At this point, we should probably retire the word "smartphone" and just call the touch-screen-equipped real-world tricorders we all carry "phones." They’re the market standard in both functionality and form factor. Anything less is a "feature phone" (a bizarre euphemism if I ever heard one), or more accurately, a "dumbphone." But if you’re really strapped for cash and need a hassle-free way to connect, you could get what Brian Lam calls a "hobo phone"--SpareOne, a $50 cell phone that runs for 10 hours on a single AA battery.
To be fair, not even SpareOne’s creators really intend anyone--even hobos--to use this device as a primary phone. It doesn’t even have a SIM card--you have to supply that yourself, along with the AA battery. What SpareOne looks great for, as its name implies, is a no-nonsense, ruggedized backup. The phone is GSM, so technically it’s a worldphone that you can use anywhere. And it makes 911 emergency calls even without a SIM card. Hell, it even has a built-in flashlight. This is exactly the kind of phone you want to put in your home survival kit, or your grandmother’s or teenager’s glove compartment, for peace of mind. And it’s not bad looking, either.
$50 does seem a teensy bit pricey for the cell-phone equivalent of an MRE, but just like those indestructible emergency rations, the SpareOne can sit in a box for 15 years and still be ready to go when you need it. (Since it runs on an AA, the phone will hold a "charge" as long as the disposable battery itself will.) That works out to a little more than three bucks a year, which makes SpareOne seem like a smart buy after all.