- GreatCall, Jitterbug: Review
- GreatCall: What you need to know
- Packages: How much does GreatCall cost?
- Jitterbug Smart2
- Jitterbug Flip
- Lively Mobile Plus
- Lively Wearable
- Basic Health & Safety Package
- Preferred Health & Safety Package
- Ultimate Health & Safety Package
- GreatCall: Warranty and Cancellation
- How does GreatCall deal with an alert?
- GreatCall: What the users say
- GreatCall: Verdict
- GreatCall Review 2020: A Great Service For Seniors
- GreatCall: Medical Alerts & Safety for Seniors
- Monitoring Services
- Contracts & Costs
- Customer Support
- GreatCall, Lively Mobile: Review
- Summary of Pros and Cons
- Lively Detailed Review
- Company Background
- How It Works
- Cellular Network Connection
- Cost and Plans
- Preferred Plan
- Ultimate Plan
- Other Fees and Taxes
- Month-to-Month Service, Cancel Anytime
- Magnetic Lanyard
- Waterproof Capability
- Fall Detection Technology
- Daily Charging Needed
- Monitoring Center
- Urgent Care Line (Nurse-line)
- GreatCall Link
GreatCall, Jitterbug: Review
This is an interestingly different approach to a medical alert. This product is a “senior friendly” cell phone, but it has a button which lets you call the medical alert monitoring service (called 5 star) which is provided by the manufacturer (GreatCall).
This button reaches the same person you would reach by pressing the alert button on the GreatCall Lively Mobile Alert, or pressing the “help” button on the 5star App on your smart phone.
So, Great Call is offering multiple different form factors, that all call the same responder call center, where the responders can help in various ways including calling 911. See more about this 5 star service in our discussion of the Splash and the Smartphone 5star App.
We have not tested the actual Jitterbug but we hear positive reports from people we know who have them. We suspect, but are not certain as yet, that this product does not include GPS capability which means that the responder does not know where you are until you tell them (unlike with the Splash, which knows where it is and tells the responder without you having to do so).
Note: This phone is a flip phone, and differs from the Jitterbug Smart which is a Smartphone. On the Jitterbug Smart you access 5 star through an App (the 5star App) rather than a real button.
- Most affordable
- NAED-certified responders
- Fastest response time
- Loud and clear speaker, even when wet
- Good battery life
- Somewhat bulky
Out of all the MPERS we tested, the 5-Star is by far the most affordable, and it performed well in all aspects. It has a long battery life (it lasted 5 days in our lab), and it’s shower safe and durable. This product also had the fastest response time of all of the devices tested (11.3 second average, 12 second max).
5-Star also provides a premium service for $19.99/month that gives access to doctors and nurses who can consult the user based on recorded medical conditions and also call in prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy. A smartphone app is available to caregivers, which allows tracking of user activity. Additionally, direct 911 calls can be made by holding the button. Also, from our research, the company Great Call has the best online reviews of all of the competitors. The 5-Star operates on Verizon’s cell network and can be worn on a lanyard or belt clip.
Additional features: Personal profiling, smartphone app for caregiver notification
Location technology/Network provider: Verizon, GPS
Staff certification: National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED)
Battery life: 5+ days
Average response time (tested in lab): 11.3 seconds (12 second max)
How We Tested: We evaluated 5 Mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems (MPERS). We assessed for ease of use, what training the emergency responders receive, if the device still works after being dropped on a drop tester in the lab, if it’s water-resistant and can be worn in the shower, and how much time it takes for a response. We also looked at what options there are for wearing the device, how family members are notified in an emergency, and how long the battery lasts.
Reviewed: July 2014
Price When Reviewed: $49.99 , $35 activation fee, $14.99/month
This is our review of the GreatCall medical alert system. In the market for a medical alert system? We’ve got all the information you need to make an informed decision. Hours of research went into creating our guide to the best medical alert systems out there.
GreatCall: What you need to know
GreatCall is unique among the medical alert services that we’ve reviewed, as it doesn’t have a home version of its product, focussing entirely on its mobile offerings. In many ways, this makes a lot of sense, as you get coverage everywhere and the device you speak into is the one that’s carried, making it easier to ask for and receive advice.
GreatCall has a range of devices, including two smartphones, the cellular Lively Mobile Plus, and the Lively Wearable, which connects to an existing phone (Android or iOS). With call costs lower than much of the competition, GreatCall is a very competitive service. It lacks some of the more advanced options of other systems, such as buttons to call for help that can be mounted in strategic places at home, so may not be suitable for all.
Packages: How much does GreatCall cost?
GreatCall requires you to have a device, which you buy outright, and then you add your medical alert service on top. This gives you two choices to make: which hardware is right, and then which package is ideal for your needs. As all of the devices are mobile, there’s no free spouse cover with this service. In this section, we break down what’s available to buy.
(Image credit: GreatCall)
A touchscreen smartphone, the Jitterbug 2 ($149.99) runs GreatCall’s software to make it easier to use by a senior. It also has a dedicated 5Start Urgent Response button to call for help. Hardware-wise, the Jitterbug 2 lags behind the main Android competition, and a budget handset may be a wiser choice in the long run, combined with the other hardware that GreatCall makes.
