Jitterbug Plus (Great Call) review: Jitterbug Plus (Great Call)

Performance
I tested the Jitterbug Plus in San Francisco using Great Call's network (which piggybacks off of Verizon's). Although this device doesn't have a lot of things going for it, call quality was solid. Signal quality was strong, save for an incident where I dipped through a tunnel and my call was dropped. Even on low volume, voices sounded clear and full, and the speaker audio quality yielded similar results. My friends told me I sounded fine as well. My voice was easy to understand and loud but not overwhelming.

Listen now: Samsung GreatCall r220 (Jutterbug Plus) call quality sample


Given the low specs of the camera, photo quality was understandably poor. A 1.3-megapixel camera can be seen these days as a smartphone's front-facing camera, and even then they have basic options like zoom and flash. This, however, does not. Pictures, both indoor and outdoor, were grainy, had poor focus, and colors were muted.

Though it's neat that Facebook upload is integrated with the device, you kind of have to wonder what the point of showing off these pictures is, if they're going to look so bad. Back when everyone was on the same page and we all had low-quality cameras, social networks weren't as integral to our lives. I don't disapprove of having a camera at all, since they're useful in an emergency situation like snapping photos of a car accident or capturing a license plate, but providing a service that hooks up users' pictures to accounts like Shutterfly and Picasa seem pointless. Chances are if someone is technologically savvy enough to even have and use those accounts, they're going to want a better camera phone.

In this outdoor shot, objects are grainy and out of focus. Lynn La/CNET

In this indoor shot colors are muted and not true to life. Lynn La/CNET

In our standard studio shot, a yellow hue is cast over the objects. Josh Miller/CNET

Even when keeping in mind that this handset wasn't meant to be the hottest thing on the market, I still had problems with it. One is that to check your battery life and signal quality, you had to choose Phone Info from the menu. There, it'll tell you your battery percentage and an adjective describing your signal, like "Strong." You can't check either of these off the home screen, and you can't check it during a call.

In addition, try as I might, I couldn't find any option to mute keypad tones, which was really annoying. At worst, it doesn't exist at all, which is a huge oversight. At best, the option is hidden somewhere and isn't intuitively accessible for the user.

Overall, though, the user experience is friendly, if not extremely inquisitive. As previously mentioned, you navigate through the phone with the yes and no buttons. So, for example, to open any app, the question "Select?" will pop up, and if you want to save a photo, you'll press yes to answer the question "Keep?" Though it doesn't seem like much, designing the UI this way opens a sort of faux-dialog with the device, making it seem more interactive and less machinelike.

During our battery drain tests, the handset lasted 7.62 hours. There's not much to do it on it, but after spending hours with it taking pictures and talking on the phone, my Plus showed 90 percent battery life. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.40W/kg.

Conclusion
Though I appreciate Great Call's consistent catering to an older market, the Jitterbug Plus misses the mark on some levels. True, its call quality is strong and it's easy to use, but so are a lot of feature phones out there. Other senior devices, like the PhoneEasy 740 by Doro, has an emergency call button, a better interface, and basic options like an alarm clock. And as far as priorities go, I'd rather have an alarm clock than the ability to upload pictures to Facebook. (Actually, throw in a graphic calendar, a calculator, and a flash while we're at it, too).

This handset alone retails for $119, with an introductory price of $99. An unlimited talk, data, and service plan costs $80 a month, plus a $35 one-time fee for set up. If you want to pick and choose certain services, each text will be 10 cents, LiveNurse is $4 a month, the medication calls cost $10 a month, and even voice mail costs $3 a month. All these will add up to one expensive package that may not be worth it.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jul. 2, 2012
  • Talk Time Up to 186 min
  • Technology CDMA2000 1X
  • Combined with With digital camera
  • Service Provider Jitterbug
  • Weight 2.86 oz
  • Diagonal Size 2.2 nm
  • Sensor Resolution 1.3 pixels
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