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GreatCall Review

From medical alert devices to mobile phones for older adults, we dig into GreatCall’s prices, products, and policies in this review.
Written by | Updated June 23, 2020
GreatCall logo

GreatCall

3.8/5
  • Comfortable wearables
  • Virtual doctor visits and fall detection available
  • Monitoring starts at $24.99/mo.

 Info current as of 06/23/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

GreatCall: Fits everyday events and emergencies alike

GreatCall is famous for the Jitterbug phone designed for older adults, but the company also makes medical alert devices. The Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable 2 are both cellular alert buttons that can call for help from anywhere with a Verizon cellular signal (no Verizon subscription required). 

Both wearables are small and comfortable, so they won’t get in the way of your golf swing, Sunday gardening, or quality time with the grandkids. You aren’t tied to a landline either, so you’re free to move about your home and travel. 

GreatCall offers some cool extra features like virtual doctor’s visits, a caregiver app to keep your loved ones updated, and fall detection that contacts help if you lose your footing. The Lively Wearable 2 also doubles as a step counter to keep you active and motivated.

Pros

  • Affordable monitoring
  • Comfortable wearable medical alert
  • No landline required

Cons

  • No refunds after 30 days
  • Must live in an area with Verizon service
  • Shorter battery life

How we reviewed GreatCall

We started our research at the source, digging through GreatCall’s website to find details on equipment, pricing, and extra features. Then we searched through reliable customer review websites like Trustpilot to hear from older adults and their loved ones who have first-hand experience with GreatCall. 

We found some mixed reviews over GreatCall’s Jitterbug phone, but the testimonials we found on the Lively wearables were glowing. 

Once we could see the big picture, we compared GreatCall to popular medical alert systems we’ve reviewed before—think Bay Alarm Medical, GetSafe, and Philips Lifeline. This illuminated where GreatCall stands among competitors. Learn more about what goes into reviews like this one on our methodology page.

GreatCall pricing

GreatCall’s medical alert devices, the Lively Mobile Plus and the Lively Wearable 2, use the same monitoring plans. Taxes, equipment fees, and activation fees apply separately to these prices (so these are not final). Both devices come with the option for Urgent Care visits, the GreatCall Link app, and fall detection.

Monthly cost
Activation fee
Professional monitoring
Virtual doctor visits
Caregiver app
Fall detection
Basic
Preferred
Ultimate
$24.99 $29.99 $39.99
$35.00 $35.00 $35.00
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
X
Yes
Yes
No
X
Yes
Yes
No
X
No
X
Yes
View packages View packages View packages

Info current as of 06/23/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable 2 medical alert devices have the same monitoring plans. Both devices cost $49.99 plus activation fees and taxes. The prices listed above give you access to 5Star monitoring, the caregiver app, virtual doctor visits, fall detection, or all of them at once. Plus, AARP members are eligible for discounts with GreatCall.

Unfortunately, these aren’t à la carte options like other medical alert systems offer. So if you want fall detection, for example, you have to go with the Ultimate plan for $39.99 per month. Companies like Bay Alarm Medical allow you to add fall detection for an extra $10 without requiring other extras. 

That said, the extra features that come with GreatCall’s top-tier plans are nothing to sneeze at. GreatCall’s standout feature is the Urgent Care virtual doctor visits, something we haven’t seen from any other medical alert provider. Urgent Care puts you in touch with medical professionals when you have questions or need advice from a nurse or physician. But while access to this feature starts at $29.99 per month, it may come with additional fees.

No refunds after 30 days

GreatCall doesn’t require contracts, but you may not get a full refund if you decide the system isn’t for you. The company only allows 30 days for returns. And if you do decide to return it, the device must be in “like new” condition.

We dug into the details and found that you can receive most of your money back (excluding taxes and activation fees), but you’ll be subject to a $10 restocking fee.

Get the full scoop on refunds here

Tech and equipment 

GreatCall has two medical alert devices, each with the same monitoring plan. You can also get a famous Jitterbug phone from GreatCall. Each device is designed with older adults in mind—with a comfortable wearable fit, loud two-way talk, and contact with real human operators trained to help in emergencies. 

Overall, GreatCall is best for active older adults who leave the house frequently, travel domestically, and live alone. While pricing isn’t the lowest we’ve found, it’s still under $40 per month for features like fall detection, Urgent Care, and the GreatCall Link app.

Compare GreatCall medical alerts

Equipment price
Included features
Optional add-ons
Wearable attachments
GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus GreatCall Lively Wearable 2
GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus medical alert greatcall alert watch
$49.99 $49.99
5Star professional monitoring 5Start professional monitoring
Activity tracker
Urgent Care calls
Fall detection
Urgent Care calls
Fall detection
Belt clip
Lanyard
Wristband
Lanyard
View on GreatCall View on GreatCall

Info current as of 06/23/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus

The GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus device is about the size of a business card. You can wear it on a lanyard and belt clip or carry it with you in a purse or bag. It’s small enough to take with you while you run errands, visit loved ones, or relax at home.

