GreatCall vs Life Alert

COVID-19 Update: Medical Alerts are considered essential devices during the COVID crisis, so monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how these and other essential products can keep older adults safe and connected during this crisis, take a look at our list of 10 essential products.

Medical alert systems are designed to provide a reliable, affordable and user-friendly way for subscribers to call for help when they’re alone or unable to use a telephone. Also known as personal emergency response buttons or wearable help buttons, these devices instantly connect the user with a call center that can dispatch a caregiver, neighbor or first responders right away.

If you’re in the market for a medical alert system you already know that the choices can be overwhelming. Many companies use complicated marketing language to describe their devices and services, and it can be hard to find accurate information on costs online. To help make the process of picking a medical alert device easier, our team of senior care experts have conducted extensive research on the top brands, systems and features.

GreatCall vs Life Alert – Which One is Better?

Today we’re comparing GreatCall’s Lively lineup of medical alert devices with Life Alert’s emergency call systems. Aside from the fact that both companies provide 24/7 emergency call monitoring and response coordination, there’s very little in common between these two providers. Life Alert is an independent medical alert company that only offers medical alert systems, while GreatCall is a subsidiary of Best Buy, which specializes in wireless communication solutions for seniors.

Below you’ll find a chart that compares the costs, features and services offered by each company followed by an in-depth look at the devices and systems.

GreatCall Life Alert

COSTS

Up-Front Equipment

$49.99

$0

Monthly Monitoring

$14.99-$39.99

$49-$68

Activation Fee

$25-$35

$95-$198

CONTRACT

Long-Term Contract?

No

Yes – three year

Optional Monthly Add-Ons

N/A

N/A

FEATURES

Water-Resistant Wearable Devices

Yes

Yes

Fall Detection

 

No

GPS Location Monitoring Available?

Yes

Yes

Mobile App/Online Dashboard

Yes

Yes

RELIABILITY/PERFORMANCE

Connection

Cellular only

Landline or cellular

Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)

Unlimited

Up to 800′

Battery Life on Help Button

Up to 80 hours on Lively Mobile Plus

Battery in Lively Wearable never needs charging

Up to seven years on help button pendant; up to 10 years on wall-mounted HELP button

Battery Back-up on Base Unit

N/A

Up to 72 hours

OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

N/A

Additional wall-mounted waterproof HELP button

Overview of GreatCall

GreatCall is a company owned and operated by Best Buy, an electrical retailer specializing in wireless communication solutions for seniors. GreatCall sells the popular Jitterbug line of cell phones for older adults, and they now offer 24/7 medical alert monitoring through their Lively lineup of emergency call buttons. GreatCall currently has two medical alert call buttons, the Lively Mobile Plus and the Lively Wearable.

Lively Mobile Plus is an all-in-one personal emergency system that’s equipped with GPS, fall detection and an integrated speaker and microphone to enable two-way conversations with the emergency call center. It works on the AT&T 4G LTE network for nationwide coverage through a built-in SIM card that’s included with the $49.99 purchase price.

Lively Wearable is a simple, innovative help button that can be worn on the wrist or on the provided breakaway lanyard. To use it, subscribers need to have a smartphone that operates on Android 4.4 or iOS 8.0 or higher that has an active data plan. Subscribers download the GreatCall Link app onto their smartphone and sync with the Lively Wearable via Bluetooth. To call for help, users simply press the wearable help button within Bluetooth range of their smartphone, which initiates a speakerphone call with the emergency response center.

