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GreatCall Review

A Smartphone and Medical Alert Device, All-in-One

24/7 Emergency Monitoring
3 Phone Choices
Overall Rating:
3.5 of 5
Are you sure GreatCall is right for you?
See the Best Medical Alert Systems
14 Additional Options
$19.99/mo. Starting Price
Questions? Speak with a GreatCall Specialist:

Overview

A smartphone such as the iPhone or a modern Android phone is the ultimate communication tool for today’s society. We can talk, text, video chat, play games, and use countless apps to make our lives more (or less) productive. In fact, 80 percent of Americans over age 65 own a cell phone, most of which are smartphones.1 However, smartphones don’t work for all seniors. They may be too advanced, too expensive, or have more bells and whistles than certain older adults need. Certain phones may not be compatible with hearing aids or have easy to use buttons.

Many seniors (and their caregivers) also want an additional level of protection afforded by a medical alert device. While a cell phone can dial 911, a medical alert device just requires a single button press to a concierge 24/7 emergency response center that can send emergency services, call loved ones and perform other activities critical to senior living. They typically also come with optional fall detection – which is important as every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall.2

GreatCall’s products are designed to solve all of these issues because they offer a cell phone and medical alert device as a single product. During our testing, we found that both services (the cell phone and the alert device) are good enough to stand on their own. We found that GreatCall offers senior-friendly cell phones with medical alert capabilities, as well as alert devices. Awarded with M4- and T4-ratings, GreatCall phones offer hearing aid compatibilities that exceed the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI),3 which is why it’s no surprise that GreatCall ranked in our list of best senior cell phones for 2020.

For this year’s review, I ordered the Jitterbug Smart2 and tested it alongside my adorable grandma, who could be the doppelganger of America’s Sweetheart, Betty White. From my perspective, it was the right level of sophistication as she found that the simplified design and easy-to-use features made typical smartphone tasks that were normally difficult for her—like voice texting, browsing the internet, and map navigation — pretty easy. Plus, GreatCall’s overall pricing, ranging from $37.49 and $149.99, is significantly less than the wallet-breaking prices for iPhones and Androids.

My biggest gripe with GreatCall is that it can be an overwhelming experience to connect the dots—from deciding on a cell phone or a device (or both), to combing through various phone plans, to selecting the right Health & Safety Package that covers the user’s medical alert needs. No need to worry though; in this review, I’ll breakdown all of GreatCall’s products, as well as my experience purchasing and testing the Jitterbug Smart2.

Phone or Device?

In the medical alert industry, GreatCall is unique in that they offer medical alert products in the form of a cell phone and standalone device. So, you’ll need to decide: phone or device? There are two phone options with medical capabilities, Jitterbug Smart2 and Jitterbug Flip, and two device options, Lively Mobile Plus and LivelyWearable2. Understanding the difference and what’s being offered with each product will guide you to choose the one that’s best for the user, just as it helped me make the definitive decision to bring home the Jitterbug Smart2 for my grandma to try.

FYI: GreatCall charges a $10 shipping fee per item and a $35 activation fee per phone. Keep in mind that these fees are standard across the industry, so there’s not much to fuss about there.

As far as the phones go, if the senior in your life is adept with the iPhone or other ultra-modern smartphone, then I’d stick with that. But if the ideal amount of smartphone is the basics – camera, touchscreen texting, basic browsing, maps, etc. then the Jitterbug Smart2 may be for them. If they’re just looking for the simplest communications aspects of a cell phone, like calls and texts, then the Jitterbug Flip may suffice. Any phone can have the medical alert capabilities added on.

As far as the devices go, the Lively Mobile Plus is GreatCall’s only standalone device, whereas the Lively Wearable2 is a watch that serves as an add-on device for select smartphones; you can confirm the compatibility of your current smartphone by calling GreatCall (it’s also compatible with the Jitterbug Smart2.)

GreatCall Products at a Glance

Device Jitterbug Smart2 Jitterbug Flip Lively Mobile Plus Lively Wearable2
Category Phones Phones Devices Devices
One-Time Price $112.49 $74.99 $37.49 $37.49
Internet Access
24/7 Monitoring
5Star Urgent Response Button
Fall Detection Available
GPS
Navigation
Voice Typing
Camera
Waterproof

 

All GreatCall products have a one-time equipment fee as displayed in the table above. To activate the product’s medical alert capabilities, like fall detection and medication reminders, you must sign up for a Health & Safety Package which requires a separate monthly fee (I’ll explain more in detail below). The same goes for talk and text capabilities with GreatCall phones.

