SimpliSafe ReviewsBy - 02/17/2017
Our Overall Rating
The Bottom Line
Simplisafe Equipment & Protection
SimpliSafe has found a niche in a somewhat crowded market. Instead of locking customers into long contracts, they’ve cut out the middleman. In doing so, they are able to offer affordable no contract home security; customers can come and go as they please. The upside to this model is obvious: more freedom to drop the service if you’re not finding any value in it, and without consequence. The downside is that no contract means no free equipment and the lower cost comes at the expense of quality.
SimpliSafe is one of the only monitoring companies that provides professional UL-listed monitoring on a month-to-month basis, starting at $14.99 per month. The company uses cellular monitoring, which is 5-10 seconds faster than phone lines and can’t be snipped with a $4 pair of wire cutters.
With SimpliSafe, you have three options. You can use the system without service, with the Standard Plan, or with the Interactive Plan. Without service, the system is a noise maker and nothing more. All of the paid plans offer cellular monitoring, but not all offer mobile app access. And what’s the point of having a security system if you can’t monitor it away from home?
|Price||Free||$14.99 / month||$24.99 / month|
|SMS/Email Alerts||+$5 / month|
|Works with Nest|
|Live Video Streaming|
|Recorded Video History||$4.99 / month||$4.99 / month|
|Visual Verification||Optional. Included in $4.99 Fee||Optional. Included in $4.99 Fee|
During my SimpliSafe journey, I wanted to find the best deal on monitoring, so I shopped their website and called their phone sales department. I found the best deal for monitoring via phone support and the best deal for equipment online (more on that later).
Over the phone, I was offered a free month of monitoring. When I left the call without biting, my sales rep actually called back and offered two free months of service. The lesson here? The key to getting a better deal with SimpliSafe is to buy your equipment first (online) and add monitoring later.
SimpliSafe Monitoring Features Explained
24/7 Monitoring – Monitoring for burglaries, fire, and carbon monoxide with courtesy calls for water sensors and freezing temperature alarms. The service is U.L. Listed, F.M. Approved, Five Diamond-Certified, and monitored by COPS Central Station.
SMS/Email Alerts – In addition to a phone call from the monitoring center, SMS/Email Alerts speed up the response time by sending a text message and an email to you in real-time. You will know if your system was armed, disarmed, or triggered.
Remote Arm/Disarm & Control – With this service, you can arm and disarm your system from anywhere, check out your event log, and check your system status.
Secret Alerts – A fancy name for sensor customization. This feature should be included in all plans, not just the most expensive. Without this feature, you will not be able to decide how your sensors behave. With it, you can set sensors to notify only you, you and the monitoring center, or you can disable them.
Cellular Connection – SimpliSafe uses both Verizon and T-Mobile to find a strong cellular signal. With this, you don’t need a phone line, internet connection, or anything else for your system to work. It includes built-in cellular technology and works out of the box.
Video Surveillance – With Interactive or Standard, you can live stream video from anywhere via the mobile app. For an extra $4.99 per month, you can also have your security system trigger recordings and access recorded video footage.
SimpliSafe Equipment and Pricing
With SimpliSafe, everything starts with the base station ($114.99). The base station includes a GSM cellular connection and a lithium battery. The battery is rechargeable but will need to be replaced every five years. If your power fails, SimpliSafe claims the battery will provide backup power to your system for two days, though the instruction manual says the battery will only last 8 hours. Other sources say 24 hours. The conflicting information was confusing, so I unplugged the device and waited.
When I unplugged the Base Station from its power source, nothing happened. There was no beep, no warning, no phone alert. There was nothing until 8 hours later when the voice that lives inside the base station finally chirped up,
Warning! Base station backup battery is low. Please restore power as soon as possible.
Of course, I did nothing. And not too much later, the system was dead. After upgrading my service from self-monitored to the Interactive Plan, I assumed I would receive a smartphone notification. I did not. In fact, had I not known the base station was unplugged, I would’ve been oblivious. Below is a screen recording of how the app behaves when the base station is dead.
It counts down 3, 2, 1, and then appears to work. (Per a reader’s request, I repeated this process two months later and did receive a notification.)
Continuing the test, I decided to leave the system unplugged. After a week, SimpliSafe emailed to let me know that they did not receive my weekly Automatic Test. Final answer, 8 hours and minimal communication.
To make the system smarter, they’ve created the base station to work independently of the keypad. If a burglar finds the keypad and destroys it, the base station will call for help. If a burglar finds and destroys your base station, you’re screwed. This is something that makes SimpliSafe slightly inferior to companies like Frontpoint, which provide protection even if your base station is destroyed.
