back to article Phone maker punts AA-powered blower

CES 2012 Week Mobile outfit SpareOne has unveiled a new dinky dialler powered by a single AA battery that, it claims, lasts 15 years before requiring replacement. SpareOne The SpareOne is a basic GSM blower with little on offer except the breath-taking battery claims. Okay, so 15 years is quite a bold assertion, but the …

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If I still went mountaineering/hillwalking

One of these would get stuffed into a waterproof bag and go straight onto my basic gear pile.

Those Energizer Ultimate batteries are pretty awesome - I got just over four years of daily use out of my super-bright torch before it needed fresh ones. Also they weigh about half what normal AAs do. For some applications - where weight, longevity or both matter - their rather generous price tag is definitely worth paying.

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I'd rather stick a spare battery for an android or mophie power pack for an iPhone in my rucksack so that I could be located by GPS or give my co-ordinates if I got into trouble.

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Zombies

You wouldn't want your gps located come the Zombie Apocalypse... just saying

Besides, you have your normal smartphone in your pocket in most situations anyway.

;)

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Zombies can use GPS now?

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No sense in taking chances of some El Reg commentard remembering their mad skillz... won't know til it happens.

;)

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Sounds suspect

Would the battery last 15 years even with the phone switched off all that time?

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Yes

A lithium one would. And that is what you need to use with it.

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No screen?

Monochrome LCD displays use extremely little power - a battery the size of an asprin can power a digital wrist watch for 5+ years, so why have they excluded even a basic LCD display?

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Possibly

in order to optimize for talk time -- sure, one AA will last ten or fifteen years with the phone switched off (because it certainly doesn't look like it's meant to be anyone's every-day phone) and therefore not actually drawing any power, but as somebody else in the thread points out, that one AA's going to be hard pressed as it is to run a 2W GSM transmitter for long enough to be useful. Why put a screen on it, however cheap to run, and just eat the battery up that much faster?

For that matter, why put a screen on it and tempt people into thinking of it as something other than an emergency backup all-my-other-phones-just-melted sort of phone? It's not a feature phone, and running on that little power it wouldn't have the grunt to stand up well in competition with feature phones; judging by the name of the product, as well as the probably quite short GSM talk time a single AA could provide, I suspect an "oh shit" phone is all the SpareOne is meant to be.

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Boffin

Not as short as you might think!

Typical Nokia battery is 3.7V at 700-800mAh

Energizer Ultimate AA is 1.5V at ~3000mAh

According to the spec sheet a single AA cell can give a constant 1A for over 3 hours before it drops to 1.2V. From the Power Performance graph it looks like a constant draw of 2W will run the battery down to 1V in 2 hours. I would hope that this is plenty of time for an emergency call.

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Boffin

Datasheet

is here: http://data.energizer.com/PDFs/l91.pdf

Max discharge = 2Amps (@1.5v = 3Watts Max realistically vDrop will mean 1.2v~2.4Watts)

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Talk time?

I wonder what sort of talktime you get with a single AA battery and a phone wanting to transmit at up to 2W?

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Happy

this is just about the perfect size and shape for a TV remote for me... I'd love to get one of those.. maybe this company could also make them as well! :-)

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Anonymous Coward

WHATS THE POINT?

it doesn't do 'smart' and will not last any longer in use than a fully charged normal phone.

I just don't see who its aimed at?

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I think the clue is in the name "SpareOne". It would be a good idea to have one in your car, along with a torch and a blanket etc.

I also know some old people who might like it. They just don't get how to use a mobile phone and if you had one that worked like a plain old touch tone they might like being able to take their phone with them.

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What they don't say?

I bet it doesn't last long, even in standby, in a poor signal area. I know my GSM phones of old would last days in a good signal area, but barely a day when the signal as bad, and the phone spend all its energy maintaining 'keep alive' messages to any cell transmitter it could *just* manage to communicate with...

GSM phones up their transmit power to try and maintains connections in weak signal areas...

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Surely the shelf life of a battery left in its packaging, unused, is normally less than fifteen years?

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Happy

regular battery - yes

... "but the company does highlight it would have to be an Energizer Ultimate Lithium"

here is excerpt from spec sheet of this specific battery type:

Shelf Life: 15 years at 21°C (90% of rated capacity)

Basically it's something you can add to your "survival kit" and carry around unused, alongside with torch and swiss knife. Although charger such as mophie might be more useful.

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Anonymous Coward

Where can I buy one?

Are these really going to appear in high street shops, or is it just another phantom product being showcased at a technology event?

I'd love a phone like this, though I'd first need to know what the talk time is like. I'm guessing it's going to be slightly down from 15 years...

Would it have been such a hassle to use two batteries?

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Anonymous Coward

The battery might last 15 years, but the sim will probably be deactivated after 6 months!

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assuming that GSM is still in use...

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Anonymous Coward

The only snag is...

... who remembers phone numbers these days?

You just stick them in your contacts list and forget them.

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Anonymous Coward

999

pretty easy to remember...

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Yes, but

what happens when they change it to 0118 999 88199 9119 725

3.

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Anonymous Coward

Fugly thing.

I actually own a solar panel-backed mobe just for having something robust and nearly-always-available on hand, as a back-up. Too bad the panel doesn't generate enough power to actually charge the phone, making it but a toy. And, of course, the thing goes a bit wonky when it's been in the sun for a while. Doesn't seem to take the heat very well.

