SpareOne Emergency Phone Review

IMG_1261“Be Prepared- Play Prepared- Live Prepared”.  That’s the tagline of a product I had the opportunity to review, the SpareOne by XPAL Power.  It’s an emergency cell phone, hence the name.  Unlike every other cellular device on the market, it doesn’t want to be your primary phone.  It wants to be the one that’s there when you need it.

A Phone Like No Other

The SpareOne is an unusual device from a very unexpected source.  XPAL makes Energizer-branded portable chargers and battery cases for iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and HTC One series.  If you could pick a company to be building a phone, they might be the last company you’d think of.  They also have no pedigree of any kind of survival products.  Nonetheless, the product is real and sitting right beside me. If anyone is wondering about the price, it’s $99.99 direct. The phone itself is emergency red and white in a traditional candy bar form factor.  The buttons are oversized and wide spaced for easy use.  Between the standard green and red buttons is a giant button for emergency calls with an emergency cross on it.  It has a 0.0” display…wait, did I write that correctly?  Yep, it has NO LCD screen whatsoever. In its place are a transparent window and a pair of multi-color LED lights for signal and battery life.  Lastly, there is a button-activated LED flashlight.

SpareOne Front

Under The Hood

You might wonder what an emergency phone sold by a battery company is powered by.  It’s a Lithium AA of course.  I take that back; it’ll take standard alkaline and rechargeables as well, but XPAL highly recommends the lithium.  They claim it’ll last you 15 years if you don’t use it, 10 hours of talktime, and 24 hours of the flashlight.  In other words, it’ll work when you need it to.  That theme is also backed up by the -22 to +140F (-30 to 60C) operating range and the double-sealed resealable waterproof bag it comes in.  Also, while this phone might be light, its plastic seems durable. Under the rear panel, you have access to the GSM SIM, the battery, and a SIM holder that normally has a MicroSIM adapter.  It also comes with an iPhone SIM removal tool on the backplate itself.  As for the GSM radio, this phone comes in two flavors, 850/1900 for North, Central, and the Pacific side of South America.  The other version is 900/1800 for everywhere else, save Japan and South Korea. They are uninvited to this party.  Hopefully at some future iteration, this will come in a single version with a quad band radio.
SpareOne Rear

Hands On

This phone is familiar if you’re used to an old screenless touch tone phone like we used in the 80s and 90s.  That being said, even a cheap calculator LCD screen would have made this a bit easier to use product, especially when programing numbers into memory.  It’s a bit confusing having only the two LED lights to go on. With the oversized buttons, I might even would have recommended it as the main phone for someone like my father who is far from tech savvy. I do have another point of criticism and its not XPAL’s fault at all; the GSM carriers in the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile, tend to be lacking in rural coverage.  The times you need it, you might not be able to get a signal.  In Europe and elsewhere, where there is no GSM/CDMA divide, it’ll work just fine.  This phone would also be a prime device for some sort of prepaid version should XPAL and a carrier partner want to go that direction.

Final Thoughts

Truth be told, it took me a while to do this review. I was busy with new responsibilities for Geek Beat and it took me a while to wrap my brain around what this product actually was. My approach changed as I started to view this as more akin to an emergency radio than an entry level cellular telephone. It’s stripped down and, at a penny under $100, a bit expensive for what it does, but if worst comes to worst, you’ll wish you had it.  The SpareOne by XPAL makes no bones about what it is, an EMERGENCY spare cell phone. It deserves a permanent place in whatever survival kit you have.  If you don’t have a survival kit, we have to talk.


  1. arctickat says

    Nice idea but any cell phone activated or not can dial 911. Keep your old phone and cigar charger in the car and it’ll be there when You need it.

    • says

      Hello arctickat,
      That’s a great point, however what if your car battery is out of commission? That’s why we created SpareOne–you can pop it in your glove box and pull it out with the tab when needed– according to the Energizer’s packaging, the batteries are good until 2027or 2028.

  2. says

    Trey, I agree with you.
    Since the most common problem is cell sites being overloaded, having a different phone isn’t much of a help. I keep a burner phone (no contract phone) in my bag where I can go to most any store to buy a minutes card — in the unlikely event that I lose my phone, need to contact someone, and can’t borrow a phone. I can always charge my phone(s) from my car.

