SimpliSafe review

Is the easy-to-install security system really all that?

SimpliSafe
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Smart security systems are all the rage right now, with a number of companies – from Comcast to Nest – getting into the space to fortify our homes.

SimpliSafe is one of the more popular ones, and a lot of that has to do with how easy it is to use. SimpliSafe is selling a system that doesn't need professional installation, or for you to tackle wiring in your device or drilling holes in your wall.

Read this: The best smart security systems

But with all that hype and big sales, does it live up to its reputation? Is this security system really that easy to use, and the one you should invest in for your home? Here's our full verdict.


SimpliSafe review

SimpliSafe: Design and setup

SimpliSafe's products aren't the most beautiful things in the world. They're all white, though you can get some things – like the base station – in a nice matte black. But still, they're not winning the Ambient's Smart Home Design award any time soon.

That said, they're not too obtrusive, and most importantly they're designed to be extremely easy to use. That's a part of what makes SimpliSafe's setup so enticing.

Each piece of the system, from the base station to the sensors, has a pull tab – you just have to pull it to activate the device. You will have to activate everything individually, which may be annoying if you have a lot of parts for a larger home.

First you'll activate the base station, then you'll activate the keypad. After that come all the sensors. You pull the tab and then press the test button to sync things up with the rest of your SimpliSafe devices. That all happens automatically; unlike most smart home products, you don't do it in the app.

You will have to head to SimpliSafe's website to activate your service, but everything else is done from the devices themselves. The keypad is where you control most functions as well, like arming your system and playing with the settings.

The biggest plus for SimpliSafe's design and setup is that each sensor, plus the keypad, uses adhesive pads. Installing smart home devices can be intimidating for some people, because it often requires drilling and wiring and such things. With SimpliSafe devices, you just use the adhesive pads to stick them onto your wall.

These adhesive pads are strong, but I did have trouble sticking my keypad to the wall in my kitchen. It's unclear whether the problem is my kitchen wall or that the keypad is too heavy for the pads included – but it did eventually fall off the wall. Luckily, the keypad was sturdy enough to survive the drop.

That keypad, by the way, uses a frame that sticks to the wall. So you can pull the keypad off the frame and walk it around the house, then put it back when you're done. It's good, convenient design, which is a theme throughout SimpliSafe's devices.

The base station is the thing you'll notice the most, just because it's the biggest thing. It's way taller than an Amazon Echo, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. There's a light blue ring that'll be on when your security system is armed, but this thing is way too big. Nest Secure's Guard is much better at disappearing. The SimpliSafe's base station is a beacon of a device, and I wish it was – at the very least – shorter.


SimpliSafe review

SimpliSafe: Features and in use

Using the system is pretty straightforward. You can activate your alarm system in a few different ways. You can use Alexa or Google Assistant, you can use the app, or you can use the keypad. While using the smart assistants and smartphone is cool, the versatility is in the keypad. It allows everyone in your home to use the system without having to download apps or talk to an assistant they might not be comfortable with.

There are three modes to choose from: Off, Home and Away. Off turns monitoring off completely, though you will get chimes when doors open. I have my SimpliSafe set up so that it plays a chime any time the front door opens. That way I know someone has come home.

Home mode is good when you're sleeping or it's late at night and you don't want anyone entering or leaving the house: when the door opens it'll ask for a PIN so that the alarm doesn't sound. If the alarm does sound, the cops will be on the doorstep before you know it. Trust me: this happened to me one night as my dad left for work early and forgot to turn off the alarm on his way out.

Away mode adds in motion alerts. So if it senses anything happening indoors it'll go off. This is great for when you're not at home and want total protection. The basic SimpliSafe system we used had four door and window sensors and a single motion sensor. However, you can add whichever sensors you might need for your home, which is one of the strong suits of SimpliSafe's system.

SimpliSafe review

You can add in things like glass breaking sensors, CO2 sensors, water leak sensors and fire alarms. There are also cameras you can add. You can cover your home however you want, though if you have a larger home things can get a bit pricey. You can customise your own bundle, too.

One great thing about SimpliSafe is that there are a number of backups in place. If you lose power, your system will work for 24 hours thanks to a backup battery in the base station. All of the other devices, like the monitors, are supposed to last for five years, too. Then there's a cellular connection, so if your internet goes down your devices will still be connected and monitored.

There are also neat features like silent alerts. Say you have a liquor cabinet and you don't want the alarm to sound every time it's open – maybe you want to make sure the kids don't get to it while you're away for the weekend – you can have the system send you an alert on your phone.

There's also video alarm verification, which is a feature for SimpliSafe's $99 smart cam, SimpliCam. You can opt into a feature that allows SimpliSafe's monitoring team to tap into your video feeds when an alarm is triggered. SimpliSafe can then give the cops a live description of a burglary should that be happening. You'll even be able to download footage of an intruder's face to download and share. SimpliCam has person detection, so it can tell the difference between a human and a cat.

The downside to all of this is that the SimpliSafe app isn't the best. When we first used it, it was really buggy and laggy. It's gotten better over time, but it's still not fast enough. When it comes to home security, you want control to be as instantaneous as possible, and SimplISafe just isn't there yet.

That speed is especially disappointing because there's a key fob and keypad that offer instant arming and disarming. So why not use those instead? There's also no mention of Alexa or Google Assistant here, so it could be very easy for a lot of people to miss that it's compatible with both systems.

You will need the $24.99 per month subscription, too. The service gets you 24/7 live monitoring, a cellular connection that acts as a backup for your devices in case you lose internet, environmental monitoring, remote arming, smartphone alerts, secret alerts, video alarm verification, unlimited camera recording and smart home integrations. There's also a more basic $14.99 plan that just offers 24/7 monitoring, cellular connection and environmental monitoring.


SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe hits a sweet spot in the smart security game. While it can get pricey, its ease of use and extensive set of security features make it the complete smart security package. Police response time is quick, and there are even unique features like video alarm verification that can make that response even faster.
PROS
  • Simple to set up
  • Extensive features
  • Versatile
CONS
  • Slow app
  • Integrations easy to miss
  • Can get pricey

TAGGED    security systems    smart home

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