The base station also has a built-in siren (85dB), voice prompts to guide you through installation, a built-in cellular chip, and wireless connectivity with up to 41 different sensors.
With SimpliSafe, you can build a custom system or choose a pre-packaged security system. In general, it’s cheaper to start with a package and then add equipment a la carte until you have everything you need to protect your home.
|Entry Sensor||$14.99 ea||Protects Windows and Doors or anything that opens and closes.|
|Motion Sensor||$29.99 ea||Monitors for motion and can sense motion up to 30 feet away. Pet immune up to 50 lbs.|
|Glassbreak Sensor||$34.99 ea||Can detect the sound of breaking glass up to 20 feet away.|
|Water Sensor||$19.99 ea||Helps protect your home from water damage – great for basements, under the sink, etc.|
|Freeze Sensor||$29.99 ea||If your home’s temperature falls below 41°F, this sensor will let you know.|
|Extra Keychain Remote||$24.99 ea||Using this device you can arm & disarm your system. It also works like a panic button and will call for help with one click.|
|Extra 105dB Siren||$59.99 ea||An extra siren that you can use inside or outside.|
|Panic Button||$19.99 ea||One press for help!|
|Smoke Detector||$29.99 ea||Monitors for smoke and will sound its internal siren if smoke is detected, it will also trigger your security system.|
|CO Detector||$49.99 ea||Monitors for carbon monoxide.|
|Extra Keypad||$69.99 ea||Allows you to disarm your system.|
|Extra Entry Magnet||$4.99 ea||If you’d like to leave a window slightly open, an extra magnet can help you do that while still offering protection.|
|Security Camera||$99.00 ea||Records HD Video, offers automated night vision, and a 120° field of view.|
Equipment Packages: Refurb vs. New vs. Amazon
SimpliSafe sells five packages directly. The Starter Package sells for $229. It includes a cellular base station, a wireless keypad, a motion sensor, an entry sensor, and a keychain remote.
The most expensive equipment package (Ultimate) costs $539 but covers all your basic security and life safety needs. This package has a base station, a wireless keypad, 2 motion sensors, 4 door entry sensors, a panic button, an extra 105db siren, a smoke detector, a water sensor, a CO detector, a freeze sensor, and a keychain remote.
As the system is not my primary home alarm, (I use this one.) I decided to go with refurbished equipment.
They offer three refurb packages ranging from a 6-piece (what I purchased), to a 12-piece, to an 18-piece set selling for $423.37. The refurbished packages are priced around 23-28% cheaper than new equipment and are still backed by SimpliSafe’s 60-day money back guarantee and free shipping.
In regards to new equipment pricing, I found the online pricing from Amazon won over buying new equipment directly.
|SimpliSafe.com Refurbished||SimpliSafe.com Economy Package||Amazon.com|
|Keychain Remotes||1 (Refurbished)||1||1|
|Motion Sensors:||1 (Refurbished)||1||1|
|Entry Sensors||2 (Refurbished, $14.99 for an extra)||3||4|
|Window Decals||2||Yes, and yard sign.||Yes, and yard sign.|
When the security equipment arrived, I was surprised by the dated appearance. Looks aside, it was easy to setup.
Installing SimpliSafe was different from the other security and smart devices I’ve installed. There is no app to walk you through the process. The key fob includes a flash drive, which you can use to access the setup wizard, or you can use the included owner’s manual. The keychain remote also plugs into the base station to allow system customization. Even without the Interactive Plan, you can use the flash drive to customize:
- Base Station Light
- Voice Prompts
- Door Chime
- Voice Prompt Volume Alarm
- Siren Volume
- Duration Entry Delay (Home and Away modes)
Once you plug the base station in, you’re greeted by a voice instructing you that the system is in test mode.
The next step is to remove the battery activation strip from the keypad. You can place the keypad on a wall using the included adhesive tape or screws. Once that’s done, you will install the individual components and sensors one at a time. All of the devices pair to the system automatically. Simply remove the battery activation strip and place the device in the area you want to monitor (with screws or adhesive).
If you want to self-monitor the alarm, you’re done. If you want to add monitoring, you can do so through the web portal or by phone. If you choose to activate a subscription, the system will be placed in “practice mode” for three days. According to SimpliSafe,
“Put the system into test mode by using your keypad’s menu option 5. This will cause the Base station to send a test signal to the Emergency Dispatch Center. A dispatcher will contact you to let you know that the test signal was successfully received.”
