The iCEphone cometh: new smartphone for doctors and backpackers

The latest contender in the Asia-pacific smartphone wars is the iCEphone, which is possibly the first smartphone designed to save lives.

Designed and manufactured by UK-based company The Medical Phone Ltd, the iCEphone is billed as a "micro notebook" that's designed specifically with healthcare and emergency services in mind.

The iCEphone (iCE = "in case of emergency"), which runs on Windows Mobile, comes preloaded with a comprehensive medical software with six levels of expertise, from no medical training to hospital doctor. The software also creates electronic handover records that document symptoms and treatment in a standard format so they can be passed on between medical providers.

The phone, initially designed for the British military, can also be paired with a USB "dog tag" pre-loaded with a person's medical record. Field medics can take the dog tag and slot it into the iCEphone's USB port for instant patient information.

However, the iCEphone's hardware is also designed as an all-purpose handset, featuring a touch screen, camera, GPS and controls designed for game console play, push-to-talk button and dual-SIM slots, as well as HSPA, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

It's also packed into an unusual and ruggedized form factor comprising three hinged panels that can fold out from a package the size of a Nokia Communicator to a flat MID-like device with full keyboard functionality and a trackpad.

Although the iCEphone was designed with emergency services and the military in mind, spokesperson Andrew Mulford says the company is actually targeting consumers first.

"The problem with selling to emergency services and the military is that they have longer procurement cycles," Mulford told "But we have seen interest on the consumer side from backpackers who see a great use for a device like this. So we plan to target consumers first and build up revenue."

Medical Phone has also identified oil rig workers and remote contractors as other possible customer segments, as well as police, fire and rescue units.

The iCEphone is expected to go on sale in Q2 2009. The Medical Phone has secured distribution deals in the UK and Kenya, while Thailand is the first Asian market where the IcePhone will see distribution via Telemobile.

However, with a retail price of $950, the iCEphone seems likely to remain a specialized device.