GreatCall (Jitterbug) - No Contract Cellular
Who is Great Call?
This is a company we've all heard of, but not by the name Great Call (GC). They are the provider who supplies the consumer with the Jitterbug phone.
Even though this is a billed, month to month service, the author placed this hub in the pre-paid because the basic concept is along the same lines. You aren't bound by a traditional two year contract, but you are still billed as if you were.
Despite the lack of contract, you still have to notify Great Call to cancel and end the bills. (see Coda below). Let's be honest here; that is a contract.
In order to get your phone and service you have to pay a $35.00 setup fee. This is identical to Consumer Cellular's setup fee.
You still pay up-front, for the phone, the service, and the setup; each. Unlike pre-paid you are billed month-to-month. Of course you can change your plan when you wish.
GreatCall only offers four phones three of which are just the same phone in different colors.
The Jitterbug, that phone we see so many commercials for, comes in Gray, White, and Red. It has very large buttons, and over-sized speaker/head-phone, a rubberized cup around the ear-piece and hands-free talking and dialing (which is a service one has to pay for). The only other phone offered is the SCH-r100. All models are made by Samsung, Jitterbug included.
According to GreatCall you can cancel anytime, but from reading both positive and negative reviews, there is clearly a fee that can be charged for the phone (a restocking fee) and canceling the service. By GC reasoning, without a (standard cellular service) contract and with set rates for the number of minutes you use, this is more like a pre-paid plan no matter what GC calls it. There is a difference though; read on.
No Contract, Big Commitment
GreatCall claims there's no contract, but that's not quite fiscally or legally true, once signed up you must notify the company to cancel the service. You can't simply stop paying the monthly fee and expect your service to be dropped no questions asked. You may also be hit with a cancellation fee, be asked to return your phone (even though you are billed separately for it), and be billed a restocking fee. You may even continue to be billed after cancellation. More than half the complaints about this company involved continued billing after cancellation.
So, when Great Call claims there's no contract, that isn't exactly true. There is no traditional two year contract, but you are contracting with GreatCall for their service and a contract must be in force in order for GreatCall to bill you. That's the plain and simple truth.
About the Phones
GreatCall really only offers two phones, both made by Samsung. The first is the Jitterbug (SPH-A30) and the other is called the Samsung Stunt (SCH-R100). Samsung has a good track record with phones, but these two are about as bare-bones as you can get. Worse the battery life runs directly counter to the stated intention of owning these phones. An electronic security screen designed to help the elderly.
The Jitterbug only stores fifty (50) while the Stunt can store five hundred (500) addresses. Talk time (battery charge) on the Jitterbug is three hours; the Stunt three and a half.
The Samsung SPH-A310 is a clamshell phone with a small LCD panel on the front (to show date, time and caller ID) with a larger display on the upper portion of the clamshell when opened. The top of the clamshell has a large soft-rubber shell to help shut out noise and provide some comfort to the user. The lower portion has extra large, back-lit buttons (see photos) which are both easy to see and press.
Performance wise the phone leaves more than a bit to be desired. Despite the large battery, the phone only supports three (3) hours of talk time and three hundred (300) hours of standby time. This is not even a full week.
It supports SMS text, but not MMS. Texting is an additional service with an additional charge with this phone. The display is two point one (2.1") inches. It can display two hundred sixty-two (262,144) thousand colors. The external display is about 1" diagonal.
It has an address book, of course, but only capacity for fifty (50) entries. It also supports Bluetooth.
The stunt has a "candybar" form factor meaning it's a one piece phone. It is clearly a budget phone. The screen is one point seven (1.7") inches diagonal and supports sixty-five thousand colors. The display will show the date & time and caller ID on incoming calls.
Talk time is rated at three and one half (3½) hours with standby time of two hundred (200) hours.
The address book will store up to five hundred (500) entries. The Stunt supports both SMS and MMS text and it is hearing aid compatible.
Plans - The Real Story
GreatCall offers plans for minutes, plans for text, plans for phones and finally accessories. Each of these have their own separate charges. Though each charge seems small or at least affordable at first glance they can quickly add up.
If, however, you don't want a traditional contract or another phone won't fit in your budget this might be a viable option.
The phones are bare minimum phones; you can't get much more basic than these two offerings. They make calls and send text. The both have built-in calendars, calculators, and address books, but the Jitterbug stores only fifty address compared to the Stunt's five hundred.
The Jitterbug is $99.00 (regardless of color) and the Stunt, oddly is cheaper at $39.99. You don't get minutes automatically with the phone.
