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CNET First Look
National Geographic XplorerThis one rugged phone gives you both a local and international number to act as your telephonic lifeline while traveling abroad.
-I'm Jessica Dolcourt with CNET. Today, I'm taking a first look at the National Geographic Explorer. This is a phone made by Samsung but it's marketed as a prepaid handset that you can take with you when you travel. It will work in about 200 countries. The international voice calling service is really the phone's most unique feature. You get a SIM card in here from a company called Talk Abroad and that comes with 2 phone numbers on it: one for the US; and one for the UK. So, anyone can call you on either of those numbers. Incoming calls on the UK number will be free for you in about 70 countries and incoming calls on your US number will cost you about 25 cents per minute. Calling out on the other hand can be a little bit costly for you. It will cost between 90 cents per minute to about $1.15 per minute, depending on where you're calling. More remote areas will be more expensive and so will calls out to mobile phones versus calls to landlines. Landlines are a little bit cheaper. Calling out is also a little bit different on this phone than it is with ordinary phones because instead of just dialing the number, the Explorer uses a call back service that will ring you back before placing the call. I was actually able to try this out by calling my family in England. When you turn the phone off and turn it on again, interestingly, there are 3 profiles for roaming. You can choose among Global, US for North America, and then there's actually a separate one for Italy. I don't know why. So, who's this phone for? Talk Abroad is mostly aimed at tourist travelers and study-abroad students who may make some calls, but it isn't really intended for chatting all day long. This model, in particular, is pretty basic as a phone and it's more geared for rugged environments. So, it's got this hard, rubberized casing all around. It's really good with shock. It's got large buttons on the side. It's also water-resistant and it even has a built-in flashlight. The screen, as you can see, is pretty small. The tools inside are really straightforward. You can get Internet access on here but it's pricey; best to use it only in a pinch. The back cover is screwed on as well with an actual screw down here, but you can use a coin to loosen it. There is a micro SD card slot behind the back cover and that's to keep out all of the elements. There's also a really basic 1.3-megapixel camera on the back and there's a loop here for you to strap the phone to belt loops or to your daypack. It's disappointing that you have to use Samsung's proprietary charger, but at least the Explorer comes with a range of adapters here. The Explorer costs $179 and it comes with a $29 credit, so that's about 30 minutes of outgoing calls. Altogether, it isn't exactly your cheapest alternative and it won't even be necessary if you already have a GSM phone because with that, you can at least slip in a different SIM card. Or, if you have a smartphone, then you can use that to make cheaper calls with a service like Skype. But I will say that the Explorer is definitely convenient and I could possibly see myself buying one for my family for extra assurance, or maybe even sending it off with a relative who has a CDMA phone so that they've got a little bit more peace of mind when they're travelling especially to somewhere a little bit remote. So, this is the National Geographic Explorer available on Amazon, Buy.com, and on National Geographic's website. This is for folks living in the US, Canada, and Mexico. You can get more details on this phone in our full review. I'm Jessica Dolcourt taking a look at the National Geographic Explorer.