I recently had a car breakdown on the motorway and was stuck in the middle of nowhere. There were none of those SOS telephones around and my phone battery had died. In the end I managed to flag someone down and they let me borrow their mobile - but next time I want to be prepared.
Can you recommend any cheap mobile phones to keep as a spare in case of emergency?
Danny White, Manchester via email on 19 March, 2012
Thanks for getting in touch. In this day and age, being stranded without a mobile is most people's worst nightmare. Apparently, two-thirds of us are sufferers of nomophobia - the fear of having no phone. So it's understandable you want to be prepared in case you ever find yourself stuck again.
When your car breaks down on a motorway it's best to use an SOS telephone if possible. Unlike mobiles they pinpoint your exact location, simplifying whatever roadside assistance you require. I know you said there were none in sight, but they're usually less than a mile apart.
This is not always the solution, as it isn't only on motorways that people get stuck without a phone. The following sections explain how you can prepare for being without your mobile in an emergency. Whether it's a dead battery or misplaced handset, our tips will make sure you're never cut off.
In a genuine emergency, when you need to dial 999, you should almost always be able to do so from your mobile phone. Even if your reception is weak, it's usually possible to make emergency calls. But of course, you still need some battery power to even turn your phone on.
It might be a good idea to buy an emergency phone charger, which normally cost less than £20. These allow you to charge your phone battery anywhere, but can take a while to provide sufficient power for making a call. For an immediate phone replacement, there may be better options.
For example, you can actually buy a device called SpareOne, which acts as a back-up mobile when you're totally stuck. If you need to make an urgent call, but don't have a working phone to hand, it's an instant solution. And it's not just for calling 999 - it can be used to store other important numbers too.
SpareOne is powered by a single AA battery, provides up to 10 hours of talk time and stays charged for more than 15 years on standby. But there may be no need to buy one if you have a spare mobile or extra phone battery you can carry wherever you go.
When the time comes to upgrade your phone you have several choices as to what you can do with the old one. If it's still in working condition you may be able to sell it, or even receive money for it through reputable phone recycling schemes such as Mazuma or Envirofone.
If the amount you stand to make is quite small, you may consider keeping the phone as a spare. That way, if your mobile battery runs out you will always have a back-up device into which you can place your sim. Alternatively, you could give the spare phone its own pay-as-you-go sim card so it's even dependable if your main device is ever lost or stolen.
Another option is to buy an extra phone battery, which you always keep charged in case of emergency. It's always best to use a battery produced by the same manufacturer as your phone to ensure full compatibility. And of course, remember to make sure it's always charged.
Another way to ensure you're never without a phone is to keep a second handset that you only use when your main device is out of action. You can buy cheap pay-as-you-go mobiles for less than £50, so it could be a cheaper option than the SpareOne – and you'd get a lot more functionality. You can save even more money by purchasing a refurbished second-hand phone.
Modern mobiles, particularly smartphones, are now so advanced that battery technology just can't keep up. It's very rare that a top-end phone lasts more than a day with moderate use. But there are lots of ways to maximise your mobile battery life. A few you might like to try:
1. Switch off power-hungry featureswhen not in use, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or location services. Using GPS satellite technology is a big drain on energy, so avoid using maps and navigation apps when you're trying to save some juice.
2. Turn down the brightness on your smartphone screen. Large displays are one of the biggest drains on battery power, so if you can manage on a lower setting it's a good idea to do so. Also, avoid using your phone camera's flash - if it has one as these gobble up energy.
3. Re-charge on the move by having a charger in the car or on your desk at work. You can save yourself a lot of frustration by simply plugging in more often. The life of your battery will be shortened every time it is fully discharged, so it's best to keep it topped up.
For more tips on making your phone battery last longer, read our expert guide.
When you're looking to buy a new mobile phone, it's easy to save money when you compare deals online at Mobilechoices.co.uk. Whether it's a cheap pay-as-you-go handset or a high-end smartphone with all the latest features, we'll help you find the mobile you need.