When the Jitterbug first debuted several years ago, there weren’t that many senior-friendly phones around to compete with it. Now it seems there is more than just a handful; we’ve seen the Doro PhoneEasy devices, the Clarity ClarityLife, and a couple of Pantech phones like the Breeze II and the Ease. As long as the phone is supereasy to use, with a bright display and simple controls, it can be considered a phone that’s friendly for seniors.
Just 5 is yet another company making such handsets. We first noticed them at CTIA 2010, though they’ve been around for a while in Europe. Unlike some of the phones mentioned above, the Just 5 handset is available unlocked, so you can use it with any GSM carrier you want. For the U.S., that would be either T-Mobile or AT&T. The company’s current model is the J509, which is as simple as a phone gets: there’s no camera, no Bluetooth, and no music player. However, you can send and receive text messages, and there’s even an FM radio. Though the J509 is certainly great for seniors, we think it would be good for kids or just anyone who wants a stripped-down basic phone. The Just5 J509 is available for $119.99, but that’s without any contract.
The Just 5 J509 looks very much like a calculator at first glance, with its simple blocky design, small display, and big buttons. It measures 4 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick, and it has straight sides with slightly curved corners. The back is also covered in a soft material that is pleasant to the touch. The overall design is minimalistic, yet playful, stylish, and functional. We’re not surprised that the phone has won both an iF Product Design Award plus a Reddot design award.
The display, as we said, is quite small. It’s around 1.8 inches diagonally, and it is monochrome with an orange backlight when not on standby. The default screen displays the time, date, signal strength, and remaining battery life. Though you can’t adjust the font size, the text is very large already, so we don’t think that’s a problem. You can adjust the display contrast and choose either English or Spanish as the language.
Underneath the display are three large keys: the Send/OK key, an up-and-down toggle for navigation, and the End/Power key. To access the phone’s menu, you press up. The menu consists of SMS, Call History, the PhoneBook, Settings, and that’s it. You can then press the Send/OK key to select.
The number keys on the keypad are almost comically large, and reminds us a little of the toy phones that kids play with. The digits are nice and big as well, which is great for those with poor eyesight. The keys each have a slightly raised corner, which is great for dialing by feel, and they push down quite easily. If the phone is not on silent mode, it makes a very loud sound each time you press a button. If you want, you can also have the phone read out the numbers to you as you press them.
The three keys on the bottom (the asterisk, zero, and pound keys) have additional functions. The asterisk and pound keys can be mapped to speed dial numbers; just press and hold down those keys for it to activate. The zero key will toggle the speakerphone during a conversation.
Entering text for SMS messages requires you to enter in the letters one by one via the ABC input method. You can turn on predictive text, however, which will help for faster messaging. The message interface also has a few stock reply templates like “Please reply” and “I’m in a meeting.”