Aircell Smartphone Brings Android OS Into The Actual Clouds

It's certainly not designed for use by the average passenger, but we're now one step closer to being able to make legitimate cellular telephone calls on planes. Calling from midair has been possible for years; in fact, many large jets used to offer a headrest handset that passengers could use to phone home with just the swipe of a credit card. But as for using your iPhone while onboard? Not really going to happen. Aircell, the same company behind Gogo in-flight internet, is hoping to change that.

This week, the company unveiled the Aircell Smartphone (a name that we suspect will eventually be fleshed out to something a little more snazzy), which is described as a handset that's made specifically for business users. It's a pretty simple device, allowing people in the air to receive voice calls aboard business aircraft as easily and conveniently as they do with mobile phones on the ground. One of the more interesting points, though, is the inclusion of Android as the OS, which paves the way for a lot of fancy features that wouldn't be possible on a normal dumbphone.

The phone features a 3.8" display (touch screen), Bluetooth, support for wired or wireless operation, an integrated audio jack and support for all Aircell Axxess communications systems currently in production. There's no direct mention of a price just yet, but the first shipments are scheduled  to go out in late 2011.

Aircell Introduces the World's First Airborne Smartphone

New Aircell Smartphone will Provide the Best Voice Quality in Aviation and Set New Standards for Ease of Use

RENO, Nev., March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- [AEA International Convention & Trade Show] – Aircell, the world's leading provider of inflight connectivity, today unveiled the Aircell® Smartphone, a next-generation cabin handset designed specifically for business aircraft.  With intuitive, menu-driven features, the Aircell Smartphone allows passengers to place and receive voice calls aboard business aircraft as easily and conveniently as they do with mobile phones on the ground.  In addition, its flexible Android OS platform sets the stage for a nearly unlimited set of rich-media features and functions in the future.  First shipments are scheduled for late 2011.

Among a host of groundbreaking capabilities, the new Aircell Smartphone will provide the best voice quality in aviation through a number of embedded technologies and design features.  At 3.8" diagonally, the Aircell Smartphone's bright, color touchscreen display is the largest the aviation industry has ever seen in a telephony device.  It exceeds the size of most consumer smartphones on the market today.

"The result of extensive industrial design and human factors study, the Aircell Smartphone epitomizes the notion of next-generation inflight communications.  It gives passengers exactly what they want – the best-sounding, best-looking and easiest-to-use handset in aviation," said John Wade, Aircell's Executive Vice President & General Manager, Business Aviation Services.  "We've received extraordinary feedback from all corners of the industry on this achievement, and we look forward to bringing it to market later this year."

Key Benefits & Features

   1. Designed specifically for aircraft use, from the ground up
   2. Big, bright, 3.8" color touchscreen display – the largest in the industry
   3. Flexible, future-minded Android OS platform
   4. Bluetooth-compatible for hands-free operation
   5. Ingenious design for interchangeable wireless or wired operation
   6. High-touch design with expert use of colors, materials & finishes
   7. So easy to operate, no user manual is required
   8. Drop-in replacement for current Aircell Axxess flush-mount handsets
   9. Integrated audio jack for wired headsets & earbuds
  10. Fully certified

The Aircell Smartphone will be backward-compatible with all Aircell Axxess communications systems currently in production, and available as a drop-in replacement for the company's prolific Aircell Axxess flush-mount handset. It will also be fully compatible with the company's forthcoming Gogo Biz™ Voice service via the ATG 4000 and ATG 5000 systems.  Shipments of the new Aircell Smartphone are scheduled to begin in late 2011 and pricing will be announced prior to that time.