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SimpliSafe Review

A powerful DIY alarm with police dispatch but there's a fairly hefty monthly charge if you want to enable all of the features

Verdict

With its wide range of accessories and the option of professional monitoring, SimpliSafe is a powerful alarm system that can see the police dispatched automatically to deal with any break-ins. Yet, this power comes at a cost, and you only get all of the features you'd want, including app control, only come at the highest subscription price. If you're willing to pay this, SimpliSafe is brilliant; if not, there are cheaper DIY systems that give you more features for free.

Pros

  • Police dispatch with top subscription
  • Excellent choice of hardware
  • Simple operation

Cons

  • Limited operation without subscription
  • Comparatively expensive to get all features

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £249
  • Entry, pet-safe motion and glass break sensors
  • Water leak and smoke detectors
  • Professional monitoring (optional)
  • Keypad, keyfob and app arming/disarming
  • Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa arming

It was only relatively recently that the smart alarm market in the UK was looking a bit tired, with little competition and ageing products. Today, that’s changed and following the launch of the Ring Alarm in the UK, we’ve now got one of the biggest products from the US, SimpliSafe.

As with Ring, SimpliSafe is a DIY product that requires self-installation. There’s a bigger range of accessories on offer here, taking in smoke and water leak detection alongside standard alarm sensors. SimpliSafe also offers full monitoring, with the option of automatic police dispatch if criminals are spotted on your camera system.

The downside is that although there are no fixed contracts, without any monitoring plan the alarm system just functions as a traditional dumb system.

SimpliSafe Design and Features – Lots of sensors to choose from but you may want to do a custom-build rather than buying kits

SimpliSafe has two required components: the wireless keypad, which lets you configure the alarm as well as arming and disarming, and the base station, which looks like a smart speaker but provides communication to the SimpliSafe service, acts as a siren and gives you friendly voice prompts about what’s going on.

SimpliSafe base station

It looks like a smart speaker, but this is the brains and siren of the system

To make the system work, you need to add sensors into the mix. The entry sensor (£14.99) is a well-priced window and door sensor, that consists of the main sensor and a magnet. Next, you’ve got motion sensors (£29.99), which are pet safe, although you need to make sure that a cat can’t jump up into its line of sight.

It makes sense to have a minimum of one entry sensor per door and easily-reachable window, and put motion sensors in larger rooms or areas a thief would have to walk around, such as hallways. You can also buy optional panic buttons, which let you set off the alarm if you believe that your home is under threat.

SimpliSafe contact sensor

Stick an entry sensor on every easily-accessible window and door

So far, so normal, but SimpliSafe has an impressive range of extras, too. There’s a glass break sensor, which is tuned to listen out for the sound of glass breaking (£34.99). If you want environmental protection, there’s also a freeze sensor (£29.99), water sensor for picking up leaks (£19.99) and a smoke detector (£29.99).

SimpliSafe smoke sensor

The smoke detector is useful but you can’t install it in a kitchen

If you’re looking for an all-in-one system, these can make useful additions, but individually there are better options. Geo Waterlock, for example, is a complete water leak system that also shuts off your stopcock in the event that there’s a leak detected, preventing further damage.

And, the smoke detector has the same issue that other smart smoke alarms, such as the Nest Protect have: you can’t install them in kitchens, so it may not be suitable for some houses that require this to meet building regulations.

There’s no external siren option, although you do get a ‘yard’ sign to show that you’re protected. It feels a bit American if I’m being honest. If you’re worried about not being able to hear the alarm, you can buy an additional internal siren (£59.99).

Additional keypads are available (£69.99), so you can have one upstairs and one downstairs, for example. For people that regularly come in and out of the house, there are key fobs (£24.99) – something missing from the Ring Alarm.

SimpliSafe keypad

You can buy more keypads for more flexible control over the alarm system

Configuration is really simple, and you merely need to use the first keypad to connect to the base station, and then create a PIN for arming and disarming. Be aware that the system lets you enter the PIN just once, without verification, so arm it carefully. You can then connect the system to wireless, which gives a quick connection to the internet and the SimpliSafe monitoring centre.

Once the keypad is working, you can use its on-screen menus to add the sensors you’ve got and then use their sticky pads to attach them to walls or doors. Each sensor can be given a location, with default options, such as front door, appearing in a list. However, being able to do all of this through the app would have made a lot more sense.

SimpliSafe Monitoring Plan – If you don’t pay, you miss out on a lot of features

You can use SimpliSafe without a monthly plan, although there seems little point as you just get a dumb alarm system that will ring if someone triggers a sensor. Upgrading to a plan gives you more options.

The Pro Plan (£12.99 a month), turns on the cellular connection on the base station, so you’ve always got a connection even if your internet goes down. It also enables environmental monitoring and professional alarm monitoring, although in the event of an alarm, you only get a phone call to tell you that something has happened.

Oddly, even with the cheapest package, you don’t get app control, which you do get with the Ring Alarm even if you don’t pay for monitoring. For SimpliSafe to give you app control, you have to upgrade to the full Pro Premium monitoring package (£19.99 a month). This also gives you all of the features as above, but if you have a SimpliSafe camera or more, you get unlimited camera recording and the monitoring centre can use the camera’s feed to see if someone is in your home and dispatch police if they need to.

