Samsung Jitterbug J Mobile Phone Review

Sometimes you need a phone that just does the basics. Just calling and possibly texting. You also want the phone to be easy and, if possible, you would like the service plan to be very understandable and affordable.  The Jitterbug J and Jitterbug’s service may be just what you are looking for.  I was sent a 30 day loan of a Jitterbug J in red with the American Heart Association Go Red for Women’s heart health logo’s emblazoned on the box.  Jitterbug has donated $500,000 dollars for Go Red for Women, which is definitely a worthy cause.

Jitterbug is a service that is marketing towards people like my parents; people who maybe getting their first phone and/or who may have deteriorating eyesight.  The Jitterbug J is the only handset that Jitterbug sells, and it is perfect for those whose eyes are failing.

The Jitterbug J is also made by Samsung and is similar to some Samsung handsets on other carriers, but it has some important differences. The first thing you may notice about the Jitterbug J is that the buttons are large.  You can easily see the numbers on the keypad.  The interface on the internal LCD is very simple and the text is large and easy to read.  There are no soft buttons on the bottom of the screen, and there is no d-pad like on most Verizon dumb phones.  Just an up and down key, a Yes and No key, and the number pad.  The Yes key is similar to the Send key on most cellphones.  The No button is like the End key.  To select an option, you just press yes.  Pressing no is equivalent to pressing the down button when in the main menu.  Otherwise, it is used for backing out of things like sending a text message.

One problem on cellphones is that it is extremely easy to accidentally delete something like a text message.  When you are viewing and reading text messages on the Jitterbug J, you must press the Yes button twice, once to select the delete option and again to confirm the deletion.  This seemed slow to me, but I am not the market for the Jitterbug.  This extra step makes it extremely hard to accidentally delete something, and it’s a good idea for those not used to cell phones.

Jitterbug also has a web site for working with the phone.  All phone numbers are backed up automatically to the website, and you can enter a phone number on the there for automatically syncing to the phone which is very handy.  The website also has some free and some paid services for things like daily health tips, Jitterbug MyCalendar and Jitterbug Live Nurse – which gives you 24/7 access to a live nurse for another $4.00 per month.

Jitterbug MyCalendar will let you manage a calendar on the website so you can add appointments and birthdays and the phone will alert you so you won’t miss your doctor appointment.  You can also call an 800 number to have an operator add things to your calendar for you.

Daily Health Tips sends a daily text message sharing information dealing with heart health or other great tips.  Very handy.

What about calls??  The quality of the calls is pretty good.  Jitterbug is a MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operator.  That means they buy time on other carriers towers.  Jitterbug currently uses Verizon towers.  Verizon has always had great coverage all over Central Ohio, so I never had a problem with signal strength.

Unlike the first Jitterbug phone, the Jitterbug J doesn’t make a dial tone when you flip it open.  It acts more like a regular cell phone than a landline, and I think that this feature from the original phone is one that won’t be missed.

Then, there’s the plans.  They lead off with 2 ultra cheap plans.  For $14.99, you get just 50 minutes a month.  The last ultra-cheap plan is $19.99 a month for 100 minutes.  These two plans are for those who just need an emergency phone.  The lowest priced regular plan is the $29.99 a month plan that gives you 200 anytime minutes, 500 nights and weekend minutes.  The most expensive plan is $79.99, giving you 1,000 anytime minutes, 500 nights and weekend minutes, plus the additional charges for Live Nurse and other optional add ins.  You also can add up to 1000 more minutes to your plan any time.  That extra 1000 minutes will cost an additional $119 dollars which, in my opinion, is way too much.  I would like to see an unlimited plan on Jitterbug, since they aim to be as simple as possible.  I think they need a $89.99 plan with unlimited minutes.  Paying as much as $200 for 2000 minutes is way over priced.

If the plan wasn’t enough to cause pause, they want $147 for this handset.  Think about that for a moment.  This phone can basically only make phone calls and send text messages.  You can get a free handset on most carriers that do exactly that, plus get a plan for under 100 with unlimited minutes.  The only thing you won’t get on Verizon or anyone else is services like the built-in phone book syncing and the 4 dollar a month option to have access to a nurse 24/7.   So is it worth paying $147 and up to $200 a month for only 2000 minutes?  The answer is it depends.  Jitterbug is very helpful with their website features and they are all trained to handle you with kid gloves if you actually need to talk to a person.  You’ll likely have just the help you need if there is a problem with your phone, so it may just be worth that extra cost.  Personally, I would recommend checking out the lower priced handsets on Verizon.  My sight impaired friend got a free phone on Verizon that is VERY similar to the Jitterbug J, and which also happens to have been made by Samsung.

The Jitterbug J is available direct from the Jitterbug website and can also be ordered by calling the 800 number on their many commercials.

Update: Jitterbug has informed me that it is not specifically designed with those with impaired vision in mind, but I think it’s perfect for those who do have impaired vision.  Also, the Jitterbug J DOES have a dial tone like the old design.  I just didn’t notice it during the review period.

What I liked: Nice keypad.  Easy to see if you have impaired vision.  It was the easiest cellphone I have used since the addition of color LCD’s to regular cell phones.  If you want a solidly built, easy to use phone that is JUST a phone, this is the one for you.

What I didn’t care for: The plans.  With most of the carriers offering a $79 a month unlimited plan, it’s really hard for me to recommend going for the $200 2000 minute plan to get the most minutes.  However, if you don’t need that many minutes, you can be pretty happy on Jitterbug.  In fact, I dare to say most of the demographic that Jitterbug targets can probably find a plan that works for them.  Lastly, the charger is a proprietary Samsung charger instead of a micro or mini USB that I would have preferred, but people who get these phones may not care.

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