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AshlynM's avatar

What kind of cell phone can I get if I only wish to use it for emergency calls?

Asked by AshlynM (9519points) April 26th, 2016

I only want to have a cell phone to use in case I need to dial 911.

The only people I talk to on a cell phone are my parents. I don’t text or use the phone for surfing the web, playing games, checking email or watching videos.
What kind of phone is best in this situation? Is Tracfone good?

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10 Answers

johnpowell's avatar

If you only need to call 911 any old phone should do. I have called 911 on a old iPhone4 that hasn’t had any sort of cell service in 5 years. It is a legal thing that all phones need to be able to call 911 even without cell service.

I had a old pay as you go nokia phone that that was a free phone if you put 25 dollars worth of minutes on it. The caveat was that if you actually made a call it was fantastically expensive.

There is a company called Republic Wireless that I use now. You have to pay outright for the phone. I got a Moto E for around 100 bucks. But it is 5 bucks a month for unlimited texts and calls over wifi. You get a real number but if someone calls and your aren’t on wifi it goes to viocemail. But you need wifi to call your parents but 911 will work anywhere. Or for 12 a month normal cell coverage works (Sprint) but you get no data.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

If you want to keep the cost low, buy a phone, don’t get into a monthly plan. I buy phones from eBay.

I have a prepaid SIM card from Truphone. It costs $0.10 per call, per text, and per megabyte.

The dollars don’t expire like a lot of prepaid plans, so it’s really cheap. In a month when I’m not traveling I might spend $10. Without using texts and the Internet it would be even cheaper.

You just need a phone that works with AT&T or T-Mobile.

I would look for a flip phone if you don’t want web browsing. I don’t know what models are good today, I’ve been using smartphones for years.

jerv's avatar

As @johnpowell, it’s law that ANY cellphone with reception and a battery charge be able to call 911 no matter what. No SIM card? No problem. Cut off for non-payment? No problem. Hell, even prepaid phone with expired minutes like the Nokia TracFone I haven’t refilled in 7 years can call 911. There are organizations that take donated “deactivated” cellphones and give them to battered women just so they can call 911. They can’t call any other number, but 911 is all some people need.

If you need a little more, there are a number of options of varying quality. My wife and I use Ting which, like Republic, uses the Sprint network, but Ting has it’s own sort of tiered pay as you go rates. More importantly, unlike Republic, it does not rely on wifi for voice calls. We looked at Republic, but the wifi limitation on the cheap plan was a deal-breaker, and Ting had better reviews. My wife and I talk, text, and surf a bit just like we did with Verizon (4G and all) yet our bill is under $50/month; about ⅓ of what we were paying. For a single phone using 101–500 minutes and no texts or data, it’d be $15/mth. There is no contract; it’s strictly month-to-month.

Full-on prepaid phones like Tracfone may seem cheaper becasue the phones are $5–60 instead of $40–800, but paying $30 for 120 minutes of talk-time is…. well, not a good bargain. A TracFone may be nice if the only number you will ever call with it is 911, but if you want to call anyone else then it’s best to spend a little more on the phone and get one that you can use with a pay-as-you-go plan

@johnpowell If you pay $100 for a Moto E, you’re getting ripped off. My wife and I bought two of them, totally unlocked, for $60 each.

@Call_Me_Jay The cynic in me has to wonder if they actually still make flip-phones or if the ones on the market now are merely unsold ones from 2009.

johnpowell's avatar

@jerv :: I bought it about a 18 months ago and it needed a certain firmware with all the Republic stuff built in. Even if I paid a extra 40 I have saved so much. My Sister on AT&T pays 350 a month for her family plan and I pay 12 a month.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Women’s shelters give 911 phones away. They donations from the public that would probably end up in the trash bin, but they work for emergencies. Women’s shelters are good places to take your old phones.

AshlynM's avatar

Many people are recommending Ting online so I will have to look into that more. Thanks everyone.

LostInParadise's avatar

I have T-Mobile service, which I use only for emergencies. You pay only when you make calls, so it is essentially free.

NerdyKeith's avatar

A very basic Nokia or Samsung phone would be fine. I would also make sure it’s on a prepay plan, to avoid unnecessary bills.

jerv's avatar

@johnpowell If the wife and I went Republic, we’d be paying about the same as we are now (we’d need the $25/mth plan; $25*2=$50) but would’ve shelled out an extra $80 up front.

Then again, our needs are a little different so it stands to reason that the best solution would also be different. That’s why it pays to shop around.

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