The most crucial concerns when looking for the right medical alert device are pretty straightforward:
This is all well and good when it comes to basics, but the fact is most seniors don’t want to draw attention to their medical alert needs. So there’s a fourth criteria you have to consider: just how stylish and discreet is the equipment.
One of Bay Alarm Medical’s real strengths is that they understand the basic necessities of any good alert system, but they also understand how important dignity and independence are to those who use their equipment. From help buttons hidden in jewelry to sporty smartwatches that look right at home on the pickleball court, Bay Alarm Medical nails both form and function. This is one of the main reasons why we consistently rank them highly among the top medical alert brands.
They offer three mobile products for seniors on the go. First up is SOS Mobile, which is lightweight but offers multiple functions. Standout features include advanced location detection, optional fall detection, and the availability of two cellular networks to choose from.
The SOS Smartwatch is Bay Alarm Medical’s second on-the-go device, and it also emphasizes style, featuring a circular face with your choice of an analog or digital display and a black band.
Finally, there’s the SOS All-in-One. As the name implies, this system can be used both at home and when seniors are out-and-about. It includes two devices: a wearable button and a device that’s similar to the SOS Mobile device–oval in shape and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Both provide GPS location for caregivers and station monitors. You can add fall detection to this system as well.
FYI: With one in five Americans wearing a smartwatch or other wearable fitness tracker,1 Bay Alarm has successfully picked up on consumer preferences. Other product offerings such as Bella Charms, hand-crafted, ornamental holders for the help button pendant, follow suit.
We will focus on Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch 360° Bundle medical alert system for this review. It is a package that bundles both at-home and on-the-go systems.
Unboxing Bay Alarm Medical
Like many of our medical alert system reviews, we started our Bay Alarm review with an unboxing. There were two boxes, one for the smartwatch and the other for the in-home system.
First, we took a peek in the SOS Smartwatch box. Neatly packed inside it were the following:
First impressions are important, and Bay Alarm Medical nailed it here. Everything is organized, labeled, and neatly packaged. Even if you’re not so tech-savvy, the system is easy to understand, set up, and use. That’s more than we can say for our experience reviewing the Aloe Care Health system, which we felt could be a little overwhelming for some customers.
We also really liked how unobtrusive the docking cradle was. It fit easily on our nightstand, which is one of the best places for you or your loved one to keep it so they put it on first thing in the morning. Additionally, taking the watch off right before bed will help them remember to regularly keep it charged.
One downside to this watch: its battery lasts, at maximum, 24 hours. That’s not ideal. We all forget things, but that can be a special concern for seniors. A short battery life means the device needs to be charged every night. This isn’t a dealbreaker, though. One way to address this issue, for instance, is by placing the charging docking cradle on the nightstand to serve as a reminder.
And to be fair, 24 hours is the industry norm battery life of medical alert watches. Even Medical Guardian’s MGMove smartwatch, listed as the best medical alert watch on our site, needs a recharge every 24 hours.
Design-wise, we like the looks of the Bay Alarm SOS smartwatch. It doesn’t look like alien tech, unlike the now-discontinued Lively Wearable – that one looks like it came right off the wrist of an android from the future. The Bay Alarm smartwatch is simple but fashionable; one that won’t look out of place when worn by a senior of any age.
Our first look at the smartwatch was a good one, but we don’t judge any book by its cover. We spent several days wearing Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch so that we could give you the low down.
But there was a second box included in our Bay Alarm package. It contained the components of the home system:
Given the sleek design of the watch, we were a little disappointed with the clunky design of the home base unit. At eight inches in length and five inches in width, and sporting an enormous Red button labeld Help, it has a pretty big footprint. Clearly, Bay had in mind making it easy for seniors in trouble to find the button. As one user on the site gushed, “The base unit is easy for [my stepfather who lives alone to see and operate with the large ‘Help’ button and clear-sounding speaker.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really blend in with most interiors. It’s designed to stand out and to be easy to see and reach in times of emergencies, and it does that quite well. If having a device that blends in better with your home environment is a priority, you might consider the Lifeline At-Home Alert System. It’s large; in fact, it’s bigger than the Bay Alarm base unit, but it has a muted design and a more stylish look overall. We did a hands-on review of Lifeline here.
