SpareOne emergency cellphone
$52.50 at SpareOne.com
Here’s one of the best new gadgets of the year: an inexpensive emergency cellphone that could be a real lifesaver.
The SpareOne comes with one standard AA battery — the more expensive variety, made with lithium, rather than the usual alkaline type. It’s got a slot for a SIM card, the kind used by phones on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. If you have such a phone, you can slip your SIM into the SpareOne and use it to make calls when your regular phone has died.
Inserting the SIM caused a bit of bother and required a dab of adhesive tape. But once I managed it, the SpareOne made an adequate temporary phone, with decent audio quality. The manufacturer says SpareOne is good for 10 hours of talk time. That’s hard to believe. But even an hour would be hugely useful. And there is no need to recharge; just plug in spare AA batteries as needed.
But what if you don’t have a SIM card? In that case, SpareOne still works for calling 911. Just push the red button with the white cross on the front of the phone.
SpareOne is a bare-bones device with no fancy features. But it’s all you need in an emergency, and it’s cheap enough to toss in your glove compartment as a just-in-case backup. It’s no iPhone, but it’s certainly a smartphone.
JAYS One+ headphones
$48.35 at Amazon.com
The Swedish headphone maker Jays is not a household word on this side of the Atlantic, but it will make a good impression with this set of earbud headphones.
The One+ uses heavy ribbon cables instead of the spindly wires of most earbuds, meaning that it will probably survive a fair amount of abuse. It comes with replacement earpieces of different sizes, but I found the standard ones were an excellent fit. Audio quality is much better than with most such phones, with solid bass notes and a rich midrange sound.
The right-side cable includes a push-button remote control for managing playback. It is a single-button affair; to issue different commands, you vary the number and duration of button pushes. It worked inconsistently for me. I could get it to skip ahead to the next audio track on my Android phone, but it would not accept my backtrack commands. There is a smartphone app for Androids and iPhones to let you modify the button settings, but I figured I would leave well enough alone.
Remote woes aside, this is a well-made, good-sounding set of phones, well suited to music lovers who live the strenuous life.
Bracketron Mushroom GreenZero mobile device
$21.96 at Smarthome.com
If you have bought a smartphone or tablet computer, it certainly came with an AC adapter for recharging its battery. So why spend an additional 20 bucks on a new charger? Well, the Mushroom GreenZero is cuter than most such devices. It is more environmentally friendly, as well.
The GreenZero has a single slot for plugging in a USB cable. But when you connect your gadget, nothing will happen unless you press the green, mushroom-shape rubber button. This activates the charging system, which will stay activated until the device is fully charged. Then the GreenZero switches off. Most chargers never shut down, quietly wasting electricity. The GreenZero eliminates such pointless power consumption.
But, so what? The typical phone uses so little power to begin with that the GreenZero will save you only a couple of dollars a year in electricity costs. Those savings will cover the cost of the GreenZero in about a decade. I might like it a little better if the GreenZero let you plug in two or more devices at a time, but no such luck. And unlike other chargers, this one must be deliberately switched on. If you forget, you’ll wake up next morning with a dead battery.
If everyone in America used this kind of charger, we’d save a huge amount of energy and make the world a cleaner place. But somebody’s got to go first, and it won’t be me.