The SpareOne first made its debut at CES 2012 with gutsy claims of a jaw droppingly amazing battery life that can last up to 15 years. Years! SpareOne is an emergency mobile phone that is powered on by a single AA battery for true emergency back-up. And as far as we know it, the SpareOne is the first and only of its kind to run off of a single AA battery. The point SpareOne makes is that you'll never have to plug it into a power outlet as its solely battery depended. The phone is made by a company called TennRich which is behind the XPAL power technology featured in the SpareOne, and the impressive power performing PowerSkin smartphone battery cases. Find our more after the break!
The deal sweetener is that the SpareOne is a fairly inexpensive unlocked phone at $66 (curtsey of our cellphone accessory friends at MobileFun), and it can make all the ordinary phone calls your iPhone can with an impressive 10 hours of talk time using a single Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery that as we've said earlier, can last up to 15 years on standby. You could of course use any other AA battery including the rechargeable variety if you'd like to save a bit of cash. You can obviously find an even cheaper unlocked phone to use as your dedicated emergency phone, however, you would then be at the mercy of its proprietary rechargeable battery that can't easily be replaced by a widely available run-of-the-mill battery nor match the respected reliability of the SpareOne's 15 year-long shelf life. Something to consider.
The SpareOne comes with no power adapters or any USB cables. It's one of the most basic, most simplistic bare bone phones you can get. There is one problem however. The SpareOne has no display, no screen - nada. It's absolutely stripped of any forms of displaying your contacts and anyone's incoming number including the one you input on the keypad. Instead of a screen, the SpareOne's design revolves around its power source. That single AA battery is prominently denoted thru a smoky transparent plastic window like catching Megan Fox sitting alone at the bar.
In the hand, the SpareOne is as small as we thought it would be from looking at its product shots. It's Apple-remote shaped body is fairly larger than you would expect for such a simplistic phone topping a 4.7-inch smartphone. The SpareOne feels a lot like a modern wireless home phone, not to say that it's a negative aspect - but it's also not the ideal phone you would want to carry in your front or back pocket. Since we are talking about an emergency situations, you're more likely to keep the SpareOne in your car or in your gear bag to be more realistic. Build quality isn't of the best, and it definitely feels like a cheap bargain bin phone to say the least. But hey, what did you expect? On the upside, it does get the job done no matter how cheaply made it seems and the matte plastic was a great material decision.
Using the SpareOne is dead simple. You have a familiar and easy to read digit-only button layout with a big red emergency button dead center. Press and hold it for a few seconds and it'll auto-dial a pre-set emergency number like 911. It has a keypad lock button and a two setting volume adjustment. The audio is very audible to the point where you could use the handset like a speakerphone, which it does not have. What's awesome is that even if you don't insert a SIM card into the phone, you would still be able to dial and call emergency services as long as you've got a network signal. The SpareOne can be tracked down in order to pinpoint your geolocation in the event of an emergency and has its own unique IMEI number.
After you've keyed in your number, the SpareOne will follow up by an audible dial repeat followed by a distict chime to let you know that your number had indeed been dialed and the call has started. There are other chimes and beeps the SpareOne makes when turning it on and off, locking the keypad and so on. You wouldn't want to hand it to a little kid to play with, the button beeping and chiming sounds will drive you mad.
Like a proper emergency assist phone, the SpareOne is equipped with a bright white LED torch light that can be turned on continuously with a press of a button. It'll without a doubt come in handy at brightly lighting the darkness.
The SpareOne does make up for not having a screen by using two LEDs that help you understand a bit of what's going on. On the back cover of the SpareOne you'll notice a reception bar and battery bar symbols that indicate the position of the two status LED lights. Different colors will blink to indicate the status of battery life and network connection.
Right from the moment you unpack it, the SpareOne is ready to be used. It comes with one pre-installed Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery. No activation is required. All that's left for you to do is insert an active SIM card into the back of it. Underneath the battery door is a handy dandy iPhone micro-SIM card removal tool which can also be used for any other micro-SIM card enabled smartphone. The SpareOne has proven to be quite user friendly right out of the box. It even includes a micro-SIM card adapter in case you don't have one on hand.
The caveat is with using a SpareOne phone for travel is that it only supports one specific GSM network frequency, either North America 850/1900MHZ or all other 900/1800MHZ. One simply cannot buy a SpareOne in the United States and later decide that it'll be a good idea to take it on vacation to Europe, because it won't work there. You choose the right GSM support when you purchase a SpareOne, and you can get both models should you wish.
You're not going to find the SpareOne's call quality to be as excellent as you'd expect from most smartphones. For the emergency side of it though, it really isn't bad at all to use and does a very a decent job at was it was intended for. In fact, the SpareOne can be used on a daily basis, but we really don't see the point in that when you've got so many other better choices and options available. Not having a screen really does make it somewhat difficult to pass this off as a phone to use more than its destined purpose. We though it could come in handy to give to a small child, but then again it would be a terrible idea after the fact.
Deuce A batteries are readily available and can be found just about anywhere, and that makes the SpareOne a valuable backup phone in case of an emergency. Even at times when your glorious smartphone runs out of juice and you're coincidentally left without any other power sources in the middle of nowhere with just the hope of a cell tower signal, that SpareOne is there to help. You just need to remember to keep it dry, because last time we checked this is not a water-resistant nor water-proof emergency phone. The SpareOne does exactly as it claims and we wouldn't mind recommending you add it to your emergency kit. Slap a fresh battery it in with a spare beside it, an active SIM card with a long standing pre-paid service and forget about it. How prepared are you really?