Two products I’d never consider buying

Jitterbug cell phoneThe Post’s Rob Pegoraro has a story this week on two products I’ll never buy. One is the Samsung Jitterbug, a feature-free cellphone. The other is the HP Printing Mailbox. It connects to a regular telephone line and prints emails intended for the owner.

Don’t laugh too hard at that one; it’s not intended for you, either. While most products these days focus on adding as many features as possible to entice the young, these products are designed for older users who don’t want to learn all those features.

There are two versions of the Jitterbug. They both do one thing: make phone calls. You can’t text someone, browse the Web, play music, view pictures, watch TV, check email or get driving directions.

The simplest version, pictured above, does away with the 10-digit keypad and replaces them with three big buttons — 911, operator and a big custom buttons. (According to the Jitterbug Web site, “We’ll personalize the middle button for you before we ship your phone. Choose ‘Friend,’ ‘Home,’ ‘Tow,’ ‘Work,’ or ‘My Choice.'”) There’s also a menu of 10 speed dials. If you want to call someone else, you call the operator and he or she puts you through.

Ironically, many of the ads I saw while researching Jitterbug were for phones at the other end of the spectrum. The CNET video in the screenshot above is sponsored by Blackberry.

The Jitterbug has two big problems. It’s offered by an MVNO named GreatCall. MVNOs have had a tough time lately. One of the largest, Amp’d mobile, is likely to be shutting down next week.

The other is price. The phones cost $147 and the service is also premium priced. Features like unlimited nights and weekends and unlimited in-networking calling aren’t available. It only really makes sense if you rarely use the phone. It would be a much more compelling offer if you could add the phone to a family plan for a major carrier.

The HP Printing Mailbox from Presto is designed to print email and photos sent to an email address. In theory, you buy this printer for your parents, set it up and connect it to the phone line.

When you send them email, it gets printed out the next day. There’s no way to send an email back. (“Users do not have the cost and hassles of a computer and Internet account, and do not need to learn to send email or use a keyboard.”) They can call you (using a Jitterbug?) or write a letter. Only emails from approved email addresses are allowed. There’s also an option to subscribe to newsletters and articles from companies like Better Homes and Gardens and the Wall Street Journal.

Cost is an issue here, too. The printer costs $99 and the service is $10 a month. And then there’s the pricey HP ink cartridges.

The big problem I see with the HP Printing Mailbox is that it assumes a one-way relationship. To me, giving this to someone says “I don’t really care about you.” When I send an email to you with HP Printing Mailbox, I know you can’t email me back. It’s like calling someone’s work number at 9 p.m. hoping to get voicemail because you don’t really want to talk to them. There’s one opportunity for increased interaction: if you actually use the thing, you’ll probably have to visit every few months to change the ink cartridge.

But then again, I’m not the target market.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in consumer electronics, product management, wireless. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Two products I’d never consider buying

  1. Sue Jensen says:


    I am in my mid-50s and bought a Jitterbug. Just wanted to say that I don’t mind paying for the phone and service they provide. I can make calls anytime I want – no roaming or long distance charges that I would get when traveling with my previous cell phone company. Also, there’s no contract so I can cancel whenever. I had to pay $250 to cancel my last service!



  2. Dear Rocky:

    Thanks very much for writing about the Presto printing mailbox. I am Presto’s VP Marketing and wanted to say that we created Presto after conducting a tremendous amount of research with older Americans who are struggling with today’s technology. Although Presto may not be a product you would ever buy, you were never the intended user, either.

    You mention that Presto assumes a one-way relationship. We would say it differently: we assume there is already a two-way relationship between family members, Presto just makes it easier for those who struggle with computers to be the beneficiaries of the richness of their extended families lives through digital photos and emails.

    We would be the first to say that if someone can enjoy the rich interactions made possible by a computer, they should do so. We at Presto certainly do. But what about the part of the populace that is left out? Those who are afraid of technology and who have tried, and given up on bringing computers into their lives. Are they just out of luck? Are they relegated to snail mail and photo prints sent weeks after they were taken — or not at all — because it’s just too cumbersome for their kids and grandkids to revert to old school delivery methods?

    The tens of thousands of Presto users tell us they resoundingly LOVE the product (just visit, search for Presto and see the reviews). All I would ask is for you and your readers to think about whom in your lives might enjoy getting emails and photos on a frequent basis without needing to learn how to use a PC, how to use Windows or Vista, how to use email, how to format photo attachments for printing, and how to operate a standard PC printer.

    Using this technology is second nature to many of us, but there are MILLIONS of people for whom computers and email will never be an option. For them, we created Presto. And the big secret is, their tech-savvy kids and grandkids are the biggest beneficiaries because Presto makes it much easier to communicate with Mom/Grandma they way that THEY want to.

    Bottom line: Presto is just a tool that’s purpose built for a specific audience. The audience of current Presto users love it. We hope that you’ll give it a try. Thanks again for your great blog.

    Peter Radsliff, VP Marketing, Presto

  3. Pingback: Jitterbug Cell Phone Once Again: Sony gets FCC approval for fancy.. » Mobile Phone Info . net

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