Emergency & Safety User
If you plan on using your cell phone strictly for emergencies or to alert
friends or family members when you're egregiously late for dinner, there's
really no need to invest in a monthly service plan or a costly phone.
Instead, plenty of service providers offer prepaid plans that are bundled
with inexpensive phones ($50). The only drawback is that if you don't
use up your allotted minutes--or dollars, in some cases--within a certain
time period (usually three months), you lose them.
For infrequent emergency use, there are many free or very affordable
phones that will serve your needs. You will want a phone with the ability
to transmit in analog (since digital coverage is often poor in remote
areas). Also, make sure to pick a phone with a battery standby time of
at least 48 hours so that you'll have plenty of "juice" to make
calls if you're away from a power source.
When reviewing service plans, it's important to make sure that you will
have service in the places where you might need to use your phone. Examine
the coverage maps and verify that the highways and roads you drive on
frequently are covered. Many plans geared specifically toward safety users
offer a modest number of anytime calling minutes for less than $30 a month.
Be wary of plans that don't offer analog service, which is available in
many remote areas where there is no digital coverage.
If you really want to limit your budget and usage or give your family
member a cell phone for emergency contact, you should seriously consider
a prepaid plan.
To make sure your phone is always charged, consider tossing a car charger
in your glove box or carrying an extra battery in case yours runs out
of juice. You'll be prepared for any contingency, whether on the street
or in your car.