A separate purchase is made to buy minutes. The plans are named for the dollar cost or Unlimited. Overage cannot be found anywhere on the site, so the author suspects that once you run out of minutes your phone will stop working; unless you call GreatCall.
The Text and Pictures
Want text with that? That's going to be an additional charge which comes off of your call time. Each text costs 10¢ whether you are sending it or receiving it. Voicemail is an additional three dollars ($3.00) per month. GreatCall also offers what it calls "Check In Call" for an additional $5.00 a month. The calls are automated and will happen up to six times a day. The stated intention is to provide the consumer with daily reminders.
GreatCall has a handset replacement "insurance policy" that costs $4.00 a month should your phone be lost, destroyed, or stolen. GreatCall promises to replace your handset in seven days.
For yet another $4.00 GreatCall provides a "Call a Nurse" service which can be used twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. They also offer, for an additional $4.00 "The Wellness Call" which is a motivational talk, probably recorded.
As the reader can see there are all sorts of services provided, ostensibly for the elderly or handicapped, but each service is yet another charge.
Four dollars is a very popular figure with GreatCall.
None of the figures above include taxes which are levied by the Federal and State governments. Some locales even charge for 911 service.
Add on Minutes
Add on Minutes
Add on Minutes
Add on Minutes
Most phone packages come with at least a charger, earbuds, a carrying case and car charger. These things (or most of them) come with the phone.
Not with GreatCall. You get a wall charger, but if you need an extra battery; that'll cost you $40.00 and up. How about a car charger; that's another $25.00. Want an earbud headset; at least another $15.00. All these accessories and the associated prices are clearly designed as a generous (for the company) profit point.
For all intents and purposes the plans are designed specifically to charge for each individual item except the bare minimum to own the phone. Stockholders must be ecstatic, customers not so much.
Why the Author Wrote the Article
The author has been seeing Jitterbug ads for quite some time, but did not know the name of the company behind the offering. Since the author has been writing about wireless communications lately, he was bound to come across this company eventually.
The ads are clearly geared toward the older person or the child/children of the older person. The ads imply that with one of these phones the target demographic will have more freedom and be able to use "new fangled" technology.
To be honest, the ads seem insulting somehow.
In short, GreatCall fees can quickly add up to more than what the consumer would pay for a contract or even a pre-paid plan. Considering the target demographic, this seems to be another way of getting the most profit from a select group of the population and a vulnerable group at that. The people portrayed in the ads certainly fall into this demographic and the entire idea seems to be to get the most money possible for what may well be a false sense of security.
None of the additional services, purportedly designed for health and wellbeing, have any sort of guarantees or assurance.
Though Consumer Cellular had about a fifty fifty ratio of good reviews and bad reviews, GreatCall has a disproportionately high number of complaints. In fact, the author had a very hard time finding any good reviews, but there were a few.
Complaints ranged from bad service to inflated bills. Some complained that it was impossible to cancel the service as they were still being billed. Others were afraid to cancel after spending $180.00 for the initial phone, setup and minutes.
In one case a consumer insisted on returning the phone and cancelling the service. He or she was given an RMA number and the phone was returned, but no refund came due to "damage;" worse the complainant is still being billed for the phone they no longer have.
There are some reviews that state the company replaced a faulty phone for no charge (no shipping either) and that service has improved vastly since GreatCall switched to Verizon as signal provider.
The good reviews seem to be newer, dated more recently, than the bad reviews, but due diligence may be the wisest course. Before you go with this vendor ask around and see who you know who uses GreatCall or the Jitterbug and try to get an honest opinion.
The author finds the service map (above) frankly unbelievable. According to GreatCall's map no one has better coverage than they do. Since the actual signal service is provided by Verizon (or someone else) the map cannot possibly be representative of actual coverage.
If you want phone only service and you mind paying for a monthly contract this may be the phone and service for you. However, the service seems to be specifically designed to itemize you into a large bill.
The chilling part is that the site and marketing seem to be geared toward the elderly. The author always views marketing campaigns targeted this way with a jaded eye. In other words, there are other plans that do this at much less cost and the advertising doesn't play on the inevitable insecurities of advanced age.
It is just the author's opinion, but these plans seem designed mainly to make its investors a lot of money while providing the customer with the illusion of saving money when they actually aren't. Worse, there's an implied "wellness" aspect with nothing in writing to back it up.
The author was not compensated in any way, either monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.
Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.
The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.