Basic home security system from a well-established company
We’ve been researching and testing home security companies for several years now. And the one thing that remains constant is change. We’ve found that companies are always switching up their offers, adding services, eliminating products, and generally keeping us on our toes. So, we weren’t surprised that AT&T Digital Life recently put most of their offerings on the chopping block. Disappointed? A little. Surprised? Not at all.
But don’t write off AT&T Digital Life just yet. There’s still some great value to be found in their home security package. The monthly price is competitive, and we think you’ll like the powerful mobile app experience. Of course, we would have liked to see the video and home automation options still available. But as they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too! We recently got our hands on AT&T Digital Life and put it through our in-depth tests and trials. And we’re sharing everything you need to know, right here. So, let’s get to it!
AT&T Digital Life is a subsidiary of, you guessed it, AT&T Communications. The division operates out of Dallas, Texas. And they’ve been serving folks home protection since 2012. Their Wikipedia page claims the company is a purveyor of all things home security and automation, including “24/7 Professional Monitoring, Video Monitoring, Remote Door Locks, Lighting & Thermostat Control, Water Detection and Fire & Carbon Monoxide Monitoring.”1 But times have changed. And now, we can cross most of those services off the list.
Even though AT&T Digital Life has pulled back some, they might have something up their sleeve for the near future. So, let’s not count them out just yet. Also, as you know, AT&T itself is a well-established brand dating back to the 1800s.2 Any company that’s been around since the days of opera gloves and knickerbockers gets our respect. So, we’ll certainly keep our feelers out for future offerings, and we recommend you do the same.
Did You Know? AT&T began as the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, which was founded by Alexander Graham Bell in 1877.3
Heard of the phrase “Analysis Paralysis?” You know, where there are so many options that you freeze up and crumble under pressure? Well, you won’t have that problem with AT&T Digital Life. In fact, it couldn’t be more straightforward. There’s only one equipment package and one monitoring plan. Some people will like their “what you see is what you get” approach. But it’s a bit too bare-bones for our taste — especially considering AT&T Digital Life used to be available in three equipment options, with multiple monitoring plans.
Alas, here’s the system that you can get installed in your home today. It’s called Smart Security, and the equipment costs $549.99 upfront, with professional monitoring fees priced at $39.99 per month.
Compared to affordable systems we’ve tested, we think the $549.99 equipment price is expensive (although we really liked the touchscreen controls!). The industry average for a basic equipment package for an average-sized home is closer to $350-$450. So that’s something to keep in mind. That said, AT&T Digital Life makes up for it with their reasonable monitoring rates. At $39.99 per month, their 24-7 professional monitoring is slightly cheaper than many brand competitors we’ve seen in the $40 to $50 range. But you will have to sign a two-year contract, which is never fun.
Thankfully, the installation is free. This inclusion is always refreshing, as most companies charge $100 or more for installation. We think it’s inconvenient enough to have a stranger tech into your home. But having to pay $100 for it? No thanks. Needless to say, we’re all about free installation (or better yet, DIY installation). One other cost to consider is the early termination fees. These charges are where they can really get you if you’re not careful. The AT&T Digital Life website states that early cancellation can cost up to $640,4 which is something we did not like at all.
FYI: Remember, AT&T Digital Life no longer offers the Smart Security and Automation Plan or the Premium Security and Automation Plan.
Since there are so few options, the sign-up process is quick and easy. So, we definitely liked that! But we thought their website could use a facelift. As it stands, the web design is outdated, which doesn’t help to build trust in the company. Another important thing to note is that they don’t serve every city and state. So, you’ll have to check availability in your area before you get your hopes up. Don’t worry, they have a nifty little tool on their site that shows options in your area. Once you’re all set, you’ll pay for the equipment, sign the two-year contract, and the equipment will then ship to your home.
Once our equipment arrived (expect 5- to 7-day shipping), we had a technician visit us to install the system. We found this process to be relatively painless (and free!). Given the option, we typically prefer DIY installation on our own terms. That is unless we’re going with total home security and home automation from a top provider like ADT, then it pays off to have a pro in your home.
One nice thing about AT&T Digital Life is that the technician will walk you through your new system once the installation is complete. This guidance will help you to familiarize yourself with the controls and how it all works. Now, if you purchase add-on equipment at a later date, it’ll be easy enough to install on your own. For instance, we ended up buying a couple of extra door and window sensors, and we mounted them in minutes. Still, you have the option of paying a tech for professional install. The bottom line is that you should expect smooth sailing here.
FYI: AT&T Digital Life offers a 14-day, money-back guarantee. If it’s not a great fit, you can send it back for a refund. Just brace yourself for the $99 restocking fee.5
You have to remember that AT&T Digital Life is basic home protection. So, it makes sense for folks who don’t like to fuss with technology. In our experience, day-to-day use was quite simple (maybe too simple). We were able to arm and disarm the alarm remotely using the AT&T mobile app, which also sends helpful activity alerts when sensors are tripped.
