Hands-on: Stock your emergency kit with the AT&T SpareOne Emergency Phone

We just heard of a couple more major earthquakes and as we live in uncertain times it's good to be prepared with devices that work when the power fails.

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I think the last mobile device I owned that was powered by AA batteries was the HandEra 330. While we live in a time with all mobile devices using rechargeable batteries, there are times when removable AA batteries serve to keep us connected when all else fails.

As we start to spend more time outside and on the road during the spring and summer months, as we continue to experience natural disasters, and as our population grows older, it's nice to have an emergency phone available in our preparedness kits. AT&T recently sent along its SpareOne Emergency Phone for me to test out and it's a great solution for its intended service.

The SpareOne Emergency Phone is easy to use, is powered by two AA batteries, is priced at $59.99 from AT&T, and only cost $25/year for 120 minutes of talk time. I never thought much about having such a phone stored with my earthquake kits that we have at home and at the office since we live in an area where earthquakes and volcano eruptions are real possibilities, but after testing out the SpareOne I may soon be adding one to my preparedness kit.

Hardware

I tested out the SpareOne Emergency Phone from AT&T, which is the 3G variant available from SpareOne. The phone has a white front with bright red back and is made of durable plastic. It weighs in at only 3.2 ounces and is 5.7 x 2 x 0.75 inches.

The back panel pops off to reveal two AA batteries and a microSIM card slot. Behind the speed dial list window you will find a key to the lights that appear on the front of the phone. The AA batteries should last you up to 10 days in standby mode, provide 11 hours of talk time, and provide about 35 hours on the flashlight. I never used it for such an extended period to kill the AA batteries.

There is a very loud speaker on the upper left corner of the back and after turning on the phone you will hear that the commands and functions are spoken aloud to make using the phone clear and simple. There is a LED flashlight on the top and after powering on the phone you simply press and hold the flashlight button to turn on and use the flashlight.

On the front you will find four buttons surrounding the emergency alert button. These include the flashlight button, power on/end, send, and volume buttons. Pressing the volume button will activate a voice that speaks the volume level in that corresponding volume level so you know how loud the phone will be.

The glow-in-the dark traditional 12 keypad is positioned below these five buttons. Button 1 can be set up to call voicemail with a press and hold while the other nine numbers can be set up as speed dial numbers.

In the visible window where you see the two AA batteries, you will find lights in the two lower corners. The lower right light indicates a signal is present while the lower left light flashes when power is available to the phone.

Functions

The center emergency button is set to call 911 by default, but you can also visit the SpareOne website to register and set up the SpareOne Emergency Phone to send alerts to "guardians" via text and/or email in the event that the emergency button is pressed. This is a great option for those who have elderly family and friends who they want to protect in times of emergency. Registering the phone on this site also gives you the option to locate the phone if it is turned on, which could be helpful in a natural disaster emergency.

In addition to the flashlight that is available via the hardware button to the right of the emergency button, there are a couple other functions available on the SpareOne Emergency Phone. If you are in a dangerous situation and want to alert others, you can press and hold the volume button for seven seconds to activate the panic siren. A very loud alarm will sound until you press the volume button or end button to cancel.

You can also press and hold the flashlight button for seven seconds to activate a Morse code flashing of the top light. SOS, that's three dits, three dahs, and three dits, is the international signal for distress and can be used to signal for help.

The SpareOne Emergency Phone is a great addition for your emergency preparedness kit, but you will need to be within an AT&T network coverage area to receive assistance for calls. You will be able to call 911 if your yearly GoPhone service lapses, but make sure to renew the $25 yearly fee to gain all the other functions of the phone.