SimpliSafe 3 Adds Alexa Support and MoreBy - 05/04/2018
Our Overall Rating
The Bottom Line
After writing about SimpliSafe for years, I broke down and purchased a system. And of course, just a little over a year after I invested in new hardware, they launched a new version of their security system, one that looks better, integrates with third-party products, and, unfortunately, lacks backward compatibility. Yes, you can add my name to the list of those who are a little salty with SimpliSafe at the moment. Ignoring my feelings, I hit the purchase button on a new SimpliSafe 3 Home Security System.
Old SimpliSafe System vs. New SimpliSafe System
SimpliSafe needed to update their hardware. It was the right move post discovery of unfixable security concerns and the overall dated appearance. On paper, the new system appears superior in many ways. In testing, the differences become less clear.
SimpliSafe will continue to sell and support their original hardware (SimpliSafe Original), for now. As already mentioned, SimpliSafe 3 is not backward compatible. You can’t buy version 3 sensors and expect them to work with your existing base station nor can you use original sensors with the new base station (except for SimpliCam which works with both). Trust me, I tried. Unfortunately, SimpliSafe doesn’t offer an upgrade path for existing users either. If you’re a new user deciding between Original and 3, my vote lies with 3, and there are four reasons why.
1. It’s more Secure
The number one reason why I recommend 3 over Original is improved security of the system itself. Security consultants found that the original Simplisafe has an unfixable flaw that allows anyone with a cheap piece of hardware to harvest customer PINs and even turn off the alarm system from up to 200 yards away. In fact, if I were to place a bet, I would bet this is the number one reason why SimpliSafe created a new system that is not backward compatible.
SimpliSafe 3 also features enhanced encryption. According to team SimpliSafe, “they are now encrypting every single signal.” Does that mean they are encrypting the signal between the base station and the monitoring station or the one sent from the base station to connected sensors? I’ve asked the same, and they responded that they “didn’t feel comfortable answering (the) question.”
I understand not wanting to give away encryption secrets, but this should not be a secret. This is a basic security question. Either you encrypt the signal both ways or you don’t. As they don’t feel comfortable answering the question, my guess is that they don’t.
2. It’s Sexier
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a sleek piece of hardware. After all, the devices and sensors are going to be highly visible in your home. The new sensors are half the size of the original sensors. Yet, they offer twice the range. The base station also has a sleeker design including color choices: obsidian (black) or cloud (white). The keypad now features backlit keys and a larger display.
3. WiFi Added
The new base station now uses a cellular signal and WiFi simultaneously where the original base station was dependent on 3G cellular with the option for landline backup.
4. Third-Party Compatibility
Both the original SimpliSafe and the new one work with Nest Thermostats and August Smart Locks. However, SimpliSafe 3 will catapult ahead with new SimpliSafe devices and third-party integrations starting with Amazon Alexa.
The Alexa Skill for SimpliSafe 3 allows you to arm your system. You can use your voice to arm Home or arm Away. At this time, that is all the skill allows for but it’s possible that they might expand the ability down the road.
In talking to SimpliSafe, I was told that the Alexa integration would come first, and it has. With that out of the way, they plan to focus on other integrations like a potential HomeKit integration and new SimpliSafe devices like an outdoor camera and a video doorbell.
SimpliSafe 3 Equipment
Though the hardware features a sleeker, sexier design, it isn’t a complete 360 from SimpliSafe’s original design. SimpliSafe 3 starts with a base station and a keypad, just like its predecessor.
The base station includes a 95db siren, battery backup, and a cellular chip which you can pay to activate. One notable upgrade to the new base station is that it features an LED light ring that changes color based on system status. By looking at the light ring, you can tell if your system is armed or disarmed.
The keypad also features upgraded usability. The keys are now backlit and will light up when in use. It also has a larger screen, a soft touch surface, and double the signal range. Unlike the base station, the keypad is wireless and runs on battery power (2-year battery life). You can also have more than one keypad per household. Though all SimpliSafe systems ship with a keypad, you can buy another for $69.99.