A key factor to note about the SOS Smartwatch 360° bundled package is that it comes with a cellular-only base unit. The landline-capable system isn’t available in the 360° bundle. You can add on the in-home system that utilizes a landline, but that may not make sense from a financial standpoint. Besides, in most cases cellular is more reliable than landlines, since there are no wires to cut. The exception to this rule, of course, is homes that are located in rural areas.
Like most companies, Bay Alarm Medical offers either a necklace or a wristband, for your personal help button. The wristband which is designed to resemble a Fitbit, has a sleek, simple appearance and it’s very lightweight and easy to slip on.
The “instructions manual” is actually a standard-sized paper folder, with clear, easy-to-understand instruction sheets. One sheet had very visible emergency phone numbers, plus a customer care number for help with setting up the system.
In addition, the folder included the following pieces:
Since we like compartmentalizing a process, this felt like an elegant way to organize the necessary information. Each item was separate and concise, so nothing felt overwhelming.
So why is bundling important? While Bay Alarm Medical offers items a la carte, they recommend “bundling” services in order to provide multiple layers of 24/7 protection and to save money. With this in mind, Bay Alarm Medical offers two bundles:
Each bundle combines an in-home system with a mobile one. Having both types means greater flexibility, as you can use the mobile one while you’re out during the day, then rely on the at-home system while your mobile one is charging at night. Note the mobile systems need to be charged at least once a day.
FYI: Most medical alert companies we’ve tried offer in-home or mobile alerts, while some offer hybrid devices that work at-home and on-the-go. We like that Bay Alarm Medical bundles their In-Home system with mobile alerts. This way you get the best of both worlds.
And as is often true with bundles – it comes with a discount over purchasing your system a la carte. This is nice, as many seniors live on a fixed income. And who doesn’t like saving money?
In the case of the Bay Alarm SOS Smartwatch 360° Bundle, you’ll only pay $64.95 monthly instead of between $74 and $84 per month. That $10 to $20 savings every month adds up!
Be careful, though. You’re really only saving money if you’re going to be using both systems. Otherwise you’re going to have an in-home system gathering dust or a smartwatch sitting on a shelf not helping anyone.
We recommend the bundle if you are someone who is frequently home alone and also travels outside of your home on a regular basis. It may also be a good choice if you are sharing the system with a spouse. If that doesn’t describe you, you’d save more picking just the one that fits your lifestyle more — either the in-home system or the smartwatch.
Bay Alarm isn’t the most affordable brand in the industry. On top of the monthly monitoring fee, which with this particular bundle is $60, there’s a one-time initial equipment charge of $159. That is a pretty significant up-front cost and can be pretty hard to swallow if you’re living on a fixed income. Keep in mind, though, that right now Bay Alarm Medical is offering 30 percent off their mobile devices — the Smartwatch bundle included. That means your equipment cost is reduced to $111.30.
As consolation, you’ll own the equipment after paying the initial fee. Even if you stop using the monitoring service, you’ll still enjoy the device as a regular smartwatch that can tell the time and includes multiple safety and day-to-day features like reminders.
For a more complete look at costs and fees, we suggest reading our Bay Alarm pricing guide, but for a quick overview, here is Bay Alarm Medical’s updated 2024 bundle pricing.
|Bay Alarm Medical Bundles
|SOS Smartwatch 360° Bundle
|The Mobile 360° Bundle
|Leased or Owned?
|Smartwatch is owned.
|GPS device is owned.
If you’re interested in a combination of in-home and on-the-go systems at a less costly price, LifeFone offers a package starting at $39.95 per month with no equipment fee. You can read more about LifeFone’s alerts and their reasonable monitoring fees in our full LifeFone review. We’d also recommend looking into MobileHelp, which offers a bundled package for $41.95 without an equipment fee.
Pro Tip: Bay Alarm Medical regularly runs sales — particularly around holidays. Right now they are offering 50 percent off all mobile devices as well as free shipping and a free month of monitoring. If you miss this sale, though, don’t worry. Another one will be around soon enough.
Time to get things working. Returning to our folder, we began with our “Welcome & Next Steps” letter. It instructed us to complete three tasks. Because each of these initial steps requires the use of a desktop or mobile device, we recommend that a caregiver or family member assists in this process.
The first step was to save the above mentioned phone numbers for caller ID recognition. This might seem like a bit of a hassle, but it’s a pretty important step. How many times have you ignored an incoming call because you didn’t recognize the number? You definitely don’t want to ignore a call coming from the emergency center or customer care department.