Unfortunately, this was a promised feature that did not work. Though I followed the instructions, I only received a text message, not a phone call. I found this disappointing as I wanted to gauge the amount of time elapsed between event and contact.
Using the System
In general, using SimpliSafe is not as easy as other alarms I’ve tested. The fact that it lacks a touchscreen panel or a full-service app makes it less user-friendly. When I tested the system without a plan, the whole experience felt dated. They use a flip phone icon in their instruction manual for goodness sakes!
To protect your home, the system uses three modes: Away, Home, and Off. Away Mode arms all sensors. Home Mode will arm your parameter sensors. For example, it will arm sensors protecting your door and windows while disarming motion sensors. This is the mode to use when you want protection, but want to move about your house. Finally, Off Mode is what it sounds like. Your system is off, disarmed. If you don’t have access to the mobile app, you can move between the three modes by using the buttons on your keypad. From the keychain remote, you can initiate Away Mode, Panic Mode, or Home Mode.
Using the keypad to control the system is frustrating. I can name a few examples, but showing you this video might be most helpful. In the video, I’m simply trying to exit the menu. Hitting enter doesn’t work, hitting delete doesn’t work, hitting cancel doesn’t work. Should I try the panic button?
In addition to being difficult to use, the components are unfortunately clunky. Below is a picture of the SimpliSafe entry sensor compared to iSmartAlarm and Frontpoint.
- 24/7 Monitoring for Burglaries with Police Dispatch
- Packages Start at $14.99 per month
- Smoke and Fire Detection
- Cellular Connection
- System Vulnerabilities Found
- Not User Friendly & Dated
- The Complete System Is Not NRTL Listed
If you want your home security system to connect to home automation, you might want to consider other low-cost providers like Link. SimpliSafe offers an inadequate amount of interactive features and home automation.
Works with Nest
Taking a tiny step into the smart home, SimpliSafe has joined the Works with Nest program. If you subscribe to the Interactive Plan ($24.99/month), the system will integrate with the Nest Thermostat.
Working with SimpliSafe’s sales team made me feel like Cady Heron. Remember the scene in Mean Girls where Cady pretends to be math-impaired in order to impress Aaron Samuels? Yup. That was me. Smiling and nodding, but in my head saying, “Wrong. So wrong.“
My sales rep was most uninformed in regards to Works with Nest. For example, when I mentioned their website offered $100 off a Nest thermostat with a new equipment purchase and an Interactive plan (coupon code NEST100MON), he said that such thing didn’t exist. Wrong.
Then he continued to explain the integration incorrectly before finally recovering in the end by saying,
Most customers don’t get that (talking about Nest). I think that you can just tell who is gone and who is away and use the same app.
And yes. He was finally right. Having a Nest Thermostat isn’t going to increase your home’s security value when integrated with SimpliSafe, but it can work with SimpliSafe to know who is home and who is away and you can control both from one app interface.
If you ask any long term SimpliSafe customer what they like least, I feel that the promise of a home security camera might have topped the list, but all that has changed. After teasing a camera for what felt like years, it’s finally here.
The camera is still in Beta, but I’ve tested it, and it feels ready for market. The camera is wireless, light, and equipped with limited features. As it’s a $99 camera, I’m not surprised, but was expecting a little more. It records in 720p HD with a 120-degree diagonal field of view, and automated night vision. The picture quality is excellent and streams to the app or web portal with almost no lag. Though SimpliSafe promised two-way audio and a PIR motion sensor, both features are noticeably missing. In a Q&A with SimpliSafe, I found that the motion detector and two-way might yet be possibilities:
Can I customize which sensors trigger a recording. For example, my front door will trigger a camera recording, but my back door will not? Unfortunately, you cannot specify which sensors trigger the camera and which do not. The camera triggering is not tied to sensor activity but instead by events on the alarm system as a whole. The camera will trigger whenever an event is noted in your event log: Alarms, Arms/Disarms, Secret Alerts, etc. If you set a specific sensor to secret alert through your system’s advanced settings, the camera will record whenever that sensor is tripped.
Does the camera itself have a motion detector? If so, I can’t figure out how to use it. Currently, the camera does not have a motion sensor. However, future updates to the camera may enable a motion sensor in the camera which will trigger the camera to record if tripped.
Does it have two-way audio? Again, currently, the camera does not have the capability for 2 way recording. Our engineers are in the late stages of development of a firmware update which will allow this functionality. This update will be automatically sent to your camera wirelessly and should be released sometime in the near future.
