Sneak peek: What’s coming to Jitterbug’s “Service Store”

By: Brian Dolan | Jun 2, 2009        

Tags: | | |  |

Jitterbug J Services StoreGreatCall, parent company to Jitterbug, the easy-to-use mobile phone service for seniors, launched a new phone called the Jitterbug J, which is a big step since the service provider formerly only had two other phones available. It’s much more interesting, however, what that new phone makes possible for Jitterbug customers: the new “Jitterbug Service Store.”

The new store is made possible by the J being 1x EVDO CDMA-enabled, meaning it can connect to 2G wireless data networks. Jitterbug is not promoting the data capability because the phone is not an “Internet-enabled” phone in the sense that it is equipped with a Web browser. Instead, the service provider wants the data connectivity to be invisible to its customer base. Jitterbug’s CEO David Inns describes the data connectivity as being embedded into the services themselves. Jitterbug worked with partners Samsung and Qualcomm to create a more seamless data connectivity experience for its customers.

The “hidden” data network isn’t the only unique strategy Jitterbug is pursuing. In a world of application stores like the iPhone’s “AppStore,” BlackBerry’s “App World” or Google’s “Android Market,” Jitterbug is clearly taking a different tack by stressing the service behind the applications it plans to launch for its user group, which is primarily 55-years-old and older.

“We have launched what we are calling a Services Store,” Jitterbug CEO David Inns told mobihealthnews in a recent interview. “It’s not an App Store, because as you know with Jitterbug we are all about services… the reason we call it the Services Store is unlike an App Store, and this is especially true for health and wellness, users want more than just an application. They want a live operator that you can talk to, who can help you with the service.”

“So many examples of wireless health services are being shown running on iPhones, but we go to those developers and ask them where they think the healthcare problem is in this country. Is it really with the 30-year-olds? That’s the group with the highest penetration of iPhones: 20- and 30-year-olds,” Inns said. “If that’s where the healthcare problem is in this country, great: let’s keep making iPhone apps then. If you want to get serious about tackling the healthcare problems in this country where they actually exist, which is in the 60+ age group, then you should be working with us to develop services that are easy to use so they get compliance.”

Inns gave mobihealthnews a preview of the services that are planned to become available in Jitterbug’s Service Store in the months ahead:

Jitterbug Medication Reminders Service: “We actually just wrapped up our medications reminders trial and we had fantastic results,” Inns said. “After working with these health providers we have found that the number one challenge for these health and wellness mobile services is getting the users’ compliance — getting them to use it regularly. If they are not using it regularly, the program fails. If you are running these services on Jitterbug and with this age group, then they are comfortable with the device, it’s intuitive, they are answering “yes” and “no” questions, and we use a lot of voice-based services, including our medications reminder service — it was all voice-based instead of text-based. That’s because we did a lot of research and found our customers would prefer a voice-based service that told them to “Remember to take your Lipitor today!” or “Have you taken it yet — say ‘no’ if you haven’t.” We put all that in there to make it very comfortable. We were able to take the medication compliance level of our user group from the low 60 percentile to close to 90 percent of the group we were testing.” Expect it this summer.

Jitterbug Wellness Calls Service: “We are also… working with a psychologist on a service we are calling the Jitterbug Wellness Calls,” Inns said. “We have developed a free service that, if you want it, a doctor will call you two times a week with an inspirational call. They might give you relaxation techniques [or other health tips]. What it does is then ask you questions about how you are feeling. We have found that just asking the question about how you are feeling — actually makes you feel better. We have several questions that we have developed with this psychologist who is an expert in this area so we can capture those responses back and create a wellness index for these customers to track online. If you are open to it, you could even have your caregivers or kids monitoring it as well. If you chose to do that, then it may be able to determine trends months before an actual condition develops.” Expected to launch sometime in September (before October 1). 

Updated Simple Text: “One of the applications that we are going to introduce later in the summer will let users go online and customize those 20 simple messages” that they currently pick from with Jitterbug’s Simple Text Service. While the service is still optimized by allowing users to only pick from 20 messages, they will soon have the ability to create original messages online to store on their phone for future use.

Earlier this year Jitterbug co-founder and chairwoman Arlene Harris disclosed that Jitterbug has been conducting trials for diabetes management, rheumatoid arthritis management, outpatient post-op support and location-based services. Safe bet: There are plenty more in the works.

Read on for more from mobihealthnews’ entire interview with Jitterbug’s CEO Inns…

Interview transcript with David Inns, CEO, GreatCall/Jitterbug

Essentially what we worked on for this phone was putting in a dynamic over the air application updating capability in the J working with Qualcomm and Samsung, who were both very helpful in working with us to create a fairly unique way of getting these applications to the phone. We are launching what we are calling a “Services Store.” It’s not an App Store, because as you know with Jitterbug we are all about services. 