Did You Know? A survey conducted by Jive Communications revealed that 61% of Americans regularly avoid phone calls.2
Step two instructs you to either sign in or set up an account on a desktop or mobile device. After doing so, step three directs you to complete an Emergency Plan. This includes providing contact information for those individuals that you wish to be contacted in the case of an emergency.
Having completed our first steps, we moved on to the In-Home Guide. We really liked that the guide had a list, including photo images, of each of the items that should have been included in our package. It confirmed that we received everything that we were supposed to receive. From our experience, this isn’t always the case.
The instructions for setting up the system were quite simple. They included plugging in the base unit, flipping the power switch on, and then testing the personal help button.
We should mention that we have prior experience with a Bay Alarm at-home medical alert system, so we’re quite familiar with the setup process. That said, even if it’s your first time setting up a medical alert system, it’s a straightforward process.
One important thing to note here — the base unit always needs to be plugged in. Luckily, the power adapter is affixed with a sticker that says “Do Not Unplug” to help remind everyone, and its back-up power will last for 36 hours should the power go out.
FYI: Wondering where your calls go? Bay Alarm has two emergency call centers: one in Ogden, Utah and the other in Rexburg, Idaho. If one were to ever go offline, the other would immediately provide coverage.
Next came the range test, something our goldendoodle, Tilly, always enjoys participating in. After pressing down the “MODE” button on the back of the base unit and strapping on the bracelet, we held down the personal help button and traveled from room to room with Tilly in tow.
A constant tone sounded from the base unit, indicating that we were within range of the unit. We could clearly hear the tone from each room that we traveled to, and so could Tilly, her ears perked in alert and a low-level growl announced her uncertainty about this new sound in our environment.
The tone served as our canary in the coal mine; that is, if it stops, it’s an indication that we’re out of the base unit’s range and that a call for help is not possible from that area.
Thankfully, the tone didn’t stop as we moved through both floors of our home, all corners of the basement, and even into the backyard. That assured us that wherever we may be around the house when a medical emergency occurs, we’d be able to rely on our personal help button.
Pro Tip: Does your aging loved one have a four-legged companion they love? Do they have a bit of a green thumb, too? Make sure they’re aware that some houseplants can be toxic to pets!
On its website, Bay Alarm states that the range is about 1,400 feet, which is impressive considering that some at-home medical alert systems have a limited range of below 500 feet. An example is the Medical Alert system we reviewed, which has a range of 400 feet.
If a large range is a priority to you, another company to consider is One Call Alert, which boasts a range of 1,400 feet. You can read all about the brand in our One Call Alert review.
We were excited to put this slick-looking watch into action. Unfortunately, the watch was not ready for us. When we held down the power button as instructed, nothing happened. Must be an uncharged battery, we thought. We tried placing it on the charging station, but it still would not power on.
This was not the first time we ordered and received a faulty product from an alert company, so we didn’t think twice about calling and exchanging it. We weren’t happy at all with how long it took to get in touch with customer service, though. It took us two calls, the second one requiring a wait time of 35 minutes to speak with someone. It did help that once the representative answered, she was friendly, polite and helpful. And in the end, Bay Alarm expedited the order of another SOS Smartwatch to replace the first.
Three days later, we were strapping on our new SOS Smartwatch. And it turned on like a champ!
We loved the face of the Smartwatch, with large numbers that even older eyes could easily see. The senior-friendly watch also allowed for two other screen options, one digital and one decorative.
The functionality of the watch gets an A+ too. We immediately pushed the SOS button on the left side of the watch and quickly had two-way talk going with a call center representative. Her voice came through loud and clear. Before placing an emergency test call, we do recommend consulting your SOS Smartwatch Quick Start Guide. You will be cued on what to expect and what the options are that will show up on your screen.
Pro Tip: When pressing the SOS button on the left side of the watch in order to call for help, you need to hold the button down for five seconds in order for the call to go through.
We made a short video below testing the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch. We recommend watching it to better understand the response time and what to expect.
In addition to the SOS button, the smartwatch includes a GPS locator, a feature essential for on-the-go devices. In order to understand why this feature is important, we imagined the following emergency situation.