The camera’s features are controlled by SimpliSafe’s existing mobile app. You can use it to install your camera, view live footage, or view your video history (if you pay the additional monthly fee). And though SimpliSafe doesn’t say how long recorded clips are or allow you to customize clip length, mine were all around 19 seconds long and started recording right after an event occurred. After testing the camera, SimpliSafe launched pre-roll support. Event recordings now begin a few seconds before detected events. In addition, they launched interactive push notifications which allow you to swipe to view live or recorded video.
Included in the video history fee, is the option to add Visual Verification. This feature allows SimpliSafe’s monitoring center to access your camera recordings during an alarm event. If they see a burglary in process, they will be able to provide details to the police on your behalf. However, I’m not clear on who can access this feature. In an email conversation with a SimpliSafe employee, she implied that the service might be reserved for those who live in an area where verification is required for police dispatch.
This is an option we included for our customers that have the Visual Verification Ordinance.
Before purchasing the system, I assumed it would also work with Nest Cam via Works with Nest. I was wrong. Nest Cam might appear to work for those with both a camera and a thermostat, but the camera is triggered by the thermostat, not the security system. If you disarm SimpliSafe, the thermostat changes to Home Mode, telling Nest Cam to disarm. If you don’t own a Nest Thermostat, your camera will not connect.
Smartphone and Web Portal Control
An integral smart home element is the ability to control your system from anywhere. Sad news. The web portal looks as archaic as the equipment and without a monitoring plan, it’s useless.
With a monitoring plan, you can view recent alarm events, check your system status, and even arm your system. While the user interface looks dated, it does have all the right components.
SimpliSafe’s app is disappointingly limited. Through the app I was able to arm and disarm the system, view my event logs, and check the camera’s activity; that’s it. Since testing, they’ve added the ability to manage email, SMS, and push notification alerts. The Alerts page allows you to add new alerts or modify existing ones. You can do this for alarm events, system activity, or system error.
If you opt-in, system alerts are sent via the app, and they are sent instantly to you or you and your trusted list of users. You can have alerts sent to your spouse, housemate, or even your kids so that the whole family is aware and notified immediately.
Sadly, I’m not the only one who feels the app performance is abysmal. It is currently rated 2 stars on iTunes and 3.5 stars on Google Play. They also support a Windows app.
- SMS and Email Alerts
- Works with Nest
- Video Surveillance
- Smartphone App is Limited
Customer Service & Support
SimpliSafe has built their business around customer friendly policies. They offer a 60-day money back guarantee. This is most unlike other companies, cough ADT cough. If you aren’t 100% satisfied with SimpliSafe, they will provide a full refund and pay for return shipping.
What if you space out and miss your 60 day return period? They still have you covered. A three-year product warranty covers all customers. And let’s not forget, no contracts. You can add service, cancel service, upgrade service, and downgrade service whenever the mood strikes. But how simple is it to cancel when you’re ready? As most companies require a 30-day notice, I decided to call the day I signed up for service. Interestingly, there was no option to select a given time frame for monitoring. Did I sign up for service quarterly? Monthly? Yearly? It appears that I signed up monthly with an automatic renewal.
If you want to cancel, you must send a request via snail mail or call. To alleviate my concerns, I called SimpliSafe. In the past, when I called their sales department, I was able to speak to a live person right away. When calling as a customer, I was placed on hold where I remained for 16 minutes. The rep I spoke with explained that I was the recipient of one free month of monitoring and suggested I call back in a month to cancel.
Me: “Why can’t I just tell you now that I want to cancel?”
Him: “You should just set a reminder for October 29th (one month later).”
Me: “But why can’t I tell you now?”
Him: “Well maybe I can set this so that we have to call you before we automatically renew for another month.”
Me: “There you go. That’ll work.”
What if you move? As their system is wireless it is very easy to reconfigure, move door/window sensors, or even move the entire system to a new location. Some companies will charge you if you move, but not SimpliSafe. With SimpliSafe you call them to make them aware of the move, remove the 3M command strips, box up the system, and take it with you.
Finally, while a month-to-month contract offers benefits, it also comes with disadvantages. Within my service agreement, I noticed some fine print:
12. Increase in Charges. SimpliSafe may increase periodic recurring charges at any time under this Agreement by sending the notice to you by email to the email address on file with SimpliSafe for your current online account.
While I’ve never heard of this happening, it did catch me off guard.
- Option to Move the System for Free
- A+ Reputation with the BBB
- DIY Installation
- No Annual Contracts
- Angie’s List Super Service Winner
If you want to purchase your own system and read more SimpliSafe reviews, head here.