Hands-on with the New Jitterbug J Phone

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dscn0278Today Jitterbug announced the new Jitterbug J, a simple follow up phone to the original device.The latest iteration of the device features a few new design tweaks that increase the phone's capabilities without making it much more complicated, but its monthly pricing is a bit more expensive than other carriers. If you're unfamiliar with Jitterbug, it's a CDMA carrier that offers a simple phone and an accompanying wireless plan for people that "just want to make phone calls." You might assume that means the elderly, but Jitterbug claims that 40% of its users are under 65 years old. Slimmer form factor, easy UI The Jitterbug J--built by Samsung-- measures 2.2 x 3.9 x 1 inches, which is a bit slimmer than before, and is available in both white and graphite colors. There's a new volume control button on the lid of the device. Jitterbug told us it put the control there on purpose, as opposed to the side of the phone, but it's nearly impossible to reach for volume adjusting during a call. Jitterbug also added a Speakerphone button, and audio came through loud and clear. Hit the jump for a full gallery and more impressions. The whole user interface is based around answering the question: Yes or No. If you want to select a Menu button, scroll up or down and select Yes. To back out, press No. It's virtually fool proof. Over-the-air Support Jitterbug added over-the-air support so that the company can push down new content to the device. To test this, we called the operator--by dialing 0--and asked the operator to add a number to our address book for us. The operator picked up almost immediately, pleasantly greeted us by name, and added our new number to the phone for us. We were told that the new number would be in our address book within 2-4 hours, and that we should leave the phone in a full coverage area in the meantime, but it arrived within 20 minutes. Call Quality Call quality was good in our tests. We were easily able to hear the operator during our aforementioned operator call, and a phone message left on our voice mail inbox was very clear. We didn't have any  missed words at all and we couldn't pick up any background noise. During our calls we were pleased with the feel of the phone against our ear, Jitterbug took a lot of time placing the earphone directly where most people's ears would be, and the lid of the phone has a nice rubber border that makes it comfortable to hold against your head. Small Gripes The trouble with finding a full coverage area, is that the phone doesn't offer a signal indicator. Instead, you can only tell if you have a signal by opening the phone and listening for a dial tone. If there's a tone, you can make a call, but it's hard to know where you can receive calls unless you like to place the phone against your head constantly as you move from one area to another. To check the battery, you have to choose Phone Info from the main menu. The Jitterbug J also supports full SMS messaging, but MMS isn't included. The company also said it plans to push calendar support down to the phone this summer, and launch a new MyWorld application that will push the latest sports, news, and weather updates to the device depending on your location. Sounds like things are getting a little more complicated. New Contracts Jitterbug launched a few new contracts which range in price from $29.99 for 200 minutes to $79.99 for 1,000 minutes. That's more expensive than even Verizon Wireless, which offers 1,350 minutes for $79.99, but Jitterbug doesn't require a 2-year contract and the phone will only set you back $148. That's a bit odd considering that each of the big 4 carriers offers free devices with a 2-year contract,  so you can save money (on the device, and monthly)  if you're planning on owning a phone for a few years.   Most of the free phones are also very basic and easy to use, and most already offer calendars, sports updates, and the weather, if you sign up for the right plans. Final Thoughts If you want over-sized buttons, a large display that's easy to read, and an operator that can hold your hand or help you at any time, than the Jitterbug J is worth considering. But if you want to pay less per month, sign a contract for a free phone, or pay-by-the-minute for a device, then you may want to consider a prepaid carrier or one of the other major U.S. wireless providers.
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