One sunny day while out for a walk with our goldendoodle, one of us suffers a stroke. While lying on the ground, we push the SOS button but are not able to effectively communicate through two-way talk. A monitoring center associate immediately pings our location and pulls up our records including any chronic medical conditions and medical history which she can quickly relay through a 911 call. If this were an actual situation, EMS would have a good shot at arriving quickly at the correct location with accurate information, ready to provide assistance.
Could a regular smartphone or smartwatch provide this same safety net? Not exactly. Tracking capabilities do exist on smartphones, but 911 responders would not have access to this information or to medical records. Communication could be difficult or impossible and time would likely be lost.
Aside from using the watch as a safety mechanism for emergency help, it does provide another option that active older adults will like – a step counter. Again, the Quick Start Guide will instruct you on how to set a daily goal for yourself. The CDC recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking.3 This translates into approximately 8,000 steps per day. Taking their advice and following the Quick Start Guide, we set the daily goal at 8,000 steps.
Pro Tip: While we think many older adults will welcome the extra features that the SOS Smartwatch offers, we also know that some folks like to keep things simple. One alert system that keeps things simple (maybe too simple) is Life Alert. Unfortunately, though, in our research we found that the cost of Life Alert is pretty steep. And as you’ll read in our Life Alert Review, getting out of their contracts can prove difficult.
Another thing we have not talked much about are the emergency contacts that users designate when registering online. Sometimes an older person may need assistance or advice that does not rise to the level of an emergency call. Users of the SOS Smartwatch do have the ability to call these contacts directly.
Bay Alarm also includes caregiver tracking in its other mobile devices that they hope to use with their SOS Smartwatch in the future. This enables not only the emergency call center but also designated family members or caregivers to track the user’s whereabouts using GPS. We’ll continue to watch for this feature, but last time we checked Bay Alarm Medical’s website, it says that they are working on an app that would enable GPS tracking for caregivers.
While conducting our review, we tested the help button several times. And we were thrilled to see that each time we reached out to test the system, calls came through on our two-way talk at 27 seconds or under. Twice the response time was 21 seconds. Bay Alarm more than beats the industry average of 30 seconds! The professionalism of their associates was impressive, too.
FYI: The Bay Alarm Medical emergency call centers are CSAA Five Diamond Certified. This is the gold standard in monitoring services certification.
Much less impressive was the response time from customer service associates. As mentioned earlier, we had a wait time of 35 minutes to troubleshoot our faulty SOS Smartwatch. Later, we contacted customer service with a few other questions about the smartwatch and had a wait time of 40 minutes. When we did finally get through, the associate, although very pleasant, did not seem knowledgeable about the watch and was unable to answer our questions.
While our experience with customer service was not a great one, we do recognize that the most important response time is with the emergency call center where time is of the essence during a real emergency, and this Bay does exceptionally well.
We did not include fall detection in our bundle but could have easily added it. It would require wearing a necklace rather than a wristband and paying an additional $10 per month for the service. Note that some companies, like Lively, include fall detection in their monthly fees (you can read our hands-on review of Lively here).
Fall detection is also now available for the SOS Smartwatch. This wasn’t the case when we started our test, but as of June 2023, Bay Alarm has upgraded the smartwatch’ firmware to include optional fall detection. A $10 increase to the monthly plan is still in order to activate the feature, though.
We typically encourage the use of fall detection. Falls often cause fractures and even head injuries. The sooner that EMS can get to someone with a critical injury, the better their chances for recovery. So this is something to keep in mind for yourself or your loved one.
Bay Alarm supports the use of fall detection, too, although with a few caveats. They recommend fall detection as an add-on for individuals who have fallen before or have a history of blacking out or fainting. They do not recommend it for individuals who have seizures or memory loss.4 Fall detection is available through the Bay mobile GPS device, SOS Smartwatch, or the In-Home pendant necklace.
While we waxed poetic about the value of bundles earlier, it is true that the bundles might not contain everything you want. In addition to the two devices with fall detection, Bay Alarm Medical offers a number of other a la carte items. The two that caught our attention were the Bella charms and the lock box.
One of the more unique options is the Bella charms that can be used with the personal help necklace. We took a look at the four different charm designs on the website and thought them attractive. Two immediately appealed to our individual tastes. The interchangeable, hand-crafted charms are two inches in diameter, weigh less than two ounces when attached to a pendant and are waterproof. The pendant slides into a bracket on the back of the charm. The charms cost $25 each or all four can be purchased as a package for $90. We thought they might make a nice gift for a birthday or other holiday.
