Given its name and product offerings, you won’t be surprised to learn that MobileHelp’s goal is to help keep seniors moving and living independently. In fact, on their website they state: “We give seniors the confidence to be active and maintain muscle tone and balance.”
This worthy goal even carries through to its two at-home offerings. The systems’ help buttons have a range of 1,400 feet for the landline system and a range of 1,300 feet for the cellular system, which are among the longest ranges in the medical alert industry. If you’re a couch potato — beware — you certainly won’t be able to blame it on your medical alert system!
This focus on mobility is also evident in the wide variety of on-the-go systems they offer: a system for individuals, one for couples or households with more than one senior, a hybrid system that includes an at-home base station plus a mobile device, and a hybrid system with a one-of-a-kind tablet plus a mobile device.
Of course, you’re probably interested in things like features and functionality. Well, I spent several days testing the MobileHelp Solo system in order to share with you the ins and the outs of MobileHelp’s marquee product, the Mobile Device 4.0. Does MobileHelp have what it takes to protect you or your loved one? Stay tuned. In this hands-on review you will find everything you need to know about the popular medical alert system for seniors.
First things first … unboxing the alert system.
I had ordered a mobile system for one person, and in the MobileHelp box I found one mobile device (similar to other brands I’ve used), along with a lanyard, a charger, a help button, and one freebie — a lockbox.
I discovered a surprise during a closer look at MobileHelp’s website: The medical alert company offers no less than four mobile packages. The hub of each of these packages is the Mobile Device 4.0, referred to by insiders as the MD 4. For now, let’s stick with unpackaging the MobileHelp Mobile Solo.
Be Aware: If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, talk to your doctor before wearing this device around your neck. As is true with most medical alert devices, magnetic interference with pacemakers is a possibility. MobileHelp posts this warning in a place that can’t be missed.
Setup was relatively easy. After plugging in the charger on my kitchen counter and placing the device in the cradle, I waited 10 seconds for the device to turn on and another 60 seconds for it to register with the Wi-Fi network. At that point, a red battery light came on, indicating that the device needed charging. Expect to wait about three hours while MobileHelp fully charges.
Once the battery is fully charged, it technically lasts two days before needing to be recharged. But I always recommend charging daily — at the same time every day — so that it becomes a habit. This way you’ll always have full protection at-the-ready. Now, if you don’t want to hassle with remembering to charge your device daily, you might want to take a look at my review on LifeFone, which boasts a battery life of up to 30 days.
Soon enough, my MobileHelp battery was charged, and the device was ready for testing.
Keep in mind that I’ve reviewed the best mobile medical alert devices and have found that they come in two basic varieties — the kind that have lots of buttons/lights, each one performing a single function, and the kind that have few buttons/lights, each one performing multiple functions. The MobileHelp device unfortunately falls into the lots of buttons/lights category. (I much prefer fewer buttons and lights.)
That said, finding the test button shouldn’t be too tough; it’s on the side of the device, above the on/off button, and has a “T” in its center. Testing simply requires you to press and hold the test button, and wait for voice instructions to press the emergency help button. A voice prompt will let you know if the test is successful. Be sure to test both the MD 4 and the help button.
Pro Tip: You will only need to hold the on/off button for five seconds when turning the device on. However, when turning the device off, it takes anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes. An alternative method for turning on the device is simply placing it in the cradle charger.
Examining the front of the device, I noticed a speaker at the top, a large gray emergency help button in the center, and three LED indicator lights on the bottom. The first light glows red when the battery is low, the second glows green to indicate that it has connected with a cellular signal, and the third glows yellow to indicate that it has connected with a GPS signal. In addition to the lights, the MD 4 also uses voice prompts to communicate important information to the user, like it did when the device was in testing mode.
The final step is clipping the lanyard onto the device, and then setup is complete. At this point, I had a good understanding of the features on my MD 4, had charged the battery, and had tested both the mobile device and the help button. Now it was time to explore the system to see if it really offered on-the-go peace of mind.
Time to check out MobileHelp’s monitoring center response time.