The phone runs on the GreatCall network, which operates on Verizon, so you also have to sign up for a calls package. These start at $17.48 a month for 250 minutes of calls, no text messages and just 100MB of data. Other combinations are available, up to unlimited calls, messages and data for $59.99 a month, although discounts are available for those that take out a GreatCall plan, too. Even so, you’re likely to get a better deal on another network. There’s a large 3,000 mAh battery, so with light phone usage, you can expect to charge the Smart2 every couple of days.
(Image credit: GreatCall)
The Jitterbug Flip ($99.99) is a far simpler phone than the Smart2. With large number keys and its flip design, the Flip is built to be easy for seniors to use. This phone also has a dedicated button for the 5Star Urgent Response service.
For many seniors that only want to make calls (there are no data services on this model), the Jitterbug Flip is going to be a more friendly device than the more complicated Smart2.
In addition to buying the phone, you have to sign up for a monthly phone contract, which starts at $14.99 for 250-minutes of calls and goes up to $39.99 for unlimited calls and texts. Discounts are available for those that take out a GreatCall Health & Safety Package. As the phone is very simple, it should last for a few days on a charge.
Lively Mobile Plus
(Image credit: GreatCall)
A wearable with integrated GPS and cellular connection, the Lively Mobile Plus ($49.99) is the company’s most simple device. It has a single button on the front to call for help, is waterproof and can be expanded to include fall detection.
This makes it the perfect all-in-one device, as it can be worn all of the time for complete coverage. Battery life is rated up to 80 hours, with the device charged via the provided dock.
(Image credit: GreatCall)
A basic watch, the Lively Wearable ($49.99) isn’t a standalone device and pairs with an Android or iPhone smartphone using Bluetooth. It provides a single button to call for help via the GreatCall app, and it also provides fall detection when used with the lanyard. There’s a user-changeable battery, which GreatCall says should last for six months.
The main downside of this product is that it relies on the paired smartphone being within range, which means two devices have to be carried, and if there’s a problem with the smartphone or its connection to the Wearable, help may be harder to get.
Basic Health & Safety Package
At just $19.99 a month ($24.99 a month with Lively Mobile Plus), the Basic Health & Safety Package provides you with an emergency response by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) certified response center. This is one of the cheapest entry-level plans, with only Bay Alarm Medical coming close on price.
This service is designed to aid with any problem, whether it’s medical assistance or just if your loved one is lost in an unfamiliar part of town.
Preferred Health & Safety Package
For just $5 more than the Basic service, the Preferred Health & Safety Package ($24.99 or $29.99 a month with the Lively Mobile Plus) expands what’s covered. You still get the same 5Star Service, but the support expands to include Urgent Care.
This gives phone access to a live nurse or doctor and even offers a prescription for common medications over the phone. This service is designed as medical advice and shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for dialing 9-1-1. Urgent Care is provided by FONEMED.
Finally, you get GreatCall Link, which lets you keep tabs on a loved one’s status. Other services provide similar features, although these usually cost a fair bit more.
Ultimate Health & Safety Package
Ultimate ($34.99 or $39.99 a month with the Lively Mobile Plus) gives you all of the options of the previous packages, plus you get a free Handset Replacement if your device is lost, stolen or breaks.
This package includes the Personal Operator for phones, which is activated by dialing zero. The operator can help find addresses, arrange appointments or even organise taxi rides via GreatCall’s partnership with Lyft. If you have the Lively Mobile Plus, this tier adds in fall detection, making it one of the cheapest packages to include this.
GreatCall: Warranty and Cancellation
GreatCall: key Specs
Free cancellation: 30-days
System price (starts at): $49.99
Monthly costs (starts at): $14.99
In-home monitoring: No
GPS monitoring: Yes
GreatCall is a flexible service. It offers a 30-day cancellation period, where you can return any device back to the company. You will be charged the $10 restocking fee, and you may need to pay some additional charges if you exceed the noted phone usage limitations (you’ve made more than 30 minutes of calls, you’ve used 50MB of data or more or you’ve used more than 50 text messages) you may be liable for service fees. Even so, this returns policy gives you a fair amount of time to try out GreatCall before committing.
If you want to cancel the service, you can do so at any point, although cancellations start at the end of the current month that you’re in. And, you’re still liable for any additional usage of a phone made during the month that you cancelled, such as buying additional minutes for calls.
There’s a limited one-year warranty for all hardware devices, which covers defects in the product, including batteries if capacity drops to below 80 percent of the rated capacity. If you buy the Ultimate package, you get an extended warranty, which covers accidental damage, theft and loss, for one device per year. The extended warranty can also be bought for $4 a month per device.
How does GreatCall deal with an alert?
Alerts can be triggered manually by pressing the 5Star alert button on any of the devices. If you’ve got a device with fall detection, a slip will automatically call the 5Star service, where you’re connected directly to an agent.
The agent will talk to find out what the problem is and how best to respond. For medical emergencies or if you can’t talk, your location is verified and GreatCall will send out an emergency team to find you.
GreatCall can keep an emergency profile listing any medical issues or medicine taken, which can be used to inform the EMT staff of the issue. Having a backup medical bracelet could be useful, too. A list of contacts can also be called to keep them up to date with the situation.