At first, I didn’t want to believe that SimpliSafe wouldn’t provide an upgrade path from original to 3. I poked around their website and found what I believed to be an upgrade option. The upgrade path was affordable and exciting. I almost fell for it until I realized that the upgrade option was for SimpliSafe 2 (a system I already own). As the offer had no pictures or explanation beyond the basics, it would have been easy to assume that SimpliSafe had given in and offered their existing client base access to the latest and greatest. While that’s pretty bad news, the good news is that SimpliSafe promises that 3 will be offered without a price increase.
Like the original SimpliSafe, you can purchase devices a la carte or you can purchase kits. But how does the new pricing compare to the original pricing? The pricing is 100% identical. Considering the new sensors are more powerful with improved abilities, this is an impressive accomplishment.
|Name||SimpliSafe Original||SimpliSafe 3||Price||Description|
|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||Coming Soon||$49.99 ea||Monitors for carbon monoxide.|
|Extra Keypad||$69.99 ea||Allows you to disarm your system.|
|Extra Entry Magnet||NA||$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.|
|Indoor Camera||Same||$99.00 ea||Records HD Video, offers automated night vision, and a 120° field of view.|
|Outdoor Camera||NA||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Coming Soon|
|Video Doorbell||Coming Soon||Coming Soon||Coming Soon|
|SimpliSafe 2 Review||SimpliSafe 3 Review|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Best Buy|
If you prefer packages, there are five of them starting with Foundation and working up to Haven. The Foundation ($229) includes the base station, keypad, a motion sensor, and a door sensor. The Haven ($489.86) includes a base station, keypad, key fob, panic button, freeze sensor, water sensor, smoke detector, extra siren, four entry sensors, and two motion sensors. The price difference between purchasing equipment as a package and purchasing the same equipment a la carte is negligible. I checked both Foundation and Haven and purchasing the equipment as a package saved less than a dollar.
SimpliSafe Monitoring Costs
The fact that SimpliSafe requires customers to purchase equipment up front is something that sets them apart from other companies. Other security companies require that you sign a contract and in exchange, they provide free equipment. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
The biggest pro for SimpliSafe is that they don’t have to recoup the cost of equipment which allows them the flexibility to offer lower-priced plans without a contract. SimpliSafe is self-installed and contract-free which means that you can add or remove monitoring at any time. This also means that if you move, you can pack the system up and take it with you. No penalty. No strings attached.
The most significant con is that you have to buy the equipment upfront. And when you do, you’ll own proprietary equipment that will not work with any monitoring service besides SimpliSafe’s. The equipment is also subject to planned obsolescence.
SimpliSafe offers two monitoring options: No Monitoring and Professional Monitoring.
Yes, you can self-monitor the SimpliSafe system. No, I don’t recommend this approach. Without service, SimpliSafe acts as a local alarm. If you arm it and an event is detected, the siren will sound. That’s it. There’s no connected mobile app, and there’s no notification sent to the central monitoring center. Without a paid plan, the system will also lack cellular backup which means that it won’t work if your internet is out.
Professional Monitoring and SmashSafe™
The best option is to add professional monitoring, and SimpliSafe 3 has access to the same paid plans you know and love.
All of the paid plans activate the base station’s cellular chip. The system uses a dual Wi-Fi and cellular signal. They run simultaneously allowing one method to take over if the other fails. If an alarm event is detected, the base station will send a signal to the central monitoring center or rather centers (they have six of them). But what happens if that signal is interrupted? According to SimpliSafe, the signal is backed by SmashSafe™ technology. In their words, “An intruder can damage the keypad or the Base Station. Doesn’t matter. We still alert the police.” I decided to test SmashSafe for myself.
