National Geographic to Offer Global Phone

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National Geographic might be more known for its venerable publication, exquisite photography, and solid coverage of science and nature…but now it’s taking another step in its efforts to get people to think on global terms with the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, which promises to offer pre-paid cellular communications in more than 100 countries—with no contracts, no roaming fees, and free incoming calls in most areas.

“National Geographic is excited to offer the Talk Abroad Travel Phone to all international travelers,” said John Dumbacher, senior vice president of licensing for National Geographic, in a statement. Students, vacationers, business travelers and our own explorers and photographers can now stay connected with this affordable travel phone and SIM card, while they seek to understand and experience our world.”

The phone will be offered via Cellular Abroad, based in Playa Del Rey, California, and it’s not very sexy by modern mobile phone standards: a rather thick candy-bar style phone with a small screen, without many contemporary conveniences like Bluetooth, an integrated camera, or mobile broadband capability. However, the quad-band GSM phone does offer pre-paid access to local cellular networks in more than 100 countries, and the U.K.-based phone number doesn’t change, no matter where the user travels.

The phone will be available for $199, including 30 minute of free outgoing talk time, or if you’re an infrequent traveler, a $49/week rental plan might be appealing. SIM cards go for $79, which includes 30 minutes of free outgoing talk time and will be available for purchase at “select” mobile phone stores. Once customers have a phone, they can add pre-paid talk time at $.90 cents per outgoing minute in most countries; incoming calls are free in some 65 countries. The phone will also offer 24/7, fee-free customer service.

“Staying in touch while overseas has proved difficult for travelers; the majority of overseas travelers have not been able to afford the security and convenience of a cell phone,” said Sebastian Harrison, Cellular Abroad president, in a release. “With expensive rates and little or no technical support, international cellular service has excluded the general public. Now, it is at their fingertips.”

You might not be able to carry a couple gigabytes of your favorite club tunes on this phone…but it does handle SMS text messaging so it’s not completely in the dark ages. The National Geographic Talk Abroad Phone should be available in March; pre-orders are being taken now, and include a 10-song National Geographic World Music gift card while supplies last.

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