(Image credit: GreatCall)
GreatCall: What the users say
More medical alert system reviews
To find out how well the service is really received, we’ve compiled information from trusted user review sites as well as our own first-hand experience of using the Lively Mobile device. Consumer Affairs splits ratings by device, with the Lively Mobile scoring 4.6 and the Jitterbug Smart2 scoring 4, with both devices praised for their reliability and ease of use. The Jitterbug Flip scores 1.3, with people complaining about the phone’s call quality.
On TrustPilot (rating 4.3) only the GreatCall service is rated. These users agree with ConsumerAffairs readers that the GreatCall service is very reliable and that the response time is excellent.
When we tested the GreatCall Lively Mobile, we found that the response speed was the best of all of the services, and that the device had a loud speaker that was easy to hear when wearing the device.
It’s hard to argue with GreatCall’s pricing, particularly when this is a cellular-only system. The service is a little different to other medical alert systems, with the call center able to help with general problems, such as helping a loved one that is lost. It would be nice to see GreatCall add medicine reminder and daily contact options to complete the package, even if these services cost extra.
As a completely mobile system, GreatCall may be better for a senior that’s more mobile and is still going out and about. Inside the home, the lack of options for additional buttons inside the home may mean that this system isn’t suitable for less mobile people, and you may be better off looking at a system that provides indoor and outdoor cover, such as Bay Alarm Medical.
Out of the devices available, the Lively Mobile Plus is the most flexible device and, as it’s standalone and waterproof, it is the only bit of kit that needs to be carried. The Jitterbug Smart2 is handy if you need a smartphone added into the mix, although this doesn’t provide fall protection. The Jitterbug Flip is an easier phone to use, although the spate of bad reviews means that you’re most likely better off with a separate phone and the Lively Mobile Plus.
For those that want a mobile medical alert system, they don’t come easier or cheaper than GreatCall.
GreatCall Review 2020: A Great Service For Seniors
GreatCall: Medical Alerts & Safety for Seniors
GreatCall offers several great monitoring-service features, like premium plans that allow subscribers to directly speak with a medical professional to get advice and a caregiver app.
GreatCall requires the purchase of its device. The upfront costs may be a little more than anticipated. However, the cost of the device is less expensive than the monitoring devices offered by other companies.
GreatCall offers GPS medical alert devices that offer great monitoring features for seniors. Most companies that sell medical alert devices do not provide the same number of features offered by GreatCall.
It is important to note that while the GreatCall Splash is mentioned in this article, the manufactured has replaced it with the GreatCall Lively Mobile. However, GreatCall still has not changed its highly-rated medical alert monitoring service.
GreatCall’s GreatCall Splash GPS is a medical alert device that utilizes the company’s highly- regarded 5Star Service plan. GreatCall Splash is an excellent unit for a family member, who is looking for a medical alert device that would allow the freedom to leave home. The waterproof equipment has an extended standby battery life, eliminating any fears of running out of battery power at the wrong time.
GreatCall has excellent features that allow family members to monitor the location of their loved ones and track the whereabouts of the device. GreatCall receives high praise due to its great monitoring service. The company also offers a host of additional helpful features.
Related: The best cell phone plans for seniors
The GreatCall Splash unit is only available to purchase through the company. However, of all the companies that require customers to purchase equipment directly from them, GreatCall Splash is the least expensive. To offset the high upfront costs, other companies include an equipment fee with the monthly subscription. One benefit of having to buy the equipment is avoiding any additional charges should the device become damaged. The portable unit is available in two colors: Tahoe Blue and Desert Silver. Most companies do not offer color options.
GreatCall’s medical alert system with GPS operates on Verizon Wireless’s cellular network. If Verizon’s cellular reception is available in the area, the device will more than likely work. The standby battery life for the GreatCall Splash is 96 hours. Of course, the duration of the battery’s life depends on the cellular signal strength and the device’s usage. If the device struggles to find or maintain a cell signal, the battery will drain more quickly.
GreatCall Splash is one of the few water-resistant medical devices on the market. It is submersible up to three feet deep for no longer than 30 minutes at a time. The water-resistant feature allows people to wear the device in the bath or shower. The shower and bath are places where there is an increased likelihood that a person will fall.
GreatCall can support 100 different languages. If a language-support option is needed, ask customer support for assistance at the time of activation. GreatCall has two service plans. The basic plan is the 5Star Service plan. This service plan gives subscribers the ability to use GreatCall Splash’s emergency button and send a call to the 5Star monitoring center. The monitoring is staffed 24 hours a day.
GreatCall also has a premium plan, the GreatCall Health and Safety Plan, for a slightly higher fee. This plan includes the regular 5Star Service, Urgent Care, and access to their GreatCall Link App. With the Urgent Care feature, subscribers can use the GPS medical device to contact doctors or nurses to receive medical advice at any time, without an added cost. Having the ability to directly contact medical professionals is beneficial to people who do not live near their physician, or don’t leave their homes often.
Also included in the GreatCall Health and Safety Plan is the GreatCall Link App. The app has many useful features for family members. Users can program the system to send an SMS alert to an emergency contact when the GreatCall Splash makes an emergency call. Family members can use the app to track the location of the GPS device using their phones. These features complement GreatCall’s daily calender. GreatCall’s daily calender is a feature that allows family members to monitor if their loved ones keep their appointments or make it to scheduled events.