Instead of smashing my brand, new system, I decided to remove the batteries. I set a thirty-second entry delay, armed the system, and opened my entry sensor. The entry delay countdown began, and I swiftly removed the batteries from the base station and the keypad. I waited several minutes, nothing happened. I reinserted the batteries and the system rebooted. It was still armed away, but I was able to disarm it without incident. I decided to repeat the test with my old system. Again, nothing happened. When I reinserted the batteries into my old system, it rebooted in test mode. To be fair, SimpliSafe claims this feature will work if you remove the batteries from the keypad or the base station. I removed the batteries from both.
A month after writing this review, I circled back and repeated the test. This time, I only took down the base station. Again, nothing happened. I waited fifteen minutes and reinserted the batteries. The system rebooted and was armed away. I was able to disarm it without incident. I feel like SimpliSafe is vastly overselling this feature and it is a security flaw that needs to be addressed. Your best option is to hide the base station, but then you might not hear the siren. You will need to purchase an extra siren for $59.99.
Beyond cellular backup and SmashSafe, what you get will vary depending on the plan you choose. SimpliSafe offers two plans: Standard and Interactive.
|Price||Free||$14.99 / month||$24.99 / month|
|SMS/Email Alerts||+$5 / month|
|WiFi Connection||SS3 Only||SS3 Only||SS3 Only|
|August Smart Lock||YES (Requires August Connect WiFi Bridge)|
|Alexa Integration||SS3 Only|
|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|
Interactive is the only option I’ve tested, and the one I recommend. Though you can add text alerts to Standard for $5.00 per month, only Interactive provides remote monitoring using the SimpliSafe app.
Hands-on With the Interactive Service and Equipment
As I already owned SimpliCam, I recycled it and used it with my new equipment. I decided to purchase a base station, keypad, flood sensor, door sensor, and a panic button. I snagged it all for $239.95.
Testing the Base Station and Battery Backup
One of the first things I tested was battery backup. The new base station promises 24-hour battery backup. If you read my Original SimpliSafe review, you’ll know that the original promised the same in some places and 8 hours in others. In testing, I received 8 hours of battery backup. In testing SimpliSafe 3, I received the same.
I also struggled with offline notifications, a problem I experienced with SimpliSafe 2 as well. Most of the time, the base station would send a push alert informing me of its offline status. Sometimes it did not. And once, it sent a notification an hour after going offline. In general, I found that all of the sensors had delays on occasion.
What I like about the base station is the new LED status ring and the speaker quality. The base station provides voice commands as you arm and disarm it and will even notify you if it’s running on battery. The chime also has a pleasing tone and you can adjust the volume from low to medium to high or you can turn it off. I found that the medium setting was plenty loud. Separately, you can also adjust the volume of the voice prompts or even the siren. Again, you can choose from off, low, medium, and high.
One of the most useful features provided by the base station is an arm delay. From the app, you can set an entry and exit delay for Home and Away Mode. (SimpliSafe monitors using three modes: Off, Home, and Away.) Within the app, you can view a countdown, but the base station also emits a chime and provides voice feedback. For example, “Alarm off.”
Testing the Sensors
I only purchased and tested three sensors. From the app, you can customize how each mode behaves on a device level. An entry sensor, for example, can either be disabled or set to Secret Alerts when the system is Off. When the system is Home or Away, you have three options. You can set the system to Alarm (Sound the alarm and notify the monitoring center. They will call you before dispatching help). You can set it to Secret Alerts (This setting will send a notification to you via push notification, text, or email, but will not notify the monitoring center. Also, this option will disable the door chime). Finally, you can disable the sensor. If disabled, the sensor can sound the chime, but will not send a notification or notify the central monitoring agency. The fact that there isn’t a non-monitored option that will both chime and send a notification is a little disappointing.
The Panic Alarm is not tied to modes, rather it accepts one behavior for all modes. The first option is Audible. This option sounds the alarm and notifies the monitoring center. They will call you before taking action. The second is Silent Alarm. This option notifies the monitoring center immediately. They will not call you first. Third, Fire. This option sounds an evacuation alarm and notifies the monitoring center. They will call you before dispatching help. Finally, Medical. This option also notifies the monitoring center and they will again call before taking action.