I like the form-factor of that "John's Phone" much better. Why not use that form and stick an extra large antenna and two (or four) AA batteries in?

Or that juice (sugar and water mostly, I recall) powered concept phone, with a less artsy fartsy shape; more something that fits in a spare pocket and you can store some fuel in before adding the water.

Somehow these things remain the toys of designers, possibly because they're not even trying to use them, nevermind in some sort of needful condition. Which is a pity, for then their toys remain but trinkets. Yet we have a lot of technology that could make these things actually useful. So get to it, designers. Or do I have to write the vision statement for you, eh?

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Anonymous Coward

the only problem for this phone is...

by the time you actually need to use it (for an emgency call (999/117/911)

the 2G GSM network will no-longer exist, having been upgraded to 5 or 6G.

assuming it spends all its time off and in the bottom of your rucksack.

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Missing the point

The 15yrs claim is just hyperbole. Real-world scenario -

Going walking/camping up a silly big hill for a week, need prople to be able to contact you if there is a problem, need to call 999 if you break a leg, need to be able to pop a fresh AA in (from your torch/some corner shop) occasionally as you can't plug the charger into canvas, don't want to pay for some stupid insecure pub charger for a partial charge, and know those solar chargers are pure gimmick and are not worth the weight and bulk they add to your kit.

I can see a very real use for that, not dwelling on the silly standby time headline (where the networks/talktime/sim life would be nil by then anyway...)

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Re: Missing the Point

Not really. There are already devices perfectly suitable for that. I take a Samsung dumb-phone with a three-week battery life out into the Mountains with me. Would anyone actually trust a piece of electronic kit to be working, untested, after 15 years? Of course not. So the claim is bollocks and the technology pointless.

If I really wanted to run a phone off something like a AA battery I would by one of the £5 AA powered chargers and keep it, along with a couple of batteries, in a dry bag.

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Re: Missing the Point

You've said what *you* would do but this is likely not targeted at you. My grandparents have an ancient mobile phone just for emergencies and it's therefore almost never used. But when it is needed, if it's not been charged recently, they're stuck.

The 15 year tag is good for marketing but is actually nothing to do with what this phone is for. Remember that a set of AA batteries can be bought pretty much anywhere. So in an emergency, 15-year battery or not, you can still be confident that a trip to the nearest shop will fix things so you can make a call. You've also got a good chance that the next passer-by might have a spare AA with them. That doesn't sound pointless to me.

If your Samsung phone's battery refused to take a charge one day it'll be a lot fewer places that stock the right kind of battery for it. That is the reason this is a good idea and why the tech isn't pointless.

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Meh

but what about SIM card?

either you have prepaid one in which case it needs to be topped up every few months otherwise it will be deemed invalid, or you are on contract. Either way, if your use scenario involves actually calling from this phone without the need to swap SIM from another one, there is ongoing cost and trouble to maintain valid SIM.

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Alert

Talk time

Ok, calculations are a little rough but:

GSM transmitter at 2W

1.5V Duracell Ultra AA battery has approx 2300mAh

2W / 1.5V = 1.333A or 1333mA

2300 mAh / 1333 mA = 1.73 hours or 103 mins

So, talk time with a £1 duracell ultra is about an hour and a half

Notes:

Other batteries are available

This is based on the low end of the Duracell Ultra specification

Price is based on the last pack I bought (4 for £4)

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Anonymous Coward

15 Year Fail.. Being more realistic!

Ok so you have the right battery and 14 years 300 days from now you need to make a 999 call What talk time will you get then? is it enough?

Realistically a phone is only any good if it can make a call. a 999 call should require upto 5 minutes off talk time. my guess is that you will only get that with something like upto 5 years standby.

sod the sim! if its an emergency phone it doesn't need a sim.

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Pint

ah, good point about SIM.

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FAIL

6 months and they kill your SIM

15 years standby is sod all use as a lot of networks kill your PAYG SIM if not used to make a call or send a text every 6 months. If you have a backup phone, you can be pretty sure it will no longer work when you need it.

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I guess the idea is that you are supposed to swap SIM from your regular phone, and the emergency in question here is "flat battery in my regular phone just when I really must call my missus", not something involving blood, fire or other less than pleasant experiences.

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FAIL

and the rest

I have a 8 year old O2 PAYT SIM which I keep going as it has a stupidly low price for Landline calls. Handy when I run out of minutes on my contract mobile, but that doesn't happen often.

So I make a chargeable call once every six months to keep it alive - no problems. Then one day I turn it on and it fails to register on the network. Turns out O2 demand I apply at least one £10 top up every 999 days (seriously!) otherwise they cut it off anyway along with any remaining credit.

Thankfully I was able to get it reactivated along with the old price plan (which is no longer available) but I had to do a £10 top up to get it and all my old credit back.

So, yes, a PAYT SIM is pointless as a back up unless you use it, and top it up, regularly(!)

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You do not need a SIM to make an emergency call...

But as previously said, you would be better off with a normal phone (Ideally a toughened model) with a wind-up charger (About £5 for a normal one, or £10 for one with a torch also).

Batteries do not like cold, I doubt an AA would last anything like as long if stored below the optimum storage temp of the battery.

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Stop
A backup phone isn't for just for emergency calls. If your battery is flat and you can put your normal SIM in it, that's OK (assuming its unlocked). However the main use is to have a phone you keep in your bag/car/desk for when you've forgotten your normal phone, and it's sod all use if the operator keeps killing the SIM all the time.
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