Contracts & Costs
GreatCall does not require subscribers to sign a long-term contract. The service’s subscription fees are charged on a month-to-month basis. There are no cancellation fees, which is standard for companies that have month-to-month plans. However, the company does not offer refunds for a partial month of service.
There is a one-time activation charge to use the service. The fee is charged after the activating the device on the phone or through the company’s web portal. GreatCall offers free standard shipping. However, this is a charge for expedited shipping. Anyone who is unsatisfied with the product can return it within 30 days. The company does not refund expedited shipping or activation fees.
The GreatCall Splash device comes with a one-year warranty. But customers can increase their security by signing up for the company’s equipment replacement plan. There is a small monthly fee for the service, but it replaces damaged or lost devices free of charge. Should the physical user manual get lost, the manual is on GreatCall’s website in PDF form. For assistance, contacting GreatCall is as easy as making a phone call or sending an email.
GreatCall Splash is a highly-recommended GPS-enabled medical alert device. GreatCall offers a basic service plan that allows users to directly contact 911 or contact GreatCall’s monitoring center. Subscribers of the service can also access the online portal, allowing users to locate lost devices and track its location. If a family member needs a medical alert system, this is a device worth considering.
GreatCall, Lively Mobile: Review
The Lively Mobile is the next generation replacement for the GreatCall Splash which featured heavily in many of our prior detailed comparative analyses. The Lively Mobile is a good mobile medical alert, and includes fall detection and GPS location capability.
UPDATE: Q2 2019: This product has been discontinued and is now replaced by the Lively Mobile Plus.
We have acquired and tested the Lively Mobile, and confirm it is a worthy successor to the Splash, which did very well in our prior tests. You can read our review of the GreatCall Splash for more detail.
This newer version of GreatCall’s mobile medical alert is a lot more compact than the Splash. And a bit lighter (at 1.4 oz vs 2.0 oz for the Splash). But generally quite similar in concept.
Overall we expect similarly good response time from the GreatCall call center, as we saw with the Splash. And its GPS locating capability seems similar to that of the Splash (ie good, but not perfect).
In the picture below you can see the relative size of the Lively Mobile vs its predecessor the Splash.
Current and prior GreatCall products: Left: Lively Mobile; Right: Splash
It’s small, lightweight, and best of all comes with the GreatCall 5 star responder service which has an extremely good response time. In addition, this monitoring service encourages you to reach out to them in a range of “emergencies”, not just life threatening ones (see Splash review and company discussion below).
In addition, the purchasing and on-boarding can all be done online, and is very easy. And the cost of this product compares favorably with many of the competitors.
It’s also waterproof (IPX7: 1 m depth for 30 minutes).
This was one of our top picks in the mobile alert monitoring category (see the others here). See also the category of smartwatches as medical alerts we reviewed recently.
From our tests, we didn’t think there were really any minuses about this product, other than those that come with the mobile alert category as a whole. So it’s not very attractive, although less ugly than most. And you do need to charge it (see below). And the “wearable” is larger than the “traditional” type of medical alert that works only in your home.
One potential negative we have heard is that the volume of the speaker (ie when the responder is trying to talk to you) might be a bit less than the Splash. However, to us it seems quite similar to other medical alerts we have been testing recently, and not a cause for concern.
We have also seen “comments” on various review sites that the battery life is a bit short on this product. In our testing, a full charge on the battery lasted well over 36 hours but a bit less than 48 hours before the warning beep told us that charge was running low. This is pretty similar to many other mobile alert products (see comparative analysis below, and smartwatch as medical alerts.)
So, battery life was not a problem in our tests for this product compared to most of its “mobile alert” competitors.
Note added March 2019: Comments continue to show up on other websites, claiming that users experienced very short battery life with the GreatCall Lively Mobile. The user reviews talk of a product holding a charge for only 7 or 8 hours. We frankly don’t know what to say about this. It did not happen in our tests. Could it happen for “some” of GreatCall’s products? Maybe it could. It’s hard to “prove” a negative.
Unfortunately the bottom line here is we are no longer sure about this issue. In our tests, battery life was over 36 hours, and was comparable with competing products. The respected review site “Wirecutter” also observed battery life of well over a day. But we are now worried that some users may see problems with battery life, and we have downgraded our enthusiasm about this product as a result.
GreatCall has now released a newer version of this product, called the Lively Mobile Plus, which is supposed to have much better battery life. If you are considering this product, we recommend getting the Lively Mobile Plus instead.
Some other categories of medical alerts (eg those for home use only) do have much longer battery life, if this is a critical parameter for you. And a couple of mobile medical alert systems have longer battery life, but also have some tradeoffs. You can see more about tradeoffs with respect to battery life in our course on Selecting the Right Medical Alert System (see the Learning Module).
If you are interested in this type of medical alert, you should also read our rather extensive comparative analysis of mobile alert systems in which we test all sorts of aspects of different products in this category. We try and keep our “recommendations” up to date in our section “Just Tell Me What to Buy”.
