the Media, Oil & Gas industry and charities and such that work in the middle east and africa that will benefit.

        Anyway, I’m not sure you’re catching on to the whole value prospect here. Try buying a Thuraya XT for $500

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re missing my point. First you spend $500 on the useless-without-another-device product. Until you add another bill for satellite calling, all you have (out of the box) is an overpriced charging sleeve for your iDevice.

      • Law99

        From my perspective. You are missing the point. You are buying one of the best value satcom devices out there that integrates with your pre-existing device (address book and so on) in a way like never before. If you want SatComs as a consumer, your only other option is to go rental unless you desperately need to empty the contents of your wallet.

        I appreciate that if you don’t see the value in that, this conversation will be a fruitless endeavour.

        I understand your argument… but the fact is Apple aren’t your GSM provider, just as Vodafone won’t be your SatComs provider (unless some very big deals are going down now in secret) They are two different, quasi-related industries and it isn’t their fault that this product blurs the lines for you.

        Edit: Also, you can make emergency SOS calls without a SIM as far as I am aware. Providing it is similar to other devices. Edit 2: Please see that as you *MAY* be able to make sim free emergency calls. I haven’t looked into properly yet. You certainly can make a Emergency call without the iPhone docked.

    • Law99

      You may find that the pricing for satcoms is based volume purchases as is any industry. Your dealer will provide costs based on this factor also. Expect around $500. But the industry, as ever, makes the money on the airtime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kameron.burton Kameron Burton

    Does anyone know how much this is gonna cost?

    • No Whammy

      You can’t afford it.

    • Law99

      around the $500 mark

  • http://www.deltecenterprises.org/ Deltec Enterprises

    It’d be awesome if they made this for iPod Touch Too, so you can dump the whole phone and have just the iPod.

    • Law99

      That would be cool. Although stateside you’d have no signal… :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/akmal.kadirov.31 Akmal Kadirov

    Thurayya actually means Galaxy or planet

    • http://twitter.com/mossaab mossaab

      The meaning of Thuraya is bright starlight – the Pleiades, a group of seven stars in the constellation Taurus

  • Law99

    For those saying this is expensive, I work in SatComs and you have literally no idea what you are talking about. Shame really, but it is as simple as that. Satellites aren’t toys. Satellites cost more than radio masts. Satellites, last I checked, orbit the Earth and require more than just a couple of blokes in boiler suits on a weekend to erect.

    This is, and I’m not mincing my words here, a paradigm shift in portable satcoms for the consumer. At current levels of service congestion (which is low) this is cost effective and will become more so if it catches on.

    If it doesn’t take off with consumers there will always be a market for b2b, NGOs and such… which is where this products roots will remain anyway, and they see the worth of this product.