During the signup process, I recommend perusing through GreatCall’s website as it’s easy to navigate and informative for the shopper. However, before you make any decisions, I highly suggest calling their customer support line to clear up any confusion you may have. It can be difficult to pinpoint precisely what an aging loved one may need or want because, oftentimes, they’re not even sure. This can lead to getting too much or too little, which results in wasted time and money due to abruptly parting ways with a product or company altogether.

In addition, you can unlock some savings by speaking with a representative. For example, when I called, I had the pleasure of speaking with a representative named Shirley, who informed me of a promotion expiring at the end of the month.

Did You Know: If you aren’t satisfied with your GreatCall product, you have 30 days for a full refund.

As mentioned earlier, I appreciate that GreatCall has a contract-free policy, along with free cancellations with “no strings attached and no questions asked,” as boldly explained by Shirley.

Add-On Packages & Monthly Phone Plans

As mentioned earlier, the medical alert functionalities of GreatCall products activate only after you sign up for one of their Health & Safety Packages —Basic, Preferred, and Ultimate. Like most business models, the value of the safety services increases with the next package up. Fortunately, the monthly fees remain affordable. I appreciate that there’s only a monthly difference of $5 when upgrading from the “Basic” to the “Preferred” package, as well as a $10 monthly difference from the “Preferred” to the “Ultimate.” For more detail on prices, skip down to the Health and Safety Features section.

GreatCall’s lineup of health and safety services undoubtedly elevates the value and alert functionalities when added on to any one of their devices. Some of these services include life-saving necessities like 24/7 emergency monitoring and fall detection, as well as concierge-like services, such as immediate access to medical professionals over an app or the ability to call a personal operator who can track your location and send a Lyft ride your way.

For GreatCall phone users, they offer various monthly talk, text, and data plans, supported by Verizon’s network, which feature prices that are similar to (or maybe even slightly cheaper than) mainstream cell phone plans. There are unlimited monthly options, too. Note that options and prices vary from device to device.

Since my grandma is a chatterbox but sporadically uses her current smartphone to browse the internet, I wasn’t sure if I selected the right phone plan. Thankfully, with GreatCall, they don’t require contracts, and you can choose to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel any phone plan as many times as needed, per bill cycle. Also, they offer rollover minutes, texts, and data. I love that GreatCall gives you the freedom to choose how you want to stay connected and only pay for what you need.

GreatCall Products and Pricing

Jitterbug Smart2 — $112.49

GreatCall Jitterbug 2

GreatCall Jitterbug 2

Standard Features

  • Hearing Aid Compatible
  • Navigation
  • Voice Typing
  • 5Star Button
  • Built-in GPS
  • Brain Games
  • Camera (13-megapixel w/ flash)

Mobile Plans (w/ Health & Safety Package):

  • Individual monthly Talk, Text and Data plans vary anywhere from $2.49-$15 a month.
  • Unlimited Texts: $15/month
  • Unlimited Talk & Text (data plan required): $39.99/month
  • Unlimited Talk, Text & Data: $40/month

Just Talk & Text Plan

  • Individual monthly Talk, Text and Data plans vary anywhere from $2.49-$29.99 a month.
  • Unlimited Texts: $15/month
  • Unlimited Talk & Text: $39.99/month
  • Unlimited Talk, Text & Data: $59.99/month

Activating the Jitterbug Smart2 for my grandma was simple. Straight out of the box, I took the wall charger and USB cord and plugged in the phone. Then, with it still plugged in, I turned on her phone and followed the instructions on the screen. When it asks for you to choose a Home screen, be sure to select “Recommended Easy-to-Use Jitterbug Smart,” otherwise it will appear as a regular Android phone. After about 10 minutes, her Jitterbug2 was ready to go, and she entered my contact info and sent her first text to me within seconds!

In terms of finding a device that was the right mix of fun tech and practical features, the Jitterbug Smart2 checked all the boxes for my grandma. The home menu has all the features she needs at her fingertips — phone, text, camera, internet, email, and more. — without all the extra fluff typical iPhones and Androids have. Plus, the 5Star contact button is always easy to find in case she needs an emergency operator.

She loves the easy-to-use screen and how the Jitterbug Smart2 connects to her hearing aid so well, as mentioned earlier both Jitterbug phones offer hearing aid compatibilities and are compliant to the highest standards of the ANSI. To further hype the features of the smartphone, I like its 16GB storage, Lithium-ion battery, and color HD IPS touch screen. All that techy language just means the screen is vibrant and detailed, the battery can last all day, and there’s plenty of room for all the pictures she loves taking. While my grandma enjoys all the bells and whistles of the Jitterbug Smart2, I know plenty of people who would prefer something a little more straightforward. If this is the case for you, the Jitterbug Flip may be a better option.