In case you are a family member or caregiver who is worried about the well-being of your beloved but intractable elderly, then the idea of a medical alert button has already crossed your mind. Still, most people tend to treat medical alert buttons and medical alert services on the same page, even though there is a huge gap between them – and not just in terms of pricing and protection. Nowadays professional medical alert buttons can even be purchased in stores like Walmart. These are much more cost-effective, as you only need to pay for the medical alert system itself once without a monthly subscription fee with a medical alert company. Will the buttons you can get at Walmart keep elderly safe so they and their loved ones can sleep on both ears?
Walmart Buttons of Safety
Walmart is a highly popular store chain, beloved by thousands of Americans for their low prices and wide choice of offers. While browsing their online store shelves you may come across some medical alert buttons as well. For example, they have a huge stockpile of different LogicMark units, but they also present GreatCall products, like their highly popular Splash button.
LogicMark Guardian Alert and LogicMark Freedom Alert are two prominent solutions made especially for independence-loving elders who are on a tight budget. Both of them come with a base unit and a phone-sized alarm button. While Guardian Alert is compacter, it can only call 911 for you. Freedom Alert, on the other hand, is capable of connecting you to four custom numbers, as well as 911.
The GreatCall Splash button not only steps up the game with a truly stylish design, but it’s also light-weighted and waterproof. It’s completely mobile, thus no base station is required. There are a few catches though: it’s a no-contact device, meaning that you still need to apply for the GreatCall 5Star emergency service to call help, not to mention the one-time activation cost. Purchasing this with Walmart only allows you to save on the device itself.
1 Month for Free and Special Extras With Medical Guardian (Ad)
Use this promotion to take advantage of the special offer with extra benefits including one month of free service, free shipping, an extra button, and a lockbox.
True Protection via Full Service
As seen with the GreatCall Splash deal, just because you own an alarm button doesn’t mean you are out of the woods, since the monitoring service is a core feature for these kinds of devices. Even if you buy a LogicMark unit that is capable of connecting you to 911 or a limited number of family members, this is still miles behind the help professionally trained staff can provide. Calling the emergency services through an emergency button doesn’t skip the overly long waiting times, and you still need to explain your situation and provide personal info before help is dispatched.
The monitoring personnel has all this information on file, and they have experience in effectively communicating with 911 staff. They know how to recognize various symptoms and they quickly notify the hospital, as well as any number of family members found in your contact list. This relieves a large amount of stress from the shoulders of an elderly, who may not be able to calmly explain everything to the emergency services after a serious fall or stroke. That’s why we highly recommend opting for full-package medical alert services from recognized companies.
The Lively Mobile Plus medical alert device is an updated 2019 version of the original Lively Mobile, a third generation mobile GPS alert button device by Great Call. With one touch of the help button, seniors and other users can reach a trained 5Star response agent. There is a speaker and microphone on the Lively Mobile Plus medical alert device to allow for two-way conversations.
The Lively Mobile Plus device is currently not available for sale. See the Mobile Medical Alert Systems with GPS Reviews section for other options.
According to Great Call, the company has detected quality issues in a limited number of devices manufactured. They have contacted customers asking them to stop using their devices, and to offer a full refund and a Jitterbug Flip phone. The previous device version, the Lively Mobile (2016), is not affected by this recall. If you are looking for mobile medical alert devices, you can review similar products here.
Besides offering access to 24/7 live monitoring help, the Lively alert is GPS enabled, waterproof for use in showers and has sensors for fall detection. With this latest update, the Mobile Plus device features enhanced GPS accuracy and reliability using Qualcomm technology and 4G LTE connectivity.
Great Call describes the Lively Mobile Plus alert device as more than a medical alert because of it allows users access to an Urgent Care line staffed with nurses and doctors. In addition, the Great Call Link smartphone app or online dashboard allows loved ones and caregivers who are authorized to view activity data relayed by the Lively device.
To confirm coverage in your area, near the bottom. Alternatively, you will be prompted to confirm that there is coverage in your area as you go through the online Buy Now process.
Summary of Pros and Cons
One-Touch Help Button – Great Call’s Lively mobile medical alert device features a one-touch button that seniors can easily press in case of emergencies. In emergencies, it gets difficult even to dial phone numbers. Seniors simply have to touch a button, and the device itself will call Great Call’s 5Star response center.
Mobile – The Lively’s small size and light weight makes it portable and handy. It comes with its own built-in cellular connection and speakerphone. This mobile device is a standalone unit that does not depend on a separate base unit or cell phone.
Phone-Less Connection – There’s no need to get a home or cell phone line for call connections. The device comes with a cellular connection built into it. This is one less hassle for seniors.
GPS Tracking Enabled – A built-in GPS tracker is included in the alert device to help establish the location of the user. However, the Lively does not have WiFi positioning.
Shower Friendly – Great Call’s Lively device is waterproof for use in showers and baths, making it more useful for seniors. A lot of senior falls happen in slippery areas such as the bath or shower.
Convenient Visual Indicators – The mobile alert device has visual indicators that can inform senior users if their device is low in power or out of reach of a cellular connection. The flashing glow on the button makes it easy to know where to click in the dark.
Fall Detection Technology – The Lively alert device has built-in technology that can sense sudden falling movements. If a fall is detected, the device will automatically call the Urgent Response center for assistance. Ultimate Plan subscription needed.
