My Mother the Technophobe

Update June 07, 2007:  Jesse James Garrett has a great piece about the Jitterbug phone in Business Week.

Original post:

When my mom retired from teaching a couple of years ago, her biggest relief was that she got out before everything was completely computerized. Things that made life easier for most of her colleagues (entering grades electronically, sharing lesson plans online, etc.) put her in a tailspin. When she did retire, she finally invested in a computer of her own. It’s (a bit) of an exaggeration, but I tell people that for the first six months after she installed it in the spare room, her only interaction with it was to eye it suspiciously every time she walked by, in case it made any sudden moves.

The Jitterbug Cell Phone

That in a nutshell, is my mother’s attitude towards new technology – she’s extremely apprehensive about it, but she doesn’t want to miss out on it completely. So when we saw an ad in the paper one Sunday for the Jitterbug cell phone, we were both excited. Designed with acoustics to support the hard of hearing, a large screen and large fonts for the hard of seeing, no bells and whistles, and direct access at any time to a customer support line, it promised to be a simple cell phone for those who simply wanted to make phone calls.

Simple Web Site

We went to the Web site to investigate. The site itself is a beautiful exercise in simplicity. Concise language, large fonts, simple structure. We watched the demos on the site and decided on the Jitterbug Dial(R) phone. (They also offer the Jitterbug OneTouch(R) phone, which only has three buttons – Operator, Tow, and Emergency.)

Simple Customer Service

The customer service experience I had when I called to place an order was stellar. Mary Ann walked me quickly but deliberately through all the steps I needed to set up the phone. She exuded helpfulness and cheer.

Simple Product

When you place your order, you give the rep a list of names and numbers, so that when you receive the phone, it is already programmed with your phone list. All you have to do is turn it on and arrow up or down to pick a number. The interface displays the name, “Jane Doe – Work” and then – here’s part of its brilliance – it asks, “Do you want to place the call?” And you click Yes (in place of the usual Send button) or No. If that’s not easy enough, you can always dial ‘0,’ and an operator will place the call for you.

Simple Done Right

This is a product with a clear mission. Everything surrounding the product – the marketing, the customer service, the design of the phone itself – is consistent and coherent, and it’s all about simplicity. The total experience of researching, ordering, and using the phone exceeded our expectations every step of the way.

‘Simplicity’ is a big buzz word these days, and buzz words make me wary. So it’s great to see GreatCall, Inc. (the company behind Jitterbug) execute simple so well.

And I’m proud of my mom – she’s really started to overcome her techno-fears. And the more good experiences she has like this one, the more confident she becomes. Within the last three months, she’s fixed her printer, figured out that iPods and mp3 players are essentially the same thing, and told me that the little man in her computer isn’t as evil as she thought he was.



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