Fun Fact: “Bella” means beautiful in Latin. And these alert charms certainly offer an added layer of protection with a dash of elegance. In fact, it looks like you’re wearing jewelry.
Another accessory that you might find useful is the lockbox. In the case of a medical emergency, time is everything. On average, emergency response time in the U.S. is seven minutes.5 Without easy access to a person’s house, this response time will likely increase. A poor outcome could be the result of delayed entry. In addition, medical personnel will need to break down a door to gain entry. A secondary consequence is a large repair bill for the homeowner.
A lock box ensures that medical personnel can easily and quickly gain entry to your house. The box hangs on the front door, has a combination-style lock that you set and has a one-time $30 purchase price. The combination code is kept on record at Bay Alarm Medical’s call center and is relayed to EMS in the event of an emergency.
Lock boxes can be purchased elsewhere as combination locks that eliminate the need for a box hanging on your front door. Whether you choose to invest in this safety feature through Bay Alarm Medical or elsewhere, we believe that it is a good safeguard to have in place.
Other Bay Alarm extras that can be purchased a la carte include the following:
|Monitoring for a second person
|Free with in-home systems
|$10 per month
($15 per month for the second fall detection button)
|Bella charms (Fashion pendants)
|$25 each or $90 for all four
|$5 per month for two / $10 per month for four
|Lock box for house key
|$30.00 one-time charge; free with some plans
|Vial of Life
|One free; $8.00 one-time charge for a second person
|$1.95 to $4.95 per month
Because it is stylish, has the essential safety features of GPS location and a help button, and is connected to an emergency call center with excellent response time, we think the SOS Smartwatch is a great buy. It is an item that can enable older adults to age in place safely because we believe that individuals will actually want to wear it (not always the case with some alerts!).
Of course, we reviewed the entire SOS Smartwatch 360° bundle. Will seniors be able to justify the extra monthly fee in order to receive both in-home and mobile services? We’re not exactly sure. Importantly, the in-home system can be used while the smartwatch is charging or when the individual is in the shower or in bed. However, it is also safe to assume that the smartwatch will be the device that is used the majority of the time, and its limited battery-life may put a hamper on that.
We recommend the dual system for a narrow group of older adults: those who live independently, leave their property on a regular basis, and do not have a history of falling. For these individuals, we think the cost and the functionality of the dual system is warranted. Overall, Bay Alarm Medical has proven again to be one of the best alert systems for seniors.
Yes, the Smartwatch as well as the help button on both the wristband and necklace are waterproof. On their website, Bay Alarm states that most customers choose to take off their Smartwatch before showering so that it doesn’t get in the way. At the same time, showers/bathtubs can be a high-risk area for falls. We recommend replacing the SOS Smartwatch with the wristband or necklace during a shower or bath to ensure safety.
No, the Smartwatch does not need to be connected to a smartphone. It runs on a pre-installed 4G LTE sim card. The watch is preprogrammed for ideal lighting and clear communication.
The base unit for the in-home system has a battery for 32 hours of back-up protection in the case of a power outage. The battery automatically recharges itself when power returns. Most in-home systems match this battery life. For those who are especially concerned about battery life, such as individuals who live in areas prone to hurricanes, a system that has a more extensive battery life might be a good call.
The standard help buttons have a battery that will last up to 5 years. When it needs replacing, it will automatically send a signal to the monitoring center. An associate will contact you with instructions on battery replacement. Note that the help buttons with fall detection have a battery life up to two years. *The SOS Smartwatch has a battery life up to 24 hours. It should be recharged daily.
The SOS Smartwatch does not include caregiver tracking at this time. However, Bay Alarm Medical says they hope to add this feature to the watch in the near future.
Bay Alarm partners with Language Line Services to provide support for seniors who do not speak English or for whom English is a second language. More than 170 languages are available.
Pewresearch.org. (2020, Jan. 9). About One-in-Five Americans Use a Smart Watch or Fitness Tracker.
Onepoll.us. (2017, Aug.). How Americans Really Use Phones.
CDC.gov. (2012, Aug.). More People Walk to Better Health.
Bayalarmmedical.com. (2021). Auto Fall Detection Is Not for Everyone.
Medical News Bulletin. (2020, Dec.). What Is the Average Emergency Response Time?