With 40+ years of experience and recognition from national health organizations, including the National Stroke Association and Harvard Health Publications, we can say that LifeFone is a heavy hitter in the medical alert industry.1
We tested the system, and we found that their customer service lived up to their claims — the employees we spoke with were professional, kind, and readily available to answer questions and troubleshoot issues with us. While their response times weren’t the fastest we’ve encountered (that accolade goes to Philips Lifeline), we think the affordability and value of LifeFone’s alert systems make them a great choice for budget-conscious seniors.
Couples and individuals who live with another family member may like the fact that LifeFone covers spouses or second users for no additional fee. Here’s why we think the At-Home & On-the-Go GPS system is a great option, especially for senior couples.
We called LifeFone to find out what system would best meet our needs. The customer care rep started by asking us a few questions. Do we have a landline? No. Do we have AT&T cellular service in our area?2 We didn’t know, since our cell phone provider is T-Mobile. She looked it up on a coverage map and found that, yes, we do. Did we want a system that worked only at home, or a mobile one we could take with us away from home? We wanted both.
FYI: You don’t need a landline or a cell phone to use LifeFone’s at-home cellular system or mobile device, since both units use LifeFone’s cellular service, not yours. They work anywhere in the U.S. that there is AT&T cellular coverage.3
The LifeFone rep recommended the At-Home & On-the-Go GPS system, which works pretty much anywhere in the U.S. It includes a base station that works with a wristband or pendant and a mobile device, so it’s like getting two systems for the price of one. We chose the wristband, since we think it’s sportier and more convenient than wearing a bulky pendant around our neck. Not that pendants are all bad; in fact, we tested and reviewed the best alert pendants on the market.
A few days later, our LifeFone arrived at our doorstep. And we liked how it came neatly packed into a compact box, with a spot for each component and the manuals and registration paperwork tucked into an envelope. It made it very easy to see what was what.
Set up was simple and straightforward, except for one minor thing: the power cord was a bit short. This was a problem for us because the base unit must be placed in a central location in our home that is also away from any appliances that make noise and any place it could get wet. So that ruled out the kitchen and a table that was near a window we like to open now and then.
We ended up putting it in our dining room on the second floor of our multilevel home. When we noticed the cell signal was only one bar, we tried another spot, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. We’ll talk more about the cell signal in just a bit; but we had no problems connecting to LifeFone’s monitoring center. However, if you’re searching for a cellular unit, we’ve also tried out the top cellular alert systems out there.
Pro Tip: You might need to use an extension cord to position the base unit in a central spot in your home, away from moisture and big appliances, and in a place that also receives a cell signal. This holds true for all in-home alert systems.
We were impressed with the display on the LifeFone base unit. It shows the date, time, indoor temperature, and the strength of the cell signal. And, exactly as the manual said, the display automatically updated to the current location a few seconds after we plugged it in. Just like magic!
One small complaint about the otherwise excellent User’s Guide: Step 2 says “Call to Activate!” and lists an 800 number. So we dutifully called that number, only to be told by the customer service rep that what we were actually supposed to do was initiate a call by pressing the “Test” button on the base unit. That worked just fine, in less than 20 seconds.
Be aware, though, that the response time from a live operator can be considerably longer. Our first time pressing the wristband help button, it took a full 1 minute, 21 seconds for an operator to pick up the call. In our experience, that’s about three times longer than the typical response time. It could’ve been an off day, though.
Subsequent calls we made from the wristband, the base unit, and the mobile device were picked up after about 30 seconds on average (which happens to be the industry average). A few seconds may not sound like much, but in an emergency, it matters. In the event of a stroke, for example, a quick response can minimize the long-term effects and even prevent death.4 As LifeFone’s own tagline says, “Saves Lives When Seconds Count.”
FYI: We have hands-on experience with the best medical alert systems, and most range between 30-35 seconds for response time. We wouldn’t use an alert with response times any slower than 40-45 seconds, so LifeFone makes the grade here.
We actually think LifeFone’s wristband is quite attractive, comfortable, and well-designed. It looks higher quality than some we’ve seen. We got it in white, and it has a contoured “face,” and a soft, pliable wristband with an extra loop to contain any excess strap length, making it a great choice for both smaller and larger wrists.
Again, this isn’t the case with many other wristbands we’ve tried. For instance, we recently tested and reviewed Alert1, and while they offer a great mobile unit, the in-home wristband was just too big for our wrists. So if you or your loved one wants something form-fitting and comfortable, LifeFone is a safe bet.
Here’s a look at the LifeFone wristband in action…
Next, we turned our attention to setting up the LifeFone mobile device. This is a white, 2” x 3” rectangular device that comes with a charging station. At first we were confused that it didn’t seem to come with a lanyard or any way of carrying it besides in your hand.
Then we noticed the leather carrying case in the box that clips onto your waistband. Nice! Although, it’s worth noting that pressing the help button in an emergency would require the extra step of removing it from the case first. So this is something to keep in mind. Not a huge deal, but like we said before, seconds count in a crisis.
As instructed in the User’s Guide, we plugged the charging cradle into an outlet that was not controlled by a light switch. It says it takes about 3 hours to fully charge, but we left it plugged in overnight for good measure.
The next day, we followed the instructions and placed an initial setup call from the mobile device while it was still in the charger. After 38 seconds, the call was answered on the base unit in the next room. The operator explained that a call from the mobile device goes to LifeFone’s call center from both the mobile unit and the base unit, if it’s close enough. She had picked up the call from the base unit, but had not received the call from the mobile device.
