Nowadays, when even most feature phones are trying to mimic smartphones, with touch screens and a laundry list of features, it’s refreshing to see an honest-to-goodness simple phone like the Just5 J510. You may already be familiar with its predecessor, the Just5 J509, which is still available, and still one of our top picks for simple phones. The unlocked J510 has been outfitted with a new display, backlit keys, a snazzy paintjob, and a slightly steep $159.99 price tag. It’s sure to be a lot more appealing to kids, but adults may want to stick to the J509, which is less expensive and easier to use.
Design and Features
The J510 still looks like a calculator, but this time, it looks like a really cool neon-colored calculator. The phone is available in eight different colors, five of which are bright and neon, and one that’s a combination of all five—which is the model I tested, of course. There are also gray and white models available for anyone that doesn’t feel confident enough to pull off the neon look, but overall, these phones are more stylish than the J509. That’s a good thing if you’re buying this phone for your child, but maybe not so great if you’re buying it for an older parent.
The J510 is light and tiny, measuring 4.5 by 2.2 by 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighing 3.15 ounces. It’s actually bigger than the J509, but both phones are extremely comfortable to hold. The rounded edges make this phone feel a little slippery, but I had no trouble hanging onto it. There’s a sliding Lock button on the right side of the phone, as well as a sliding Flashlight button. The left side has two Volume buttons, and a button that activates the phone’s FM radio. There’s also a bright orange SOS button on the back, which I’ll touch on it a bit.
The display has been given a big upgrade, from the rectangular, amber LCD on the J509, to a square, 65K color LCD here. It’s small, at just 1.77 inches, and very few of those thousands of colors, other than black and white, are put to use here. But the font is large, and the white text is easy to see on the black background. I would have liked to see an option to make the font even larger; while it’s fairly large across the board, I think it can use a little boost when you’re scrolling through the phone’s primary options.
Icons at the top of the display can indicate a number of different things. Some of them are quite stylized, so I had to read the help guide to figure out that a Charlie Brown shirt-style squiggle means that the phone is set to vibrate. The battery status and reception icons are particularly troublesome, as they rely on a series of boxes that are difficult to understand. If you’re going to make a simple phone, why not keep everything simple? A standard battery symbol and phone tower would’ve been fine.
The phone’s keys are large, so they’re easy to see and press. If you have trouble seeing you can also program to phone to speak each number as you press it. There are three function keys at the top, above four rows of number keys. The phone will often indicate which of the function keys you can press by displaying a symbol over it on screen, but again, things can get a little confusing. When the phone displays an X symbol over the function key marked with an X, that makes sense. But when a checkmark appears above the key that says OK, you hesitate before pressing it. Again, why not just say ‘OK’? You get used to this pretty quickly, and it’s my only gripe about the otherwise excellent keypad.
The LED flashlight shines from the top of the phone, and works fine, though it isn’t terribly bright. Just5 has included a 3.5mm headphone jack this time, so you can listen to the FM radio over the phone’s speaker or with any standard pair of wired headphones. The bundled headset sounds clear but tinny, while quality was much better on an upgraded headset.
(Next page: Networks, Call Quality, and Conclusions)
There’s a big orange SOS button on the back of the phone. In case of an emergency, you can program this button to sound an alarm, or to automatically dial or text a series of numbers.
There are some basic apps built into the phone, like an alarm, calculator, and calendar. There are also a couple of rather interesting apps, like Hand Counter, which is meant to help you count objects, and every time you press the OK button, the number on the screen raises by one. Then there’s Just Trip, which lets you personally map out a “trip” using directional arrows, so the result is a series of cryptic arrows with nothing in between.
Networks and Call Quality
The J510 is a quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) GSM device, so you can use it in the U.S. as well as abroad. Just5 offers a number of inexpensive plans through Red Pocket Mobile, but you can also use it with any GSM-based carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile.
I tested the phone using a three-day unlimited Ready SIM card, which runs on T-Mobile’s nationwide network. Reception was solid, but call quality was uneven. Voices sounded extremely thin and a little fuzzy in the earpiece. The phone is hearing aid compatible, but I found the maximum volume level to be a bit lacking. The speakerphone was loud, but not loud enough to hear over construction noise outside of the PCMag offices, and it gets very distorted at maximum volume. For calls made with the phone, voices sounded clear and natural, though background noise cancellation is poor. There is no Bluetooth, but the phone comes with a wired headset and calls sounded fine on both ends.
There are seven different ring tones and four different SMS tones. There is also a vibrate function, but it doesn’t feel strong enough. You can check your voicemail, but there is no simple option to do so in the phone’s menu. If you’re using AT&T you must dial a particular number, and if you’re using T-Mobile you can press and hold down the 1 key.
Text messaging is fine, given the large size of the phone keys, but it’s never fun to type out words on a number pad. You can store up to 250 contacts in the phone itself, and another 250 in your SIM card’s memory.
Battery life was solid at 13 hours and 17 minutes of talk time. Just5 claims the phone can also last up to 10 days on standby.
The Just5 J510 includes a number of improvements over its predecessor, like an upgraded display, a standard headphone jack, a cool new look, and more features. But more features don’t necessarily equal a better device, especially in the simple phone arena. The colorful J510 could be a good choice for your child’s first phone, but if you’re looking for the best simple phone available, you can do better. The J509, for instance, is easier to use than the J510 and costs just $90. The $30 Snapfon ez ONE-c is even better, since it has most of the same features at an even lower price. You may also want to consider our Editors’ Choice, the Samsung Jitterbug Plus from GreatCall. It’s a standard flip phone with much better call quality than the J510, as well as additional services like free 24-hour operator assistance.
|Service Provider||AT&T, T-Mobile|
|Screen Details||65K color|
|Screen Resolution||160 by 128 pixels pixels|
|Dimensions||4.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches|
|Phone Capability / Network||GSM|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Bands||850, 900, 1800, 1900|
|Screen Size||1.77 inches|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||13 hours 14 minutes|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc