GreatCall isn’t your average medical alert brand. Both a cell phone provider and a medical alert company, it offers unique solutions for reaching emergency responders. You can also use their exclusive concierge services, like on-demand phone consultations with doctors.
The most popular GreatCall products are their Jitterbug mobile phones, which we recently reviewed in detail along with GreatCalls wearable alerts. Jitterbugs have big buttons and other senior-friendly features, and we like that they’re powered by Verizon, America’s fastest cellular network.1 Also impressive is GreatCall’s medical alert button with GPS, Lively Mobile Plus. Like another favorite of ours, Philips LifeLine, this device/plan offers ultra-fast response time.2
Did You Know: GreatCall Jitterbug cell phones can call for help from across the house when synced to a GreatCall pendant.
From what we’ve seen, GreatCall is a leader in mobile phones and alert systems for seniors. But you’re probably wondering about costs and fees, and whether or not GreatCall has a plan that will work for your budget and lifestyle. Don’t worry, we’re going to take a closer look at their products, pricing, and services to see how this brand compares to other top contenders like Medical Guardian. It’s all right here in our in-depth look at GreatCall.
The best features of this system
It’s important to know that GreatCall charges separately for equipment and service (as many companies only charge for service). Here’s a look at the regular prices for their Jitterbug phones and Lively wearables. If you’re on a tight budget, AARP membership discounts and other savings might apply.
|GreatCall Device||GPS||Waterproof||Fall Detection||Equipment Price|
|Lively Mobile Plus||Built-in||Yes||Yes||$49.99|
|Lively Wearable2||From synced phone||No, but water resistant (shower safe)||Yes||$49.99|
Note that GreatCall currently sells the four medical alert devices as outlined above. These are the Jitterbug Flip phone, the Jitterbug Smart2 phone, the Lively Wearable2 button that syncs with mobile phones, and the Lively Mobile Plus button with its own cellular chip for sending alerts. We think it’s a decent product lineup, as many brands only offer two or three options. But let’s see what each of the packages and plans offer you, and who they’re best for.
The ever-popular Jitterbug Flip is a folding mobile phone made by Samsung. Easy to use, it has a simple large-print menu and big keypad buttons, including a red HELP button for emergency calls. Included perks are dialing and texting by voice, a 2MP camera, Brain Games for mental sharpness, and a reading light with magnifier. The phone has 1GB of storage and costs $99.99. However, the no-contract service costs start at $14.99 per month, so that’s something to keep in mind. Jitterbug phones use the Verizon network.
Best For: The Jitterbug Flip is best for seniors who prefer a simple mobile phone with around-the-clock protection
As the bigger brother to the Jitterbug Flip, the Jitterbug Smart2 is a Samsung Android phone with 16GB, a 5.5” screen, and a choice of two setups. With the simple layout, apps appear in a list. With the advanced layout, apps show in the traditional way with icons (we like this one!). With either layout, a digital 5Star button shows at the bottom of the screen. Special features include voice dialing/texting, a 13MP camera, Brain Games, and an earbuds jack. The full price is $149.99, and service starts around $18 per month.
Best For: The Jitterbug Smart2 is best for seniors who want a more advanced mobile phone experience with 24/7 emergency coverage.
FYI: In most cases, you can transfer your current mobile number to a Jitterbug phone. We always recommend doing so to keep things simple.
This innovative button can upgrade your current smartphone with fall detection, 5Star emergency service, Urgent Care medical calls, and other GreatCall benefits*. You can wear it around your wrist or neck, and it works when within Bluetooth range. We like how it’s waterproof (approved for swimming) and works for about four months per battery. Also, it doubles as a pedometer, with step counts displaying in the app. The full price for this handy device is $49.99. And the monitoring starts at $24.99 per month, contract-free.
*Compatible with iOS 8.0 and later, and Android 4.4 and later
Best For: The Lively Wearable2 is best for folks who want advanced emergency alert coverage, but without investing in a new phone
While we think other GreatCall products are more unique, Lively Mobile Plus is similar to all-in-one GPS buttons from other medical alert brands. A big advantage though is its average response time of under 10 seconds (lighting-fast from what we’ve seen). Also, it offers two-way voice and uses Advanced GPS for more precise locating. This device is rain-safe and can clip to your waistband, pocket, or purse. It holds a charge for up to 80 hours. The full price is $49.99. And 24/7 monitoring starts at $24.99 per month.
Best For: The Lively Mobile Plus is best for seniors who are seeking a convenient alert system with GPS and ultra-fast response time
Did You Know: If you call 911 from a regular cell phone, accurate GPS info isn’t necessarily relayed to dispatchers!3 Services like GreatCall can help pinpoint your location.
You’ll probably want a few accessories if you choose GreatCall for yourself or a loved one. We found that the pager-sized Lively Mobile Plus is most convenient when used with a belt clip ($9.99). But if you want fall detection, you’ll need to wear it on a lanyard ($14.99). Also, it’s wise to use a screen protector, especially with the Jitterbug Smart2 ($9.99).