The Lively Mobile Plus has a single button that connects you to a 5Star monitoring professional when you find yourself in a jam like a lockout or a serious emergency like chest pains. Just press the button when you need assistance and a real person with emergency training will help you out. 

For such a tiny device, the Lively Mobile Plus has a powerful two-way speaker, so you’ll be able to hear the folks on the other side loud and clear. If you need assistance from first responders, they’ll stay on the line with you until help arrives.

This device uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network to connect to the monitoring center and share your location with emergency responders (and your loved ones). You don’t need to be a Verizon customer to use it, but you do need to live in an area with Verizon coverage (which is most places, fortunately)

See it for yourself

The GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus is available in stores as well as online. You can find it at your local Best Buy, RiteAid, or Walgreens. Check out the store locator to see if the Lively Mobile Plus is available in your area.

GreatCall Wearable 2 

The GreatCall Wearable 2 is a single-button wristband that looks like a typical watch. But unlike a typical watch, the Wearable 2 doesn’t have a clock face. Instead, it uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone and turn it into your own personal medical alert device. 

When you need help, press the button on your wrist (or around your neck if you choose the lanyard) to connect to the 5Star monitoring center. The device will use your smartphone to call for help through speakerphone. And like the Lively Mobile Plus, it comes with features like fall detection, Urgent Care virtual doctor visits, and an app for your family. 

The Wearable 2 also has a step counter for active (and trying-to-be-active) older adults. You can also get daily health tips to improve your diet and activity level. 

There’s a lot we like about the Wearable 2, but replacing a medical alert system with your phone isn’t a foolproof solution. We all know how easy it is to leave the house without your cell phone, and you probably don’t shower with your phone either. But if you always have your phone nearby, the Lively Wearable 2 is a good option. 

Jitterbug cell phones

GreatCall’s Jitterbug phone debuted in 2006 as one of the first of its kind—a cell phone designed with seniors in mind. Both the Jitterbug Smart 2 and the Jitterbug flip give you the freedom to call and message your loved ones without all the distractions and extras smartphones have. 

Both phones come with large-text screens and buttons, making them easier to see and message friends and family. These phones are armed with powerful speakers and sensitive microphones that make it easier to hear the conversation. They also have a 5Star button that allows you to call the monitoring center for help just like a medical alert system. 

We don’t recommend completely replacing a dedicated alert system with a standard flip phone or smartphone. But both versions of the Jitterbug are solid choices for older adults who want a no-fuss phone.

Smart features and compatibility 

The Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable 2 both keep things simple, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have extras to enjoy. Both use Verizon’s 4G LTE network to stay connected, which means you can call for help just about anywhere even if you aren’t a Verizon customer. So whether you’re in the backyard or visiting family in another state, you’re covered. 

The Lively Wearable 2 connects to your smartphone to function. Without a screen or additional buttons, it won’t do much good without a compatible phone. Be sure you have the Android 7 or iOS 11 operating system on your phone before diving in.

GreatCall Link caregiver app

The companion app GreatCall Link is a big plus for caregivers looking for a system for their loved ones. Even if your parents or grandparents are open to using a medical alert device, making sure they keep it charged and stay in touch can be a different story. 

GreatCall Link lets you pinpoint their location and check on their device’s battery. It also sends you alerts whenever they press their 5Star help button. Their information stays private, but it’s a helpful tool for keeping tabs on older adults who may wander or forget to charge their alert button. 

The only drawback is you’ll have to subscribe to a Preferred plan to get access to the app, which means paying $29.99 per month instead of $24.99.

Urgent Care virtual doctor visits 

You probably don’t have time to visit a doctor every time your arthritis acts up or a medical question comes to mind. Instead of sitting in a waiting room and dealing with expensive copays, GreatCall connects you to medical professionals with the Urgent Care app. 

This feature (available with the Preferred plan) connects you to real doctors and nurses for quick check-ins and medical questions you may have in mind. It isn’t designed to replace regular doctor’s visits, but you’ll get the answers you need fast. It costs a little extra each month, but costs come included with your monthly monitoring fee. 

Check with your insurance

Check with your insurance
Many health insurance plans include virtual visits in their personal care plans. Check with your insurance provider to see if this service is already available to you.

Automatic fall detection

If you’ve been injured from a fall before, you know how scary it can be. For folks over 65, falls can be especially devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in five falls results in serious injury, with more than 300,000 people hospitalized for hip fractures every year.1

Falls can be especially dangerous if they knock you unconscious. That’s why a feature like automatic fall detection is so important in a medical alert device. While it’s an extra paid feature, it allows the device to sense changes in speed and pressure during a fall. When it senses activity, it will automatically call the 5Star center, getting you help as soon as possible. 

This feature costs a bit more from GreatCall than other medical alert systems (which usually charge an extra $10 per month), but it’s worth considering if you have conditions like osteoporosis, mobility issues, vision problems, or foot pain

Customer service 

Whether you have questions or find yourself in a serious situation, the customer service pros need to be able to listen carefully and respond quickly. GreatCall uses monitoring centers from 5Star Urgent Response, a monitoring center with certification from the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). 