    • says

      Hello Keith,
      Thank you, that is a great point. The tagline for SpareOne is #LivePrepared—so we thought of establishing a reliable source of powered communication in the wake of an emergency. For example, what about when the power goes out, or the car battery dies? While you can pop in nearly ANY AA battery (the most widely-used battery in the world) and get service. In fact, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we donated SpareOne phones and got a great response from people using them!

  3. says

    I’m not so sure this is such a “Need” given most people already have a cellular phone with them at all times to begin with!

    1) Skeptical that a battery charge will last 15 years. I have lithium powered tools, and I love them. But even after 3 months, they still have a charge….but its been greatly reduced vs a full charge.

    2) I carry my cellular phone around with me ALL the time as I suspect most people will too. I’d much rather have a spare charger in my Emergency kit than a spare phone.

    3) Why all the buttons? If its an emergency phone, why not turn it on and it dials 911 for you? No buttons needed. Or just a couple of buttons, 1 for police, 1 for Fire, 1 for 911 and 1 for an emergency number you can program into it……or right….you need cellular service contract for any of the other numbers than just 911.

    Nice idea, but kinda impractical in this day, too expensive for what it does, and more than likely, if you found yourself in a predicament 4 years down the road, and your cell phone is dead/broken, I’ll bet you the emergency phones batter will be discharged too.

    • says

      Hello Trey,
      Thank you for your thoughts. The SpareOne was created with lots of customers in mind—including those customers who recognize the need for a backup phone, or those who like the SpareOne as their only phone.
      We put a lot of thought into the device before we made it. We made sure to partner with Energizer to bring the most reliable battery (it’s a primary AA battery, similar to what you may use regularly, but so much more) that has an expiration date of 2027 or 2028 (depending on whether it was made in 2012 or 2013).
      Now, when you get the phone and pull the tab, you will get about 10 hours of talk time, a day of torch (flash) light and just under a month of standby time. Obviously, it will depend on usage, but if you want to, simply leave the tab in the device and drop the phone in an emergency kit or glove box and forget about it until you need it. Once you have exhausted the battery, simply put another AA battery in the SpareOne. Now, while most AA batteries will work, we recommend the Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery to get the best results and the most use for your money.
      We understand customers may want to use their normal phones, but what about those times when the power is out or the car battery is dead? SpareOne is great for those situations, and so much more. We make an Emergency phone, that is at the core of the device, but we also make SpareOnes for families and outdoor applications, because we realize there are times when customers may not want to, or simply cannot, use their smartphones.
      One other great feature of the SpareOne is that, with a SIM card, you can use the device like you would a normal phone. Perhaps your car died at the side of the road, and it won’t start, and your smartphone battery is dead…Use the SpareOne to call a friend (or even AAA) to get you the help you need—or use the phone to call a family member to let them know you’re running late.
      And, due to customer feedback, we’re expanding the phone. While you can program numbers to the 1-9 buttons, the SpareOne Plus will have an app that will allow you to program the numbers easily (say for example you want to give the phone to a child for emergencies, but don’t want them calling 9-1-1 all the time: use the features to program the center button to mom or dad) as well as some other features, like GeoLocation. Use the app to program fire and police and whatever you want—the SpareOne and SpareOne Plus are truly phones or secondary phones that work with many customer types in mind.
      We would be happy to answer any questions you may have further, please give us a call at (866) 972-5769 from 8 am to 5 pm daily, Pacific time. Once again, thank you for your thoughts.

      • alex says

        Standard battery-powered phone is a great idea.
        Just a data point: I am tmobile in US, which is 1700/2100 so won’t work for my SIM.
        Another problem not addressed – nowadays nobody remembers phone numbers – we use contact books on our normal smart phones.
        Consider selling this phone with SIM and cell connection guaranteed and built in, i.e. like Amazon Kindle 3G – with this price and emergency use, it should be reasonable for $100 phone.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for your review of our product. We appreciate your thoughts. Keep in mind that the new SpareOne Plus has an audio feedback feature that will allow you to hear the numbers you are putting into the phone, so that may help.
    Let us know if you have any questions!