Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Simple to use ... sort of

The Jitterbug is a basic flip phone, but is designed to be dead simple to use. When you open the phone, the display shows the contact list and offers to "Call?" the first one on the list. The buttons are large, round, and clear, including a "Yes" and "No" button. No obscure symbols or icons. If desired, the contact list can be scrolled with the simple two-way up-down arrows that are the only other control buttons.

Pressing the numeric keys displays huge digits to indicate the number to be called. Press "Yes" to connect. When done with the call, just fold up phone to hang up.

What could be simpler? Well, when you press "No" at the initial screen, the display switches to a "Phone Info" page, with minutes used, phone number, etc. This can be confusing to a first time user. Fortunately, pushing "No" again or closing and re-opening the phone gets you back to the contact list.

Other confusing options are the Voice Mail screen, Voice Dialing, and Call History, any or all of which can be turned on or off. For simplest use, make sure all are off.

Of course, the neatest thing is the dial tone you hear when putting the phone up to your ear!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Unboxing Jitterbug

The jitterbug arrived via FedEx in a medium mailer box. Inside were two boxes: one for the phone and one for the card charger accessory (usually available separately; received as part of a package deal), and some bubble wrap. Inside the phone box was a plastic tray with literature, the phone, the battery, and the AC charger, each wrapped in plastic. The car charger was wrapped in a cardboard spacer inside it's box, and included a simple instruction card.

The phone is oval and rounded, and fits nicely in the hand. The battery is also oval shaped, as is the AC charger. The car charger has a nice pistol-grip style handle. It was easy to insert the batter an snap it in place on the back of the phone. When plugged in to the AC charger, the window on the front lights up and shows "Charging".

The phone literature included a Welcome card with toll-free 24-hour support number, and "five things to know...": 1. charge it for 2 hours and see "Quick Start Guide", 2. press '0' for Operator to get help, 3. ways to add to phone list, 4. about statements, and 5. learn more from the "How-To Guide". In addition to the two Guides, there was also a card with "Important Return Information" on one side and a note about "the DO NOT CALL Registry" on the other side.

Pretty much everything needed for most operations was in the six-panel (fold-out) Quick Start Guide. The How-To Guide booklet is 125 pages long, but only the first 65 pages are instructions, the rest are agreements, safety, and legal stuff. All of the instructions are in clear, large type.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The ordering experience

Jitterbug is a product of Great Call, Inc., a virtual network operator (VNO). It can be purchased online at the Jitterbug Web site or by toll-free phone call or at some local stores. In East Lansing, it is available from a hearing aid store, a good match to the target demographic.

I bought mine online. The Web purchasing experience was above average. The order process has five steps. The pages have a step tracking bar at the top. The steps: Customer Info, Select, Phonebook, Review, Print are clear and logical.

You choose color -- white or graphite, accessories, annual or monthly service, minutes, voicemail or not. Enter a few names and phone numbers that will be stored into the phone, so it's ready to use when it arrives. Enter credit card info and shipping choice, then confirm and print. An e-mail receipt arrives shortly.

The phone costs $147, plus $35 activation fee, $10 shipping, and taxes. For me, in Michigan, the total was $195.66. Two days later the FedEx truck delivered it to my door.

The are no contracts, no special prices. As with all wireless services, you must be careful to choose an appropriate amount of minutes, either monthly or "add-on" prepaid. But it can be changed anytime.

Jitterbug is all about keeping it simple.

Why a Jitterbug?

The Jitterbug "senior cell phone" was introduced a couple years ago. The concept is of a simple to use wireless phone and service that is only a cell phone. No camera, no internet, no texting, no music. Do one thing and do it well: large buttons, large screen with large clear fonts, sized not for style and chic, but to fit the hand. Function over fashion.

This is exactly what attracts me. Good design, good interface, total user experience. Apple did this with the iPod and the iPhone, but no one was making a simple cell phone. The target market is the millions of aging baby boomers (like me) and many of their parents (like my 85-year-old mother-in-law), who are tech literate, but not wanting to deal with too much complexity at once. They don't need and don't want mobile music, just mobile talk!

I'm a four-year Treo user (and had a Palm Vx and Motorola phone for 8 years before that), so this was not going to be my main phone. Last year, I tried out an iPhone and would have kept it, except for the lack of AT&T service in our area (see my iPhone Lansing for details).

The Jitterbug is meant as a backup phone: my wife just got a Centro, so we are now only on Sprint, after 12 years on Verizon. and 4 years on both. Having two networks accessible makes me more comfortable for when things go awry. And maybe, just maybe, grandma will use the phone. She sure didn't take to the Nokia 6015i and the extra line on our Verizon family plan, now cancelled.

And, of course, I like gadgets, and like to try them out, and understand them.

List of topics

Here are the topics I will discuss (in no particular order):

Why a Jitterbug? [done 06-23-08]
The value of backup service
The orderering experience on the Web [done 06-23-08]
Unboxing [done 06-26-08]
Simple to use -- sort of [done 07-16-08]
Features & functions
"Myjitterbug" online phone book
Voice mail
Voice dial
Battery life
Operator service
Customer service
Plans and costs
A pretty good cell phone that's just a phone
Likes and dislikes

Jitterbug -- just a phone!

This blog will report on my expereices with the Jitterbug "senior cell phone" and servive, a wireless phone designed to be simple to understand and use. It is just a phone!
For more general info, see the Jitterbug Web site