While we have no complaints about GreatCall’s monitoring skills, its return policy may leave customers unsatisfied. We recommend reading the fine print before purchasing. GreatCall doesn’t require a contract, so there’s no cancellation fee, but returns must be completed within 30-days of purchase and may include a $10 restocking fee or more depending on the condition of your device upon return.

How GreatCall stacks up

For our GreatCall review, we compared this company to the top medical alert systems. We noticed a few significant differences between GreatCall and our top picks. Here’s a quick rundown: 

  • GreatCall isn’t an at-home system. This system is the only one of the bunch without an at-home landline or cellular system. All the medical alert devices from GreatCall are GPS wearables designed without a base station. They work the same but give wearers more freedom to leave the house. 
  • GetSafe doesn’t have a GPS wearable. GetSafe is among the most affordable medical alert systems we’ve found. It has flat monthly monitoring (always at $24.95) regardless of how many devices you connect to it. But it’s a fully cellular at-home system, so it’s best for older adults who tend to stay indoors. 
  • Each system has fall detection, but GreatCall charges more. Systems like Bay Alarm Medical treat fall detection as a standalone add-on feature. It tacks on an extra $10 per month to your bill but doesn’t come with extras you may not want. The best medical alert system for fall detection includes it with the package, so there’s no debating whether you want the feature or not. 
Base monthly monitoring
At-home med alert
GPS wearable med alert
Learn more
GreatCall
Bay Alarm Medical
GetSafe
Philips Lifeline
Medical Guardian
GreatCall logo Bay Alarm Medical logo getsafe logo Medical Guardian logo
$24.99 $19.95 $24.95 $29.95 $34.95
No
X
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
X
Yes
Yes
Visit GreatCall Visit Bay Alarm Medical Visit GetSafe Visit Philips Lifeline Visit Medical Guardian

Info current as of 06/23/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Things to consider before you buy any medical alert system 

Buying a medical alert system can feel like a huge decision. Thankfully, most systems don’t require contracts or charge for canceling. So if you decide the product you purchased isn’t for you, pressure is low. But if you weigh the right factors, you can get it right the first time without the hassle of returns and refunds. Consider the following:

  • How often do you leave the house? How far do you go? 
  • Are you comfortable with your phone? 
  • Are you comfortable wearing something 24/7?
  • If you’re a caregiver, how open to tracking is your loved one? 
  • If you’re buying for yourself, are you willing to let your loved ones keep an eye on you (they care about you, after all)? 

Learn more about how to choose a medical alert system or talk to your parents about a medical alert system before you tackle the next big decision.

Final word on GreatCall 

The Lively Mobile Plus is a simple device with two-way audio that connects directly to 5Star monitoring pros. Whether you got a flat or slipped in the kitchen, it’s a compact device that will get you help quickly with the press of a button. It’s not as small as other wearable devices, but with so many ways to wear it, it’s easy to get comfortable with. 

The Lively Wearable 2 uses Bluetooth to turn your smartphone into a medical alert device. The wristwatch design is slick and fashionable, so it won’t cramp your style. Who said safety couldn’t be chic? 

If you’re comfortable with using your smartphone often or keep it nearby, Lively Wearable 2 is a good choice. But for older adults who forget their phone at home (who doesn’t?), they may find themselves without a way to call for help.

GreatCall FAQ 

What network does GreatCall use?

GreatCall devices (Lively Wearables and Jitterbug phones) all use Verizon’s network. You don’t need to be a Verizon customer—you just need to live in an area with coverage. This may mean you could lose service if you travel or live in a rural area. 

Are Jitterbug phones only for seniors?

While they’re designed with seniors in mind (larger print displays and louder speakers), the Jitterbug flip is a simple phone without internet that’s perfect for kids

Can I call for help with the Lively Wearable 2 if I don’t have my phone?

Unfortunately not. The Lively Wearable 2 uses a Bluetooth connection to work with your phone. So if you’re out of range, you won’t be able to connect to the monitoring center. 

Does GreatCall’s Urgent Care feature cost money?

GreatCall’s Urgent Care app comes included with Lively Mobile Plus Preferred and Ultimate packages. It only tacks on an extra $4 per month to your bill, and it gives you access to board-certified doctors and nurses. 

GreatCall was recalled in 2019. What happened and is it fixed?

According to a GreatCall press release, the 9100 Lively Mobile Plus alert device had an issue with the adhesive on the emergency buttons. The company has since recalled the device and offered incentives to make up for the issue to existing customers. The issue has been resolved since then, but if you’re still uncomfortable with purchasing a recalled product, we encourage you to explore your options. 

Written by Katie McEntire

Katie McEntire has tested home security systems in her own apartment, installed GPS trackers in her own car, and watched her cat, Toki, nap all day through a live nanny cam feed. As an expert reviewer, she believes that firsthand experience is the best way to learn about new products (even if it requires being the guinea pig). She specializes in pet safety and DIY security and has contributed to publications like DigitalCare.org and TechGuySmartBuy. Learn more

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