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Jitterbug J Cell Phone Review: Ease of Use for the Elderly, Baby Boomers and for the Visually Impaired

With extra large buttons, brightly lit display screen, and a very user friendly design and customer service features,  the Jitterbug J Cell Phone is really only good for one thing: making phone calls and not much more.  Limited in features according to today’s tech generation standards, it succeeds in having as a target those who have a visual impairment need; for baby boomers not really tech minded and for the elderly who want life a little more simplified. Ease of use is it's main purpose.  Herein lies the genius of the Jitterbug J Cell Phone. It is the raison d'être of the company’s plan in providing extreme ease of use for it’s target market:
· Ease of use for elderly persons especially in the design of phone for manipulation by the hands                                                   
· Availability for those who want a very inexpensive monthly cell phone bill ($14.99)                     
· Facilitates the phone use for those who are visually or hearing impaired to some degree
· Provides an avenue for those who want to avoid contracts and contact as much as possible with customer service departments
· It has been designed not only for the senior market but for the baby boomers who will be in all likelihood, purchasing these phones for their own   parents and they themselves, sooner or later. This is a very good move on the part of the company.

Jitterbug: What makes it different?
  • In the area of resolving questions about the operation of the phone and helping locate phone numbers for customers, Jitterbug Customer Service seems to have it's act together. They seem to go out of their way to please customers and resolve basic issues.
  • The company's main goal it is obvious is to please their market in design, funtionality, ease of use and are trying to improve affordability. 
  • They also seem to monitor the complaints of customers heavily as can be seen in the section concerning the actual complains.
  • In the area of design, since the Jitterbug is a voice-only phone, voice quality is paramount. Reception, most agree, is quite good.  The ear piece can get loud but not thunderous; voice have a pretty rich sound.  The speaker phone's one volume setting is quite loud giving a customer a startle. The tonal quality is practically land line class. (3)

In reality, the postive qualities of the Jitterbug J Cell Phone and it's company phone plan far exceed whatever negatives may be found. Yet, all depends upon the individual needs of persons which, this writer believes, can never be fully met in any marketable product.

Jitterbug vs. primary competitors (sites similar to Jitterbug)

The Jitterbug has out distanced the competition to become one of the most well-known phones for seniors around. Why? The answer lies in the simplicity of the phone’s design, especially calibrated towards ease-of-access for the elderly. These people know their market.

There are literally dozens of phone manufacturers who claim to have phones geared toward the senior market.  This writer questions that argument.  From the various models reviewed, it is settled forever, to this reviewer at least, that these designers don't have a clue as to the needs of the elderly.

Most seniors only use a phone for one thing only: talking. So, one can skip those phones that are application based or built solely for texting.  However, phones designed for seniors or a person having some physical handicap as in the case of the hearing impaired need something more than just "big buttons" and a "big" screen.  

Some Characteristics Needed Are:
A larger keyboard for easier handling and dialing
A better quality (and louder) speaker
Hearing aid compatibility                                    The 3
Easy to read functions
A great variety of user plans and all very inexpensive. Very.  

These are days when all persons, not just the elderly, are thinking of basic everyday necessities such as spiraling health care costs; foreclosures on their life long homes and many other areas which dip into the nest eggs of all people.  Had not Jitterbug scared the life out of everyone with their exorbitant price at the launch, this writer and many other acquaintances would have bought into the purchase immediately.

What most seniors and non tech savvy want is a phone that works.  Not as a camera, a music player or even as mobile access to the web, but as something that simply allows them to make and receive phone calls.  That’s right - they need a phone that is really good at just being a phone.

Jitterbug, in this respect, has no competition except in the affordability of  it’s rate plans. Better deals can be obtained by other carriers such as Verizon and T-mobile, Jitterbug still needs to learn this fact, it seems. Prices on phones have come down considerably, the current price for the Jitterbug J is listed on the website as $99.00 down from the original $147.00.  Although they can be purchased for as low as $79.00 throughout various web sites.