Note that MobileHelp partners with Rapid Response, a company that provides monitoring services. The monitoring centers are located in Syracuse, New York, and Corona, California. With this geographical spread, you’ll be covered pretty much anywhere in the U.S.
FYI: You’ll be pleased to learn that MobileHelp’s monitoring center associates complete a six-week training program and participate in continuing education. Spanish bilingual associates are available, and an interpreting service that provides translation in many other languages is also available.
I tested MobileHelp’s response time by pressing the help button several times and at various times of the day. At 48 seconds their average was acceptable, just slightly above the 40-second industry average.
Here’s a short video I made testing MobileHelp in real time…
Confident that protection was secure, I decided to slip out for some afternoon errands with the MD 4 in place around my neck. Using the device while remaining active is the system’s focus, after all. It was a cold day, so it wasn’t a problem keeping the device tucked inside my coat (and out of public view). During warmer weather, when this isn’t possible, you might opt for carrying the device in a pocket or purse. Using it this way is possible because the MD 4 doesn’t include fall detection, which works best when worn as a lanyard.
For the record, I prefer the all-in-one wearable with fall detection. Fall detection is an essential component of a medical device, and the all-in-one eliminates the need to remember two devices every time you leave. (More on this later in the article.)
Right now let’s focus on using the MD 4 while out. In the beginning, I forgot that I was wearing it. While standing in line at the grocery store, I imagined an emergency event, pulled out the MD 4, and realized how easy it was to find the big help button in the center of its face. I noticed something else — the red light was blinking. Oops, time to head home and recharge. Though not a fan of walking around with blinking lights, the warnings accomplish what they are intended for!
By the end of my outing, I could feel the drag on my neck with this relatively heavy device. Still, the system functions effectively and will definitely keep you feeling safe while living your life in the way that you choose.
MobileHelp offers a variety of affordable systems: two at-home, two on-the-go, and two hybrids. I have compiled a quick guide for you to take a look at below. But if you want to dig deeper, check out my full roundup of MobileHelp’s pricing and subscriptions.
|Name of System||Description||Price|
|MobileHelp Classic||Base unit connects to landline||$19.95 per month
with a $49.95 processing fee
|MobileHelp Wired Home||Base unit uses AT&T 4G cellular||$24.95 per month|
|MobileHelp Duo||Base unit with cellular connection + mobile device||$41.95 per month|
|MobileHelp Touch Duo||A tablet + mobile device||$54.95 per month|
|Mobile Duo||Two mobile devices for spouses or roommates||$44.95|
|MobileHelp Solo||Single mobile device||$37.95|
At $37.95 per month, the MobileHelp Solo is a great value, particularly since the system does not require an equipment fee. The Mobile Duo, while not exactly the two-for-one deal that MobileHelp’s website advertises, is definitely a bargain for two members of the same household.
Also worth mentioning is the opportunity to receive a discount when selecting a quarterly, semiannual, or annual payment plan. When paying quarterly, the cost drops $3 per month. When paying semiannually or annually, it drops $5 per month. I like the options here, but these types of discounts are pretty common in the industry.
Did You Know? You can receive one other discount through MobileHelp’s referral program. If you refer someone to MobileHelp, they will reward both you and your friend with a $200 service discount after the friend purchases a system and remains enrolled for at least 60 days.
MobileHelp also charges a few fees that you need to be aware of. If paying monthly, you will be required to pay for shipping, probably around $15. This fee is waived if opting for a quarterly, semiannual, or annual payment plan.
In addition, MobileHelp charges an activation fee of $29.95. This fee is waived if you opt for Connect Premium (explained below). The activation fee seems unnecessary; I like to see options that actually are optional — with no strings attached. Unfortunately, this is unusual in the medical alert industry. However, my review of Medical Alert reveals a system that is straightforward and transparent in its pricing.