Jitterbug Flip — $74.99

GreatCall Jitterbug Flip

GreatCall Jitterbug Flip

Standard Features

  • Hearing Aid Compatible
  • Navigation
  • Voice Dial
  • Brain Games
  • 5Star Button
  • Camera (2-megapixel)
  • Magnifier w/ Flashlight

Mobile Plans (w/ Health & Safety Package):

  • Individual monthly Talk & Text plans vary anywhere from $3-$15 a month.
  • Unlimited Texts: $15/month
  • Unlimited Talk & Text: $20/month

Just Talk & Text Plan

  • Individual monthly Talk, Text and Data plans vary anywhere from $3-$29.99 a month.
  • Unlimited Texts: $15/month
  • Unlimited Talk & Text: $39.99/month

The Jitterbug Flip is for the practical user—a description that fits someone who may need medical alert functions and enjoys the convenience of a cell phone but doesn’t want all the extra tech bits that come with a smartphone. The device features an easy-to-use dial pad with all the buttons the user needs ready and available, including a speakerphone button and a 5Star emergency button, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeve, like a reading magnifier with a flashlight (perfect for menus in dimly-lit restaurants)! Similar to the Jitterbug Smart2, a simple press of the 5Star button connects the user with an emergency operator who’ll already be familiar with your emergency information and send the help that’s needed.

Setting up the Jitterbug Flip is just as easy as the Smart2—all you have to do is activate your account online, unbox the Jitterbug Flip, plug it in, turn it on, and the rest of the system gets itself ready.

Lively Mobile Plus — $37.49

GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus

GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus

Standard Features

  • 24-7 Emergency Monitoring
  • Built-in GPS
  • Fall Detection
  • Waterproof

*No mobile plans available, only Health & Safety Packages. Basic Package required with Lively Mobile Plus: $24.99/month

The Lively Mobile Plus is a standalone medical alert device that really gets back to the basics. Ideal for the senior who enjoys an active, independent lifestyle, but also may be more at risk of falling, this device has everything the wearer needs to go about their day safely and confidently.

What I like about this device is how comprehensive it is. It has everything you could ever want from a wearable emergency alert system; it’s waterproof, offers built-in GPS and optional fall detection (for $10-$15 more), and has 24/7 emergency monitoring and two-way speaking capabilities.

Whenever the wearer needs help, all they have to do is press the button on the Lively Mobile Plus and they will be connected to an emergency operator. According to GreatCall, this can be used for situations that aren’t technically emergencies—like a flat tire or getting locked out of the house. I’m really impressed with how GreatCall wants to help its customers feel more at ease in any day-to-day situation, not just the big emergencies. After all, it’s the little things that count!

Lively Wearable 2 — $37.49

GreatCall Lively Wearable 2

GreatCall Lively Wearable 2

Standard Features

  • 24-7 Emergency Monitoring
  • Long-Lasting Battery Life (up to 4 months)
  • Daily Step Tracker
  • Daily Health Tips
  • Water Resistant
  • Fall Detection Available

*No mobile plans available, only optional Health & Safety Packages.

For those who want a wearable device to pair with their Jitterbug Smart2, or those who are looking for a wearable device that’s compatible with their existing smartphone (Android 7.0/iPhone iOS 11 or later), the Lively Wearable2 is the way to go. You can wear this device as a pendant or watch, and you can connect the user to an emergency operator with the touch of a button.

The only drawback to this device is that its fall detection feature is only available with the Ultimate Plan, not the Basic or Preferred Plans, bumping the monthly bill up another $10-$15 just for fall detection.

I was tempted to add the Lively Wearable2 for my grandma. It looks just like a smartwatch. It’s sleek, water-resistant, and offers fun features that she would love like daily health tips and step tracking (she’s all about getting in her steps right now!), but since her mobility is still going strong, and the Jitterbug Smart2 can do most of what’s listed, it seemed like a redundant purchase for me at this moment.

Warranty

GreatCall provides a one-year limited warranty for all of its devices. This means that for one year (starting on the purchase date), GreatCall covers the device, OEM rechargeable batteries, and other accessories. In terms of the medical alert industry, this warranty period seems short (many providers offer lifetime warranties), but in the cell phone world, one-year warranties are pretty standard. Keep in mind that the warranty protects these items within normal use, not damage caused by accidents or abnormal use! However, GreatCall also offers a 1-year replacement policy, meaning if you do lose your phone or drop your device in the toilet, you have the option to purchase the exact same product for a flat fee—$50 for phones and $25 for devices.