Good Cellular Reception Needed – The Lively can only make calls if there is a good cellular phone connection available. The device’s visual indicators can tell its user if the connection is available. It operates through the Verizon network.
Daily Charging Required – To keep the device operational, senior users must remember to recharge it every day. Great Call recommends that users place their devices in the charging dock at night before they sleep to let it charge up.
Detachable From Lanyard – The clip-on mechanism that attaches the device to the lanyard can be undone with a strong tug or pull. If the Lively alert device falls away from the user when they need help, it will be harder for them to reach over and press the button.
Not for Swimming – Though designed as a waterproof device, the Lively alert device should not be used when swimming. It is IPX7 rated, which means the device can withstand being submerged in up to 3.3ft of water for up to 30 minutes.
Caution for Medical Implant Wearers – For seniors wearing pace makers and other medical devices in their bodies, please consult with a doctor before the Lively or another other mobile GPS alert device. Regardless of brand, manufacturer or model, there could be issues of incompatibility.
Lively Detailed Review
Based in San Diego, California, Great Call has come a long way since it was originally founded in 2006 as a cellular phone company that developed the Jitterbug series of senior mobile phones. These phones featured a simpler interface and bigger graphics to appeal to seniors. It later expanded into the medical alert market with its mobile help button alert devices.
Through years of focus on the burgeoning mobile medical alerts marketplace, Great Call has emerged as a recognized name in the personal emergency alert marketplace. It has a clear brand presence amidst longstanding players like Life Alert or LifeStation.
Over time, the company caught the attention of Best Buy as an acquisition target that align’s with Best Buy’s strategy to address the needs of an aging population through providing technology products and solutions. In August 2018, Best Buy announced that it would be acquiring Great Call for $800 million in cash. In the announcement, Great Call also reported that it had over 900,000 customers.
Great Call’s foray into the mobile personal emergency response systems (mPERS) market started in 2011 with products that were precursors to the Lively mobile alert device. They developed the Great Call Splash and 5Star Urgent Response devices that connected seniors and other subscribers with 5Star monitoring agents. In the summer of 2016, Great Call introduced the Lively Mobile and the Lively Wearable, a medical alert watch that is no longer being offered.
Other Great Call products include the Jitterbug Smartphone and Jitterbug Flip phone. Great Call’s mobile applications include 5Star, Link, Urgent Care, and MedCoach. All their products are designed with the elderly in mind, although they are have also been used as emergency devices for children and people with disabilities.
Great Call is a member of the Medical Alert Monitoring Association, alongside major medical alert companies. The company is defining itself as a leader in connected health technology that supports seniors in living a worry-free active lifestyle as they age.
Compare Lively to other GPS Mobile Medical Alert products here.
How It Works
To confirm coverage in your area, near the bottom.
The Lively mobile plus medical alert device is easy to use. Here’s how:
(1) When help is needed, the senior user can press the square call button in the middle of the device briefly. A voice prompt saying “Calling 5Star” can be heard and soon after, a 5Star monitoring center agent will come on the line to greet the caller.
(2) The 5Star agent’s voice will come through the small speaker on the Lively alert device to inquire about the emergency situation. Device users can hold the button slightly away from them, and then speak into it. It is best to speak at least an inch away from the device’s microphone that is located just underneath the call button.
(3) Depending on the situation, the agent could take various next steps, such as contacting the senior’s family members or caregivers, dispatching emergency services, calling 911 and other arrangements as appropriate. After the call has ended, there will be a voice prompt that announces “Call ended.”
Alternatively, the caller can directly call 911 by pressing the call button until a voice prompt saying “Calling 911” can be heard. Users can also receive incoming calls from 911 and 5Star agents through the device. A user simply has to press the call button briefly to answer the call. This is a less common occurrence.
Cellular Network Connection
A wireless cell phone-based connection is incorporated into the Lively Mobile Plus device. This facilitates two-way voice communications through the device. The button device can be brought out of the home and used everywhere the device is able to establish good cell phone reception. Cellular coverage is provided through a 4G LTE network (Verizon).
This standalone single button design may come as a surprise for home medical alert system users who rely on a home base unit in order to make and receive calls. This Lively Mobile Plus device is not tethered to a separate item such as a base unit or a cell phone. In contrast, in-home medical alert buttons do not have speakers and microphones built into them; and therefore require separate base units with speakers and microphones to operate.
No cell phone subscription is needed. The Lively’s built-in connection enables it to connect to a wireless network without the requirement for a separate cell phone subscription, or the need for users to pair up their Lively mobile device with their existing cell phones.
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Cost and Plans
The Great Call Lively alert button device costs $49.99, and requires a monthly subscription to operate. Monthly subscription starts at $24.99 per month for the Basic plan. This includes 5Star’s Urgent Response monitoring service that runs 24/7 round the clock. Users also get access to an online dashboard where they can input detailed personal information such as important addresses and emergency contacts.
The Basic plan also includes the Ping and Test Call features. With these features, users can Ping their devices to locate it, or run a Test Call to ensure that their device is functioning.
Customers can upgrade to the Preferred plan for $29.99 per month. Aside from what’s already part of the Basic service, the Preferred plan includes two extras: Urgent Care service and GreatCall Link.
