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Jitterbug phone from GreatCall

My DH has a Jitterbug phone from GreatCall and I've been after him to check with them as to whether the phone works in Europe. He finally called them today and the operator said "We don't know." All she could tell him was to take the phone to Europe and try it. If it works, it costs $1 per minute to make and receive calls.

DH would be using the phone only for emergencies, so the cost doesn't bother us that much, but we'd much rather know ahead of time whether it's even worth bringing the phone. If it's not going to work, then we'll leave it at home and buy him a cheap phone when we arrive Europe.

Have any of you good people tried this so you can tell us whether the phone is going to work?

Posted by
4695 posts

I'd never heard of Jitterbug. I googled it. It appears to work only on Verizon's network, which means almost certainly it won't work in Europe. Verizon uses a technology called CDMA in the US. In Europe, they use an incompatible technology called GSM (also used by T-Mobile and AT&T in the US).

This phone probably can't even use a SIM card. If you have an unlocked, quad band GSM phone, you can take it to Europe with you and buy a SIM card locally in whatever country you're in and use it to make local calls. (All GSM phones have a little slot where you can insert a SIM card to give the phone a new phone number and identity, anywhere in the world.) I used to take my old Motorola GSM flip phone to Europe and do exactly that. I'm a T-Mobile user, and now I can use my phone cheap in many European countries (20 cents/minute, free calls home if using WiFi calling).

Some Verizon-compatible smartphones also have SIM card slots for just this type of travel use, but I'm sure your little flip phone does not.

Posted by
1406 posts

Well that's not really an answer, is it? You need to call back and ask again, and from the sounds of it, perhaps call a third time as well.

And if you do some google you can probably find someone who knows. I looked at the Greatcall website and while they brag about their great US coverage, they do not address anything overseas. Also realize that even if the phone will work elsewhere, all the added-benefit services they lay on top of a normal phone would not.

Posted by
11158 posts

Yes, Jitterbug uses the Verizon network and their phones are CDMA only, so it won't work in Europe.

Posted by
2580 posts

Thanks for these replies.

We'll simply buy him an inexpensive cell phone once we arrive. We're only going to be in 2 countries, France and UK. Our trip begins in Paris so it should not be hard to find a shop selling cell phones that will work in both of these countries. Any advice about that?

Posted by
1 posts

I hate to contradict others, but here in the US, Verizon is not exclusively CDMA any longer. Their new LTE networks in the US are using the GSM network. Here in the states, Verizon owns both GSM and CDMA towers. Over time as they build their network, they will be moving to GSM exclusively.

It used to be that Sprint and Verizon towers used CDMA technology (does not work in Europe), and AT&T and T-Mobile towers use GSM technology (which works in Europe). At this point in time, Verizon offers both. That's why, years ago, if you switched carriers here in the states you often had to get a new phone, even if it was the same model. The 'innards' have to built to work on either the CDMA or GSM network, even if the exteriors look exactly the same. (I happen to work for one of these groups, which is how I know all of this. I promise I not a network guru, however: this is pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I've been lurking on these boards for months, but had to finally register today to correct the misinformation here.)

If your particular phone can connect to the GSM network, then it will work in Europe. So it's worth calling again (and again, if needed) to determine the towers your particular phone connects to. If they tell you it's a CDMA phone, then you're out of luck -- it can't connect to cell towers in Europe. If it's a GSM phone, then it can connect to the cell towers there and you need to determine if it's worth it to you, cost-wise, to bring it. If it's an older/cheaper phone, it is likely CDMA, but it's definitely worth investigating.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
2580 posts

What valuable information! Thank you so-o-o much. We will call the GreatCall folks again and try to get a straight answer about the CDMA versus GSM question.

This will be handy info to ask my own cell phone company, too, even though they (unlike GreatCall) have already assured me that my phone will work in Europe. (My phone is from Credo Mobile, for anyone wondering.)

Posted by
4695 posts

tammymorgan: "If your particular phone can connect to the GSM network, then it will work in Europe."

Not necessarily true, Tammy. As another twist, US carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T use different GSM frequencies than are used in Europe. Neither of my T-Mobile GSM flip phones would work in Europe (I tried one of them; later I hacked the other one to make it work and did use it there, but this is beyond the average user.) A GSM phone used in the US must be "quad band" or a "world phone" to work. Most newer smartphones - Androids, etc.- are quad band, but many of the old GSM flip phones were not.

And just because Verizon offers LTE to its customers doesn't mean it would also do so to a sub-carrier like Greatcall. Typically, flip phones are not LTE anyway - because they don't need to be. LTE is really desired for faster data rates, something most flip phone users aren't interested in.

Still, it would be easy for epltd to figure out if the phone is GSM compatible: turn it off, and take the battery out. If you see a SIM card in there or a slot for one, then it's GSM-compatible. If there's no slot for a SIM, there's no way to buy a SIM card and install it in the phone in Europe, anyway.

Posted by
2580 posts

Thanks for this further info about quad band, world phone, and slot for SIM card. I am learning a lot!