Emergency mobile phone runs on single AA battery, stows for 15 years

A Taiwanese company has launched a bare bones handset for US$70 and plans to market it to rental car firms and mobile operators

The phone doesn't have a charging port, or any ports at all. It doesn't even have a screen.

But it will give you 10 hours of talk time on its replaceable AA battery, which will keep for 15 years if the phone isn't used.

Meant for use in emergencies and natural disasters, this phone is called the SpareOne. It has only the bare necessities - a number keypad, dial and hang-up buttons, and basic volume control. It also has a small flashlight and an "emergency call" button that automatically dials the local authorities when pressed.

The device is on display at the Computex exhibition, running this week in Taiwan. It is very light and easy to use, and feels perfect for tossing into a glove compartment, backpack, or suitcase. The phone weighs just 75 grams and measures 120 mm by 60 mm - about the size of a candy bar.

It easily pops open for swapping out the battery or adding a SIM card, which the user must provide, although it is designed to "borrow" the SIM from another phone during emergencies. The SpareOne comes with a single AA Energizer lithium battery, and the company says batteries from other makers may provide less talk and shelf time.

To compensate for its lack of screen and texting ability, the phone automatically responds with a message asking for a direct call when someone texts it.

It was developed by a subsidiary of TennRich International, a Taiwan-based electronics component and rechargeable battery producer.

The phone went on sale in the U.S. from April on a company website for US$70, and a company spokeswoman said it sold about 2,000 units in its first month. The company plans to launch in Europe and Asia this year, and is also marketing the handset to rental car companies and mobile operators. The pricing of the device in Asia and Europe has not been finalized.

This isn't the first mobile to use disposable batteries for power. The FrvrOn basic handset manufactured by Olive Telecom in India has a traditional rechargeable battery but can also run off a single, replaceable AAA battery.

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