With Urgent Care service, seniors can ask a 5Star Urgent Response agent to connect them to a registered nurse or board-certified doctor. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The GreatCall Link is a smartphone App (iOS and Android) that allowed family and friends to monitor the whereabouts of senior user. This information is also available through an online dashboard.
For both the Basic and Preferred plans, subscribers can add on Great Call’s Device Replacement coverage for $3 per month. Damaged devices can be replaced with a co-payment fee and replacement of devices is allowed once every 12 months.
If you are on a budget, check out the HelpButton.com mobile alert. The protection plan is included at this price point. Also, use of the mobile device is included without an extra fee, but it must be sent back to them when you cancel.
Finally, for the most complete access to Lively services, Great Call has an Ultimate Plan option at $39.99 a month. Aside from Great Call’s 5Star Urgent Response monitoring, GreatCall Link, and Urgent Care that are included with the Preferred Plan, this plan has Fall Detection technology enabled. To top things off, the Ultimate Plan also includes the Device Replacement plan, which is a $3/month value.
Other Fees and Taxes
To get started with any of these plans, there is a one-time $35 activation fee.
Although Great Call’s plans feature low price points relative to other mPERS or medical alert systems, we found that our monthly bill included extra telecommunications taxes and fees that are not usually added on for medical alert monitoring subscriptions. This is probably because Great Call is a cellular phone company rather than a mainstream medical alert company. If you are comparison shopping, the price advantage could still be present, but perhaps less than you may expect.
Month-to-Month Service, Cancel Anytime
Seniors can choose to continue with this service month-to-month. There are no long-term contracts and cancellation fees.
Compared to traditional medical alert systems where the equipment usually needs to be sent back to the company in order to complete a cancellation, there is less hassle associated with canceling the Lively mobile alert device. Customers do not need to send their device back. Since customers have ownership of their Lively devices, they can do whatever they want with it.
This can save some hassle when the service is no longer needed, but customers do pay more to get started because of device and activation fees.
The Lively medical alert device package we received included the device and a charging dock (or charging cradle), accessory clip, magnetic lanyard, quick-start guide and user guide.
The Lively Mobile Plus alert pendant itself measures 2.63 inches height x 0.65 inches depth x 1.67 inches width. It weighs 1.98 ounces. The device houses the alert button, speaker, microphone, GPS tracker, accelerometer (for fall detection), and cellular calling technologies. The device is small and light enough to be worn around the neck or clipped to a keychain.
The Lively Mobile Plus is slightly larger when compared to it’s previous version, the Lively Mobile device. The original Lively Mobile measured 2.19 inches height x 0.63 inches depth x 1.60 width and weighed 1.41 oz. In terms of physical dimensions, the Lively Mobile Plus is in-between it’s previous version, the Lively Mobile, and the older Splash device from 2014.
The device is designed to work as long as it is charged and the cellular network connection is good. It is a mobile unit and can accompany the senior user everywhere.
The Lively Mobile Plus comes with a magnetic lanyard. The lanyard can be placed through the lanyard slot at the top of the device and fastened using its magnetic clasp. This allows the device to be worn around the neck.
Customers with Fall Detection are advised to wear their device with the magnetic lanyard. According to Great Call, the Lively Mobile Plus device must be used with the magnetic lanyard it came with in order for falls to be accurately detected. The lanyard has been designed to have the right length for falls to be sensed.
The lanyard has a magnetic clasp that separates. If pulled hard, the lanyard will unclasp. This minimizes the strangulation risk in case the lanyard gets caught somewhere (eg. bed rail or chair handle). The lanyard strangulation risk is a known industry topic, although occurrences have been rare.
On the flip-side, the device can become separated from the senior user when the lanyard becomes unclasped. If the device gets flung a distance away, the senior user may not be able to reach their device to press the help button.
The device has a waterproof rating of IPX7. This rating allows the device to be submerged in water up to 3 feet for as long as 30 minutes. This is a good feature have. A lot of senior falls happen in the shower or when getting out of the bath. There are other similar mobile devices out there that are not waterproof and cannot be brought into a shower.
Fall Detection Technology
The Lively Mobile Plus device has a built-in accelerometer with patented algorithms that has been configured to determine a fall. The fall alert technology is designed to work if the user has fallen while wearing the device using the included magnetic lanyard. The included lanyard comes in the right length to work with the technology.
The Lively Mobile Plus’ fall detection technology can sense and calculate the sudden changes in a user’s body movement based on posture and physical activity to ascertain if the user has fallen or not.
With fall detection technologies, there is no guarantee that it will be able to detect each and every fall. This is a premium option that requires the Ultimate plan.
In terms of features, the Lively has more included than other mobile medical alert systems in the market. For more comparisons, visit our Medical Alert Systems with GPS section.
Daily Charging Needed
Great Call recommends daily charging of the Lively Mobile Plus medical alert alert device. They suggest doing this nightly while the customer is in bed. Some seniors are able to blend this charging routine into their daily living easily, while others find it a hassle to. Regardless, it is important to keep a mobile medical alert charged at all times, so that it’s ready to use when you are in an unsafe or emergency situation.
