Since a couple of Harvard grads launched SimpliSafe1 from their Cambridge apartment back in 2006, this scrappy security brand has been a preferred choice for renters, college students, and folks on the move, for super-low-maintenance home security.
This very-21st-century security brand is all about lightweight, intuitive equipment that needs little attention or maintenance. Its founders’ original intent – to make “invisible technology” that’s “deceptively easy to use” – runs through every SimpliSafe product, and that includes SimpliCam, the lone camera in the bunch.
Today, I’ll take you through the SimpliCam journey – relatively simple, as the name would suggest, but not without a wrinkle or two. Read on for my full, hands-on review, where you’ll get a better idea of how this camera stacks up to competitors like Arlo, Google Nest, and the overall winner Ring.
FYI: If you’re renting your place, you’ll love SimpliSafe’s lightweight, stick-on equipment. Learn more in our complete SimpliSafe system review.
Let’s get started.
I’ll be up front: This isn’t going to be brain surgery. The SimpliCam ships in basic packaging, with nothing to cut open or fight with. For what it’s worth, it was nice not being inundated with lots of small parts and hardware as soon as you pull the lid off the box.
Pro Tip: SimpliCam is meant to be less of a stand-alone camera and more as a component of SimpliSafe’s home security system bundles. Without the rest of the package, SimpliCam is still a nice, reliable camera, but pretty basic in features.
Bottom line? There’s really not much to assemble here. If you’re planning for this camera to stay indoors, you can just slide on that sturdy support stand, and suddenly your camera can go pretty much anywhere you want it to go (within reason, obviously; you do have a power cord to contend with).
One note about that support stand: It’s metal, while the body of the camera itself is plastic. That means the stand is actually heavier than the camera, making sure it doesn’t tip or slide. In a recent analysis of Ezviz cameras, for example, I noted that the top-heavier cameras can be trickier to install.
In fact, when I tested Zmodo cameras recently, the camera would tip forward at the slightest movement of its attached power cord. This is because some camera models are designed to be top-heavy, so they don’t stay put unless they’re anchored by something. So SimpliSafe gets this balance just right.
If tipping or sliding is a concern, you can always skip the stand and instead use the included hardware to screw your SimpliCam camera directly onto a wall or surface. You’ve got choices here. For lots more installation tips, visit our in-depth security camera installation guide.
Since SimpliSafe only makes one security camera, this might make you feel boxed in. You’ve likely seen the hundreds of other cameras out there, like Lorex, with its massive selection of mostly cameras but also a few smart home devices and a nice set of sensors. (Learn more in my hands-on Lorex camera review.)
Pro Tip: SimpliCam is plug-in only. They do give you a 10-foot power cord, but if you don’t want to deal with unsightly wires, you might want to look into a battery camera. Read my review of Blink cameras here.
Some cameras pan around a room 360 degrees to get you the best coverage; others work better focused on a specific target or area. Some run on batteries or solar panels; others come with floodlights or spotlights. If it all starts making you a bit dizzy, we urge you to check out our security camera buying guide to help narrow things down.
Indeed, you’ll note that security cameras run the gamut in this market. As far as SimpliCam, there really isn’t anywhere this camera won’t fit around the house. The camera is not only small, it’s also subtle and lightweight, weighing in at about 5 ounces. And, as you’ll see in the photo below, it can fit pretty well into the palm of your hand.
But … does it hold up outside against the elements?
That’s a question/gripe I’ve come across from time to time from other SimpliSafe users: Why doesn’t SimpliSafe make a dedicated outdoor camera?
It’s a noticeable void. But, in its place, you have the outdoor kit. The outdoor kit is available as an add-on for $19.99. It’s a durable silicone “wet suit” for the camera, as well as some handy protective hardware for installing the camera outside.
FYI: Learn even more about installing SimpliSafe equipment in our full SimpliSafe installation guide.
You’re not imagining it: Almost every security company nowadays makes at least one outdoor camera, but SimpliSafe doesn’t. This is just more of SimpliSafe’s nod to keeping things simple. After all, the outdoor kit is solid and fits like a glove. A wetsuit-clad SimpliCam could handle some pretty nasty weather out there, don’t you think?