Here’s a helpful pricing chart of these and other GreatCall accessories, add-ons, and upgrades.
|GreatCall Accessory||One-Time Cost||Product Description|
|Gel Phone Case||$19.99||Protective wraparound case for Jitterbug Smart2; choice of red or blue|
|Car Charger||$24.99||12V charger with 40″ coiled cable; versions for Jitterbug Flip and Smart2|
|Screen Protector||$9.99||An extra layer of protection for a Jitterbug phone; guards the screen against scratches|
|Bluetooth Headset||$29.99||Wireless Insignia® headset for streaming music and answering phone calls; adjustable for comfort|
|Lanyard||$14.99||A neck cord in black for Lively Mobile Plus; keeps the medical alert button easily accessible and facilitates fall detection|
|Lively Mobile Plus Belt Clip||$9.99||For attaching the GPS button to a belt, purse, or pocket|
Special services — like GreatCall Rides, for instance — help set this brand apart from other cell phone and medical alert providers we’ve tested. Some services are included with GreatCall’s $19.99 per month Basic plan, while others are only available with the Preferred ($24.99) or Ultimate ($34.99) plans. The nice thing is that they are available one way or another, which is more than most brands can say.
Here’s a roundup of the special services you can expect with GreatCall.
|GreatCall Service||Service Description|
|Fall Detection||Sends a fall-specific emergency signal if a wearable detects a sudden slip or fall|
|5Star Monitoring||24/7 connection to expert emergency response personnel in case of emergency|
|Urgent Care||On-demand phone consultations with doctors and RNs, plus an audio library on common health concerns|
|Personal Operator||Unlimited help with phone numbers, addresses, appointment scheduling, and more|
|GreatCall Link||Mobile app that lets caregivers use GPS tracking and receive alerts if the subscriber calls for help|
|GreatCall Rides||Concierge service for arranging Lyft rides with drivers trained to work with seniors|
Now remember, not all of the services listed above are available across all devices, packages, or plans. So we created the table below to summarize the availability of services for each GreatCall device. This should help you narrow down your choices to find an option that works for you or your loved one.
|GreatCall Service||Jitterbug Smart2||Jitterbug Flip||Lively Wearable2||Lively Mobile Plus|
Save 50 percent: For a limited time Lively Mobile Plus is selling for $24.99 on the company’s website. Another thing to consider is a longstanding GreatCall deal offered through AARP. If you’re an AARP member, you can save $5 per month on monitoring or cell service. Not bad.
Note that shipping is always free, and other discounts might be active on a rolling basis. See GreatCall’s website for the latest special promotions, deals, discounts, and savings.
Choosing a GreatCall alert system can be smart if you’re on a budget. If you or your loved one needs cell phone service anyway, then a GreatCall Jitterbug phone wouldn’t cost you any extra per month. Mind you, GreatCall’s lowest advertised rate of $14.99 doesn’t cover everything we typically look for in a medical alert system.
Pro Tip: If you upgrade with texting and data plans and concierge services, it’s still much cheaper than your typical mobile phone plan – with the added value of emergency alert coverage, a personal operator, and other senior-friendly features.
As for the wearable units, here too they offer competitive rates, starting at $24.99 per month. It’s a bit disappointing that the equipment isn’t free, unlike with Bay Alarm Medical and some other favorite alert systems of ours. Also a bit discouraging is the $35 activation fee; it’s not the norm with medical alert buttons. But we think GreatCall wearables are superior to other systems out there in terms of response time, plus they have GPS.
All in all, you could spend slightly less per month with a home-only alternative from Bay Alarm Medical, Life Alert, or a similar provider. But for some of the best plans, packages, and pricing, we have to say that GreatCall is indeed a “great call.”
GreatCall was founded in 2005 by a southern California couple already known for revolutionizing mobile communications. Arlene Harris had developed game-changing code for pagers, and Martin Cooper was considered the father of the cell phone.4
The original purpose of GreatCall was to showcase Harris’s new code, called SOS, for emergency communications. The first Jitterbug phones with this technology hit the market in 2006. Well-designed and built by Samsung, they were well-received from the start.5 Within a few years, GreatCall added services such as Urgent Care for on-demand medical calls and MedCoach for text-based pill reminders.
Today the company is owned by Best Buy and maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.6
No, all the devices offer month-to-month service. You can cancel anytime without a fee.
Yes, each account has a $35 activation charge.
5Star is GreatCall’s operator network. Agents can see the user’s location and provide help whether a person is lost, feels nervous walking alone, or is having a medical emergency. 5Star agents are trained in gerontology and social work and are IAED-certified.
Jitterbug phones have dedicated buttons for reaching 5Star agents. If you call 911 instead, 5Star will get notification. An agent can join the call and give your location to the 911 operator. The agent can also provide relevant information about your health. GreatCall will stay on the line until help arrives. Meanwhile the agent can reach out to your personal emergency contacts and add a registered nurse to the call.
If you could use a new smartphone, then Jitterbug Smart2 is best. If you’d like a simpler phone, Jitterbug Flip is best. You could also get a Lively Wearable2 to connect with a Jitterbug or your current phone. The fourth option, no phone required, is the Lively Mobile Plus GPS button.
Yes, returns are accepted within 30 days. However, refunds aren’t given on phones that have used 30 minutes or more of air time.
Verizon Communications. (28 January, 2020.). Verizon Wins RootMetrics Overall Performance Award for Record 13th Consecutive Time.
GreatCall. (Retrieved 20 May, 2020). Lively Mobile Plus.
WPTV.com. Smink, S. (14 May, 2018). Why 911 Can’t Always Find You If You Call from a Call Phone.
Encyclopedia.com. (Retrieved 22 May, 2020). Martin Cooper.
NYTimes.com. Pogue, D. (28 December, 2006). Brilliant Ideas That Found a Welcome.
GreatCall: Better Business Bureau® Profile. (Retrieved May 20, 2020). BBB.