GreatCall has a range of products and services designed specifically for keeping people connected who might live alone and need a safety net for medical emergencies.
Its 5Star service is staffed by highly trained, IAED-certified agents who can confirm the location of the user, evaluate the situation, and get the help you needed to them quickly and efficiently.
The latest product to use 5Star is the Jitterbug Smart2, an affordable Android phone that has been software enhanced to make it easy for seniors to use.
Will seniors like the Jitterbug Smart2, or will they wish it worked more like the latest iPhone?
Price and availability
Jitterbug Smart2 is available for sale at www.greatcall.com and in retail locations across the nation.
For a list of all retail locations, visit: http://www.greatcall.com/StoreLocator
The hardware in this instance would be familiar to anyone who knows the Alcatel A30 Plus mobile phone, as the Jitterbug Smart2 is that phone.
There might be some minor internal differences like the Smart2 is locked to Verizon, but anyone who owns the Alcatel would recognise this device.
Or rather, they would until the Smart2 is turned on, as the work that GreatCall did with this device centers on changing the interface and how it can be used to access the services that they sell alongside the device.
Critically, the button to access 5Star is available on every screen. So irrespective of what the phone is doing, should something go wrong, help is right at hand.
That’s a good idea because if you’re experiencing an emergency of whatever type, the last thing you might want to do is navigate through an interface for precisely the right icon.
But the interface changes on the Jitterbug Smart2 go further, boiling down the functions of the phone into those actions that most owners truly need. These include making a call, texting, taking a picture, using the Internet, accessing email, maps and connecting to the Lively response wearable by GreatCall.
Though not available yet, plans are to link this device to its Lively wearable eventually. When that happens the phone can be on your person, and you can still activate 5Star and get through to an agent without even handling it.
Another interesting menu feature is ‘Brain Games’, a collection of cerebral games designed to help seniors stay sharp and focused that exercise cognitive functions.
If there is a downside to this product, it is that it assumes that the senior doesn’t already have a good quality mobile phone that they use every day already. And, as the years roll on, the number of seniors who aren’t technologically proficient will dramatically drop, we believe.
For this solution to be of value, the phone needs to be carried by the individual it serves, and they must remember to charge it regularly.
Both those requirements might exclude some people, especially if they’ve got cognitive issues, like Parkinson’s.
As good a job that GreatCall made with modifying the Alcatel to be senior-friendly, they can’t address these medical issues if they exist.
Before investing in a phone and a service, it would be prudent to assess if the person it is intended to support is likely to benefit from it.
We’ve already mentioned how the phone provides a direct means of accessing the 5Star service, but that is only part of the story.
On top of calling an agent for assistance, GrealCall also has an ‘Urgent Care’ option that can be added that enables the owner to speak with a nurse or a doctor at any hour of the day,
and even get a prescription for common medications.
Included with all but the Basic 5Star service option is GreatCall Link, a means to keep caregivers informed about the phone owner.
The link can be an app installed on the caregiver’s phone or a web portal that any computer can reach that with the correct credentials to be informed. It’s designed not to be intrusive, but alert those that need to know should assistance be required.
The cost of 5Star begins at $19.99 per month for the Basic package. Above that is the Preferred service that adds the Urgent Care and GreatCall Link for $24.99 a month, and if you want handset replacement and a personal operator the Ultimate health and safety package costs $24.99 per month.
On top of this service, you also require a Verizon call plan that GreatCall will organise. That service ranges from $7.49 upwards per month depending on call minutes, texts included and the data package.
The MediaTek MT6738 chip in this device might be a quad-core, but it isn’t a powerhouse.
Where the limited performance of this platform is most noticeable is in those areas that use the most resources, like taking pictures. But it can be sluggish doing other things, as the amount of memory available for apps isn’t huge, forcing it to work with flash memory if many apps are open.
The mobile network side of this device is acceptable, as it was built to use GSM (850/900/1800/1900), CDMA (0/1), UMTS (1/2/4/5) and a decent number of 4G LTE bands (2/4/5/7/12/13/17). As Verizon uses LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 13 and 66, it should work with one of those if LTE is available in your area.
We like the idea of the Jitterbug Smart2 because it distils the complexity of an Android smartphone into a simple package that even the most technology adverse owner should be able to use.
The phone is priced competitively, and the contracts for emergency support aren’t outrageously expensive either. When you consider the potential costs of not getting help quickly, paying for a service like 5Star could be a very sound investment.
The service and customisation of the interface are the strong points of the Jitterbug Smart2 offering, but it isn’t without a few weaknesses too.
At the top of that list is the specifications of the underlying phone, that if bought from an online retailer, would cost less than $100.
Another consideration is the Verizon cellular network and how that requirement relates to the purchaser.
While Verizon is considered one of the biggest networks with the most extensive service, that doesn’t guarantee any service at a specific geographic location.
Unless you’ve tested cell service at and around where the phone is likely to be deployed, and the signal is reliable then committing to this device, and its associated network wouldn’t be a prudent choice.
As the system is exclusive to Verizon, this isn’t something you can work around with another mobile provider, sadly.
For most phones, the sales pitch is directed at the user. But here the real market is those who have distant family members and want to make sure should something happen that they’ll be able to get help quickly. And, be kept in the loop if anything occurs.
With this device, they know help is close at hand, even if they’re much further away, and that peace of mind might easily be worth the modest cost of the phone and an associated plan.