In testing the Panic Alarm, it worked well, but I was disappointed in the speed of phone calls. On average, it took SimpliSafe over 60 seconds to call and there is no push notification tied to the sensor. The first time I tested the sensor, I pushed the button multiple times assuming it wasn’t working. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I needed help. Panicked, perhaps?
In addition, environmental sensors like the flood sensor are always on. When you trigger your flood sensor, you will get a push notification and a call from SimpliSafe.
The Mobile App
Paying for Interactive adds several interactive features including advanced customization using the web portal and access and control using the mobile app.
Over the past year, the app has received multiple upgrades. You can use it to arm and disarm your system; view event history; manage email, SMS, and push notification alerts; as well as manage sensors. With the app in place, you will also receive event notifications from your environmental sensors including freeze and water sensors.
In general, the app is easy to use, but I wouldn’t say it’s flawless. Most of my issues were resolved by deleting the app and downloading it again. However, some of the app’s problems persisted.
SimpliSafe App Issues
First, notifications were inconsistent. Most of the time I received push notifications; sometimes I didn’t. Most of the time I received offline notifications; sometimes I didn’t. With a security system, most of the time doesn’t cut it.
Second, updating a sensor using the mobile app can take several minutes.
Third, the app doesn’t report sensor status in real time. To see the latest and greatest information, you’ll need to press a button to refresh the app. This means that you can’t quickly glance to check sensor status. For example, if you want to know if your windows are open, you’ll need to open the app, hit refresh, and then view sensor status.
Finally, even when the base station is dead, the app will appear to perform as if all is well. As an example, I tried to arm my system while the base station was dead. The app accepted the command, but of course, couldn’t complete it. Nowhere did it say, “Your system is dead. Charge it!” Instead, I received a generic error message.
Apparently, I’m not the only one to feel as I do. According to ongoing users, performance is spotty. The app holds 2.7 stars on iTunes and 3.3 stars on Google Play.
But then again, there are those who enjoy the app. Personally, I feel like the app is a step in the right direction. I see a tremendous amount of improvement when comparing my first experience to my current experience with the app. In fact, I rarely found myself using the web app. Most of your daily tasks can now be completed using the mobile app.
The Web App
The most noticeable improvement was seen while testing the web app. In the past, the web app was dated and clunky. Now, it mimics the appearance of SimpliSafe’s mobile app. The web app also addresses some of the mobile app’s shortcomings. For example, at the very bottom of the screen, there is a warning regarding battery status.
The web app also provides extra control over your account. You can update and view your Safeword (the word you provide to the central monitoring agency to verify your identity), update your address, and even manage multiple locations.
The mobile app has one benefit over the web app: the ability to turn on push notifications.
Smart Home Integrations and Video Security
Smart home integrations are provided to those who subscribe to Interactive. To use security cameras with your system, you will need to subscribe to either Standard or Interactive. The difference is that Standard provides access to the mobile and web app for viewing your camera’s video stream and adjusting its settings. Interactive provides app access to control your video camera, connected smart home devices, and your security system.
|SimpliSafe Original||SimpliSafe 3|
|Works With SimpliCam|
|Works With Nest|
|Works With August Smart Lock|
|Works With Amazon Alexa|
|Works With HomeKit||Coming Soon|
|Works With Outdoor Cameras||Unknown||Coming Soon|
|Works With Video Doorbell||Unknown||Coming Soon|
SimpliCam Indoor Camera Review
Let’s start with the indoor camera. SimpliCam is the one device that works with both the original SimpliSafe system and the new one. Usually, I don’t recommend the cameras sold by security companies, but I like SimpliCam. And if you’re going to buy SimpliSafe, I recommend adding the camera.
SimpliCam sells for $99.00, and I think that’s something to keep in mind. It’s a $99 camera, not a $200 camera. The camera records in 720p HD, offers a 120° field of view, night vision, a built-in privacy shutter, and motion alerts. It is the only SimpliSafe device that requires internet. It does not use a cellular signal and will not work when your internet is out. The camera also lacks local storage but does offer cloud storage, if you pay.
