'First airborne smartphone' set to take off this year

US inflight connectivity provider Aircell launched the world's first airborne smartphone this week, promising to bring the functionality of modern smartphones to the skies.

The new Aircell Smartphone has been specifically designed for use on board a plane but offers travelers everything they've come to expect from mobile devices, including the Android OS operating system and access to advanced apps which could be made available in the future.

It features a 3.8" diagonal touchscreen, which the company claims is the largest ever seen in an airplane telephone and exceeds the size of most consumer smartphones on the ground.

Bluetooth connectivity and a headphone jack are also included on the device, which can be used wirelessly on the aircraft or connected to the seat like a traditional in-flight handset.

Unfortunately for most, the device is designed for business travelers, meaning it's most likely to find its way into private jets when it begins shipping in late 2011, although a spokesman for the company said "never say never" when Relaxnews asked about airline adoption.

Inflight connectivity is predicted to be big business for airlines and suppliers such as Aircell in the coming years - analytics firm In-Stat said last year that 76 million connections will be made in the sky in the US alone by 2012.

But while North American travelers can often enjoy free wifi to connect their smartphones to, options for international travelers are more limited due to the increased cost and speed limitatins of satellite-based onboard communications.

At present, the majority of airlines only offer connectivity using GPRS connections, making the high-bandwidth applications offered by smartphones nearly impossible to use.

http://www.aircell.com

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