In the chaos of smart phone wars, the tech savvy often forget about the many people who only need a phone to make voice calls. Even the latest generation of common feature phones include cameras, web browsers, and plenty of extra goods. Fortunately, the folks at Just5 have a unique solution: a simple phone. Intended for senior citizens, this phone aims to offer freedom from complication.
When I say simple, I really mean it. This phone does not even have a color screen. It fees like a resurrected late 90s cell phone with a monochrome display and orange back lighting. For those who hate pecking at a touch screen or are visually impaired, the large numeric keypad which covers over two-thirds of the front side is a blessing. Even the on-screen fonts are large and bold for easy reading even under direct sunlight. The main screen shows off signal strength, battery life, and the date/time.
There is not much this phone has aside from a phone book, call history, alarm clock, and calculator. It surprisingly supports SMS, but I highly doubt anyone would use it. The Just5 is compatible with hearing aids and it amplifies audio for those with poor hearing. Unlike smart phones that need recharging daily, this phone lasts for 6 days on standby and offers about two hours of talk time.
Despite the self-proclaimed “simple features” name tag, it oddly has a flash light with a dedicated switch on the right side. In addition, the Just5 sports a FM radio with a physical switch on the left side. Like most phones that have a vulnerable keypad, a lock switch prevents accidental entry.
One feature that stands out is the large recessed red SOS button on the back side. Once programmed properly, a 4-second-long press will initiate an automated sequence. It starts with a loud siren to draw attention towards you. Next, the phone automatically sends “help me” text messages to five emergency contacts. It does not end there, the phone then begins dialing each of those five numbers one by one with speaker phone enabled until someone answers.
The audible alert feature is a great addition if an elderly person is trying to draw attention when having a medical emergency in a public place, however it might be a dangerous feature to have during situations when placing a discrete call is vital. It will hopefully do more good than harm.
I did not walk in expecting too much when I began to test phone calls, but I found surprising results. The caller on the other end could actually hear me better on this phone over a few brand new smart phones I had at home. I felt as though I could hear the person on the other end clearer and louder too.
Just5 bundles a wired headset in the box and the phone is compatible with any standard 3.55 mm headphone jack. The phone notably lacks Bluetooth keeping true to the simplicity, so wireless headsets are unfortunately out of the question. One quirk, the keypad makes extremely loud noises even after lowering the volume. I ended up switching the phone to silent mode since the obnoxious sounds gave me a quick headache.
Just when I started to get excited for a phone that sticks to basic features, I realized that the suggested retail price is a whopping $90. Although retailers such as Amazon sell it for a bit cheaper, it is a lot to pay for something that does not do much. Major carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer decent pre-paid phones without contracts for a fraction of the cost.
Monthly plans begin at $10 for 100 minutes and 50 text messages. There are $20 and $30 monthly plans for 200 and 300 minutes of talk time and the same number of texts, respectively. Heavy users can opt for an unlimited talk and text plan which costs $40 per month.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, the Just5 is truly for senior citizens. I can say for sure that the elderly who generally want to avoid technology all together may actually consider using one of these. The large buttons, loud sounds, and emergency features are helpful for just that. I should note that competitors such as Snapfon also have similar offerings. Jitterbug also comes to mind. Just5 also lists children as a potential customer, although I doubt that anyone in middle school would be caught dead with one of these in a generation of iPods and other fancy gadgets.
For the most part, Just5 avoids the whole issue of phones with small keys, hard to read text, and a boatload of unnecessary complications. The phone does cost more than many prepaid alternatives, so I would suggest looking into this device only if bad eyesight or hearing is also a factor.