The biggest downside to the smartphone revolution is how often we get sucked into the devices and the internet. Smartphones include so many bells and whistles that its most basic and primary function – being a phone – quickly gets buried under everything else. In times of need, it’s easier to carry around something simpler.
The world hasn’t gotten rid basic and essential cell phones just yet though. In fact, more than a few cell phones still available are meant to function as phones and phones only. Make phone calls to close family and friends, dial for emergency services and maybe even do some light texting with these devices.
The SpareOne Plus is marketed as the only mobile phone for emergencies that runs solely on an AA battery. In fact, the design of the phone has bulges on the front and back to accommodate the battery and then thins out where the extra space isn’t necessary.
Looking like a small white and red television remote, the SpareOne Plus is designed with emergencies as its number one priority. It includes a numeric keypad and a SIM card slot to dial anyone if you have an existing mobile phone number you want to use, but has a large emergency button in the center should you ever need it. The emergency feature doesn’t require a SIM card.
The AA battery SpareOne includes has enough power to keep the phone charged for literally decades, given the minuscule amount of power it uses. It’ll always be ready in the event of an emergency.
It sells for $59.99 without any contracts and comes in two models depending on the GSM bands your country supports.
The Light Phone
The Light Phone is the “phone away from your phone.” It’s a sleek, white device the size of a credit card with a touch-LED keypad for making calls. That’s it.
It works with your current phone, using call forwarding and a SIM card to place or receive phone calls. While your main smartphone is charging, you can quickly slip The Light Phone in your pocket as needed. It gets up to 20 days of battery life on standby, too.
The Light Phone doesn’t have a dedicated emergency button, but the unadorned nature of the device makes it easy to dial emergency services in a threatening situation.
Out of all the phones on this list, it’s surely the one with the simplest and most convenient design. It’s currently available through a Kickstarter project for pre-order, but should then go on sale on the website and elsewhere. If you think $100 is pricey for a tiny, incapable phone such as this, bear in mind that it’s without contract or carrier subsidy.
The Jitterbug phone has been around for years, geared toward an older audience who might not be tech-savvy enough to learn the ropes of a modern smartphone. The Jitterbug5 is the latest model and has something to offer everyone. With large, straightforward buttons for navigating and dialing wrapped up in the clamshell design, Jitterbug5 brings reminiscence to the table.
Unlike the previous two phones, Jitterbug operates fully on its own. It comes complete with minute, text and emergency services plans via a unique partnership between Samsung and GreatCall. The Jitterbug5 includes a button for 5Star service to contact an emergency agent at any time. This service does come at a fee though with plans starting at $19.99 per month.
If you opt out of 5Star, you can purchase minutes or text messages only also starting at $19.99 per month for 50 minutes. Minutes and texts get deep discounts if purchased in combination with 5Star.
The Jitterbug5 phone itself sells for $99 without a contract. It’s not exactly cheap combined with the plan options, but with emergency services, calling, texting, a camera and 25-day standby time, the Jitterbug is one of the most feature-complete choices in its contrasting minimalistic category.
The Jitterbug Touch3 builds off of the foundation Jitterbug5 lays with features like 5Star service and a camera. The Touch3 has a 5MP camera, web browsing and app capabilities and still the signature emergency agent access by pressing a single button. Menus and buttons are large and easy to tap on screen as well. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
The Jitterbug Touch3 sells for $149.99 without any contracts and also requires a data plan, starting at $2.49 per month for 40MB.
Note: As with the Jitterbug5, the Touch3 stands alone as a device and needs a minute plan with optional texting and optional emergency service access. The pricing structure for these services is the same as with the Jitterbug5.