We have updated our website so it has the Services Store in there but some of the new [services] that will be in there will be rolling out through the summer. So it hasn’t been talked about too much but it has been picked up in a few stories and it was outlined a little bit in the press release a little bit about our Services Store. At the end of the day, the reason we call it the Services Store is unlike an App Store, one of the things that is especially applicable in health and wellness, our big belief, is that this is going to be more than just about applications. People are missing that you have to have this ecosystem of a great Web experience that is linked with a great phone experience that is linked with a great service experience. That’s a live operator who you can talk to, who can help you with the service that you are suppose to be enjoying. If you can create that environment, then for health and wellness, it’s going to make for a more compliant system that really gets people to use and enjoy using the different services that are available there. 

When we talk about the Jitterbug J, there are a lot of new services and features like Bluetooth and Simple Text, which includes a message library. For someone who doesn’t want to triple tap on a keypad, there is a library of messages so it’s very easy to respond to a message somebody sends you with a pre-written message that you can just scroll to, find the right one and send. We have thought through that service experience and expanded it, because our customers are growing in their capabilities and we want to grow with them. We have improved upon the original text message offering we had by making it easier to get the right prewritten text messages into that phone. One of the applications that we are going to introduce later in the summer will let users go online and customize those 20 simple messages.

As we have introduced these new features, the key to our success is our platform that allows us to turn them on and off. We ship the phone with a lot of phones turned off and if you are interested in them you can call us and have them activated. That way, nothing you see on your phone is something you don’t use. That’s the key to simplicity and usability — not having things on the phone that you don’t use or that you don’t understand what they are used for. We still have all those great features that we have had in the past, we just made the phone a little slimmer, a little sleeker and lighter, while keeping the noise-reduction functionalities and the comfortable keypad. The other interesting thing we did was we improved on the user interface. We made it a little more elegant in its interface. On the J, our main screen is similar to the concept of the iPhone’s homescreen, but on the J instead of a whole bunch of icons on it, we have a main screen where each of the features that you have on your phone are listed in a nice, big bold text. You can see it says “text messaging” instead of a little icon or as we get into health and wellness services it will say “diabetes” as opposed to some picture of a glucose meter or something like that with a very small font and picture. We want to help people get to the services they want to use easier and quicker. That user interface is going to allow us to introduce more features while making them easier to get to, while still maintaining the ability to turn them on and off to customize the experience.

There was going to be a baseline Internet connectivity added to these phones in the Spring, and I didn’t see it listed specifically on the spec sheet. Does this phone have 1xCDMA?

Right. We thought through how we will provide data connectivity for our customers and what we realized after speaking with customers is A) We are not going to go out and charge our customers for data plans. That’s not going to make sense for us. What’s the iPhone data plan from AT&T right now? Something like $60 a month? We’re not going there. So, then what do you do — start charging people per megabyte? No, that’s not going to work. That’s not Jitterbug. That’s not simplicity. 

What we are going to do is build data connectivity into the services. For example, if you subscribe to a diabetes management application that you download and are using then the monthly fee that you pay for that service will have the data charges covered in it. So it’s flat fee. One of the ones we are coming out with is MyWorld. A lot of people think weather and stock tracking apps are free on the iPhone, but they’re not they are $60-a-month! Instead, what we are doing is for $4 a month you can either talk to the operator or go online and say “I would like the weather for this zip code” and I want to see that on my phone every morning as well as these stocks or these sports scores. 

So it’s true that these phones are Internet-enabled using 1xEV-DO?

They are, but we make that invisible to the customer.

Because the data is “embedded” in the services themselves, right?

Exactly.

I can understand the sensitivity on the messaging there — Jitterbug users probably don’t want to read that the new Jitterbug J phone is “Internet-enabled.” It might give them the wrong idea.

Exactly. It is true, there is a very small subset of people that might say they want a Web browser on the phone. The way customers are really thinking is that they want “this service” on my phone. “I want to find out about the weather” or “I want to be able to manage my diabetes” or “I want to be able to see stock index prices.” That’s how a consumer is thinking — not “I want to be able to surf the Internet.” We have taken it from their perspective and we think that will be key for when we begin to offer those health and wellness services. So many examples of health examples are being shown running on iPhones, but we go to those developers and ask them where they think the healthcare problem is in this country. Is it really with the 30-year-olds? That’s the group with the highest penetration of iPhones: 20- and 30-year-olds. If that’s where the healthcare problem is in this country then great — let’s keep making iPhone apps then. If you want to get serious about tackling the healthcare problems in this country where they actually exist, which is in the 60+ age group then you should be working with us to develop services that are easy to use so they get compliance. We have been working with a lot of healthcare providers on many programs, like our medications reminders trial, which [mobihealthnews] has blogged about before. We actually just wrapped the medications reminders trial and we had fantastic results. After working with these health providers we have found that the number one challenge for these health and wellness mobile services is getting the users’ compliance — getting them to use it regularly. If they are not using it regularly, the program fails. If you are running these services on Jitterbug and with this age group, then they are comfortable with the device, it’s intuitive, they are answering “yes” and “no” questions, and we use a lot of voice-based services, including our medications reminder service — it was all voice-based instead of text-based. That’s because we did a lot of research and found our customers would prefer a voice-based service that told them to “Remember to take your Lipitor today!” or “Have you taken it yet — say ‘no’ if you haven’t.” We put all that in there to make it very comfortable. We were able to take the medication compliance level of our user group from the low 60 percentile to close to 90 percent of the group we were testing. 

