GreatCall, Lively Wearable: Review
Product name: Lively Wearable
Manufacturer / Distributor: GreatCall
Compilation: October 2017. Updated Q4 2018.
This page contains our GreatCall Lively Wearable review.
Analyst Summary: GreatCall Lively Wearable
This is a very interesting addition to the PERS landscape, solving several problems that are common among other product offerings. However, the design tradeoffs the company has made in developing the product mean that it also has some limitations.
Our overall take on the Lively Wearable is that it is an excellent solution for a specific type of person. But probably not suitable for the majority of older adults. Read on to learn more about why we say that, and which type of person it is especially good for.
A Different Approach to Medical Alerts
Nice form factor
The unusual aspect of this medical alert is that it combines a small convenient form factor with the ability to "go anywhere". The button itself is quite a lot smaller than say the "Splash" from the same manufacturer or its replacement the "Lively Mobile".
The reason this is possible is that much of the actual functionality of the medical alert is contained in an accompanying smartphone "App". And so the sheer volume of stuff that needs to be squashed into the button is much less than for other "go anywhere" medical alerts.
How it works
The way this product works is that you have a relatively innocuous medical alert "button" which you can either wear like a watch or as a pendant. And then an App on your smartphone that does the work of using GPS to know where you are, and then if you press the button, of calling the call center for help.
Need a smartphone with you
Because the smartphone does much of the work, this medical alert will only work correctly when you have a smartphone relatively nearby. We did not test exactly how nearby the smartphone needs to be but we think it is likely of the order of 30 feet or so. So you don't need the smartphone on your person at all times. But you can't leave the house without it. And you probably can't go to the end of your large garden without your smartphone and expect this alert to work either.
This is the one big "issue" with this product. If you are the sort of person who has a smartphone on them at all times, this product might be an excellent choice. But if you like to leave your smartphone behind, or often turn it off and leave it in your purse, this product would not be a good choice.
Greatly improved cosmetics. But still not great.
One of the positive aspects of this product is that it looks a bit like a "Swatch". We showed it to several of our explorer circles, and the general response to the cosmetics was much more positive than most medical alerts we have tested. You can hear what explorers thought about the Lively Wearable at the discussions below:
However, after wearing it around for a month or two, it started to show some wear and tear. It is made of plastic and not really very elegant. While it is a lot better than many of the other medical alerts out there, we think there is still a long way to go before one would be proud to wear it.
Some excellent performance qualities
This product connects to the GreatCall call center, which we have talked about in reviews of the GreatCall Splash before. The responsiveness of the operators is excellent. Read our extensive comparative evaluation of mobile medical alerts to see further discussion of how this company's responsiveness compares with the competitors.
The Lively Wearable also takes advantage of the smartphone's ability to use GPS to know where it is. This seems to work rather well, and better than many of the standalone medical alert systems. This is also discussed in the mobile alert comparative analysis above, with some additional information in our comparison of medical alert Apps.
Unlike many of the mobile alerts that need charging every day or two, this one has a battery that for us lasted about a month before it needed to be replaced. It is a small battery you can replce, not a rechargeable.
You can wear this product in the shower, which is important. And because it does not need daily charging and can be worn on the wrist, we think you are much more likely to actually wear it in the shower than bulkier pendant-type products, or products that need daily charging.
Some design flaws
Apart from the need for a smartphone, and the "not perfect" appearance, we noticed three major areas of imperfection (or at least of "irritation").
The battery for this product is contained in a compartment under the pendant. The cover is made of plastic and we found it jammed after a few uses. Further more, the slot you are meant to use to unscrew the battery compartment is quite flimsy and wears out after some forceful attempts to tighten and losen it. After a couple of months, the cover was stuck and we could no longer replace the battery. No doubt we could have found a way to get it off with some suitable tools, but at that point we lost enthusiasm and gave up. :)
Another "irritation" was related to the need to "pair" the medical alert with the smartphone App. This is an essential step and was not all that easy.
When setting it up initially the pairing went fairly smoothly. However a week or two later after my smartphone ran out of charge in the middle of the day, I found that after the phone started up again, the pairing was lost. And it took me multiple tries to get the pairing working again.
For me this was an irritation, but not a fatal flaw. However I think there are many older adults who would find this quite problematic, and if you (or the person for whom you are shopping) is not an expert "pairer" of phones and accessories, I would watch out for this issue.
The third design flaw relates to what happens when you press the actual button on the medical alert. What happens is that the button sends a signal to your smartphone which places a call to the GreatCall call center. The problem is that when you try and talk with the call center person, you cannot hear them unless you either turn on the speakerphone functionality on your smartphone, or put your phone up to your ear.
I found this quite confusing. I expected to be able to hear the person talking to me right away, and I am not sure that in the stress of having fallen and hurt myself I would remember to activate the speaker functionality on my smartphone.
A better design would be one in which the system automatically turned on the speakerphone.
This product does have automatic fall prevention, which is good. However for it to work correctly you need to wear the product as a pendant and not as a wrist watch-style device. For some people this is a draw back, but for others it will be fine.
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Product Line & Company: GreatCall
About this Research
This product review is part of an extensive series of medical alert system reviews of over 50 products, including hands-on evaluation and real-world testing of the most promising ones, in real-world situations.
These reviews and analyses are part of our Research Project designed to help older adults and their families Choose the Right Medical Alert System for THEM — the result of which is our Medical Alert Systems: Selection Guide.
We have tried hard to make this research as independent and objective as possible. It has not been funded or sponsored by any of the vendors of these products, and includes no advertising or "sponsored content". The team that conducted this research has strong scientific, clinical, and aging services backgrounds. You can read more about the team that did this research at the links above.
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