Chandlery October 2013 Issue

Spare One Emergency Phone

Testers recently checked out the Spare One standby cell phone, which is just what its name implies: a spare phone for use in an emergency or when the battery dies on your primary cell. Powered by one, replaceable AA lithium battery, the Spare One will deliver 10 hours of talk time, 15 years of battery life (if unused), and 24 hours of illumination in its SOS torchlight mode. When a GSM SIM card from a regular cell phone is plugged into the Spare One, the unit acts as a basic cell phone, sans the display and texting ability. Without a SIM card, the unit still allows users to call 911 and access emergency services.

The phone comes in a floatable, submersible waterproof pouch with an Energizer battery installed. The phone itself is not water-resistant, but it can be used while stored in the pouch. Testers found this practice awkward, but not a deal-breaker given the limited time a user would be on the phone. Testers did like that the phone has a large SOS button. It is factory-programmed to dial 911, but users can re-program it to dial any contact number (like home or the Coast Guard).

The SpareOne operates on most cellular networks, and in our tests on the Chesapeake Bay, it had the same range and sensitivity as testers’ AT&T cell phones. With the SIM card in, it operated just like a no-frills mobile phone. It has no activation process—other than pulling a tab that prevents accidentally turning the phone on—and unlike SEND devices such as the SPOT, there are no service fees or plans to maintain.

Bottom line: Selling for $80 to $100 (Landfall Navigation,, the Spare One we field-trialed lived up to promotional claims. Although it’s not a replacement for using a VHF in an maritime emergency, the Spare One is a good addition to the inshore sailor’s emergency gear, especially given the price point and lack of service fees. For single-handed, coastal sailors, it would be a practical choice to keep in your pocket in case of an MOB scenario.

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