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‘Emergency’ Cell Phone Runs On AA Batteries

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[leadin]Mobile phones are tools in emergency situations — so long as they work. A simple $59 phone can be tossed in a backpack or car trunk and maintain battery life for years.[/leadin]


The SpareOne Emergency Phone came out a couple years ago. It is a simple cell phone designed to be turned on only in an emergency, not for daily use. Its batteries can last years when the phone is stored away, the company notes.

The news this week with SpareOne is a new contract from AT&T as well as its upgraded operability on 3G, or third generation, cell networks. 3G telecommunication networks support services at a faster transfer rate.

AT&T will now sell the phone at its stores and online for $59.99. An annual service plan costs $25, and it includes 120 minutes of talk time and a unique “locate and alert” service (see details below).

Important to note: If you have a 2G SpareOne model, it may become less and less reliable as providers phase out older networks. That model won’t work with newer 3G networks.

Emergency Cell Phone

You must have a cell signal to use this phone — it will not work in the deep wilderness. The SpareOne is sold as a backup option for use close to civilization.

It can hold its charge, according to AT&T, for up to 15 years if unused via two AA batteries. Other attributes include:

  • Up to 10 hours of talk time on a single battery
  • Operating range from -22F to 140F (greater than a smartphone)
  • One-touch, emergency services button
  • LED flashlight on top

With the “Locate & Alert” service included with the plan, you can alert up to nine people at once in an emergency. They’ll receive a call, email, or text message with your location when you touch the phone’s “alert” button.

It has a panic siren — which is a “very loud alarm that continuously plays until it is cancelled,” the company notes — as well as an SOS flash signal to send a distress in morse code via light flashes.

3G SpareOne Details, Limitations

As noted, you pay $59 for the phone and a $25 annual fee, which gets you 120 minutes of annual talk time. The phone must be used in an AT&T service area to work in the U.S, and it is not intended for international travel.

More and more, wilderness areas, including state parks and hiking trails, have intermittent cell service. That said, don’t rely on a phone out there — this should be only one piece of an emergency kit.

spare one


We’d need to see a GPS locator beacon that can work internationally (and without cell service) before considering this a true backcountry emergency device.

While this phone certainly won’t replace a satellite phone or locator beacon (or, more importantly, backcountry self-rescue skills), it does have applications — it could be left in the glove box of a car or with kids, elderly, or anyone as a simple-to-use emergency contact device.

–See more at AT&T

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