Pros of GreatCall:

  • Both Lively medical alert devices have an IPX7 waterproof rating, making them safe for use in the shower and other damp environments
  • Connection for the Lively Mobile Plus is via the AT&T 4G LTE with CDMA fallback to ensure coverage nationwide
  • Fall detection is available on both devices
  • Each device comes with a magnetic breakaway lanyard to prevent strangulation
  • Trusted family members and caregivers can be connected to GreatCall Link, an app that provides real-time location and emergency call information
  • The optional Urgent Care service gives subscribers 24/7 phone access to registered nurses and board-certified doctors who can provide prescriptions for some medications without an office visit or co-pay

Cons of GreatCall:

  • GreatCall seems to have trouble keeping their Lively devices in stock
  • The Lively Wearable only works with compatible smartphones, and users must keep their phone charged and close to the medical alert button in order for the system to work
  • Users need to remember to recharge the Lively Mobile Plus device every three days
  • Subscribers must change the lithium coin battery in the Lively Wearable every six months or less, which may be difficult for those with limited dexterity or vision loss

Overview of Life Alert

Life Alert is one of the most widely recognized names of medical alert providers thanks to its ongoing marketing campaign that uses the tagline, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The company has been in business for more than 30 years, is UL Certified and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Life Alert owns and operates its own 24/7 emergency monitoring centers located in the U.S., and they have a high dispatcher to member ratio.

Life Alert requires that all new subscribers sign a three-year service contract. There’s an activation charge ranging from $95-$198 in addition to the monthly monitoring fees, which start at $49 and go up to $68. Subscribers can provide Life Alert with detailed medical information and family contacts for use in emergency situations, and emergency operators remain on line with callers until help arrives.

Life Alert has three medical alert systems that come with waterproof call buttons that never need charging. There’s an 800-foot range between the in-home landline or cellular base unit, while the GPS-equipped Life Alert Mobile device works anywhere there’s GSM cellular service.

Life Alert Pros:

  • The help buttons are simple, maintenance-free and can be used in wet environments
  • Life Alert owns and operates its own call centers
  • Life Alert is the only medical alert company endorsed by a former U.S. surgeon general
  • The base units are equipped with a robust back-up battery that lasts up to 72 hours

Life Alert Cons:

  • Life Alert doesn’t offer fall detection
  • Customers must sign a three-year service contract that’s very difficult to cancel
  • Pricing is only provided over the phone
  • Cellular devices use GSM technology, which is slower and less stable than LTE/4G mobile networks
  • The design of the devices is outdated

Our Pick

When comparing GreatCall with Life Alert, it’s clear that GreatCall’s pricing, consumer policies and devices are superior to that offered by Life Alert, despite the fact that both companies fall well below industry standards in terms of available features and services. We like the fact that GreatCall has an updated, easy to navigate website where potential customers can learn about the devices, services and most importantly, the costs. By comparison, Life Alert’s website is outdated, difficult to navigate and lacks essential information consumers need, such as the cost of the devices and monthly subscription fees.

The entry-level in-home medical alert system from Life Alert costs $49, while the Lively Mobile Plus from GreatCall costs $49.99 per month. For virtually the same monthly cost, consumers can either have a landline-based system from Life Alert or an all-in-one, GPS-equipped cellular help button that includes automatic fall detection and doesn’t involve an activation fee or lengthy contract. We also like GreatCall’s Lively Wearable personal help button that pairs with a compatible smartphone as it’s a user-friendly, cost-effective solution for people who are comfortable using a smartphone. The Lively Wearable monthly plan costs just $14.99, making it one of the lowest-priced medical alert plans on the market today.

Our team of senior care experts found that there are numerous complaints online related to the lengthy, 3-year contract required by Life Alert. We also read a number of reviews citing concerns over high-pressure sales tactics used by Life Alert’s call center when consumers phoned for information.

Given the issues with Life Alert’s pricing policies, contracts and reliance on outdated technologies, we simply can’t recommend Life Alert to seniors. We do believe that GreatCall’s Lively Mobile Plus device could be a good choice for those who want a fully self-contained, waterproof mobile help button, and the Lively Wearable is a great solution for those who already own and use a compatible smartphone.

Compare Other Medical Alert Options

With dozens of medical alert providers offering an ever-increasing range of devices and services there’s a medical alert system for every need and budget. To learn more about the top medical alert companies, pricing and features, take a look at our other side-by-side comparisons here on Assisted Living Today.