With the top-level plan, you get more than Ring gives you, although you end up paying a chunk more for the privilege.

SimpliSafe Alarming and disarming – Easy via both the Keypad and app, but configuring modes is harder than it should be

Arming the system can be done easily using the key fob, keypad or, if you have the right plan, the app. There are three modes available: Off, Home and Away. By default, the Home mode arms all of the contact sensors but none of the motion sensors, and is designed for when you’re at home alone or in bed; Away mode turns on all of your sensors.

SimpliSafe arming and disarming

As with most alarm systems, this one has three modes

You can control what sensors do in each mode. For example, you may want a motion sensor in the garage to arm in Home mode. However, the configuration is a bit fiddly, as you have to edit each sensor in turn, rather than being able to simply edit a mode and select which sensors are active.

SimpliSafe motion settings

You can control what each sensor does in each mode

For each mode, you can adjust the entry and exit delay: how long it takes to arm the system to let you get out, and how long you have before after a sensor is triggered before the alarm sounds. You can also adjust how long the alarm will ring for.

SimpliSafe configure timers

You get full control over timers

If you have the Pro Premium plan, you can set sensors to send a ‘secret alert’, which doesn’t sound the alarm or notify the monitoring centre but does send you a notification. If you want to make sure kids aren’t raiding a cupboard, for example – it’s a neat trick.

There are Alexa and Google Assistant Skills that let you set the alarm mode on the SimpliSafe system, although you can’t disable the alarm using either. If you use Siri, there’s a third-party SimpliSafe Homebridge plugin that can integrate the alarm into Apple HomeKit.

SimpliSafe SimpliCam – Basic and lacks activity zones, but it’s useful to verify who is in your home

The SimpliSafe SimpliCam is a basic 720p wireless security camera. It ties in with your security system, with the camera activating by default when your alarm is set to Away mode. However, you can edit the settings to make the camera activate at other times, and you can always view the live feed.

SimpliSafe SimpliCam

It’s rather basic but gets the job done

It’s a rather simple camera and app. You can adjust the motion sensitivity, but you can’t configure activity zones that you want to monitor. When motion or the alarm going off triggers a recording, video is saved to your app’s timeline, which makes finding a specific incident later much harder than in say the Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s app.

SimpliSafe also needs to work on video playback: you can skip forwards or backwards in 10-second chunks but there’s no scrubbing bar to let you jump to the point of a video that you’re interested in, which is a real shame.

Video quality is decent, if not a bit basic. In daylight, the image is fairly well exposed but darker parts of the picture can be hard to work out. There’s a fair amount of sharpening going on, too. You can spot individuals and tell the difference between people but the image lacks the detail that a higher resolution camera would provide.

At night, video is a bit softer and detail goes away. Again, you can tell the difference between people but distinguishing features tend to get blurred out. Again, a higher-resolution camera would have worked out.

Camera test: Day (left) vs Night (right) – move slider to compare

SimpliSafe Alarm performance – A quick response that lets you know what’s going on

When a sensor is triggered, the keypad starts to beep to let you know that the alarm is about to go off. If the alarm is not disarmed before the entry delay ends, the base station and other internal sirens start to make a lot of noise. I found the base station to be very loud, although dropping an empty cardboard box on top of it muffled the sound enough that I could stand to be in the same room as it. Likewise, turning it upside down soon muffles the audio.

When an alarm goes off, you have the option to disable it via the keypad, key fob or, if you have the right plan, using the app. If you don’t do this quickly enough, then the monitoring centre phones through to you to check what’s going on. If they can’t get through to you, then your first named contact is called, followed by the second main contact.

I had a phone call within three minutes of the alarm going off. To prevent the situation from developing further, I had to give my safe word, which would let me tell the monitoring centre to stand out.

Talking to the friendly support, I checked to see what would have happened if this had been a real alarm. I was told that from the camera feed there was nothing suspicious going on, but if there had been then the police would have been dispatched.

If the monitoring centre can’t detect a person and nobody can confirm that there’s a false alarm, the monitoring centre can dispatch a guard service, which costs £75 for the first 15 minutes and then £45 per half-hour period thereafter. The guard will perform a perimeter check and, if there are signs of a burglary, they’ll dispatch the police. SimpliSafe says that 95% of call-outs are solved within 15 minutes. If you don’t fancy these charges you can opt-out, leaving police dispatch only, which is included in the plan.

Should you buy SimpliSafe?

In many ways, SimpliSafe is a more accomplished alarm system that the Ring Alarm, but only if you pay for the highest Pro Premium monitoring plan. With this, not only can the monitoring centre find out when your alarm has gone off but it can dispatch police to your home to deal with the intrusion. That’s effectively what you’re paying your £19.99 a month for.

Yet, it really comes down to what you want. Although the Ring Alarm has fewer sensors and no key fobs, it has more features, including app control, without a fee, and Ring’s range of cameras is better than SimpliSafe’s single option. And, if you do pay for assisted monitoring with Ring, you also get recording for unlimited cameras all for just £8 a month, albeit without police dispatch.

If you want the protection of police dispatch, SimpliSafe is an excellent choice; it would be an even better one if the basic operation and app control was free, letting you layer advanced protection when you wanted it, such as when you’re going on holiday. As such, SimpliSafe won’t be for everyone and it’s only at its best when you pay £19.99 a month.

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