Page Reviewed / Updated – December 16, 2020

Medical alert devices are technology intended to help the elderly, handicapped, and those with chronic illnesses enjoy greater freedom and independence in their own homes. The programs typically include wearable pendants or watch styles that connect the user with emergency services and 24-hour monitoring should they fall, become ill or need help in a medical emergency. Most of these devices work with a single push of a button, without the need to find a phone and dial 9-1-1.

The Jitterbug Phone is an exception to the wearable device; it’s actually a smartphone that couples some of the features of more advanced wearable medical devices with a scaled-down version of a regular Android phone.

Great Call has been helping create technology for seniors since 2005, and the company specializes in taking the latest advances in cell phone technology and making them easier to use for seniors. From the original Jitterbug phone, a flip phone with large buttons and few frills to the Jitterbug Smart2, the limited-feature Android phone, Jitterbug phones have been helping seniors enjoy keeping up with friends and family, use popular apps and have ready access to a personal operator though 5Star urgent response.

This guide covers the Jitterbug phone, plans and pricing and options, as well as a list of pros and cons of Jitterbug devices and services.

Jitterbug Phones For Seniors: What You Should Know

Unlike many other popular smartphones, Jitterbugs can’t be purchased through a regular cell phone provider. They’re sold through the Great Call website and in stores like Best Buy. The phones are purchased outright, instead of a payment plan that’s common for other kinds of smartphones. The plans are fairly straightforward, but there isn’t a family or shared plan like other cell phone companies have. Other than that, each phone comes with both a wall and car charger at no extra cost.

If a couple or pair of companions wishes to both have Jitterbug service, they’ll each need their own plan, which are available month-to-month.

Unlike other cell phone companies, however, Great Call has a special Health and Safety package that turns the flip phone or smartphone into a medical alert device. One of the features of this is an application called “Brain Games,” puzzle-based activities that are intended to help with memory and other refined thinking skills that tend to decline with age. These games test decision making and short term memory, helping seniors keep their wits sharp.

Three other features give the Jitterbug more functionality as a medical alert device. The “Urgent Care” application allows users to face time or phone a live doctor or nurse one-on-one about medical concerns and to have certain prescriptions filled or refilled. The second feature is the GreatCall Link, a companion app for the subscriber’s caregivers or family members that alerts those who install it when the 5Star safety feature (the emergency response button) has been activated or if the phone’s battery is running low. A final feature is a Personal Operator, a service that helps older adults look up phone numbers or directions, find a grocery store or pharmacy close by, or assist with other everyday tasks.

While the special features of the Jitterbug can complement a wearable medical alert device, the phone itself isn’t a true substitute for one. Each feature of the phone, from 5Star emergencies to the Urgent Care and Personal Operator must be activated on the phone by the user, a process that takes several steps. By contrast, medical alert devices have a single button that immediately contacts a trained emergency operator to dispatch help for the user.

We’ve compared the Jitterbug and Jitterbug Smart2 Plans. While both have comparable pricing, only the Jitterbug Smart2 can use data.

Overview of GreatCall’s Health and Safety Packages and Costs

Basic Preferred Ultimate
5Star Urgent Response Yes Yes Yes
Brain Games Yes Yes Yes
Urgent Care No Yes Yes
GreatCall Link No Yes Yes
Personal Operator No No Yes
Monthly Cost $19.99 $24.99 $34.99

GreatCall Minutes, Messages and Data Plans

Monthly Minutes Price Monthly Texts Price Monthly Data Price
250 $14.99 500 $3 100 MB $2.49
1000 $19.99 1000 $5 250 MB $5.00
25000 $29.99 2500 $10 1 GB $10.00
Unlimited Talk and Text $39.99 Unlimited Texts $15 2.5 GB $15.00
Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data $59.99 Unlimited N/A Unlimited N/A

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Jitterbug Service

Great Call only offers the Jitterbug flip phone and the Jitterbug Smart2. The flip phone would work better for someone who mainly wishes to talk, but in the age of texting and communicating through social media, not to mention the fact that the Jitterbug flip phone doesn’t support data usage, the Jitterbug Smart2 seems like a better choice for most users. That being said, these devices aren’t covered by most insurance, and for people that need the instant response of a touch-button emergency pendant, paying for both a limited Jitterbug phone and a wearable medical device may be too much for seniors on a fixed income.

Jitterbug Pros

  • Larger screen and buttons make it easier for the elderly to see and use
  • Limited smartphone features make it easier for those unfamiliar with current technology to use
  • A companion app allows caregivers or loved ones to keep track of the user
  • Basic pricing is much lower than many other cell phone plans
  • Several enhanced options, such as the Brain Games, Urgent Care, and 5Star Tracking help seniors mind their health

Jitterbug Cons

  • Limited choices for phone selection
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data plans can be pricey
  • No one-touch emergency button for emergencies
  • Devices aren’t waterproof

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Jitterbug FAQs

Can I keep my number if I change from my regular phone plan to Jitterbug?

In many cases, yes, although you’ll have to check with Great Call and your current carrier to ensure that the number can be switched over. If it’s approved, make sure that your Jitterbug account is up and running before switching over, otherwise, you may lose access to the number.

What happens if I use up all my minutes?

Unlike some pay-as-you-go plans, Jitterbug doesn’t allow users to purchase more time. If you go over, you’ll be charged 35 cents per minute of phone calls, 10 cents per megabyte of data used and 10 cents for each text message.

Do my minutes roll over?

Yes! Unused time rolls over to the next month

What kind of return policy does the Jitterbug offer?

Great Call offers a limited 30-day return policy. Users may not be eligible if they’ve used more than 30 minutes of talk time to receive a full refund. Additionally, the refund only covers the cost of the phone, not the cost of the service plan.

Are Jitterbug phones good for the visually impaired?

Yes! Both types of phones have larger, brighter screens than most other cell phones and on the flip phone, larger buttons for ease of use.

What is the difference between 5Star and traditional medical alert devices?

Great Call’s 5Star system is designed to help seniors retain more independence and connected to loved ones, plus have access to health resources without leaving their home. When the 5Star function is activated, a trained agent will help assess the situation and get the user the appropriate response, whether it’s calling a friend or calling an ambulance. However, 5Star isn’t intended to replace an emergency response pendant or watch, and may not be appropriate for all users.