Since a couple of Harvard grads launched SimpliSafe1 from their Cambridge apartment back in 2006, we’ve grown accustomed to hearing the praises of this scrappy security brand.
But what we’ve learned over the years, since SimpliSafe became the preferred security brand for renters, college students, and other folks on the move, is that this company does things a little differently.
You see, SimpliSafe is all about lightweight, intuitive equipment that needs very little attention or maintenance. Its founders’ original intent – to make “invisible technology” that’s “deceptively easy to use” – is taken very seriously, and we see this in every SimpliSafe product we’ve reviewed. No frills, no complicated installation, no confusing technology.
Another thing that stands out to us about SimpliSafe is that it only manufactures one security camera: the SimpliCam.2 They also make a video doorbell camera, along with other devices like smart locks, entry and carbon monoxide sensors, and wireless keypads, but for this review, we’re going to focus on SimpliCam.
Right away, we could tell this wasn’t going to be brain surgery. It shipped to us in basic packaging, nothing to cut open or fight with. Inside, the SimpliCam sat nestled atop its support stand, ready for us to dig in and power on our new gadget. We’ll admit it was nice not being inundated with lots of small parts and hardware as soon as we pulled the lid off the box.
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, which might not mean much to you, but to us, it was a nice perk. In past camera reviews, we’ve seen some models that appeared to falter in the weight distribution department, and it did have a slightly negative impact on our experience with those cameras.
In fact, during our recent tests of Zmodo’s Sight 180C camera, we noticed how it 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.
With our SimpliCam, on the other hand, the whole thing balanced itself effortlessly. The stand is adjustable, so we could play around with the camera’s direction to find the best angles. And when we’d chosen our ideal position for the camera, we didn’t have to worry about it sliding around or tipping.
If tipping or sliding is a concern for you, though, you can always skip the stand and instead use the included hardware to screw your camera directly onto a wall or surface.
Since SimpliSafe only makes one security camera, we were concerned this would make us feel boxed-in. Other brands like Ezviz and Ring, for example, offer dozens of different models, with an assortment of sizes, features, styles, and functions. Some work better outside, others work better inside. Some are powered by batteries or solar panels; others can be wired into your doorbell or existing lighting.
Pro Tip: SimpliCam is only offered as a plug-in camera and does not contain any battery backup or input. They do give you a 10-foot power cord, which helps, but if you don’t want to deal with unsightly wires, you might want to look into a battery-operated model from another brand like Ring or Lorex.
Indeed, note that security cameras run the gamut in this market. As far as our SimpliCam, we’ll say this: there weren’t too many places this camera wouldn’t fit in and around our home. The camera is not only small, it’s also subtle and lightweight, coming in at 0.33 pounds. And, as you’ll see in the photo below, it can fit pretty well into the palm of my hand.
But, would it hold up outside, against the elements of our upcoming Ohio winter?
That’s a question/gripe we’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, in our view. But, in its place, we have the outdoor kit. We purchased this 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.
So while we do feel this is a glaring omission – almost every security company nowadays makes at least one outdoor camera – we don’t want to dwell on it. We’d rather view it as another example of SimpliSafe’s passion for keeping things simple. After all, the outdoor kit is solid and fits like a glove. We don’t have any doubt that our wetsuit-clad SimpliCam could handle some pretty nasty weather out there.
The photo on the left is the camera dressed in its outdoor cover. On the right, the camera is naked. The difference is pretty negligible, don’t you think?
Pro Tip: If you’re going to use the SimpliCam outdoors, you’re advised to use the wetsuit included in the Outdoor Kit. Otherwise, you might void your warranty.
So, after feeling somewhat limited in what we could do with our SimpliCam, the outdoor kit and its neat little cover swooped in and saved the day. We could now use this thing basically anywhere.
Now that we resolved that concern, it was time to set up our SimpliSafe mobile app.
As we introduced ourselves to the app and watched how it interacted with our SimpliCam, we started to notice something amazing.
Everything was working so … fast! No waiting for videos to load, no spinning wheel, no live view interruptions. We were in for a smooth ride, and we liked it.
SimpliSafe’s app was as simple as you’d expect, if you’ve read the first six letters of the camera’s name. All we had to do was plug in, power on, create an account in our app, and follow the steps to set up the camera.
That process, we estimated, took about 10 minutes. One thing that slowed us down a little here was having to enter our Wi-Fi name and password several times before it finally took. That was most likely a typing error and not a fault of the app itself, but it did trip us up for a few minutes. Consider this your friendly reminder from us: Type slowly and carefully!
From there, we did some more digging into the different functions on the app. First step? Checking out a helpful guide under the Troubleshooting tab that showed us what each of the colors on the camera’s light mean. Honestly, we’re not used to seeing so many different color indicators on a camera before, so have a look at the screenshot below to familiarize yourself.
