Editor's Note: Lively has launched the newest iteration of the Jitterbug smartphone, the Smart4. In addition to all of the Smart3’s great features, the Smart4 offers a larger touchscreen and improved voice commands.
When a senior needs a new phone, we often recommend checking out Lively. Lively phones are well-made by Samsung and designed to be senior-friendly. For instance, the phones are hearing-aid compatible and they use big fonts to make things easy on the eyes. Lively phones also have 5Star help buttons for the mobile industry’s fastest emergency response time.1
We like that the phone service starts at an affordable $14.99 per month, or $19.99 with 5Star emergency coverage. Add-on features are texting, Internet, a medical advice hotline, a concierge service for Lyft, and more. Overall, we really like these contract-free phones. But there are some things you’ll want to consider before purchasing Lively. Read on to learn all about the Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart4. We’re sharing our hands-on experience with these devices, it’s all right here!
Lively sells by phone and online. We went through the simple signup process online. At first, we hesitated because monthly prices weren’t shown – but the monthly rates appeared once we chose equipment. You’ll notice that Lively displays two price charts on their website: one for basic cell service, and one for phone service plus 5Star and other upgrades for health, safety, and convenience.
We must say, the upgrades are enticing. If you have the urge to splurge, you can choose the works, which you’ll likely find to be cheaper than your current phone bill (we think Lively phones are refreshingly affordable). However, it’s important to remember that service is limited in rural areas. So if you live off the beaten path, this is something to bear in mind before pulling out your credit card.
We ordered during a holiday promotion. This gave us a 25% off Lively phone discount and free in-car chargers. That’s a win-win in our book. We also appreciated the free shipping, which is the norm with all Lively equipment. Overall, signup was easy, and we walked away with great savings.
FYI: You can usually keep your current phone number when you switch providers. But if you do change it, the FCC requires that phone number transfers be completed within one business day from when the new service begins.3
We found that the Lively setup process is straightforward. We just followed the prompts, like setting up a 4-digit PIN and connecting to our home’s Wi-Fi network. The whole process should only take you about 10 minutes, from start to finish.
Then, once your phone setup is complete, you can customize your Lively device at any time. Note that each Lively manual explains advanced setup options such as recording a voicemail greeting or customizing the ringtone.
Lively phones are designed for easy use by seniors. The technology is fairly simple to understand, even if you didn’t grow up with computers. And if your eyes or ears have seen better days, or you have shaky hands, we think you’ll like Lively’s user-friendly design.
Did You Know: A Lively phone can detect falls and call for help automatically when synced to a Lively neck pendant. You can learn more about this in our review.
Thankfully, each phone has extra-large dialing buttons with backlighting. Calling for assistance is easy if you subscribe to a phone plan with the Health and Safety upgrade: Just hit the 5Star button and you’ll have trained emergency personnel on the line in seconds. Also, each phone displays a simplified menu in a large font (the Smart4 phone can show regular Android icons as well).
As far as size and portability goes, we found that the Smart4 is a bit large for pants pockets, and especially when we’ve added a protective case. So if you want a phone that’s handier on the go, we think the foldable Jitterbug Flip2 is best. If size is a real consideration, we’d also recommend looking into traditional (but highly effective) mobile alert units, like those offered by Bay Alarm Medical.
The 5Star alert service is Lively’s one-button connection to NAED-certified agents. It’s available with Lively monthly phone plans priced $19.99 and up. Note that 5Star monitoring is primarily for help in non-emergency medical situations, getting assistance when lost, or having virtual company when walking alone.
However, a 5Star agent can always call 911 if needed. And if a subscriber calls 911 using Lively, rest assured 5Star will be notified, allowing the agent to join the call to share important information such as location and medical history. We think this comprehensive care and connectivity sets Lively apart from other providers we’ve used.
FYI: If you call 911 from a standard mobile phone, dispatchers might not receive accurate GPS data.4 If you call with Lively, Lively’s 5Star service can help pinpoint your location.
We’ve always liked Lively customer service and have just one complaint: their limited hours. However, since we last tried their products, Lively customer service has become more accessible.
You’ll be able to reach out for help by phone every day from 5 am to 10 pm PST. If you’d rather not call, you can submit an online form instead. In our experience, we received a helpful email response within a couple of hours of submitting a query. Not bad at all. Finally, Lively agents are based in the US, which is a business decision we can appreciate.
Obviously it’s important to know the terms when you sign up with a new phone or medical alert system. Fortunately, Lively lets you pay month-to-month without requiring a long-term commitment. Although this is novel for phone companies, it’s standard practice in the alert industry. So we weren’t blown away by this customer-friendly policy.