Jitterbug J Cell Phone - Graphite

Below are just two of the competitor phones reviewed among many. These two seem to really be serious in their approach to the needs of seniors and non-tech savvy persons.  They also do not variate much from each other except in price and plans.

Outstanding Competitor Phones (4)
Once the Jitterbug made it’s launch several years ago, there was not much in the way of competing phones for the senior market.  Actually what qualifies a phone as "senior" oriented is that it is easy to use and has a bright display and simple handling. Today there are several of which the J509 is one of them. (4)

Just5.Com Just5 offers mobile phones that are designed for audiences that require five basic features: ease of operation; big buttons; amplified sound; a long-lasting battery for reliability and an emergency SOS button. Primary target audiences include seniors, people with poor eyesight or hearing problems, people with medical conditions that require constant care.  Comes in five colors and costs $89.99  (Price is not a good thing)

Just5 Cell Phone

The Plus:
It comes with several features such as it being unlocked.  "Unlocked" means that it can be carried with any GSM carrier one likes, such as in the U.S. it being AT&T or T-mobile.  It has text messaging, a speakerphone, a calculator, a flashlight and FM radio plus an alarm clock.  It is a perfect equipment for those wanting simplicity at the beginning.
On the Down Side: It’s phone book holds only 100 contacts, with the rest relegated to the SIM card and one can only have one number per contact. However, this is not a big deal to most seniors.

Doro Phoneeasy 410

Doro, a Swedish company that specializes in senior-friendly consumer electronics brought out the Doro PhoneEasy 410 and it's counterpart the Doro PhoneEasy345.  The Doro PhoneEasy 410 has almost the same features as it’s counter part the PhoneEasy 345, the exemption being that it doesn't have a flashlight.  Ease of use is it’s name with very large keys and a bright display with large fonts, a handy one-click emergency call button, and the standard bare basics of phone features. Although it’s promoted as a phone for seniors, you do get slightly more advanced features like text messaging, Bluetooth, and an FM radio. It is more affordable than the Jitterbug coming in at $50 without any contract. Rates range from $10 a month for no minutes to $60 a month for 2,000 minutes (additional minutes are 25 cents each). You won't get Jitterbug's wide array of operator services but if  you're a slightly savvy user, you won't mind going without them for the price. It also does not require any contract.

The Doro PhoneEasy 410 has a very simple rectangular flip clamshell design. Measuring 3.85 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.75 inch wide, the PhoneEasy 410 has a minimalist appeal with curved corners all around. It’s weight is a simple 3.9 ounces. The Doro PhoneEast 410 is coated in a soft touch covering, while  "white" has a glossy reflective surface. The phones come with a distinctive green line on the front giving it a chic look of sorts in phone design.

Pros: Large, bright display.
Easy to use and simple., has a vibrator ring
Well made.

Cons: Issues with phone charger jack not.
Poor reception vs Verizon and Sprint
Does NOT have caller I.D. and must be opened to use or get info.

Jitterbug: Product images & screenshots
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Jitterbug: Detailed review

An Overview:
A cell phone of which there are several competitors in the market trying to do the same for less, the Jitterbug J Cell Phone still remains leader in a field which has long been too neglected. This field could still use much improvement: facilitating the use of products for the elderly population; providing a way out for baby boomers who are not too tech savvy and for those who have some kind of physical limitation such as being visually or hearing impaired.

It was in 2006 that two long-time veterans of the wireless industry, Arlene Harris and Martin Cooper (considered to be the father of mobile phones more than 33 years ago), formed GreatCall Wireless, an American mobile virtual network operator based in Del Mar, California.

Having first founded SOS Wireless, a company that provided senior citizens with a basic, oversized, three-button mobile telephone designed for emergency use in the 1990’s, the Jitterbug officially launched. Having approached Samsung with the idea of the targeted market in 2004, Jitterbug finally came together in 2006 as a joint effort when it was released to the public. (1)  Since then, this is a product which this reviewer has been following closely to observe it's evolution in the cell phone market.

