Underneath the display is where the easy-to-use aspects of the phone really shine through. There's a dedicated power toggle, a speakerphone key, a simple up-and-down toggle to scroll through lists, the Yes and No buttons, and of course the number keypad. The speakerphone key is a big improvement over the original, which didn't have one. We would've liked the power and speakerphone keys to be a little bigger, but all the other keys are huge and hard to miss. The number keypad in particular is the roomiest we've ever used--each key is a big circle with a raised border so it's very easy to dial by feel if you so choose.
Make no mistake, the Jitterbug J is as basic as most phones get. Still, it's just a tiny bit more advanced than the original Jitterbug Dial. Like the Dial, it will hold up to 50 numbers in its phonebook, and you can have up to 15 numbers preprogrammed by Jitterbug when you order the phone. You can even dial zero to ask the operator to do your contacts management for you after you receive the phone. Of course, you can also manually add and remove phone numbers via the phone itself. Alternately, you can mail or fax your phonebook changes, or edit them via the Jitterbug Web site. You can also give a friend or relative access to the list so they can help you with it. Note that you can only add one number per contact.
Other features include voice mail (which costs a premium of $3 a month), a speakerphone that you can activate prior to a call, the choice of seven ringtones, and voice dialing. The voice dialing works well, though note that it only works with contacts that are already in your phonebook--you have to say the person's name, which means you can't voice dial numbers directly. If you want, you can also dial zero for the operator to make calls for you. However, note that all operator-assisted calls will cost you a 5-minute deduction from your available minutes.
The two additional features of the Jitterbug J are that it also includes text messaging plus Bluetooth support. You can write, read, and delete messages via the text-messaging menu. However, note that you can only type out text messages in the ABC format, meaning you have to spell out the word with the number keypad--there's no T9 support for word auto completion. This can take a long time and be quite frustrating. Also note that each text message costs 10 cents to send and receive, and there doesn't appear to be any unlimited message plan option, which can get expensive after awhile. As for Bluetooth, you can pair, unpair, and toggle Bluetooth on and off. There's a handy help tutorial that walks you through the pairing process.
Other Jitterbug services include 24-hour roadside assistance that will help you with car trouble for $4 a month, handset-replacement insurance for $4 a month, and a 24-hour LiveNurse hotline to answer all your health care questions for $4 a month. As you can tell, adding all these premium services can add up to a pretty expensive monthly plan, so we advise you to exercise caution when setting up your Jitterbug service.
We tested the Samsung Jitterbug J in San Francisco using Jitterbug's service. We received a strong signal most of the time, though it did dip to "good" and "fair" signal strength occasionally (You find this out by selecting the Phone Info option in the menu). Call quality was very impressive overall. Callers could still tell we were on a cell phone, and voice quality wasn't as natural sounding as we would like, but the calls still came through loud and clear without any static. The same goes with the speakerphone; callers even said they could not tell the difference between speakerphone and non-speakerphone modes
On our end, we could hear our callers loud and clear as well. The only thing we wish was that there were more volume levels--the Jitterbug J only has three volume levels: low, medium, and high. While we found the high volume level to be loud enough normally, we wanted the volume level in the speakerphone mode to be just a bit louder. Overall, though, we could hear our callers without any problems.
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