One of the more insightful pushbacks I’ve heard about the usefulness of medication reminder services was from the CEO of Novartis. He said that compliance is not simply about remembering to take your medication. The reasons we don’t fully adhere to our medication regimens are much more complicated — maybe the medication makes us sick. So, having the ability to interact with someone live is key to ensure that compliance is treated as the complex problem that it is.

Exactly. We have that feedback loop as well. It’s a voice-based system. If you say you are not taking it, then we actually work with the healthcare provider for a list of possible reasons for why you are not taking it. Using this system, I am going to know if someone is not taking their medication because of side effects probably two to three weeks before their doctor knows. If we can actually leverage that information and feed it back into the healthcare system — and intervene sooner — we are going to save a lotof  money and make people healthier, which is the ultimate goal.

We are also taking it to the next level by working with a psychologist on a service we are calling the Jitterbug Wellness Calls. We have developed a free service that, if you want it, a doctor will call you two times a week with an inspirational call. They might give you relaxation techniques. What it does is then ask you questions about how you are feeling. We have found that just asking the question about how you are feeling — actually makes you feel better. We have several questions that we have developed with this psychologist who is an expert in this area so we can capture those responses back and create a wellness index for these customers to track online. If you are open to it, you could even have your caregivers or kids monitoring it as well. If you chose to do that, then it may be able to determine trends months before an actual condition develops. 

At what stage is Jitterbug Wellness Calls now?

Just developing it now but our goal is to have it available in September, so before October 1 it will be available on a large scale. We are doing some testing with it now, but a September launch is our goal.

  • http://www.kertongroup.com Derek Kerton

    Brian,

    I think you made a typo with:

    ‘made possible by the J being 1xEVDO-enabled, meaning it can connect to 2G wireless data networks.”

    1xEV-DO is a 3G technology.

    You also refer to 1xCDMA in your interview questions, which could be interpreted as 1xRTT CDMA (a 2G data technology) much more likely than 1X EV-DO, which is usually just called EVDO or EV-DO. The 1x, I recall, was used to indicate the use of one standard 1.25MHz channel.

  • http://mobihealthnews.com Brian Dolan

    Derek, You are absolutely right. Duly corrected. Harris even mentioned 1xCDMA enabled phones back in February, which is where I got the original question from:

    http://mobihealthnews.com/368/jitterbug-mobile-entertainment-tech-for-mhealth/#more-368

    Thanks for the note — good catch — and apologies for the confusion.

  • MAKAW

    Once there is a tracking service, I’m on board. We need this to support early Alzheimer’s caregivers as well as our returning military recovering from brain injury.

  • http://mobihealthnews.com Brian Dolan

    Thanks, MAKAW — on the military point, AllOne Mobile and Diversinet are already conducting a pilot with them:

    http://mobihealthnews.com/439/interview-an-army-of-allone-mobile/

  • Natalie Miller

    I think the Jitterbug is a good phone, and once they get texting then I’m on board.

  • jade

    Dear Mr. Inns
    I believe your Jitterbug phone does anserer a call for cell phone users who do become annoyed with all kinds of messy features. The services you are providing will only increase in time with time… however is it possible to create a service with the Jitterbug phone that would secure a ALZHEIMER’S patient with some security as well as a piece of mind for the caregiver(s)!?

    Sincerely,
    Leah

  • Pingback: Jitterbug now profitable, on Verizon Wireless network | mobihealthnews

  • Pingback: Sneak peek: What’s coming to Jitterbug’s “Service Store”| mobihealthnews | Ted Eytan, MD

  • Jim

    Will there ever be the ability to recive text messages sent from a computer. I am involved with a local emergency service that notifies it’s volunteers via text messages. So far I can not receive these messages.

  • http://mobihealthnews.com Brian Dolan

    Jim,

    Not sure what your specific carrier/phone are but that’s commonly supported. I know Google’s instant message service, GChat for GMail users can send texts from the computer to mobiles, for example.

    Are you a Jitterbug customer?

  • http://Yahoo McKallipJune

    Sirs, I lovre my jitterbug the way it is . Thank you ! June McKallip.

  • Ron Carnegie

    If I have read the comments above correctly I would expect to be able to remove the memory card from my iPhone and place it in the “J” and have my contact list available as well as being able to access the Rogers Network here in Canada. Is this correct?