Both the web and mobile app provide limited control over SimpliCam. For starters, you can customize how its Privacy Shutter behaves. By default, the Shutter is closed when your system is off, closed when you’re home, and open when you’re away. You can choose to reverse any of these behaviors. You can also adjust the camera’s night vision response. Night vision will turn on automatically when lighting conditions are low, but you can also turn night vision off (which is handy if you want to record through a window) or you can turn it on.
Finally, the camera has a built-in motion sensor. The sensor lacks intelligent features like zones and person detection, but it is sensitivity adjustable. You can choose to set it to low, medium, or high. Of course, setting the camera to a higher sensitivity level increases the likelihood of false alarms.
The biggest flaw with the camera is that, again, notifications are inconsistent. In testing, I set off several motion-triggered events. The camera captured them and placed them on my timeline, but not once did I receive a notification. It also failed to send offline notifications. At one point during testing, I had unplugged the camera. I thought I had plugged it back in. I had not. However, I went on as though the camera were working and even changed some camera settings assuming all was well. I finally realized there was an issue when I clicked on “see what’s happening” from the mobile app. It was only then that I realized that the camera wasn’t plugged in.
The other issues are minor. First, if you have the privacy shutter closed, it will make a slight shutter sound before it starts to record. Second, there is a four second delay between what you see on your screen and what’s happening in real life. Three, you don’t have a lot of control over the camera. Below is a screenshot that shows all of the existing customization options.
As you can see, while you can turn motion on and off, you can’t choose when motion should capture and when it should not. For example, you can’t choose for the camera to monitor when your system is off but to ignore activity when your system is armed Home.
An Outdoor Camera and a Video Doorbell
In addition to the indoor camera, SimpliSafe has plans to launch new cameras including a video doorbell and an outdoor camera. Naysayers may recall how long it took for SimpliSafe to launch an indoor camera after promising one. I’m pretty sure it took years. This time around, SimpliSafe is promising delivery in months, not years. Both devices are slated to ship before the end of 2018.
The video doorbell will record in 1080p FHD, offer two-way audio, and motion alerts. It also has an LED ring that reflects the system status.
The outdoor camera will record in 720p HD, offer motion detection, and a spotlight, similar to the Ring Spotlight Cam. Also like Spotlight Cam, the new outdoor camera will be battery-powered with a promised battery life of up to one year.
Cloud Storage and Visual Verification
All of the cameras will record if they detect motion. They will also record if your security system detects activity. Recordings are sent to the cloud, but cloud access is extra.
Access to a 30-day history of recorded clips is $4.99 per month. That same fee provides 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 that help is needed, they will call on your behalf. This is known as a verified alarm event. Most police departments will treat a verified alarm event as a priority, and some cities will not respond at all unless an event is verified. Offering optional video verification is something that sets SimpliSafe apart from other companies.
Works With Nest, Amazon Alexa, August, and HomeKit
SimpliSafe 3 will retain a Works With Nest integration. The integration requires the Interactive Plan ($24.99/month). Unfortunately, the system still doesn’t work with Nest Cam, but it does work with the Nest Thermostat. Essentially, when you arm your SimpliSafe security system, SimpliSafe will tell your thermostat, and your thermostat will swap to away mode. When you disarm your security system, it will tell Nest and Nest will adjust. Of course, if you own a Nest thermostat, you know this adds very little value as Nest has its own rather accurate Home/Away feature.
SimpliSafe 2 and 3 also work with August Smart Lock and Smart Lock Pro. The August Lock integration lets you program your door to lock when you arm SimpliSafe and unlock when you disarm it. The only catch is that you need an August Connect (Wi-Fi bridge) or an August Doorbell Cam as August Smart Locks don’t connect to Wi-Fi. Also, according to SimpliSafe, in order to optimize performance, you should plan to connect your SimpliSafe system to WiFi.