After we spoke for maybe 30 seconds, the mobile call finally came through. The operator instructed us to hang up and test the mobile device again out of the charging cradle. So we took it out onto our deck and pushed the call button again. This time, an operator picked up the call after 30 seconds. Success!
To see if the initial confusion was because the mobile device hadn’t been set up yet, we tried again from our basement laundry room. We pushed the call button on the mobile device, the electronic voice repeated “call in progress” several times, but no one answered.
Then, from upstairs we heard an operator pick up the call on the base unit in the dining room. Yikes! We dashed up the stairs to tell her we were testing the mobile unit and did not require medical attention. Obviously, if this were a real life emergency, we wouldn’t be able to get to the base unit to speak with a LifeFone agent. But keep in mind, if you can’t reach the base station, LifeFone will send first responders to your home, so you’re still covered.
Here’s where things got a bit tricky. After 45 minutes of talking to a (very patient) customer service rep and making many, many test calls to troubleshoot the mobile unit, she concluded that the AT&T cellular service wasn’t strong enough in our basement. This was disappointing but not surprising, as our house is in a bit of a valley.
However, in our opinion, the LifeFone mobile device is still nice-to-have. Here’s why:
Pro Tip: While you can order all LifeFone products on their website, we suggest calling and speaking to a representative. Not only can they guide you in choosing the right system for you, they may be able to offer additional discounts or throw in free accessories.
It was time to put the LifeFone mobile device to the test outside the house. We popped it in the carrying case, clipped it to our waistband, and headed to the gym. This time, we pressed the call button — held for 2 seconds, then released — and we heard “Call in Progress” a few times, and then we were connected with an operator in just over 30 seconds.
After more testing we concluded that the mobile device works seamlessly away from home, just as it’s intended. So again, while there was some confusion using the At-Home AND mobile device in our house, the systems worked just fine separately. And since you get both for the price of one, there’s no reason not to choose this option, especially if you have more than one user.
See how it compares to One Call Alert, rated best for couples.
Speaking of prices, we found LifeFone to be among the better bargains for medical alert systems. For the At-Home & On-the-Go GPS system that works via cellular service, reviewed here, plans start at $36.95 per month if you sign up for an annual plan, which also gets you free shipping. For a month-to-month plan, you’ll pay $39.95 per month plus $15 for LifeFone to ship the system to you. In our opinion, this is a good deal.
Did You Know: For an additional $10 per month, you can add LifeFone’s fall detection pendant to your system.
The next closest comparable plan is the At-Home cellular system, which starts at $30.95 per month with an annual plan, but doesn’t include the mobile device or the base unit with the digital display. This is pricier than than the most affordable at-home systems such as alerts offered by Bay Alarm Medical, but right in line with other bundle options that include both at-home and mobile options. Here’s our latest look at LifeFone’s plans and prices.
|LifeFone||At-Home Landline||At-Home Cellular||At-Home & On-the-Go GPS||At-Home & On-the-Go GPS, Voice in Necklace|
|4G LTE Cellular Monitoring||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Signal Range||Up to 1,300 ft. from base||Up to 1,300 ft. from base||Anywhere in the U.S.||Anywhere in the U.S.|
|Waterproof Help Button||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile Help Buttons||No||No||Yes, requires mobile base||Yes|
|Monthly Fee (annual plan)||$24.95||$30.95||$36.95||$39.95|
LifeFone is a family-owned business that’s been around for nearly 50 years. The company has an A+ rating with the BBB and has been recognized by the National Stroke Association, Harvard Health Publications,5 WebMD, A Place for Mom, and other reputable organizations. So the company has certainly earned our trust.
We liked the simplicity of the system packaging and setup, and the above-average design of the base unit’s digital display and the wristband. However, the mobile device fell a bit short of expectations. Better looking and functioning mobile devices include those offered by GreatCall.
If you’re curious, you can read our full review of GreatCall here, which we found to be excellent for seniors looking for on-the-go protection (and cell phone service!). And we’re really liking the smartwatch option offered by Medical Guardian. Yep, we tested Medical Guardian alert systems, too.
With that said, given the price, and the addition of a second device and user for no additional cost, we definitely recommend LifeFone’s At-Home & On-the-Go GPS cellular system for aging couples or seniors who live with another person. If that describes you or your loved one, you really can’t go wrong with LifeFone.
Fortunately, LifeFone does not require any long-term contracts. You can pay month-to-month and cancel anytime.
No, thankfully LifeFone has cellular-based units. They work anywhere an AT&T cellular signal reaches.
Not really, but keep in mind that LifeFone is slightly pricier than other top units we’ve tried.
LifeFone’s response times averaged between 30-40 seconds for us. We’ve found that this is average for the industry.
Yes, the in-home wearables are waterproof, so we were able to wash dishes and shower without ruining the bracelet. Also, LifeFone’s GPS button is water resistant, so you’re covered if you happen to get caught in the rain.
LifeFone Recognition. (2020). Medical Alert Systems.
FCC. (2019). Understanding Wireless Telephone Coverage.
AT&T. (2020). AT&T Coverage Viewer.
American Stroke Association. (2018). Why Getting Quick Stroke Treatment Is Important.
Harvard Health Letter. (2013). Choosing a High-Tech Alerting Device.