Review: Jitterbug Plus Cell Phone Simple Design, Lifesaving Technology

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The GreatCall Jitterbug Plus ($119, no contract required; price as of July 2, 2012), designed for seniors and anyone else who needs access to health or safety services, looks and functions like a simple, no-frills feature phone, but it has lifesaving technology behind it. The Jitterbug Plus improves on the previous Jitterbug model with photo-sharing capabilities, preloaded text messages, and a more sleek design. It also supports GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response personal emergency-response service.
GreatCall CEO David Inns says that the company obtained feedback from customers on ways to improve the previous Jitterbug. One feature request that kept coming up was picture sharing. Jitterbug Plus owners can now share photos on Facebook, Picasa, and Shutterfly. It is easy to set up, too: You simply go to your account and fill out your profile credentials. Afterward, you can share photos with your social networks directly from the
camera gallery.
The 2-megapixel camera isn’t the highest quality; in my tests, photos looked a bit hazy and washed out. For social networking purposes, however, the Jitterbug Plus’s camera works just fine. The camera has no flash, so taking photos in dark environments might not turn out so well.
The Jitterbug’s design is a bit of a throwback to older phones, with its clamshell shape and internal and external displays. The Samsung-built phone is smaller and lighter than previous iterations, though, and comes in an attractive red or silver color.
On the Jitterbug Plus, you’ll find a few preinstalled text messages, such as “How are you?” and “On my way.” The alphanumeric keyboard offers large, easy-to-press keys with a clear font to make texting painless. Large ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ keys help you navigate the simple menu; for example, if you want to read a text message, you press ‘Yes’ to open it. As somebody who is constantly using advanced smartphones, I found that this extremely basic navigation system took some getting used to–I kept looking for ‘Back’ and ‘Home’ keys instead. But when I showed the Jitterbug Plus to a person who has never even attempted to use a smartphone, he loved the design, and said that it was much easier to use than the feature phone he already owned. He did not like how long it took to browse through the main menu, however. I also noticed that the navigation was a bit slow in that regard.
The Jitterbug Plus has insanely long battery life, which is an important feature for its demographic. GreatCall claims that the phone has 25 days of standby time. Although I haven’t had the phone for 25 days, I haven’t needed to charge it since I received it about a week ago. One drawback is that the display has no battery-life indicator; you have to go to ‘Phone Info’ from the main menu, which is a bit unintuitive. For customers who are hard of hearing, the Jitterbug Plus has a very loud ringtone and audio speaker. Call quality overall was quite clean on my test calls. My friends on the other end of the line were similarly pleased with how clear I sounded.

Pricing and Additional Services

GreatCall offers a pay-as-you-go plan that starts at $15 per month for 50 minutes, and runs up to $80 per month for unlimited minutes and text messages. If you choose to go à la carte, text messages cost 10 cents each. Voicemail costs an extra $3 per month.
Jitterbug Plus owners can add a number of wellness services to their plans, including 5Star Urgent Response ($15 per month), which gives you direct contact with a certified emergency-response agent, performs GPS tracking, and provides free 24-hour access to unlimited health advice from registered nurses. You can tack on other helpful services, too, such as automated check-in calls ($5 per month) and medication reminders ($10 per month). These services add up, but are invaluable to anyone who needs them.
The Jitterbug Plus is meant for a very specific audience–one that I’m not yet a member of–so reviewing a product like this can be difficult. But I’ve seen other products that try to make an interface too simple, and end up leaving out some important features. GreatCall has done an excellent job of creating a phone that is both easy to use and full-featured, packed into a modern design.

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