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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 Smart3, 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 a simplified navigation to the 5Star urgent response buttons, Lively devices are designed specifically for older adults. Even I appreciated how easy they were 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. Their phones are also competitively priced, costing under $200.
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.
No Family Plans: Currently, Lively does not offer any sort of shared plans for their cell service, meaning each of my phones needed its 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 and Jitterbug Flip2, these two 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 Consumer Cellular, which automatically upgrades your plan in the event of an overage, Lively charges an additional fee for each additional gigabyte of data used. These fees, while small, can quickly add up. If you want to learn more, read my full comparison of Lively vs. Consumer Cellular.
To test out our Jitterbug phones, our team purchased both the Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart3. Over the course of a month, our Managing Editor Ryan Molloy used both of the phones on Lively's network, allowing us to test not only how the device worked but also how it performed with Lively's cellular service.
How I Purchased My Lively Phones
Lively phones can be purchased over the phone, through Lively’s website, or at brick-and-mortar stores such as Best Buy or Rite Aid. I decided to try my hand at their website. Once I pulled it up on my computer, I could easily view each of Lively’s cell phone offerings, the Jitterbug Smart3 and the Jitterbug Flip2. On the website, I was also able to compare both of these devices side by side in order to assess which one had the features I was looking for.
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; however, there was none to be found with each Lively device. Sure, the listed prices required that I activated a new line of service, but I was already planning on doing this, so the representation of costs felt accurate. The listing even noted that each phone would come with both a wall and car charger at no extra cost, which I thought was a neat little bonus. We’ve all left Verizon with our pockets much lighter than we thought they’d be, so I appreciated Lively’s transparency when it came to pricing.
For testing purposes, I decided to purchase both the Jitterbug Flip2 for $99.99 and the Jitterbug Smart3 for $149.99, but before I could have them shipped to my door, I had to figure out my service plans.
FYI: For its Lively phones, Lively does not currently offer shared or family plans, meaning each cell phone requires its own individual plan.
Lively Health and Safety Packages
In addition to talk and text, Lively offers what they call Health and Safety Packages, which turned my Lively phone into a personal safety device. Here is a rundown of the features available with these packages.
5Star Urgent Response: Each of my Lively devices featured a dedicated 5Star 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.
Brain Games: Studies have shown that puzzle-based activities, also known as brain games, can help refine thinking skills that tend to decline with age, skills such as decision-making and short-term memory. Each Lively features several different types of these games. My personal favorite was called Face Facts, a game in which I had to memorize names and associate them with images of faces.
Urgent Care: With this feature, I was able to speak to an actual nurse or doctor through my Lively, 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 the Lively uses the 5Star button or is running low on battery. To test it out, I had my husband download the app, and he was even able to track my location through my Lively. This would come in handy for caregivers as it would allow you to make sure their loved one is home and safe.
Nurse On-Call: For the older adult living independently, this feature would certainly come in handy. I was able to call my nurse on-call to connect with a medical professional to answer any health-related questions.
Care Advocate: Care advocates on-call can help users plan out any needs related to personal care, finances, and health.
With all that said, I feel the need to clarify that Lively’s Health and Safety Packages are not quite an adequate substitute for a medical alert device, many of which are waterproof, can be worn around the neck, and feature automatic fall detection. With falls being the main source of fatal injury to older adults, I think of fall detection as an essential feature of any bonafide medical alert system. If you’re looking for a full-fledged system such as this, check out my rundown of the best medical alert systems with fall detection.
For an overview of Lively’s Health and Safety Packages and their costs, check out the chart below.
Overview of Lively’s Health and Safety Packages and Costs
5Star Urgent Response
Lively Minutes, Messages, and Data
Since I signed up for the Ultimate plan, I received an additional discount when it came to my talk, text, and data. The Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data plan, which normally costs $59.99 per month, only ended up costing me $40 per month, and my Unlimited Talk and Text Plan only cost me $20 per month. For my Jitterbug Flip2, the total cost for service came to $55 per month, and for my Jitterbug Smart3, it totaled out to $74.99. Now, this was a bit more pricey than an unlimited plan from Consumer Cellular, which only costs $60 per month for one line; however, the advanced features of the Health and Safety package definitely make it worth the money.
While calls made to Canada do not come at an extra charge, calls made to Puerto Rico, Mexico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands will cost $0.20 per minute.
The More You Know: Although the pricing of plans is the same for both the Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart3, only the latter can utilize data.
For a full list of Lively talk, text, and data plans, check out the chart below for our rundown of Jitterbug phone plans. For the Jitterbug Smart3, data can be added based on the amount. 1GB of data costs $5 per month, and unlimited data costs an extra $30 per month.
Lively Cellular Plan
Value Talk and Text
$14.99 per month
Unlimited Talk and Text
$19.99 per month
Choosing a Lively Phone
When it came time to choose a phone, my choices were limited. While other providers offer a litany of cell phone choices, Lively offered two, the Jitterbug Flip2 and the Jitterbug Smart3. The upside of this? I didn’t spend hours poring over which device I wanted to test. Based on its classic clamshell design, the Jitterbug Flip2 struck me as the no-frills phone, ideal for the person simply looking to talk and send the occasional text. The Jitterbug Smart3, based on its large touch screen, not to mention the name, struck me as a contemporary smartphone. So what did I do? I ordered both.
Setting Up My Devices
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, a car charger, and instructions which 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 on the manual, confirmed my information, and voila! Both 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 Lively Jitterbug Worked
Between my Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart3, I knew that I was testing two 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 person or, pardon the expression, different taste.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the features.
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 the 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 Jitterbug Flip2 is also compatible with hearing aids.
The Jitterbug Flip2’s screen, though small when compared to that of a smartphone, is very bright, and 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 Jitterbug Flip2, however, had to be the dedicated 5Star 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.
Jitterbug Flip2 Video Review
Jitterbug Smart3 ($149.99 One Time Payment)
When I first powered up my Jitterbug 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 Jitterbug Smart3.
Texting was a breeze on its five-and-a-half-inch backlit screen, and dialing numbers was no different. In each of my test calls, I did notice that the Jitterbug Smart3’s speaker was a smidge quieter than that of the Jitterbug Flip2; 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 Jitterbug Smart3, and none of my calls were dropped.
Similar to the Jitterbug Flip2, the Jitterbug Smart3 also features a dedicated 5Star button; however, unlike the Jitterbug Flip2, this button is a part of the touch screen. Although I usually appreciate physical buttons for important functions such as this, I had no issues finding and pressing this button, as it remains constantly in the lower portion of the screen, directly beside the Home and Back buttons.
Jitterbug Smart3 Video Review
Jitterbug vs. Consumer Cellular
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 two devices, the Jitterbug Flip2 and the Jitterbug Smart3. 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 two Jitterbug phones.
In terms of plan costs, both providers are similar, offering unlimited talk and text from $20 per month; however, Consumer Cellular offers discounts for multiple lines, while Lively does not.
While simple in terms of controls, both Jitterbug phones can make calls, keep track of loved ones, and even function with hearing aids! Sure, with both the Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart3, neither 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:
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.
Both Lively phones have large, bright color screens with easily legible fonts. The Jitterbug Flip2 features large backlit buttons, and both 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.
Lively used to offer plans with finite amounts of minutes and messages; however, as of 2023, all of Lively’s plans offer unlimited talk and text. Data will cost extra.
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.