The Lineup of Health & Safety Services

Product Basic Package Preferred Package Ultimate Package
Jitterbug Smart2 $19.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
$24.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
$34.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
– Personal Operator
Jitterbug Flip $19.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
$24.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
$34.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Brain Games
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
– Personal Operator
Lively Mobile Plus $24.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
$29.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
$39.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
– Fall Detection
Lively Wearable2 $24.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
$29.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
$39.99 per month
– 5Star Urgent Response
– Urgent Care
– GreatCall Link
– Fall Detection

 

GreatCall’s diverse range of Health & Safety Services offers features that other medical alert companies don’t, which I think speaks volumes to their desire for innovation, quality, and convenience.

5Star Urgent Response

This feature allows you to be connected 24/7 to a special pool of agents, who are already familiar with your personal health information and who have been certified by The National Academy of Emergency Dispatch (IAED),4 aka the same company that certifies 911 operators.

Urgent Care

In partnership with Fonemed,5 this app grants you immediate access to communicate with registered nurses and board-certified doctors, making it easy to get prescription refills and critical medical advice. This feature will save you the time and energy of trekking to the doctor’s office or frantically searching the internet for answers. Also, with Urgent Care, dealing with insurance has never been easier because they take care of it for you.

GreatCall Link

This app helps unite parties involved in the aging process, keeping caretakers and children alike informed at all times. For instance, if the user sets off the automatic fall detection on their device, an instant update will be sent to all related GreatCall subscribers, providing them with pertinent details. It’s nice to see yet another service that strengthens family communication.

Personal Operator

Available as part of the Ultimate Package only, this concierge-like service helps with non-emergency situations like contacting a caregiver. You can also contact GreatCall rides with it, a Lyft car service with discounted rates for seniors. Despite a $.99 charge for each request, if you’re one who wants all the amenities and to leave home with that extra assurance, then, by all means, add it on.

Fall Detection

In the event of a fall, this service detects the fall and immediately calls a 5Star Urgent Response Agent to notify them to take action.

Brain Games

Get a good brain “workout” in with this pre-loaded app, which keeps seniors on their toes and memory loss in check. The variety of games and challenges helps sharpen the mind and is a perfect solution for quelling boredom or anxiety.

Summary

Overall, l found GreatCall products to be user-friendly, easy to set up, and relatively affordable. I continue to applaud GreatCall for their innovative efforts to fuse the technology of personalized medical alert systems with the convenience and portability of cell phones. Their mission is one we can stand behind — helping seniors live independently while providing around-the-clock protection.

But where it can get confusing is having to pair the selected product with the right Health & Safety Package (and a phone plan, if needed), all while trying to figure out if it’s the best-bang-for-your-buck option. From my experience, the best way is to consider the user’s preferred way of communicating, current health conditions, and daily lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions About GreatCall

  • What is the monthly fee for GreatCall?

    Monthly fees for GreatCall will vary based on the product, add-on package, and phone plan you sign up for. Talk, text, and data plans range from $2.49 per month to $59.99 per month, and Health & Safety Packages cost anywhere from $19.99 per month to $39.99 per month. There are also one-time equipment fees for devices ranging from $37.49 to $112.49.

  • Can you keep your same number with a Jitterbug phone?

    Yes, you may be able to keep your same phone number when you switch to the GreatCall Jitterbug phone. You’ll need to contact customer service before deactivating your old phone to ensure that your number can be transferred to your Jitterbug phone.

  • Which network does GreatCall use?

    GreatCall uses the Verizon Wireless cellular network for its products.

  • What makes GreatCall different from other companies?

    GreatCall offers innovative cell phones, medical alert systems, and hybrid phone/alert systems catered specifically to seniors and their needs, which is different than most other companies. They offer protection and the latest technology for seniors without overcomplicating things. That way, your loved one can stay safe and connected at all times without any hassle.

Citations
  1. Pew Research Center. (May 2017). Technology Use Among Seniors.

  2. National Council on Aging. (2020). Fall Prevention Facts.

  3. American National Standards Institute (ANSI). (2020). United States Standards Strategy.

  4. International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). (July 2019). Accreditation Application Handbook: Strategies for Success.

  5. Fonemed. (2020). Fonemed Technology.

Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt