Cell phones don't get any easier to use than GreatCall's Jitterbug J. And that's the point: this cell phone is designed for folks who wouldn't typically use a mobile phone. It doesn't offer a lot in the way of extras -- you won't find a camera or a Web browser on this phone -- but what it does, the Jitterbug J does well.
Price and Availability
The Jitterbug J is available for $99 from GreatCall, a contract-free cellular service provider. Monthly service plans range from $14.99 per month (for 50 voice minutes) up to $79.99 (for unlimited voice minutes).
The Jitterbug J is made by Samsung, and it's a quality-built phone. It's a flip style phone that feels compact yet sturdy in your hand. Available in red, white, or grey, the Jitterbug J measures 3.9 by 2.1 by 1.0 inches when closed. The exterior of the phone features a small monochrome display that shows you the date and time, or the number of incoming calls.
The phone flips open easily with one hand, thanks in part to the rubberized edging around the handset. Once it's open, you see the interior screen, which measures 2.1-inches diagonally, and the Jitterbug's marquee feature: its easy-to-use controls.
The number keys are big -- very big -- so as to easily viewed even by older folks and those with poor eyesight. The keys are backlit, too, making it easily to dial in dim light. Even though the keys are oversized, the Jitterbug J doesn't look cartoonish: it strikes a nice balance between appearance and usability.
Instead of typical phone controls, like send and end keys, the Jitterbug J has yes and no buttons. These make navigating the phone's features a snap. If you have a new message, for example, you're asked if you'd like to read it, and you can enter your response with one of the keys.
Voice quality varied in my test calls, with some calls sounding a bit hollow. I also noticed occasional static. Many of my calls were of very good quality, however, with voices coming through loud and clear on both ends of the line. I experienced no dropped calls during my tests.
The Jitterbug J's messaging features are simple, but straightforward, just like the phone itself. The phone can send and receive text messages, but not picture or video messages; you'll have to view those online. Composing text messages can be a chore on the Jitterbug J's numeric keypad, but the phone does include some automatic replies that you can use, such as "Call me" or "Thank you."
The Jitterbug J doesn't run any of the typical apps or extras you'll find on many of today's cell phones. There are no games, no Web browser, no email. What you will find instead is a unique collection of services that are designed for the folks most likely to use the Jitterbug J.
Available options include The Check-in Call, which allows an operator to call you at pre-set times to check up on your well-being; LiveNurse, which gives you 24/7 access to registered nurses; The Wellness Call, which delivers a 4-5 minute motivational weekly call designed to improve your health and reduce stress; Daily Health Tips, which delivers suggestions for a healthy lifestyle; and Medication Reminder, which deliver automated reminder calls. GreatCall also offers services that let you check weather and news, and a calendar service.
Prices for these extras services range from $4 to $5 a month, though some are included in GreatCall's monthly plans.
The Jitterbug J isn't for everyone. It's not the latest or greatest smartphone. It's not the best phone for anyone who uses text messaging more than casually. It lacks a camera and a Web browser. But for older folks and anyone who's looking for a basic cell phone that's drop-dead simple to use, the Jitterbug J will be a hard to top.