If you order and aren’t happy with your Lively phone, you can return it within 30 days for a refund minus $10 for restocking. First, you’ll need to call Lively for a return authorization number. When they receive the return, they will refund the price of the phone, the activation fee ($35), the service you paid for, and any applicable taxes. The only “catch” is that you might not be refunded for talk, text, or data, depending on usage. We think that’s fair.
Currently, Lively features two phones: the Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart4. One big difference between these options is web connectivity. Only Smart4 offers access to the Internet. But keep in mind that each model can connect with 5Star, Lively’s help service for when subscribers are in unsafe or uncertain situations. Let’s have a look at the main features for emergency response and everyday use.
Jitterbug Flip2 is a palm-sized phone with a clamshell/flip design; that is, it folds to open and close. Samsung makes Flip with cheerful red and classic charcoal gray casings, and the phone gets service through Lively on the Verizon 4G LTE network. Flip’s speaker is hearing aid compatible (M4/T4 rating). We appreciated that the red 5Star button is incorporated into the keypad, and all keypad buttons are oversized for easy dialing.
The inside screen is 3.2″ high and shows large-print menu options such as “Voicemail” and “Camera.” With its 1GB of storage, we liked that Jitterbug Flip2 can hold about 1,000 pictures (grandkids, kittens, bingo night, poker night, we stay busy) along with dozens of texts and voice messages. The price is $99, which is reasonable. And cell service starts at $19.99 per month with 5Star, or $14.99 without 5Star. Compared to our traditional phone bill, $19.99 per month is an extremely good deal. The key features of Jitterbug Flip2 include:
Tip: You might consider a Lively phone as an alternative to a wearable medical alert button. Or you could skip 5Star activation and choose a Lively phone for its user-friendly design and affordability.
The most advanced Lively phone, Smart4 is an Android smartphone. We like using its 5½” touchscreen for texting, games, and surfing the web! On the other hand, due to its larger size, this phone isn’t as portable as the Jitterbug Flip2. So we had to dock some points for on-the-go portability.
Like Jitterbug Flip2, Smart4 is hearing aid compatible and allows dialing and texting by voice. It’s also preloaded with Brain Games, and more apps can be downloaded from Google Play. A couple of features we liked most were the 13MP camera and up to 32GB of storage. In other words, we found it to be all-around better than the Flip. The price is $149, with cell service starting at $19.99 per month with 5Star, or $17.48 without. The main features are:
Like other cell phone companies, Lively sells chargers, screen protectors, and other accessories. It’s nice to have options for customizations and personalizing your phone. So we appreciate the lineup of add-ons and accessories that Lively offers. Here are upgrade options for Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart4.
|Lively Add-Ons & Accessories||Price|
|Extra Charger (wall, car, or portable)||$24.99|
|Jitterbug Smart4 Protective Gel Case||$19.99|
|Smart4 Wallet Folio Case||$24.99|
|Jitterbug Flip2 Holster Case||$19.99|
|Jitterbug Flip2 Case with Lanyard||$19.99|
As mentioned above, the cheapest Lively option is their regular phone service. But you can also spring for upgraded services, even beyond the 5Star package. Here are a few Lively services available with month-to-month Lively plans:
We rate Lively a top value for senior cell phone service. We think the equipment is fairly priced considering the quality, as Lively phones are built by Samsung and have one-year warranties. And with 5Star included with their $19.99 monthly cell service, Lively strikes us as a special phone value for seniors.
Considering the low cost, you might ask whether Jitterbug Smart4 is a bargain for adults of all ages. During testing, our biggest gripe was the slow Internet processing speed. But otherwise, Lively is a great value for what it’s meant to be: a reliable mobile phone designed specifically for aging adults.
Of course, a mobile phone isn’t as useful as a pendant for sending medical alerts. A pendant tends to be more accessible, and only a pendant can sense if you’ve fallen. Well, Lively closes this gap with the Lively Wearable 2. When worn around the wrist or neck, this device can trigger a Lively to call for help.
All in all, we think Lively is a budget-friendly brand with great solutions for seniors.
Lively. (Accessed 2020, June 11.) 5Star Urgent Response.
FCC. (2020, March 9.) Porting: Keeping Your Phone Number When You Change Providers.
WPTV.com. Smink, S. (14 May, 2018). Why 911 Can’t Always Find You If You Call from a Call Phone.
GooglePlay. (Accessed 2020, June 11). Lively Link: Ratings and Reviews.
GlobalNewsWire. (2016, August 30.) Lively and Lyft Solve Transportation Issues for Seniors Using Personal Operators.