When at home, we were able to manage the system using the sleek touchscreen control panel. We really liked the look and feel of this device. It’s made by Cisco, a worldwide leader in the networking hardware space.6 But looks aren’t everything. It uses a broadband connection to link up with the monitoring center. We’ve found broadband (Wi-Fi) to be somewhat inferior to the faster and more reliable cellular monitoring options out there. So, that’s something to consider.
Did You Know? Although AT&T Digital Life uses a broadband connection, it does offer cellular backup. This fail-safe means your system will still be connected to the monitoring center if your Wi-Fi goes down. It’s a nice feature for extra peace of mind.
Overall, we found the setup easy to use and pretty reliable. Of course, the systems were a little more complicated when the company was offering video capabilities and smart home features. But today, their stripped-down package rivals the ease of use of SimpliSafe, which is a much more affordable DIY alternative.
When it comes to customer service, you can expect friendly and helpful agents when you call. That said, there’s not a whole lot of online resources, which was somewhat disappointing. We’re used to seeing customer portals that are chock-full of how-to articles, troubleshooting guides, videos, and more.
With AT&T Digital Life, you’ll be lucky if the website even loads! OK — that’s a little dramatic, but don’t expect many self-service options. Rather, we recommend calling in to speak with an agent. For what it’s worth, AT&T holds an A- rating with the BBB.7 But we’d give their Digital Life department a solid B- (on a good day).
Although AT&T Digital Life no longer offers video surveillance or home automation, we still came across a handful of features we think you’ll like. Of course, many of the features highlighted here are standard with many of today’s top home security systems. But it’s still nice to have things like smartphone controls and environmental monitoring.
FYI: AT&T Digital Life used to work with Alexa and Google Assistant, but they no longer offer smart home devices that link to these third-party platforms.
24-7 Professional Monitoring — Your system will be monitored day and night by a professional emergency response team.
Professional Installation — An expert technician will visit your home to install the home security system, the right way.
Smartphone Controls — Using the AT&T Digital Life app, you can access and control your system from virtually anywhere with your smartphone.
Instant Activity Alerts — When a sensor activates, you’ll receive an instant alert sent straight to your mobile device.
Cellular Backup — If your power goes out, or if you lose internet, your system will remain connected to the monitoring center via cellular backup.
Touchscreen Controls — You can control your AT&T Digital Life system with a few swipes of the finger using the modern touchscreen control panel.
Environmental Monitoring — A CO sensor is available for purchase, allowing you to monitor for threatening levels of this potentially deadly gas.
As mentioned, AT&T Digital Life has trimmed down its equipment add-ons and upgrades by about 70%. However, they still offer à la carte options like sensors, additional keypads, and a doorbell alert device. But that’s about it. So, if you’re looking to customize your system from the ground up, we’d recommend a system like Vivint or Frontpoint instead. As it stands, here’s a helpful chart listing the AT&T Digital Life equipment that’s available for purchase.
|Device||Type of Device||Price|
|Recessed Door Sensor||Sensor||$19.99|
|Glass Break Sensor||Sensor||$29.99|
|Active Doorbell Alert||Alert (not a camera)||$29.99|
AT&T Digital Life used to be overly complicated with add-on pricing, confusing bundle options, and various à la carte options. But they’ve recently swung to the other end of the pendulum. Now, their one-and-only system is pretty bare-bones basic. Compared to similar systems that we’ve tested, the $549.99 equipment price is quite steep.
Thankfully, their professional monitoring is reasonably priced at $39.99 per month, and the installation is free. We also liked that AT&T Digital Life still offers a touchscreen control panel, smartphone controls, and some environmental monitoring. So, we have to concede that this system does have a few redeeming qualities. But when the dust finally settles, we think there are better options out there to protect your home and family.
No, AT&T Digital Life requires professional installation, but thankfully it’s fast and free.
Unfortunately, AT&T uses a broadband (WiFi) connection to link to the monitoring center. However, the system does have cellular backup.
Yes, all users are required to sign a 2-year contract.
At $549.99 for equipment and $39.99 per month for monitoring, AT&T is more expensive than the industry average.
Yes, they have a 14-day return policy in place.
AT&T Digital Life. (April 24, 2020). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
Butler, D. (2020, February 18). History of AT&T: Timeline and Facts. TheStreet.
CNN Money. (2001, July 9). The Story of Ma Bell.
AT&T Digital Life. (2020). Home Security and Automation.
AT&T. (2014). AT&T DIGITAL LIFE Policies on Equipment Returns, Cancelations, and Early Termination Fees.
Cisco: The Network. (2013, January 7). Cisco Builds All-Digital Wireless-Based Home Security and Automation Control Panel for AT&T.
AT&T: Better Business Bureau® Profile. (2020, April 22). BBB.