According to official specifications, the Lively Mobile Plus will stay charged for up to 80 hours with each full recharge. This is good as it offers a sufficient backup charge to last more than a day or two on standby. Sometimes, customers may forget to charge their devices overnight. The extra charge allows them to continue wearing their Lively Mobile Plus the next day. There is a battery indicator light on the device. When it flashes red, it is time to recharge to the Lively device.
The Lively Mobile Plus package comes with accessories like the magnetic lanyard, charging cradle, and accessory clip. However, seniors can buy other accessories such as the slim wristband (available soon) and protective case ($14.99). All accessories can be bought online.
Lively alert device users do not have to worry about this device’s range. Unlike most home medical alert systems, this device has no range restrictions nationwide.
The standard medical alert system uses a stationary base console unit that is placed inside the house. This home base unit contains the phone connection, speaker and microphone. Their button range is usually about 150 feet to 400 feet, which is sufficient for most home users. These in-home alert systems are also configured to link the caller to their home address if emergency help need to be sent over.
With the Lively device, range is not a problem. This device is stand-alone and does not rely on a base unit for call connections. Furthermore, it is equipped with GPS capabilities to help establish the location of the user.
The Lively mobile medical alert device doesn’t require any significant installation steps. It only has to be activated and fully charged first before use. If you bought the pendant device from the directly, your account should already arrive activated with your purchase. To complete the set-up process, customers can follow the instructions provided in the Quick-Start Guide. You can see the video here.
If the device was purchased from other vendors, seniors or their children will need to go to Great Call’s website to activate the new account. If the customer has no Internet connection, Great Call has an Activation Line that can be called. Great Call’s operators will assist the senior through the process.
After the activation and set-up, the device has to be initially charged fully until the visual indicator for the battery is showing a solid green light. A flashing green light means it’s still charging.
Great Call’s 5Star monitoring center is US-based and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to Great Call, their agents are trained in CPR and other emergency procedures and certified with the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). These agents can call on the subscriber’s family members, emergency contacts or 911. Some subscribers reported that 5Star agents have facilitated a resolution to their situations by conferencing in one or more of their contacts in a live call together.
The test calls we have made were answered fast by a live agent, all within 20 seconds of pressing the button. In busy times, Great Call indicates that it can take up to a minute to answer a call.
Urgent Care Line (Nurse-line)
In addition to their emergency monitoring services, Great Call also provides customers who are mostly seniors access to a nurse line or urgent care line 24/7. Through the company’s Urgent Care service, customers can be connected to registered nurses and board-certified physicians for advice. They will even provide prescriptions by phone. This extra feature definitely sets Lively’s service apart from most medical alert companies. Some customers have indicated that this is a feature that prompted them to sign up for a Great Call plan.
Do keep in mind that Great Call is not a healthcare provider and they have disclaimers surrounding this service. Basically, this is not a substitute for emergency services, or proper medical attention.
Caregivers, family members, and close friends who are authorized contacts can monitor the safety of the senior person through the Lively’s GreatCall Link feature. Currently, the app alerts family members if an emergency call has been made and the power level of the user’s Lively alert device. Authorized contacts can also find out the GPS location of the senior user. Great Call Link is available as an app that can be accessed through a smartphone or through Great Call’s website.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, Great Call has an A+ based on the following reasons:
First, the company has closed a total of 263 complaints in the last three years, 58 of which happened in the last 12 months (as of July 2019). Reading through the complaints, the company appears serious in resolving the complaints forwarded by their customers.
Second, the company’s length of service of 10 years indicates that they are stable and that they know what they are doing.
While the number of complaints is high, keep in mind that Great Call’s record includes Jitterbug complaints. Cell phone services typically deal with a higher number of complaints. Through our interactions with their customer support personnel, we found them to be sufficiently trained.
Soon after the Lively Mobile Plus device was introduced in April 2019, the company stopped selling it and notified existing buyers of the device to stop using it. According to an email they sent out to customers, the company found a manufacturing quality issue with a number of devices. They have not disclosed what the issue is. This issue only pertains to the 2019 Lively Mobile Plus device and not the previous Lively Mobile version released in 2016.
In May 2019, a dissatisfied customer brought a class action lawsuit against Great Call and Best Buy. According to court filings, the customer had purchased a Lively Mobile Plus device in April 2019 and found that the device did not “operate according to what Defendants (ie. Great Call, Best Buy) represented it would do.” Here is another excerpt from the lawsuit filing:
“In or about early May 2019, Plaintiff required emergency services on two occasions, but the Defective Medical Alert Device failed. On both occasions Plaintiff fell and upon activating the Defective Medical Alert Device, the fall detection and GPS failed and did not alert emergency services.”
For more information on the withdrawal of the Lively Mobile Plus device and the class action lawsuit, check out this article.
The Lively mobile medical alert button device can help seniors lead more active and independent lives by providing the assurance that they can readily access help anytime. As a mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS), it comes with a comprehensive bundle of features like 24/7 access to live monitoring help, being water-resistant for use in showers, GPS tracking, a companion App for data sharing and fall detection. Should you have any questions, please visit Great Call’s Official Website.
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For more comparisons and reviews, please check out Medical Alert Systems with GPS section.
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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this review, the information is supplied without warranties of any kind. We advise all readers to do careful due diligence before purchasing. Take time to visit the company’s website and speak with their representatives.