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GreatCall Updates Jitterbug Cellphone

San Diego – GreatCall launched its next-generation Jitterbug prepaid phone, marking its first major update since October 2006.

Like its predecessor, the new 850/1,900MHz CDMA 1x Jitterbug J retails for $147, features a big-button

back-lit dialing keypad, and targets consumers who want an uncomplicated easy-to-use phone for voice and text messaging. The new model, however, adds a bigger screen, more memory, an easier-to-use interface, full text messaging, Bluetooth and GPS for planned location-based services (LBS). Over-the-air application downloading is also new, and the company plans over-the-air downloads of LBS-based safety applications.

The Samsung-made Jitterbug J is available direct to consumers through direct-response ads and GreatCall’s Jitterbug Web site as well as through electronics and drug stores, including Shopko, CVS, Sears and RadioShack.

Like before, the clamshell phone features big-button back-lit dialing keypad, cushioned earpiece, large-text display, simple menu system, text messaging and a variety of other services.

For the Jitterbug J, the list of new features includes 1GB of memory compared to 160MB, thinner size at 2.17 by 3.87 by 0.98 inches, larger internal screen at 2.1 inches, Bluetooth and optional Jitterbug Bluetooth headset, easier-to-use user interface, and full text messaging though without predictive keyboard. Like the previous model, it also offers canned messages.

The new model also adds the ability to personalize ringtones and screen colors; ringtones tested for audibility by people with hearing loss, 30 percent longer standby time, and a speakerphone button moved to an easier-to-reach location on the upper left side of the keypad.

Features that can be turned on or off include voice dialing, international calling, canned text messages, premium voicemail and call waiting.

New Jitterbug J services include 24/7 calling to a registered nurse and health information library, plus the ability to push calendar items to the phone over the air. Users enter the calendar items on a personal Web site or call the Jitterbug operator to enter them. The services complement previously available roadside assistance service and 24/7 operator assistance.

Other new services include call waiting and a $9/month Jitterbug Complete Care package that includes roadside assistance, no-questions-asked handset replacement, and LiveNurse.

Prepaid voice bundles start at $15 for 30 voice minutes good for 90 days to $80 for 800 minutes. With a $10 pay-as-you-go plan, users pay 35 cents per minute for each minute used.

In other matters, the company is dropping its $147 Jitterbug One Touch, a clamshell that features three large dialing buttons. One button is for 911, one is for a Jitterbug operator, and the third lights up a menu of preset phone numbers. The phone-number list is created by the user on a personal Web site or by a Jitterbug operator. The list is then pushed to the phone over the air.

GreatCall is offering software upgrades for Jitterbugs sold between March 2008 through May 2009 because they could fail to connect to 911 service “in a few small rural areas where Jitterbug does not have a roaming agreement and [where] there is not overlap with our network coverage,” said CEO David Inns. “In those rare instances, you might not complete a call on a Jitterbug even though there is some signal available.” Jitterbug’s network consists of multiple carriers with which it has reselling agreements.