Jitterbug J Cell Phone Review
By Sandy Berger on July 19, 2010
The intense competition in the cell phone industry has manufacturers constantly adding new features. This wealth of features may make phones a little smarter, but it often makes them more complex to use. So in this atmosphere of competition and increased functionality, it is refreshing to see a cell phone that chucks the “smart” features to focus on basic features and ease-of-use. The Jitterbug cell phone is just that: a simple phone that is easy to use.
The newest version of the Jitterbug phone is called the Jitterbug J. As shown in Figure 1, it comes in a small white box.
Inside the box, you will find the Jitterbug J phone, the battery, a wall charger, a Quick Start Guide, a How-to-Guide, a Customer Agreement, an Activation Guide, and information on the Jitterbug 30-day return policy. These items are shown in Figure 2. It is surprising that the phone comes with so much documentation because it is a phone that most people will be able to just pick up and start using without looking at the guides.
The Jitterbug J that we reviewed is dark gray graphite. The Jitterbug J also comes in a pearlized white and bright red. A portion of the sales price of the red phone goes towards Jitterbug’s donation of $500,000 to the American Heart Association’s "Go Red for Women™" movement.
The Jitterbug J hardware is made by Samsung, a very recognizable name in the cell phone industry. The phone has a good design and a very sturdy feel.
The Jitterbug J is an unusually thick phone. Although it weighs just 4 ounces (113 grams), it is a full 1” (25.4 mm) thick. This phone will definitely put a bulge in your jeans, but its thickness gives it a certain comfortable feeling
When closed, the Jitterbug J is 4" (101.6 mm) long by 2" (50.8 mm) wide. When open, it extends to 7” (177.8 mm) long. This length gives you the feel of a regular phone. In fact, because of the oval shape and rubberized rounded edges (seen in Figure 3), it is one of the most comfortable cell phones that we have seen. You don’t have to get your ear in line with the speakers. Because of the shape and the rubberized edges, your ear is always in the proper place to hear the conversation. The design of this device also reduces background noise in the earpiece, as it puts a little distance between the earpiece and the microphone. The ear cushion also makes it easier for those with hearing aids.
When closed, as in Figure 4, the front of the Jitterbug has a small screen and one elongated button. If you press the button when the Jitterbug is closed, the screen will show the date and time. When the Jitterbug is open, this button acts as a volume up/down key. The button itself is gray and is surrounded by a small white area. The white area acts as a notification alert. It lights up to alert you that you have a text message, missed call, or a voice mail. When a call comes in, like other phones, there is a ring tone that you can hear. On the Jitterbug, the front notification area also blinks a visual alert. The small screen on the front of the phone also lights up and gives you the telephone number of the caller.
There are no buttons of any sort on the sides of the Jitterbug, so there is nothing that can be pressed inadvertently. The bottom, shown in Figure 5, has only a port for the charger.
The back of the Jitterbug, shown in Figure 6, has a loop at the top where a lanyard can be attached. Under that is a small removable sticker that says “Digital by Qualcomm.” That sticker is the only thing on the phone that you may have trouble reading. Everything else on the phone is done in large print.
In the middle of the back, near the top, is a decent-sized button that can be pressed to release the battery. It requires a bit of pressure to work, so you won’t press it by mistake.
While most cell phones have a removable cover with the battery underneath, the Jitterbug’s battery actually forms the back of the phone. Figure 7 shows the back of the Jitterbug with the battery removed. The Jitterbug has a rechargeable lithium ion battery that Jitterbug says will provide up to 4 hours of continuous talk time. Our tests showed this to be accurate. However, it should be noted that even without use, the Jitterbug battery will run down. How quickly it will deplete depends on the strength of the signal in your area. We tested it in one area where it lasted 8 days. In another area, it lasted only 4 days.
You can check the quality of the signal by choosing “Phone Info” from the main menu, where it will list the signal quality as poor, fair, good, etc. In this area, you can also check the amount of battery charge that is left. We longed for a more obvious place where we could see at a glance if the battery needed a charge or not.
The Jitterbug was created and is distributed by a company called GreatCall. Jitterbug provides both the phone hardware and the service. They have agreements in place with several major carriers, so their coverage is good. They provide a coverage map on their website and have a 30-day, money back guarantee. Rate plans range from USD 14.99 to USD 79.99 a month. You can only use the Jitterbug service with the Jitterbug phone. Rate plans are either comparable or just slightly more than those with larger carriers like Verizon. A big difference is that Jitterbug doesn’t require a 2-year contract. The cost of the Jitterbug J was recently reduced from USD 99 to USD 147, making it pretty attractive.
They have created the Jitterbug to be similar to a regular telephone. Talking on the Jitterbug is about as close as you can get to talking on a regular telephone. When you open the Jitterbug, you even hear a dial tone, which is extremely unusual for a cell phone. There is no bar-type indication of signal strength. If you hear a dial tone, you can make a call, if you don’t hear the dial tone, you cannot.
