Arlene Harris and Martin Cooper, wireless veterans and founders of GreatCall Inc., the parent company that offers wireless service, partnered with Samsung to make the first Jitterbug cell phone in 2004. Since then, many models have been introduced.
The objective behind the development of Jitterbug cell phones was to provide a cell phone that is easier to use than a standard cell phone, with the aim of targeting people affected by some degree of visual impairment, or others who are not interested in using cell phones with complex features. Let's first learn about their cell phones.
Jitterbug Dial and Jitterbug One Touch
Keeping their target market in mind, GreatCall introduced the Jitterbug Dial and Jitterbug One Touch in 2006. Jitterbug Dial has a basic keypad with large buttons that makes dialing a very easy task. It has a bright 65,000-color display with large fonts. This white-colored flip phone is 4 inches in height, 2 inches in width, and an inch in depth. It weighs around 4.4 ounces, and is quite bulky, when compared to cell phones available in the market. Time, date, and caller ID are displayed on the 0.8-inch monochrome external screen. Below this screen lies the volume button that can be used to adjust the ringer or the voice volume during a call. It comes with the following features:
Easy-to-use buttons (Yes, No, and On/Off)
Noise reduction through soft ear cushion
Easy-to-read screen text
Scrolling button (Up/Back or Down/More Button)
Preset phone list
Call history to review the last 10 calls
The phone can store up to 50 numbers and contact information. A Jitterbug operator is available 24 hours. There's also the option of Emergency Callback. Other features include a speaker phone, Voice mail, voice dialing, alert regarding the need to charge the battery, and creation of lists. The call list can be updated by an operator or you could create and use an online Jitterbug account to add new contacts to the phone book. The only difference between Jitterbug Dial and Jitterbug One Touch is that instead of an alphanumeric keypad, Jitterbug One Touch has three large buttons that can be used for dialing Operator, Home, or 911. The Operator button, as the name suggests, connects the user to a GreatCall operator. Besides making calls, you can also dial operator for adding numbers to your Contacts list. When you dial the Home button, it will connect you to your programmed home number. Combined with the GreatCall service, each of these phones will cost you USD 147.
Jitterbug J and Jitterbug Plus
Jitterbug phones basically cater to seniors or people who have poor vision. The large-sized, easy-to-dial buttons, large display, easy-to-read phone book, speaker phone, adjustable ringer, adjustable call volume, and voice-activated dialing are great features that make the use of cell phone a much simpler task for seniors. It is a simple phone, with 'YES' and 'NO' buttons and a 10 digit keypad.
Jitterbug J, another model that was introduced in 2009, has Bluetooth capability and a much louder speaker phone. There are additional features that can be enabled at a cost. One can activate the voice dialing service, by contacting the customer service. It also supports text messaging service. There is also the option of enabling the caller ID facility. When it comes to the looks, Jitterbug J is quite similar to Jitterbug Dial. It's available in dark gray, white, and red. It weighs 4.06 ounces, and its height, width, and depth are 4 inches, 2 inches, and 1 inch respectively. The one-inch monochrome display shows the time, date, and caller ID. You will hear a dial tone when you open the phone. It has a backlit keypad.
Another model called Jitterbug Plus was launched in 2012. It is available in red and silver. It comes with a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera. It also allows the user to upload photos to social networks easily. Apps and other services that are available include safety services (5Star Urgent Response, Check-in-Call, Handset Replacement), health services (Urgent Care, Wellness Call, Daily Health Tips, Medication Reminder), communication services (Text Messaging, VoiceMail, International Calling), and lifestyle services (MyWorld, MyCalender, Brain Games). Jitterbug Plus was earlier priced at USD 119 without a contract, but the cost has been slashed to USD 99.
Jitterbug Touch and Jitterbug Touch 2
In the year 2012, Jitterbug entered into the smartphone arena with Jitterbug Touch, taking into account the growing need for a simple, entry-level smartphone for seniors. This phone has a touch screen, and slide-out QUERTY keyboard. It measures 4.1 in height, 2.4 inches in width, and 0.07 inch in depth. It weighs 5.6 ounces. Again, features like high visibility of the screen, easy navigation, loud volume, dial tone, and the option of simple data plans, are available keeping in mind the needs of users. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera with auto-focus and video camcorder capabilities.
GreatCall launched Jitterbug Touch 2 in 2013. The Touch 2 is 4.9 inches in height, 2.5 inches in width, and 0.45 inch in depth. It has an advanced Android operating system, with the home screen allowing easy access to the apps and contacts. Here are some of its features:
The standard Android icon screen has been replaced with a single list format.
The display screen is bright and 4 inches wide.
The users can easily view the apps due to the large-font text boxes.
The text and data usage can easily be seen through the usage meter.
It has a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and camcorder capabilities.
The new Jitterbug has many features that come in smartphones. It can download and run Android apps. It is priced at USD 140, and the service plans don't require a contract. The data plans are affordable, with USD 2.49, USD 5, USD 10, USD 15, and USD 25 per month for 10 MB, 50 MB, 100 MB, 200 MB, and 250 MB respectively. The monthly minute plans range from USD 14.99 to USD 79.99. With the USD 14.99 plan, you get 50 minutes, whereas USD 79.99 offers unlimited minutes. All monthly plans come with Anytime Minutes that can be carried over and don't expire till 60 days. Add on Minutes can also be purchased, and used anytime and anywhere within one year.
As far as the Jitterbug coverage is concerned, the parent company, GreatCall is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. This implies that GreatCall purchases time on other carrier's towers. At present, it uses Verizon towers. So, if you are planning to purchase this phone, do check local coverage maps. It would be a good idea to inquire about the reception and performance by Jitterbug users in your area, or by going through Jitterbug phone reviews.
Though the original models might seem to be good for people who don't like complicated gadgets and just want to use the phone for calling their friends and family, the reviews have still been somewhat mixed. Though the handset is sturdy, it is pretty bulky. Some people have complained that the price is too high for a phone that is so basic. Cheap cell phone plans would certainly be an added advantage when buyers are seniors, who may not have a disposable income. Some of the additional features are fee-based, and charges for some of the health services are quite high. There have been complaints about the service plans and billing. Many users seem to be highly annoyed with their unsatisfactory customer service.
The reviews are somewhat mixed for the smartphone as well. There are times when the screen becomes unresponsive for a short period, or goes blank while switching apps. Besides the slow 3G network that it works on, there are some issues regarding the storage capacity. Those who are interested can increase the storage with a memory card.
Now that you have some idea about the features of Jitterbug phones, you may be able to decide whether this phone will work for you or not. Do keep in mind that this phone has received mixed reviews, and many have criticized their customer service. Check out its features and see if Jitterbug can really fulfill your requirements before you get one for yourself. This is to ensure that you take a well-informed decision.