The Disadvantages of Jitterbug

By Keith Evans

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The Jitterbug, a mobile telephone service designed for senior citizens, uses large-button handsets and simplistic calling plans to make mobile phones more accessible and inviting for seniors. Despite the ease of use and liberating wireless service, Jitterbug does come with some drawbacks.

Handset Price

Customers who enroll in Jitterbug service must purchase their telephone handset from either the service provider or an electronics store, and some users, especially older customers on fixed incomes, may find the handset prices prohibitively expensive. As of January 2010, a Jitterbug handset cost $147, considerably more expensive than other, more powerful prepaid handsets. Because many users of traditional mobile phone services enter into contracts with the service provider, carrier subsidies make wireless phones with significantly more features less expensive or even free. The prepaid Jitterbug service does not subsidize phones, though, so users must pay the full purchase price plus any applicable sales taxes.

Handset Choice

Advanced users who want some additional functionality may find the Jitterbug handset choices somewhat limited. While an array of handsets available from competitor Sprint offer users a choice between sleek styling, large displays and advanced functionality, Jitterbug offers potential customers only three handsets as of January 2010. In addition, each of the available handsets offers similar styling and the same functionality, placing considerable limits on users’ ability to use the device as a statement of personal style.

Service Price

In addition to high handset prices, according to a review penned by CNET electronics editors, Jitterbug users can expect to pay high prices for service and calling plans. According to the official Jitterbug website, a $14.99-per-month service plan includes only 50 minutes of talk time as of January 2010. For about twice that price, Jitterbug users can get 200 minutes of talk time per month and up to 500 minutes of night and weekend calling. In contrast, competitor T-Mobile offers a similarly priced plan that includes 500 minutes of daytime calling, unlimited calling to other in-network phones and unlimited use on nights and weekends. As of January 2010, no Jitterbug calling plans include unlimited minutes of any kind.

Limited Functionality

Mobile telephone users typically enjoy a wide array of services, including mobile web browsing, the ability to install applications, mobile email and even interactive games. Because Jitterbug phones and service plans embrace simplicity, though, Jitterbug customers find these services unavailable. Though Jitterbug handsets do support Bluetooth connectivity with wireless headsets, this feature became available only on the second generation of handset devices. The phones also support text messaging, but service plans allow only 50 messages per month and, according to the CNET review, the simplistic handset design makes texting difficult.