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Simple Gifts: Jitterbug, Presto

I can't lie: Today's column was not exactly the most difficult work I've had this year. My testing of the Jitterbug voice-only cell phone and Hewlett-Packard and Presto's Printing Mailbox service amounted to this:

* Pick up phone. Press buttons. Talk.
* Send e-mail. Wait for it to emerge from the HP printer. Read.

(OK, so I had to call tech support a couple of times. But since I didn't have to listen to any hold music or be interrogated repeatedly for my e-mail address/phone number/name/rank/serial number, that didn't seem like my usual work either.)

I'm not about to use either of these things myself, but I can think of plenty of people who would.

On the other hand, it can be risky assuming how somebody with a vastly different life experience will react to a new form of technology. The things that you'd think would be easy can be hard, but the seemingly difficult things can turn out to be no problem. I'm reminded of when my mom sat down with her first computer and seemed lost at the keyboard. She explained that she didn't take any typing classes in high school: "I never wanted to be a secretary." Over seven years later, I don't know that the typing is any easier, but she has been known to nag me to answer her e-mails.

So you tell me: Are either of these things the sort of product that you'd use, or that you'd get for a friend or family member who's shied away from cell phones or e-mail so far?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 26, 2007; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Personally, I don't like cellphones, mainly due to folks overusing them, and the general cost-to-use function that I have for them. Though I do have a pay-as-you-go type for when I go on travel, or for emergencies.

But I notice in my line of work that cell phones are not allowed in many facilities due to all those 'extra features'. Wi-fi, Bluetooth, digital cameras, video and audio recording capabilities go against many security rules.

A 'dumb' phone is a decent solution for those that work in such areas.

Posted by: Kim | July 26, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

This might be a dumb question, but your columns states "It only makes calls; it doesn't do text or picture messaging, browse the Web or take photos."

Does it also *receive* calls? If so, that's some sloppy wording, if not, then that's quite a limitation.

Posted by: LM | July 26, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Now THAT was a useful column. Thanks.

A request: All people over 70 and all people with a parent or grandparent over 70 please raise your hand......Hey, that's a lot of hands up in the air!

Posted by: Chuck | July 26, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the Jitterbug works both ways. In our defense, I didn't see how the sentence could be read any other way--and neither did my editor or anybody on the copy desk. But I've gotten one e-mail saying "thanks for heads-up about this one-way phone," so I guess it allows that interpretation.

(But seriously: If the phone was missing a feature as fundamental as the ability to take a call, don't you think I would have said so in bold type at the top of the story?)

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | July 26, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

A simple, _robust_ cell phone that only does, well, telephony, is what I'd like to have. If the jitterbug had a larger address book, and better cost structure...

With my current phone/service I have texting turned off, don't take pictures, all I do is make/receive phone calls.

Posted by: wiredog | July 26, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm with wiredog - my old simple Samsung broke and I unfortunately chose a Razr V3 as a replacement and HATE it!!! This thing is totally geared for teenagers or people with ADD - I don't want to take pictures, download videos and music, and set my phone up to make all kinds of cool and annoying sounds. I just want a phone that makes calls, can text, and can be put on silent mode or open contacts with one button. I can't wait till this contract is up next year so I can downgrade to the simplest phone I can find.

Posted by: Ballston, VA | July 26, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I left comment on the original article. My mom fell during a road trip with seniors last year, broke some ribs. This has profoundly affected her attitude. She used to lead bus trips to flower shows in Boston and New York and other sights for seniors. On the way home she would pull out a bottle of sherry and put everyone to sleep.

Now she won't leave the house. She scared to death of falling and not having someone to help her or letting Dad know what happened. A cellphone would be perfect and it would need to be simple. I was hunting for a jitterbug type phone. A phone that was identical in function and appearance (the keyboard) to her home phone. There should be no chance that if you touched a wrong button that you would end up downloading ringtones from the web.

The phone should have administrator control so I could set it up, disable features and add phone numbers. You would be surprised how many gadgets could be improved with that feature. The phone should be cheap and have a phone card with non-expiring minutes. There should be no monthly charges since both parents would forget. This is a service that large carriers could absorb. Kids would probably switch to the carrier so they could talk to their parents for free. Carriers could issue granny phones as part of a package deal for the kids.

I spend a lot of money on communications and I am getting fed up. I'm not about to take on two more gimmicky contracts for my parents. I like a (free) simple phone, VZAccess card, and carry an IPAC GPS PIM with WiFi.

Posted by: beaconps | July 27, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I bought my 76-year-old mother the Jitterbug (the one with the actual numbered buttons . . . she's not that badly off yet). It works; she likes it; the set-up service was excellent. However, I did pre-pay for the full year of service, which is 360 minutes (she's basically got it for emergencies) . . . and eight months in, she's used exactly eight minutes. So she'd better start DIALING in November/December, because I don't think those minutes roll over.

That being said, it's not the cheapest deal around, I guess, but it's a very good quality phone, and I think it fills a need.

Posted by: TMU | July 27, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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