Is there a phone for everyone? Turns out, maybe there is! Funny how things turn around full circle. Let me give a little background into why I find the Great Call Jitterbug cell phone so very attractive.
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I have owned a cellular phone for so long now; it is hard to remember what it was like without one. When I first met the woman who would later become my wife, I had an early Motorola Star-Tac clipped to my belt. It had a green light that flashed to indicate it was ready to receive a call, and everyone at her church that day made it a point to let me know, “Hey, did you know your phone is blinking?” I guess my children have never known a time without cell phones—in fact, we long ago decided to forego even the traditional landline. My fourteen year-old daughter has a smart phone, my wife and I both have smart phones, and my three-year-old probably could not even understand the concept of watching cartoons on TV. I mean, come on, that is why we have Wi-Fi tablets and Netflix.
And, at the other extreme, Mom and Dad still have the same telephone number as when I entered the world. The same number my older brothers used to talk to girls in the seventies, a practice at which I took a few faltering tries later on in the eighties. Dad conducted his business on that phone, and still uses it regularly for other important (NASCAR gossip) matters.
Here enters the GreatCall Jitterbug. Is this the phone for everyone? Probably not. Is it the right phone for great many hard-to-please and discriminating users? Absolutely, yes! This phone has a purpose and a specific audience, and it is pretty close to perfect in that regard.
Taking the Samsung-Manufactured Jitterbug out of the box renders no huge surprises, the usual formed plastic insert waits inside with the requisite manuals and chargers and such in the expected ratios. I noticed the standard Samsung charger is included. Good thing there—spares are easy to find and I believe we even have a few around the house. This phone comes with a car charger too, which seems to be going out-of-vogue with some manufacturers, so more points there.
After becoming used to more straight and square designs, I found the phone to be a bit odd-shaped at first for a flip phone. Its sides round into an ellipse. The purpose of the curves grew more obvious when I opened up the unit and held it. The base fits securely in the palm of my hand and the narrowness at the hinge makes slipping out of one’s grasp less likely.
Let me comment on the hinge as well—it opened with a smooth and satisfying click that really lent an element of quality. Upon close inspection, the fit and finish of the Jitterbug I tested was without any visible flaw. The round number-pad buttons had a raised ring around them to let my fingers confidently press without any of that sloppy or ambiguous “mushy” feel of some phones. A little gray grip runs around the edge of both halves, once again to prevent slips, but also I think to help separate the two for easy opening.
The outer shell has a small display and a rubberized volume rocker switch. I noticed here that the rocker switch does not adjust the volume while the phone remains closed. Pressing it either way lights the outside display with the clearly readable date and time. Hard to mess up with the volume and miss an important call.
Overall, the phone feels substantial and extremely well made.
My Dad often complains that he has trouble hearing on cell phones. Part of that is certainly his entire life spent operating loud tractors and farm machinery. Another part may have to do with his stint in the Marines as tank gunner during Korea. Either way, this unit on high volume was much too loud for me, so I think that somewhere between top volume and the very adequate low volume, even Dad would find a workable setting.
|“The bright display is clear and easy to read. High-contrast for text, but probably not made for graphics.”||“According to the website, with the addition of the FiveStar service, a simple 5* brings emergency help.”|
A perfect match to the excellent hardware, the interface of the phone is extremely straightforward, clear, and easy to use. Opening the phone lights the inside screen and buttons with the handset’s phone number clearly displayed at the top. The choice area dominates the screen with large, high-contrast letters; leaving no doubt which is currently selected. Also upon opening each time, the selection seems to go back to the “Phone Book.”
Out of the box, only a small list of options present themselves: Phone Book, Call History, Phone Info, and Settings. Once again, the streamlined interface makes it hard to mess up—the clearly marked buttons “Yes” and “No” leave little to the imagination. The phone book works just like the main screen, but now the question at the bottom is “CALL?” instead of “SELECT?” The call history works as one might expect, and the phone info delivers all the important data right up front, with the Battery Life as a percentage, the Signal Strength with a description (Good, Fair, etc.), and the unused minutes left on the phone.
The settings, usually so very complex on most phones, is once again easy to navigate. Background colors, Ring Tones, and Bluetooth. I assumed that the Bluetooth would be the aberration, but was pleased to see a lack of complexity there as well. Turn it bluetooth, pair / unpair devices, and the interesting “help” selection. Selecting that produces a fairly long written description of what setting up a headset might require.
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The amazing plans and support options of the GreatCall Jitterbug is where the phone really sets itself apart. Reading the lists of information the GreatCall website yielded capabilities that are even more surprising. They support their phones with 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week support, all based in the United States.
Did you get that?
Entirely U.S. based—it’s one of their prime selling points. And, one can call anytime, day or night and ask the Jitterbug operator to add numbers to the phone book, receive help on use, just about anything.
Anything, including adding one of GreatCall’s custom services. For small fees (most are less than $5 per month), services such as a Medication Reminder, an On Call Nurse, Wellness Calls, Check-In Calls, and so forth. And then they bundle up a few of those into a service that is slightly more expensive ($14.99 per month) called FiveStar. And literally, to access this emergency service the user in trouble presses the number 5 and the star key (*) and trained emergency response operators take the call. They can locate you via the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system, dispatch an ambulance, contact the On Call Nurse, or even someone from your own contact list. Even if you are unable to speak, calling FiveStar gets help.
At MyGreatCall.com, there are even more options. Logging in there on a computer makes it easy to add contacts to your phone book, check your minutes, find out about additional services, and even add them to your plan. All of this in the comfortable pay-as-you-go, no-contracts way that gets their customers what they need without a huge commitment.
I don’t mean to gush, but I found this phone and offerings to be extremely well thought-out. It appears that they have really gone the extra mile to provide a system for people who are skittish of technology, living by themselves, or perhaps even disabled. It is the kind of holiday gift that really means peace of mind.
Now, the one glaring negative remains - the price. Anyone feeling cost-conscious will find the Jitterbug on the high side of the cost spectrum in terms of cents per minute. This level of service and the US-based support doesn't come at a bargain, and because of this, for some people a TracFone will end up being a better deal. The minutes / service are cheaper, but TracFone phones are not as user friendly and the support operators will almost certainly be off-shore.
If the Technology scares you more than the extra money, however, then the GreatCall Jitterbug cell phone is the way to go.
Jitterbug cell phone review written by Joe Baxter for Fone-Review.com