Jitterbug J Cell Phone - Graphite

The Current Jitterbug J Plan
Unfortunately, most reviews published on the Internet are for the old, un-revised Jitterbug plans offered by GreatCall. Not only are the same features not being offered but, some of the original phones have been discontinued as well. It is with the present and most current plan with which this review will be concerned. Following is a breakdown of the four plans presently being offered by Jitterbug. (2)

  1. The Basic 14 Plan

             This is perhaps the perfect plan for anyone who   likes to stay in touch with loved ones but has limited need for the use of the phone.
             Plan Description
             50 Anytime Minutes Plus Nationwide Calling
             Includes:  PhoneBook, Daily Health Tips, Text Messaging    and Calendar Applications are free and included on all phone plans.
             There are no contracts or cancellation fees
             50 Nationwide Anytime Minutes are included with
             Anywhere, Anytime Calling       
             There are no roaming charges
             (Monthly anytime minutes carry over and are available for 60 days)   Monthly Cost:  $14.99

      2.   The Basic 19 Plan

            This plan is essentially the same as that of above except with 100 Anytime Minutes Nationwide.  Monthly Cost: $19.99

      3.  The Premium Plan
           This Plan is essentially the same as above except with 400 Anytime Minutes Nationwide Plus some features have been added which are:
           Unlimited minutes on weeknights and weekends (7pm - 6am)
           (Additional minutes to use during the nights and weekends)
           Optional Features:
           Calendar, PhoneBook, Text messaging. 

Jitterbug has added a number of special services that offer useful information and real support across a range of customizable premium (and priced) services, that includes:

LiveNurse: 24-hour access to registered nurses available to answer questions and provide health care advice

Daily Health Tips: Text messages designed to offer helpful healthy living tips and advice

Wellness Call:  A weekly personalized 5-minute call featuring health information and motivation direct from a world renown expert

Check in Call: Daily calls design to provide peace of mind and immediate assistance if necessary

Medication Reminders: Stay on schedule with your medication, and receive refill reminders

These alone are worth their price in gold to those who have urgent need of these services    Monthly Cost:  $39.99

      4.  The Simply Unlimited Plan
           Similar to that of Premium Plan Plus but some features have been added which are:
           Unlimited Anytime Minutes
           Unlimited Nights & Weekends
           Unlimited Texting
           Operator Assistance
           Unlimited Text Messaging            Monthly Cost:    $79.99Jitterbug J Cell Phone - Red

Anywhere, Anytime Minutes


Anytime Cost per Minute
100 Minutes



250 Minutes



500 Minutes



1000 Minutes



Side Bar: An improvised option would be to choose the less expensive plan and buy additional minutes as needed only. If this route is taken, it's best to purchase 1000 additional minutes at a time which is good for a whole year for $120.  This will give one a cheaper, per-minute cost compared to the smaller additional minute packages. Either way, there's not contract, so one can alway cancel or switch plans.  However, be warned if one cancels, then re-activates, the $35.00 activation fee will re-apply. (3)

The Jitterbug J Has Several Outstanding Features In Improvements Over Previous Jitterbug Model Phones Such As:

  • A bright color screen with menus, messages and "Yes"/"No" questions displayed in largeer lettering makes it easy to read. Larger, back lit buttons make it easy to dial numbers in all lighting conditions.
  • It is capable with Voice Dial, a kind of "voice recongnition" which allows Phone Book access by simply speaking the name aloud. It comes with "turn on and off" capability.
  • A person only sees the features which are needed. The lower part of the display screen, called "Command Area", displays simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions further enhancing the ease of use.  One example: if in using the Phone Book and the name of a friend or family member is highlighted, the Command Area display with ask the question, "CALL?" One need simply press the "Yes" key to place the call.
  • Attending to the needs of a hearing impaired person is one of this phone's design strongest points.  It is equipped with cutting edge hearing aid compatibility technology called "T-coil" to ensure sound quality. One highlight of this feature and previous Jitterbug phones is a very comfortable padded ear piece for reducing background noise.

GreatCall offers phone number portability to all of customers who transfer to GreatCall from another wireless provider. This allows the option to retain and transfer the existing cell phone number to the new Jitterbug phone, providing that number is still available at the time they make the request.