“For the best performance between SimpliSafe and August, we recommend that you add your SS3 system to your WiFi network if possible. Either way, both will work over cellular if WiFi is not an option or you are using an SS2 system.”
Next, you can control your SimpliSafe system using your Alexa-enabled device (Echo, Plus, Dot, Spot, Show, etc.). Using your voice, you can arm the system to Home or Away.
At this time, SimpliSafe lacks smart lighting control, but that could change if they follow through on their promise to make the system HomeKit-compatible. According to the SimpliSafe team, now that the Alexa skill is in place, they plan to work on new integrations including HomeKit. If they follow through on this promise, it will allow rule creation between your SimpliSafe system and your HomeKit ecosystem. For example, when motion is detected, turn on your Philips Hue lights.
Customer Service & Support
Though the system has changed, the customer support experience has not. SimpliSafe offers customer-friendly policies including no contract monitoring, the ability to move your system when you move, and a 60-day return policy backed by award-winning support. SimpliSafe currently holds an A+ rating with the BBB, and they are an Angie’s List Super Service Winner.
When I tested the system last year, my experience with their customer service team entailed long wait times and mediocre support. I’m not alone. Yelp currently has 127 reviews of SimpliSafe with an average review rating of 2.5 stars. Most of the reviews are centered around SimpliSafe’s customer support experience. In the words of one Yelp Elite,
…if you need help, forget contacting SimpliSafe via email because they are nearly completely unresponsive…
This year, when I called into support, things were different. I called for help on an issue with push notifications. I was connected with a live person right away. He was kind and helpful but admitted that supporting the new SimpliSafe system was not something they were entirely comfortable with. Though we eventually resolved my issue, it did take around 30 minutes.
In the words of another Yelp Elite,
I’m kind of surprised at all the bad reviews on Yelp. I have bought several systems and have had no real problems at all…I did have one issue and received great customer support when I called to get it resolved…
In reading through the reviews, they echo a sentiment that has already crossed my mind: People either love SimpliSafe or they hate it. Those that love SimpliSafe feel just as strongly as those who don’t. After testing the original system, I rated it 7.6/10. And in sharing even my slight disdain, I learned that SimpliSafe has some serious fans who are willing to vehemently defend their favorite home security brand.
SimpliSafe’s customer experience team should take a second hit for their treatment of current customers during the product transition from Original to 3. As I’ve already mentioned, I own an original SimpliSafe system. I’m a customer! And yet, they never once emailed me to tell me about the new product. They also continued to sell the original system to customers up until the day of launch without advanced notice, so there were literally those with new but obsolete systems. Plus, they still sell the original system on Amazon. And of course, nowhere does it mention that you can now buy something newer and better for the same price. As a side note, I checked SimpliSafe on FakeSpot, and their adjusted Amazon review rating is 2 stars.
To be fair, the Amazon reviews are related to the original system, which had its challenges. So how do I feel about the new SimpliSafe system? As it stands, I feel like it’s already a step ahead of SimpliSafe 2. Plus, as they continue to launch more third-party integrations, I feel confident that it will catapult ahead of other home security providers.
In short, SimpliSafe 3 is a system I would recommend for those who want an affordable, no-contract home security system. However, I’ll recommend it with a warning that it’s not as reliable as some monitored systems I’ve tested.
I know the sensors are not backward compatible, but the smoke detector looks the same. Is it, by any chance, the same for both Original and 3? It looks the same, but it is not the same. One is compatible with the original SimpliSafe system, and one works with the All-New SimpliSafe security system.
SimpliSafe’s site says that SS3 is now dual WiFi and Cellular. Can you no longer use the system for 100% cellular monitoring in places where internet is not available? Nothing has changed with SimpliSafe’s cellular monitoring.
Does the camera wake up in time to capture events? It does, but it wakes up faster if you leave the privacy shutter open.
Simplisafe 3 Customer Reviews
What people say…
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5/4/2018 Alexa Skill Live
4/19/2018 SimpliSafe Works With August