Learning what all those lights meant helped us understand what was happening when we watched our SimpliCam in action. We knew, for instance, that when the light blinked blue, we were probably about to get an alert on our phones in 3, 2, 1…
Under Picture Quality, we noticed our camera was set at 720p, which is a lower resolution than the majority of security cameras we’ve reviewed. Most cameras these days offer 1080p resolution, which is pretty much the gold standard in the industry. Frankly, we’ve grown accustomed to it, and we were surprised to see that SimpliCam didn’t offer it. That said, 720p is still decent, so this wasn’t a deal-breaker for us.
With our SimpliCam, our options were 720p or 480p. With some brands like Arlo and Lorex coming out with 2K and even 4K resolution cams these days, it’s a bit of a stretch for us to justify purchasing a camera with only mediocre video quality.
To be perfectly honest, we did not notice a difference between the 720p and 480p settings. In fact, when we were writing this review, we were going to embed side-by-side comparisons of the same view, one in 720p and one in 480p. But when we put the whole thing together, we realized they were just too similar. To the cutting room floor, they went!
So that’s one silver lining we observed – video resolution3 does not necessarily affect the quality of the images. At least not to a point where we worried about missing any important activity.
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. For folks like us, on a standard home Wi-Fi network that isn’t always stellar, this is a nice perk!
So, while our SimpliCam’s max-720p output is a considerable step down from several other cameras we’ve tested with higher resolution (1080p is the most common), the only big difference we observed was how much we could zoom in on specific images. That, in our view, can only be accomplished in 1080p or higher. Otherwise, we’d just be looking at a blurry, indecipherable object.
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 our tests, and while we’re not sure they know what “Get outta here!” means, we can definitely say they haven’t come back yet!
After bestowing such high praise on the clear daytime images we saw on our SimpliCam earlier, we had similar expectations when night fell.
Sadly, SimpliCam fell short in this department. But we do understand why, for the most part.
First of all, the camera does not 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, we could see the limits of our SimpliCam, 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. We’ve seen decent color night vision images from Reolink’s Argus 2. 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. Lorex has several models with color night vision in its lineup, too, if that’s more your style.
From where we sit, color night vision is not essential for protecting our home. We’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s essential for yours.
One thing we really loved? After our SimpliCam recorded a video, the app displayed the playback as a quick GIF4 image. That way, we didn’t have to watch the entire video from start to finish to see what triggered the camera. For on-the-go folks like us, this is great! 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. This one just doesn’t have all of that, but in their place, we got a smooth, stress-free experience with our SimpliCam.
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 we’ve seen. But if you prefer getting help without having to get on the phone, we also found SimpliSafe’s support page to be quite helpful. There, we found owner’s manuals, user forums, FAQs, and a troubleshooting guide.
All told, you’re going to get a well-performing and well-made camera in SimpliCam. We were continuously impressed with the smoothness of the mobile app, the video quality from playback and live view, and the ease of installation and everyday use. We were, at times, disappointed that the cameras can’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, we should mention, SimpliCam isn’t really meant to be an effective standalone camera. And in our tests, it really didn’t feel like one. It felt like something was missing, to be honest.
So, we get it. SimpliSafe5 is, at its core, a very good home security company. So good, in fact, that we rated them the No. 1 home security system of 2020. In our tests of the system as a whole, the SimpliCam worked quite well. We believe that’s exactly where it belongs – as part of the larger affordable system that SimpliSafe offers the market.
|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.||$183+|
At $4.99, we didn’t flinch at SimpliSafe’s monthly cloud storage subscription fee. We also know that it’s optional, and you can still use the camera with the app to view live video without a subscription. But with all you get from that monthly fee, we had no problem springing for it. This way, we get 30 days of video and 60-second clip recordings. These options are standard for the industry, but still helpful to know.
After getting a good feel for the SimpliCam, enjoying its simplicity above all else, we have some key takeaways that will hopefully help you make the best camera choice for your home.
As a standalone 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 a Google Nest IQ or even a Ring Spotlight Cam.
Alternatively, if you really like your SimpliCam and don’t have a SimpliSafe system for full home monitoring, you might find that one of SimpliSafe’s security bundles suits you best. So to sum things up, we found the SimpliCam to be a great indoor security camera, so 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. Forbes. (2017, March 28). State of the Home Security Market: Interview with CEO of SimpliSafe, Chad Laurans.
PR NewsWire/Cision. (2017, June 21). Introducing SimpliCam: SimpliSafe’s $99 Smart Security Camera.
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?
Rosen, A. Boston Globe. (2018, June 29). Private equity deal makes SimpliSafe Boston’s latest billion-dollar startup.