MobileHelp offers several services and pieces of equipment that can be added on to the package that you select. All of its add-ons require an additional monthly fee. Take a look at the overview below.
|Type of Add-On||Description||Price|
|Fall Detect Pendant||Sends an alarm if you fall and are unable to press the help button||$10 per month|
|Additional Help Button||Neck pendant, white wrist button, and black wrist button available||$2 per month|
|Standard Wall Button||Help button for any area in the house||$2 per month|
|Waterproof Wall Button||Help button that can be placed in shower area||$2.95 per month|
|Waterproof Wall Button With Cord||Button for shower area / Help can be called by pressing button, pulling cord, or through voice activation||$5 per month|
|MDLive||A telehealth platform||$9.95 per month|
|Connect Premium||Insurance to protect against lost, stolen, or damaged equipment||$5 per month|
Now, a few of these items deserve further explanation. So let’s take a closer look for a moment.
MDLive is a somewhat unique service that provides MobileHelp customers with 24/7 access to a physician through video, phone, or an app. Because no copay or insurance is required, the telehealth platform may serve as an alternative to urgent care if you have a health concern at night, or over a weekend, or as an inexpensive primary care substitute for a non-emergency issue. At $9.95 per month, MDLive can provide a cost-effective support service for some older adults to supplement their primary care.
Did You Know? Telehealth accounted for 30.1 percent of outpatient visits during the first half of 2020 as the pandemic surged.1
On the other hand, Connect Premium is a protection plan that most medical alert providers offer. It covers the cost of replacing equipment, which could amount to $300 or more. MobileHelp provides several additional benefits with its plan including a 25 percent discount on accessories, 50 percent discount on medication reminders and activity tracking, and 30 extra pings per month for location detection on MobileHelp Connect (explained below).
Finally, the fall detection button can send a signal as far as 600 feet from the mobile device and cancel a call for help when necessary. It is both lightweight (30 grams) and rechargeable. This is all good news. However, I still felt some disappointment that the fall detection function comes in a button that is separate from the mobile device. An all-in-one device is a more efficient system, as I discovered in my analysis of Medical Care Alert. The all-in-one likely reduces the chance of losing or forgetting one or the other of the pieces of equipment when going out. So you will be thrilled to learn that MobileHelp is innovating and will soon be launching a true all-in-one device.
It is always encouraging to see upgrades in a company’s equipment. While an official date for its release has not been provided, the MD 4 is getting a makeover. Most importantly, it is transforming into an all-in-one device, and this includes fall detection. You or your loved one will no longer need to remember to bring along two devices (the mobile device and the fall detection button) while out and about. This is a tremendous improvement!
Pro Tip: Looking to cut through the noise and find the best alert system out there? If so, read my full Medical Guardian review. Medical Guardian offers the best all-around medical alert system available.
The MobileHelp MD 4 is also being redesigned. At 1.6 ounces, it will have a much smaller build (according to customer service). The current model is somewhat clunky and generic-looking. This will make the device one of the lightest all-in-one mobile devices that I have seen. Another lightweight, high-functioning mobile device is the Mini Guardian which weighs in at a feather-light 1.3 ounces. Check out my overview of Medical Guardian pricing.
There is one caveat: The information that customer service provided was somewhat sketchy. I spoke to two different customer service agents and received mixed messaging. The first agent stated that two devices would be launched, and that the first one, the MD 5, would not incur a cost increase. The second one however, the MD 5 Micro, would cost an additional $10 per month. It would make sense that it is the Micro, also an all-in-one, that actually weighs 1.6 ounces.
Either way, it sounded like some positive developments are coming to MobileHelp! I will definitely keep an eye on the future launch of these new products.
Take Note: Current MobileHelp customers will receive communication about this update and be sent a mailing label in order to return their MD 4 in exchange for the updated MD 5.
MobileHelp Connect is an online portal with a collection of tools useful for both the subscriber and caregivers. You can also download the free MobileHelp app from the Android Google Play App Store or iTunes App Store. Some of these tools, referred to as standard features, are free for any MobileHelp customers to use. Others, called premium features, do have an additional charge.
Free stuff is always exciting, so let’s begin with the standard features.
With this portal, caregivers and family members (whom the device user has previously designated) have the ability to receive alerts either through email or text when the mobile device user presses the help button.