The photo on the left is the camera dressed in its outdoor cover. On the right, the camera is naked. Both are going to do a decent job covering the visuals, but I don’t recommend leaving this camera out in the rain – even in the wetsuit.
Pro Tip: If you do need to use the SimpliCam outdoors, you’re advised to use the wetsuit included in the outdoor kit. Otherwise, you might void your warranty.
But it wasn’t a huge concern for me. Let’s move onto SimpliSafe’s mobile app setup: simple as you’d expect, once again.
Right off the bat, I noticed how fast everything was moving with the SimpliSafe app, which is basically ground control for your SimpliCam. No waiting for videos to load, no spinning wheel, no live view interruptions. It’s a pretty smooth ride getting a SimpliCam up and running.
Here, you’re just following prompts on the app, similar to lots of other DIY cameras. This step does bear similarities to the Arlo Pro 3 cameras I reviewed a while back, which were smooth and intuitive. SimpliCam’s setup process took about 10 minutes.
From there, you should take some time to get to know SimpliSafe’s app, since it’s the same app that connects to all of SimpliSafe’s products and monitoring services. It’s worth checking out a helpful guide under the Troubleshooting tab that shows you what each of the colors on the camera’s light mean. Take a look at the screenshot below to familiarize yourself.
Learning what all those lights meant helped me make better sense of the SimpliCam once it was in action. As an example: You can look at the camera and see that when the light blinks blue, you’re probably about to get an alert on your phones in 3, 2, 1…
Under Picture Quality, you’ll notice the SimpliCam is set at 720p, which is considered standard definition. The best wired security cameras hold pretty tightly to minimum 1080p resolution. I wasn’t surprised to see that SimpliCam didn’t offer quite the same video quality. That said, 720p is still decent, and – if you were wondering – part of the reason this camera is so responsive.
I can’t get too rah-rah about a camera with so-so video quality – though SimpliSafe is still one of our top picks for DIY home security. There was a negligible difference between 720p and the setting one notch down, 480p, so that’s good news.
But barring unusual circumstances, video resolution2 does not necessarily affect the quality of the images you’ll get from your camera. In natural daylight, an image like the screenshot below is the typical picture you’ll get in a SimpliCam.
Keep in mind, though, that there’s a significant advantage to using cameras with lower resolution – especially if your home internet isn’t always solid. Lower-resolution images use less bandwidth, which means less of a strain on your Wi-Fi connection. If your internet isn’t always in tip-top shape, the SimpliCam is a good gadget to have around.
But for zooming in on specific images, or making out granular details, you’re going to want a camera that can at least record in 1080p. Consider something from Blink, like the petite Blink Mini Cam I unpacked.
SimpliCam has Two-Way Talk, which is a standard feature in security cameras but for good reason: It’s really helpful in a crisis! SimpliCam’s Two-Way Talk did a great job scaring away a critter or two in my tests, and the audio handled similarly to the Ring Stick Up Cam I reviewed not long ago. In other words, it wasn’t a crystal-clear connection, but it definitely accomplished the task.
In short, night vision is not a strength of SimpliCam. But there’s a reason for that.
First of all, the camera doesn’t have any lights on it. That’s one of those crucial things you need to, you know, see.
So if you don’t already have a solid lighting source beaming into wherever you’ve placed your camera, you’re not going to see much beyond a certain point.
Thus, you can see the limits of using SimpliCam at night, right there in black and white. We know that without either a spotlight or some other built-in light source, the depth of view on most security cameras stops after a few feet. With more lighting in the vicinity, this improves.
Do we recommend this as an outdoor camera, in light of this shortcoming? No, we do not.
Bear in mind, though, that night vision varies widely across different brands. You’ll get way better color night vision images and some snazzy spotlights from Reolink’s well-equipped cameras, for one. This feature goes a long way toward making sense of all sorts of activity, but you should remember that it does pull more bandwidth from your network, like the aforementioned video resolution. Amcrest’s vast camera lineup includes several models with better-than-average color night vision, if that’s more your style.
Aside from rare cases, though, color night vision is not an essential tool for protecting your home.
After the SimpliCam records a video, the app displays the playback as a quick GIF3 image. That way, you don’t have to watch the entire video from start to finish to see what triggered the camera. For busy adults, this is pretty nice. Who wants to drop everything they’re doing just to watch a 49-second video of their neighbor stopping by to say hello?
