An affordable indoor/outdoor security camera for the no-frills set.
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 and Wi-Fi coverage to worry about).
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.
I originally tested the SimpliCam a couple of years ago, and one question/gripe I’ve come across from time to time from other SimpliSafe users was, “Why doesn’t SimpliSafe make a dedicated outdoor camera?’
For a while, SimpliCam users had to make do with dressing up the camera with a $20 “wetsuit” from SimpliSafe just to use the camera outdoors. But just last year, SimpliSafe finally answered its users’ request for an outdoor camera with the wireless SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera. You can read our in-depth review of the outdoor SimpliSafe camera here, but we’ll give you a short overview of its features.
First off, the outdoor camera is completely wire-free, unlike the SimpliCam that needs to be plugged in. It runs on batteries, which means you can place it virtually anywhere (within your Wi-Fi range, of course). And since it’s IP65 dust and water-resistant, it’s built to withstand harsh outdoor conditions.
FYI: The SimpliCam is plug-in only. It comes with a 10-foot power cable, but if you’d rather not be bothered by wires, check out my review of the Blink cameras here.
In terms of video quality, it’s on par with the current SimpliCam. (We tested the older SimpliCam with a 720p resolution, but SimpliSafe has come out with a newer 1080p HD version). It has a 1080p resolution and a 140-degree viewing angle. The main difference between the SimpliCam and the SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera, in terms of video, is the night vision. The indoor camera sees in darkness using infrared LEDs, which convert night vision videos to black and white. The outdoor camera has a built-in spotlight that lets it see in full-color. That’s a feature we like to see in outdoor cameras.
In terms of everything else, like cloud storage, app access, and Google Assistant and Alexa integrations, the indoor and outdoor cameras from SimpliSafe are identical.
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.
Pro Tip: More good news: SimpliSafe’s latest SimpliCam model now has a 1080p resolution. As long as your Wi-Fi’s bandwidth is capable of multi-streaming HD videos, we recommend going for the 1080p version for better footage quality.
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 2022.
|SimpliSafe Product||Product Type||Price|
|SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro||Doorbell Camera||$169|
|SimpliCam||Indoor Security Camera||$99|
|SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera||Battery-powered Outdoor Camera||$169|
|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 has 16 years of writing and editing experience, with seven years spent writing about emerging technologies. As our home security camera expert, she has hand-tested and reviewed every major security camera brand and has written more than 300 articles on the topic. Previously, Jaime has contributed to award-winning media outlets such as the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Daytona Beach News-Journal. As a homeowner and mother of two, Jaime is constantly looking for ways to keep her home and family safe. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English/Journalism from the University of Delaware.