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Since 2005, Lively (formerly GreatCall) has bridged the gap between cell phones and older adults. Each of their devices, from the simple Jitterbug Flip2 to the advanced Jitterbug Smart4, comes packed with helpful features that are easy to use.
For those of us who are a bit intimidated by modern smartphones, Lively might be a great place to look for cellular service. Their customer service is solid, and their devices are intuitive. In this Jitterbug phone review, we'll take a closer look at each Jitterbug device, exploring its features, its performance, and how it functions on Lively's network.
Features for Older Adults: From their menus with simplified navigation to the dedicated urgent response buttons, Lively devices are designed specifically for older adults. Anyone unfamiliar with smartphones will appreciate how easy they are to use.
Affordable Plans: Lively plans start at $19.99 per month for unlimited talk and text, making them one of the most affordable cellular providers around. Their phones are also pretty affordable, costing $75 to $150.
Powerful Network: Lively uses Verizon’s wireless network, which is frequently ranked as one of the best mobile providers both in terms of speed and coverage. Just about anywhere I took my phones, I received flawless service and speedy access to data.
What I Didn’t Like About Lively
No Family Plans: Currently, Lively does not offer any sort of shared plans for their cell service, meaning each of my phones needed their own separate plan. Many providers, like T-Mobile senior plans, offer discounted rates for family plans, so this was a bit of a disappointment.
Limited Phone Choices: Although I had few complaints when it came to my Jitterbug Smart3, Jitterbug Smart4, and Jitterbug Flip2, these three phones are the only ones offered through Lively. Those hoping to find Apple, Samsung, or Motorola devices will have to look elsewhere.
Overage Charges: Unlike some cellular providers like Consumer Cellular, which automatically upgrades your service plan in the event of an overage, Lively charges an additional 10 cents for each megabyte used. These fees, while small, can quickly add up. If you want to learn more, read my full comparison of Lively vs. Consumer Cellular.
Activation Fees: No matter which phone you choose, you’ll have to pay a $25 to $30 one-time activation fee. Whether you activate the phone yourself online, over the phone, or in a Best Buy store, you’ll still have to pay this fee.
Purchasing Lively Jitterbug Phones
Lively Jitterbug phones can be purchased over the phone, through Lively’s website, or at brick-and-mortar stores such as Best Buy and Target. I purchased mine from their website. Once I pulled it up on my computer, I could easily view each of Lively’s cell phone offerings.
Beneath each phone was a clearly listed price. Having dealt with many tricky cellular providers, I’m always on the lookout for an asterisk or fine print, anything that indicates a catch. With Lively, there are no long-term contracts; however, I did have to pay a $25 activation fee for each of my phones. This was somewhat annoying, seeing as I had to activate the phones myself online.
For testing purposes, I decided to purchase both the Jitterbug Flip2 for $99.99, the Jitterbug Smart3 for $74.99, and the Jitterbug Smart4 for $149.99. After choosing my phones, I had to pair each of them with a Lively plan.
FYI: For its phones, Lively does not currently offer shared or family plans, meaning each cell phone requires its own individual plan.
Lively Jitterbug Plans and Pricing
Lively currently offers three different plans on their Jitterbug phones – Basic, Preferred, and Premium. Each of them includes unlimited talk and text as well as some additional features, including:
Urgent Response: Each of my Lively devices featured a dedicated urgent response button. When pressed, it immediately connected me to one of Lively’s response agents. Luckily, I had no actual emergency during my testing, but if I were in need of medical assistance, my agent could have contacted emergency services.
Lively Rides: With this feature, I could dial 0 and arrange a ride with Lyft over the phone, no app required. The cost for the Lyft ride was then added to my monthly Lively bill. While any cell phone can do this through Lyft's hotline, we appreciate that Lively operators can do this for you.
Nurse on Call: With this feature, I was able to speak to an actual nurse or doctor through my Jitterbug Flip2, without having to make an appointment! I was even able to obtain prescriptions for certain medications through this feature, which definitely saved me some time sitting at the pharmacy.
Lively Link: As a caregiver, I really appreciated the Lively Link app. Family members and caregivers can download this app for free and receive notifications whenever my phone places an urgent response call or runs low on battery.
Care Advocate: This service allows the user to work with experts to create a personalized health and care plan. In my experience, this service was not all that useful.
Lively Jitterbug Plans Comparison
Unlimited Talk & Text
Lively Link App
Nurse on Call
Additionally, these plans don’t include data. If you purchase the Jitterbug Smart3 or Smart4, then this must be added for an additional cost — 1 GB of monthly data costs $5 per month, 5 GB costs $10, and unlimited data costs $30 per month. We must note, however, that with Lively’s “Unlimited” data plan, you’ll receive 20 GB per month of high-speed data, after which time your data speeds will be throttled for the remainder of the billing period.
Once I purchased my devices and plans, all I had to do was wait a week for them to arrive on my doorstep, with free shipping, no less. In each box, I found a phone, a wall charger, and instructions that helped me through the simple setup process. First, I plugged each of my phones into their chargers, plugged those into an outlet, and waited a couple of hours for their batteries to power up.
Once they were fully charged, I dialed the service number listed in the manual, confirmed my information, and voila! All three of my phones were ready for liftoff.
Keep Your Number: Before you activate your Lively phone, be sure to contact Lively’s customer service line, as they might be able to transfer an existing cellular or landline number to your new device.
How My Jitterbug Phones Worked
Between my Jitterbug Flip2, Jitterbug Smart3, and Jitterbug Smart4, I knew that I was testing three phones with highly different feature sets, the cell phone equivalent of apples and oranges. But after extensive use of each, I came to see that each phone catered to a different type of user.