Customer Service:
A person can reach a live Customer Service team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling an 800 number. Customers can also reach Customer Service via email or regular mail.  There is no charge for assistance with the phone use, billing questions, and technical support.

The customer service reps can also retrieve phone numbers from an online personal phone book; help check voice mail; and assist in making calls.  However, it was unclear as to if a charge is added for these last mentioned features of service. GreatCall says the service can even detect when the phone battery is failing.

Each agent employed is located in the United States. Operators greet customers by name when they call and are trained to connect calls, provide directory assistance and make changes and updates to customer phone number contact lists.

The live Jitterbug operator and the simplified design of the phone are likely to appeal not just to the elderly and the disabled for ease of use, but also to technophobic baby boomers.  At the time that the first Jitterbug Phones were introduced, this writer seriously considered purchasing one for my mother. However, due to the overpriced phone handset, (then nearly $150.00), it was decided to wait until further developments in the service and plan.  Over the approximate four to five years since then, there seems to have been steady improvement in price, service, and in the phone design style iteself.

The Specifications:
Colors:            Graphite, Red, or White
Weight:            4.06 ounces
Size (HxWxD):        3.87" x 2.16" x 0.97"
Display Type:
LCD - color (interior) and LCD - monochrome (exterior)
Display Size    2.1"
Battery Time   Up to 3 hours talk/300 hours standby

A Complete Line of Accessories Is Available:
Headset and Adapter
Red Beaded Lanyard
Blueooth® Headset
Car Charger
Battery Charger

In Summary:
This is still one evolving cell phone company and both plans and phones have changed quite a bit since the original One Touch and Dial phones and plans.  One is left with the impression that it will still evolve more but it the general consensus is that it is improving - here a little, here a little.
This reviewer was impressed with the appearance, at least, that the company is cognizant of it’s short comings, (primarily in the customer service department) and has implemented measures to see that the right improvements are undertaken.

Side Bar:

On April 13, 2010, GreatCall announced that they would be the sole cellular telephone provider for the American Automobile Association. Customers who signed up for GreatCall service would receive a $20.00 off of the Jitterbug handset, making it $79.00. They also receive a free accessory pack, a 5% discount on the monthly rate plans, and a 35% discount on all accessories. All customers can take advantage of the discounts simply by calling the customer service line, and providing their member number and club code.

All in all, this company and it’s main signature product item, the Jitterbug J Cell Phone knows where it’s market is at and how to reach it.  It continues to be geared towards ease of use: for the elderly, the visually impaired, and towards the baby boomers who are for the most part responsible to now take care of their senior parents, and themselves in the future.  


(2) GreatCall Website.

(3) Christian Personal Finances.http//

(4) Nicole Lee. Cnet Reviews.;

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Comments (4)

The Just5 cell phone is a very ideal for people who are looking for an easy phone, too. I personally recommend this one because it is not only of good quality but it is also very affordable. My Dad appreciates it a lot because of its high reliability in times of emergency, ease of use, very practical calling plans. Would you believe that he is only spending $3.33 a month when he gets the lowest prepaid plan? Yes, his $10 can last for as long as three months as the minutes expire in 90 days. It’s a great that should be checked out, too!

Ranked #112 in

Thank you so much for commenting Richard. It's good to hear from someone who actually is familiar with the phone and is satisfied with its usage.

John Smith

I have had nothing but excellent service from jitterbug. Their phone is easy to use and the network has proved equivalent to my wife's AT&T cell phone, and in some cases is superior. They're rates while not the best are competitive. It is true there phone is a little expensive, but it seems to me to be a very easy to use and durable simple cell phone. Just what I was looking for. If you want great customer service from people who are based in this country and who speak English well and have a helpful attitude, if you want a cell phone that is easy to use and does a good job with a network that seems to me to be superior, then don't hesitate to sign up with jitterbug

Ranked #112 in

Thank you John for your comments...Jitterbug is still holding the lead but others in the market even more recent than this post are coming up soon...

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