When you order your Jitterbug, you are charged a USD 35 activation fee. This seemed a little steep to us and we didn’t like the fact that you didn’t find out about it until you were into the ordering process. However, because there is no contract, we can see that this may be necessary to keep folks from constantly turning their service on and off.
As you can see in Figure 8, the keypad on the Jitterbug J has large, clearly marked buttons. The yellow circle that surrounds each button illuminates when the keypad is used. The “5” button has raised sides so if you are vision impaired, you can find the proper keys by touch.
An on/off button and a button for using the speaker phone are clearly marked at the top of the keypad. Under that are simple “yes” and “no” buttons. Between the yes and no buttons are arrow keys that you can use to make your selection.
An opening for the microphone can be seen in Figure 8 at the bottom of the keypad.
The Jitterbug always frames the choices in a question so it makes sense to simply answer yes or no. An example of this is shown in Figure 9, where you can see the choices and the question “Select?” below the choices. You can also clearly see that the up and down arrows will take you to the previous or next selection.
Figure 9 also shows the speaker just above the screen. As you can see, the speaker is quite large, resulting in excellent sound quality. Calls were clear and crisp.
You can use voice dialing with the Jitterbug J. This service is free, but you must call Jitterbug customer service to turn on this feature. Once it has been activated you can have the Jitterbug dial contacts or numbers simply by saying the name or number aloud.
The Jitterbug J supports full SMS messaging, but not MMS. It also supports Bluetooth, so you can use wireless headsets and other external wireless devices. This is a welcome addition as more and more states pass laws requiring hands-free cell phone use in cars.
With the Jitterbug, there is always help available if you need it. For instance, when you retrieve your first voice mail, a comforting voice will walk you through retrieving your mail and setting up your mailbox.
Many of the Jitterbug features are priced separately, allowing the user to subscribe to only the feature that they want. Unfortunately, voicemail on the Jitterbug is one of those features. It costs an extra USD 3 a month. We feel that this is a feature that almost everyone needs, and that it should be included in the price of the service.
The Jitterbug operators will do just about everything for you. They will answer questions, program numbers into your phone, place calls for you, and turn services on and off. This 24-hour customer service is available 365 days a year. You will be charged for calls to the Jitterbug operator. These calls automatically use 5 minutes of airtime per connection, in addition to the actual number of minutes used while speaking to the operator during the call. Yet, for some. this will be an invaluable service.
We tested the operator service by making several calls. There was virtually no wait time. The operators were helpful and courteous. They were able to make changes to our service and to our address book. Although they said the changes could take up to several hours, all were completed in less than an hour.
With the Jitterbug J, Jitterbug has added some services that were not available with their first Jitterbug version. Several of these are free with all Jitterbug rate plans. These include the new Jitterbug calendar that will give you reminders of your appointments, and the phonebook that lets you organize phone numbers. Call-waiting, like Voice dialing, is free, but you must call to have it turned on.
You also get your own online area called “MyJitterbug,” which is shown in Figure 10. This is where you can check usage, set up your calendar, and customize services. If you are purchasing the Jitterbug for an older person, you can log onto their MyJitterbug account and more or less manage everything for them.
Jitterbug also has premium services. Most of these cost USD 4 a month or are free with the higher priced plans. These include:
- MyWeather – Current weather information and a 4-day forecast for 2 cities of your choic
- MySports – Scores and schedules for up to 6 of your favorite teams
- MyStocks – Track up to 6 stock market ticker symbols
- MyTrivia – Daily trivia, Today in history, and Quote of the day
- MyHoroscope – Daily horoscopes for all 12 symbols
- MyLottery – Winning numbers for up to 6 different lottery games throughout the country
We found the MyWorld quite useful and of course, depending on your situation, the LiveNurse could be very valuable. The health tips and wellness call were mainly motivational in nature. While the LiveNurse is certainly worth an additional monthly fee, with so many phones having free apps, it seemed to us that MyWorld should be free for all plans.
The Jitterbug J gives you a choice of 7 ring tones and 5 background colors. There is also a 50-name address book. You can add numbers to the address book on your PC at your MyJitterbug site or you can have the operator add them for you. We would have like to see an easy way to add a number that you just called or someone who called you, but we didn’t find that.If you want to use your Jitterbug full-time, you can port your land-line or a cell phone number to the Jitterbug.
The main specifications for the Jitterbug J are:
The Jitterbug cell phone was designed for seniors, but it is a good phone for anyone who doesn’t need a camera or an MP3 player, and who doesn’t want to sign a two-year contract.
It is also a good cell phone for the millions of people who have a decline in vision, motor skills, or hearing. Since there is no contract and there are small rate packages available, it is also a good phone for those who only want a cell phone for emergencies.
The Jitterbug J is not glitzy, but it is comfortable, easy to use, and sturdy. There are no nested menus or confusing icons. It is nice to have extra features that can be turned off if you don’t need them. Its similarities to a regular old telephone will make it comfortable for older people, while its ease of use will appeal to everyone.