Caregivers can also easily determine the user’s location if they’re concerned about their whereabouts. This is done via a “ping,” and a limited number of pings are allowed each month. Pinging a loved one enables family members or other caregivers to pinpoint the location of the mobile device, using GPS, without needing to go through the monitoring center. This feature is particularly valuable for older adults with chronic illness or dementia, keeping older adults safe and providing peace of mind to their caregivers.
In addition, the MobileVitals section provides a storage place for health vitals including blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and heart rate. The section will display the last four vitals measurements. Many experts believe that regular monitoring of a person’s vital signs at home is advantageous. Developing a baseline and a means of alerting the individual, family members, and medical professionals of the need for further medical attention can save a life.2
Though not appropriate for every older adult, some caregivers and family members may find activity tracking, an added premium feature, helpful. Caregivers are able to view the date, time, and activity level (low, medium, or high) of their loved one.
Still another premium feature consists of vital reminders which can be set up to remind you or your loved one to record blood pressure, blood glucose, weight or blood oxygen saturation. You can also add one or more medication reminders with the dosage and time of day that a medication should be taken. Caregivers can check the portal to find out if reminders are being acknowledged or ignored.
Based in Boca Raton, Florida, MobileHelp was founded in 2006. It was only a few years earlier that President Bill Clinton had ordered the military to stop scrambling satellite signals, enabling innovators to accurately incorporate GPS into consumer products. On its website, MobileHelp states that it is the first medical alert system to fully integrate GPS.
If you have been researching medical alert systems, you may have noticed similarities between MobileHelp and One Call Alert plans. According to MobileHelp customer service, MobileHelp purchased One Call Alert approximately two years ago. One Call Alert uses MobileHelp’s equipment but continues to operate under the One Call Alert name. Then, In 2017, ABRY Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, purchased MobileHelp.3
For adults who like to roam, whether it’s to the backyard to garden or a day out with friends, MobileHelp seems to have a system for most needs. At $37.95 per month, the MobileHelp Solo competes in price with some of my other favorite systems. The Mobile Duo also offers a competitive price at $44.95 per month. Not bad for a system that covers a couple or household with more than one older adult.
You will get your money’s worth, too. Along with the features I have come to expect with mobile systems like two-way talk, location detection, and fall detection, you will also get an assortment of complementary features through MobileHelp Connect, the online portal. Not all of these features are free, but several that add great value to the product, like location detection for caregivers, are gratis.
One thing I could do without is the activation fee that gets tacked on if you opt out of Connect Premium, MobileHelp’s protection plan. And as far as the equipment itself, the mobile device lacks in appearance and comfort. It’s a bit boxy, indiscreet, and relatively heavy. And it requires a separate pendant for fall detection (no deal-breakers, though). It was great to hear that MobileHelp is addressing these issues and will soon be coming out with an updated version.
So I would describe the MobileHelp Solo as solid and improving. And, you will likely find features that you need — some that you didn’t even know you needed — at an affordable price.
The mobile device will work anywhere that there is AT&T coverage. MobileHelp recommends contacting customer service two to three days before leaving so that you can provide updated information to ensure that emergency services have all necessary information should they need to respond. Also, be aware that during air travel, the mobile device needs to be turned off.
Yes, if a fall is detected, you will hear a voice prompt over the mobile device directing you to press and hold the fall button to cancel. You will have 20 seconds to do so.
The mobile device is water-resistant. It can be used in the shower but should not be submerged in water. The help button is waterproof and can be submerged.
Contact MobileHelp for instructions on returning the equipment. Service will be cancelled the day the equipment is received at its facility. You will be responsible for paying for the return shipping. A prorated refund will be issued for unused service that was prepaid.
MobileHelp offers a money-back guarantee for 30 days if you wish to return your medical alert system.
Michael, Erin. (2021, Feb 1). Telehealth used in 30.1% of visits during COVID-19 pandemic. Healio News.
Wang, Zhihua et al. (2017, Feb 17). A Review of Wearable Technologies for Elderly Care that Can Accurately Track Indoor Position, Recognize Physical Activities and Monitor Vital Signs in Real Time. National Institutes of Health.
MobileHelp. (2017, Feb 8). MobileHelp® Announces New Ownership – Acquisition by ABRY Partners sets stage for continued consumer innovations from medical alert company.