Satellite phones are normally reserved for those going on major mountaineering expeditions. Even then, they are not exactly cheap and easy to come by and usually mean signing up for some major service plan. Now SPOT, maker of the popular messenger device, has launched their own Global Phone or satellite phone that they plan to make available in major retails outlets such as REI and Cabela's and at a price more people can actually afford.
On past mountaineering expeditions such as Aconcagua and Denali, I have rented a satellite phone package from Tom and Tina over at HumanEdgeTech. Monthly rental was cheaper than having to buy all my own equipment (though still very expensive!) and sign up for a yearly satellite service plan. At the time, Iridium and Thuraya phones using a PDA for email connectivity were the main options. Oh how gadgetry has evolved in as little as 5-6 years.
Using Qualcomm-based CDMA technology, the SPOT Global Phone provides crystal-clear voice quality from anywhere within the service footprint (key to check this before you head out somewhere). Communication supposedly sounds as if you were talking across a landline, with no noticeable time delays.
With the availability of Express Data on most service plans, you can use the USB data cable to get data speeds of 9.6Kbps in order to send emails, transfer photos, and other basic data services. Needless to say, you aren't going to be sending major documents over the satellite phone. I can imagine most Everest climbers who want to update their personal websites daily will still bring their BGAN with them.
As the first satellite phone available in major retail outlets, the SPOT Global Phone will also be priced more affordably at $499.95 (compare that to $1000+ for other satellite phones) with monthly service plans starting at $24.99 or as low as 25 cents per minute.
As someone who regularly heads out into the wilderness alone, I wouldn't mind carrying a SPOT Global Phone with me to ease the minds of those left at home and in case of emergencies.