Home and RV security device product review: SimpliSafe

SIMPLISAFE REVIEW

By Rose Thibodeaux – 08/06/2017


7.6 – Our Overall Rating

Pros

No contracts, low cost monitoring, optional self-monitoring.

Cons

Limited home automation features and dated hardware.

The Bottom Line

SimpliSafe home security is a good option for those who want 24/7 monitoring service, but if you want more from a security system, look elsewhere.
Equipment & Protection8
Home Automation – 4.8
Customer Service – 10

UPDATE: Please Read Our New SimpliSafe 3 Review Here


Simplisafe Equipment & Protection

simplisafe equipment

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 Monitoring

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.

RELATED: BEST HOME SECURITY SYSTEM 2018

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?

None Standard Interactive
Price Free $14.99 / month $24.99 / month
24/7 Monitoring
SMS/Email Alerts +$5 / month
Remote Arm/Disarm
Customize Sensors
Cellular Connection
WiFi Connection SS3 Only SS3 Only SS3 Only
No Contract
Nest Thermostat
August Smart Lock YES (Requires August Connect WiFi Bridge)
Alexa Integration SS3 Only
Google Home SS3 Only
Live Video Streaming
Recorded Video History $4.99/month/camera or $10/month/unlimited cameras
Visual Verification

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).

RELATED: SIMPLISAFE VS SCOUT

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 – Professional 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 SimpliSafe 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 Inc. 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.

Name SimpliSafe Original SimpliSafe 3 Price Description
Entry Sensor entry sensor $14.99 ea Protects Windows and Doors or anything that opens and closes.
Motion Sensor motion sensor Motion $29.99 ea Monitors for motion and can sense motion up to 30 feet away. Pet immune up to 50 lbs.
Glassbreak Sensor glassbreak Glassbreak $34.99 ea Can detect the sound of breaking glass up to 20 feet away.
Water Sensor water sensor Water $19.99 ea Helps protect your home from water damage – great for basements, under the sink, etc.
Freeze Sensor freeze Freeze $29.99 ea If your home’s temperature falls below 41°F, this sensor will let you know.
Extra Keychain Remote keychain Key Fob $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 siren Siren $59.99 ea An extra siren that you can use inside or outside.
Panic Button panic Panic $19.99 ea One press for help!
Smoke Detector smoke Smoke $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 co Coming Soon $49.99 ea Monitors for carbon monoxide.
Extra Keypad keypad keypad $69.99 ea Allows you to disarm your system.
Extra Entry Magnet extra 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 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 Doorbell Same $169.00 ea Records FHD Video and notifies you of ring and motion events.
SimpliSafe 2 Review SimpliSafe 3 Review
Where to Buy Amazon Best Buy

Equipment Packages: Refurb vs. New vs. Amazon

SimpliSafe Security 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
Price $188.96 $259.95 $259.95
Base Station Refurbished 1 1
Wireless Keypad Refurbished 1 1
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.
BUY NOW: simplisafe.com simplisafe.com Amazon.com
Free Shipping YES YES YES

Installing SimpliSafe

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!

SimpliSafe Installation

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 home security systems.

sensors compared

Home Automation

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.

nest discount

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.

Security Cameras

Simplisafe Camera Review

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.

I tested the camera when it was still in beta and it already felt 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, has a 10-foot power cable, and automated night vision. The picture quality is excellent and streams to the app or web portal with almost no lag. The camera also offers a motion detector and you can set it to record if your security system is off.

That said, in a Q&A with SimpliSafe, I found that two-way might yet be possible:

Can I customize which SimpliSafe 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 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.

Visual Verification

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.

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.

simplisafe web portal

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 was disappointingly limited, but they’ve made improvements. During testing, 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. You can also manage your connected devices and sensors. And soon, SimpliSafe promises to add the ability to add new sensors directly from the app.

simplisafe app

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.

The app is currently rated 1.5 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

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.

Simplisafe Customer Review

 

Drag and drop your images for your review

(3 votes)
Equipment & Protection4.72
Customer Service4.43
Recommend to a Friend3.03

WHAT PEOPLE SAY…
3

 

 

User Avatar
Equipment & Protection3
Customer Service6
Recommend to a Friend3
Mike

SimpliSafe not that good for RVs

I have this system and intended to have sensors on my outside storage compartments, my main door, a freeze sensor set up for heat mode (pets inside occasionally), and motion sensor inside. None of the outside sensors could read through the aluminum frame and skin of the trailer. So not a good option. Maybe if you want it for just the motion sensor it would be ok. Otherwise pass on this option.

5 months ago

User Avatar
Equipment & Protection4.15
Customer Service1.3
Recommend to a Friend1.1
Larry

Not all that good

In the period I have owned it, I have had several issues, and have had several interactions with their customer service. The customer service was pretty mediocre to bad…LONG wait times to get a person, and poor/incorrect information given when I did talk with someone.

Forbes recently wrote an article pointing out how easy it is for someone to “hack” the system, BTW…not reassuring!

Plus, everything about them pushes you towards their more expensive monitoring plan…their smartphone app is next to useless without it.

1 year ago

User Avatar
Equipment & Protection7
Customer Service6
Recommend to a Friend5
Ken

Lack of Automation

SimpliSafe is only as good as human memory. Most homes have several inhabitants all of whom must think and remember to activate the system when they happen to be the last person leaving the home. This provides a system that is wrought with error… human error. What’s worse is that this situation is totally preventable. If SimpliSafe would simpli (<–sic) integrate with IFTTT.com  system activation could easily be automated and human error totally avoided. Why is it SimpliSafe is counter to this automation which could be accomplished with very little coordination?

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