That said, the simple vibe is not for everyone. Some folks really like having lots of buttons to push and features to customize. While this camera doesn’t have all of that, SimpliCam does offer a smooth, stress-free experience.
Did You Know: SimpliSafe’s live customer support hours (every day from 8 a.m. to midnight EST) are quite generous, compared to other brands. I also found owner’s manuals, user forums, FAQs, and a troubleshooting guide on SimpliSafe’s support page.4
All told, you’re going to get a well-performing and well-made camera in the SimpliCam and a smooth mobile app experience. It was a minor bummer that the cameras couldn’t track motion, distinguish between different objects, and pan and tilt … but again, simplicity is the name of the game here.
At $99, this one’s a little steep, especially when you factor in the camera’s above-mentioned shortcomings. But by and large, SimpliCam isn’t really meant to be an effective stand-alone camera; it works better as part of a SimpliSafe kit.
But it’s also important to note that this camera wouldn’t cost you the full $99 if you purchased it as part of one of the SimpliSafe packages – in fact, the SimpliCam comes free with some of them. SimpliSafe’s cost and package options are below, and you can also read more about what made SimpliSafe the best home security system of 2021.
|SimpliSafe Product||Product Type||Price|
|SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro||Doorbell Camera||$169|
|SimpliCam||Indoor Security Camera||$99|
|Home Security Kits||Entry sensors, motion sensors, keypads, etc.||$160+|
At $4.99 per month, it’s worth springing for SimpliSafe’s monthly cloud storage subscription fee. It is optional, and you can still use the camera with the app to view live video without a subscription. But with all you get with that monthly fee – 30 days of video and 60-second motion clips – it’s an easy way to store recordings from your SimpliCam. These options are standard for the industry, but it’s still helpful to know.
Alternatively, if you really like your SimpliCam and don’t have a SimpliSafe monitoring plan, you might find that one of SimpliSafe’s security bundles suits you best.
In testing SimpliSafe as a whole, the SimpliCam handled quite well. And that’s good, because I believe that’s exactly where it belongs – as part of a larger SimpliSafe security kit.
As a stand-alone security camera, SimpliCam is fair. That’s it. No fancy accessories or future-tech to be found. If you’re looking for features like artificial intelligence, motion tracking, pan and tilt, or even decent night vision, it’s best to look elsewhere, perhaps into the sparkling Google Nest Cams or even the handy Ring Spotlight Cam I reviewed a few weeks back.
So to sum things up, the SimpliCam can be a great indoor security camera, as long as you have the SimpliSafe security system to back it up.
If you want to use SimpliCam as an outdoor camera, it’s recommended that you use the waterproof cover included in the outdoor kit. Otherwise, it may be susceptible to the elements and could void the warranty.
SimpliCam’s Two-Way Talk worked pretty seamlessly in our tests. After clicking on our camera’s livestream, we simply held down the microphone to speak, and released the microphone to listen. Audio was clear and without glitches.
Yes. SimpliSafe has a three-year warranty, which is a bit longer than industry competitors.
It’s best to have a strong internet connection to use any security camera in your home. But for us, we experienced no delays or connectivity issues with our standard Wi-Fi connection.
SimpliCam has a 120-degree field of view, which was wide enough for our purposes. But several of its competitors, like Ring and Zmodo, make cameras with ranges from 130 to 180 degrees, so SimpliCam does lag a bit behind them.
Barzilay, O. (2017, March 28). State of the Home Security Market: Interview with CEO of SimpliSafe, Chad Laurans. Forbes.
Vtrep.com. Video Entrepreneurs. (2020) What is Video Resolution and How is it Different than Video Compression?
William, D. Small Business Trends. (2016, March 8). What is a GIF?
SimpliSafe. (2021). Contact Us.
Jaime Fraze is an experienced digital editor in the tech, business and food spaces, having produced content for clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to fledgling nonprofits for more than 15 years. As a wife, mother and homeowner, she understands that buying home security products can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why Jaime has constantly strived to ensure that every piece of content she produces has met SafeHome.org’s rigorous standards, and that her readers come away with the power to make better, smarter decisions. Learn more about Jaime here