Jitterbug Flip2 ($99.99 One Time Payment)
Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s undeniable beauty in simplicity, and that’s exactly what the Jitterbug Flip2 offered. Unlike the modern phones peddled by major cellular carriers, the phones that can fill in for a desktop computer, the Jitterbug Flip2 has a comparably limited feature set. But for some people, particularly those who are wary of cutting-edge technology, this could be a plus.
Everything the Jitterbug Flip2 can do, it does with aplomb. In my many test calls, I was pleased with both the volume and clarity of the audio. When I used the speakerphone, I was very impressed with how loud the call could become, definitely something that could come in handy for those who are hard of hearing. With about one-third of people over 65 suffering from hearing loss, a powerful speaker is a great feature to have. The Flip is also compatible with hearing aids.
The Flip’s screen, though small when compared to that of a smartphone, is very bright. Both numbers and messages could be easily read, as they were displayed in a large 32-point font. Typing on the phone was also a breeze. Each of the buttons was large and backlit, ensuring that I made no mistakes with either messaging or dialing numbers.
My favorite feature of the Flip, however, had to be the dedicated urgent response button on the side of the phone. Although I encountered no emergencies during my testing period, I could see this coming in handy for any older adult. Without the hassle of dialing a number or navigating menus, I could press the button and immediately be connected with someone who could send help, if necessary.
When I first powered up my Smart3, I thought it looked strikingly similar to any other modern smartphone with its large screen and minimal physical buttons; however, as I navigated its menus, I came to see how straightforward everything was laid out. Each of its functions (phone, camera, internet, messages, etc.) was neatly displayed on the home screen. Despite how intimidating smartphones might seem to some people, it’s hard for me to imagine someone being unable to work with the Smart2.
Texting was a breeze on its 6.2-inch backlit screen, and dialing numbers was no different. In each of my test calls, I did notice that the Smart3’s speaker was a smidge quieter than that of the Flip; however, when switched to speakerphone, it possessed the same powerful audio output. In terms of call quality, I found no issues. Voices came in crystal clear through the Smart3, and none of my calls experienced any dropping.
Similar to the Flip, the Jitterbug Smart3 also features a dedicated urgent response button; however, unlike the Flip, this button is a part of the touchscreen. Although I usually appreciate physical buttons for important functions such as this, I had no issues finding and pressing this button. It remains constantly in the lower portion of the screen, directly beside the Home and Back buttons.
Jitterbug Smart3 Video Review
Jitterbug Smart4 ($149.99 One Time Payment)
For starters, the Smart4 has a larger screen, at 6.75 inches. The Smart4 also has a longer battery life. In our tests, we found that this phone gave us 28 hours of talk time compared to 20 hours on the Smart3. We also found minor improvements to the cameras and the general performance of the phone. Overall, the Smart4 offered a more high-powered and smooth cellular experience.
In terms of cellular providers for seniors, Jitterbug (Lively) and Consumer Cellular are two of the most popular options for older adults; however, the two providers differ significantly in terms of devices and pricing.
Lively only offers three devices – the Jitterbug Flip2, the Jitterbug Smart3, and the Jitterbug Smart4. Alternatively, Consumer Cellular offers a full range of devices, including the latest smartphones from Samsung and Apple. Consumer Cellular also allows you to bring your own device, whereas Lively requires you to use one of their three Jitterbug phones.
In terms of plan costs, both providers are similar, offering unlimited talk and text for $20 per month; however, Consumer Cellular offers discounts for multiple lines, while Lively does not.
With its original Jitterbug phones, Lively evokes the 1930s, a time when the first home telephones were entering the market. Fast forward to 2024, and we now have technologically advanced Lively phones that can make calls, keep track of loved ones, and even function with hearing aids!
Sure, with any of the Jitterbug phones, none of them is a perfect substitute for a medical alert system and shouldn’t be thought of as such; however, for the older adult looking for a simple and affordable way to keep in touch with friends and family, it’s hard to think of a better option than Lively.
To learn more about our favorite cellular providers, check out our additional guides:
On paper, the Smart4 has a larger screen and more powerful cameras. In our tests, however, the most prominent differences were in battery life and overall performance. The Smart4 gave us nearly 50% more talk time, and the phone loaded apps far more quickly than the Smart3.
Lively can usually allow you to retain your current cell phone or home phone number. Be sure to contact their customer support line to confirm that your current number is eligible for transfer. Additionally, wait until your account has been transferred before canceling your current service. Otherwise, you might lose access to your number.
All phones offered through Lively come with a 30-day return policy. The only caveat with this is that you must have used fewer than 30 minutes of talk time in order to receive a full refund. Additionally, if you decide to return your phone, you will only be refunded for the cost of the phone and not for your service plan.
All three Jitterbug phones have large, bright color screens with easily legible fonts. The Jitterbug Flip2 features large backlit buttons, and Lively devices feature voice typing, meaning you don’t even need to use your hands to type out numbers and letters. You can simply say them.
Unlike a traditional medical alert system, used primarily for emergencies related to health, Lively’s 5Star service is available in any situation in which you might need help. When you press the 5Star button, you are immediately connected to an agent who will assess the situation and dispatch appropriate assistance if needed. For example, in the event of your car breaking down, a 5Star agent could help you obtain roadside assistance.
Ryan has years of experience researching and testing products that help people successfully age in place. After years of working for various publications such as Boston Magazine and The Believer, he has found his home at The Senior List, writing about all things related to caregiving and senior healthcare.