What happens when a rash of burglaries sweeps across a Cambridge neighborhood? Well, a couple of Harvard students get to work creating SimpliSafe, a wireless DIY home security system. That was back in 2006, and over the years SimpliSafe has grown into quite the contender in the industry.1
But is SimpliSafe really all it’s cracked up to be? It’s affordable and effective, sure, but is it a little too basic? To find out, I spent over 100 hours testing their latest system. Here’s the full experience.
Before digging in, you should know that SimpliSafe is one of the best home security systems for renters as well as homeowners who want an easy-to-use alarm system that won’t break the bank. And it definitely has some horsepower “under the hood.”
So, let’s dive in to see how SimpliSafe earned the No. 1 spot on our top 10 best security systems list.
Signing up is fairly easy, and you’ll like that SimpliSafe offers a 60-day, money-back guarantee. This helps take the edge off the purchase.
I went with the SimpliSafe Essentials kit, with a few extra fixin’s like additional sensors. It only took two days for it to be delivered to my doorstep. Here’s what came in the box:
Keep an eye out for any special promotions. They sweetened the deal by throwing in a SimpliCam indoor camera. That’s a $99 value right there.
When the dust settled, I’d spent a grand total of $301.56 for the equipment. That’s a good deal, as most home security companies would charge $500-$1,000 for a package like this.
First things first — installation. Actually, there really isn’t much to it. The word “simple” is in the name, so you can expect a fast and easy setup process.
First, plug in the base station. When it powers on, a soft blue light illuminates the base and a female voice says, “Welcome to SimpliSafe.” The silky-smooth robot greeting feels like it comes right out of one of those lucid dream movies.
Now, if you’re a Ring Alarm user who’s jumping ship for SimpliSafe, you might get confused at first by the arm/disarm colors being the opposite. That could take a little getting used to (and perhaps a false alarm or two). But hey, at least you’ll get to hear what the siren sounds like.
Next step: The wireless keypad will connect to the base station, and then it’ll walk you through the setup process. One thing you’ll notice is that navigation on the keypad is a bit unusual. You have to press on the screen itself to move through the menu. You don’t see this with other brands, so it may take you a bit to warm up to it.
Pro Tip: Since the keypad is wireless, it’s a good idea to take it with you as you mount your entryway sensors. This makes it easy to name each sensor location as you go. You don’t have this luxury when using wired keypads.
You’ll then be asked to choose a ‘Master PIN.’ Make this PIN memorable, as you’ll be using it constantly with the keypad. Then, all that’s left to do is connect to Wi-Fi.
The next part might shake you right out of the “futuristic feels.” When you customize device names, you have to go through each and every letter (and digit!) to select the character you want. Remember texting from your Nokia cell phone in 2001? It’s kind of like that.
This is an important point about SimpliSafe. The hardware itself is streamlined and (almost) Apple-like in design.2 But it’s a different story with the software. The software is simple and lacks a certain panache that you get with more expensive systems that have touch-screen controls. Is this a deal breaker? It wasn’t for me. In fact, I welcomed the simplicity.
FYI: The SimpliSafe setup and configuration only took a few minutes. So far, it’s the easiest and fastest setup I’ve ever done.
All you have to do next is mount the door/window sensors and motion sensors. You can use the adhesive that comes on the back of them, but I prefer using velcro to mount equipment. It just makes it easier to take down in the future.
And that’s it! You’ll be up and running in 20 minutes flat. With other top DIY home security systems, the setup and installation are tolerable, but can feel like a chore. With SimpliSafe it doesn’t feel like a chore at all. It’s actually kind of fun.
With your system installed, you’ll notice that it’s rather dashing looking. Maybe not the entry sensors (those are a little chunky to be honest), but the base station is a sight to behold. It sits there and just … glows.
In some ways, it even conjures images of “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It might sound like a stretch, but take a look at it below.
Now before diving into SimpliSafe’s features and what it’s like to actually use the system, you should know about their monitoring plans.
There are two SimpliSafe monitoring plans: Standard and Interactive. When you buy your system, you’ll get a free 30-day trial of the Interactive plan, which gives you 24/7 professional monitoring and the ability to control your system remotely with the SimpliSafe app. It’ll set you back $24.99 per month after the first month, if you choose to keep it.
$9.99 Per Month
$24.99 Per Month
|App Controls||App Controls|
|Push Notifications||Push Notifications|
|Self-Monitoring||24/7 Professional Monitoring|
|Recording for up to 5 Cameras||Recording for up to 10 Cameras|
Without a monitoring plan, you can self-monitor your SimpliSafe system using the keypad. This approach won’t cost you anything. However, with a paid plan, you’ll get smartphone controls, which I don’t recommend going without. With the more advanced Interactive plan, you’ll also get the peace of mind of knowing that the COPS 24/7 professional monitoring center has you covered if someone breaks into your home.3
I definitely recommend going with a paid monitoring plan. At $24.99 per month, the SimpliSafe Interactive plan is affordable, and it comes with camera support, professional monitoring, and of course SimpliSafe’s handy mobile app. SimpliSafe’s monitoring is some of the most affordable you’ll find. And remember, you don’t have to worry about installation or activation fees.
You won’t have to sign any contracts with SimpliSafe, either, which is nice. These days, the best tech-forward services (think Netflix and Hulu) don’t require long-term agreements. And home security companies are just following suit. In fact, we wrote a whole guide on the best no-contract home security systems. So now you can feel safe in your home and binge-watch TV without feeling weighed down by contracts. Not a bad life, eh?
So what’s it like using the system day-to-day? Well, SimpliSafe makes a fine roommate, and it protects your home well. But it does have some minor hiccups you should know about.
First off, you’ll be able to arm and disarm your alarm using the SimpliSafe app, wireless keypad, or keychain fob. Using the keypad is straightforward. Just touch the keypad anywhere to wake it (pretty neat feature), enter your four-digit PIN, and press “Off,” “Home,” or “Away.”
Now, what about false alarms? If you have the Interactive plan, the monitoring service is trained to respond when your alarm goes off. However, mistakes happen, so there’s a fail-safe built in. If you accidentally trip a sensor and the siren blares, just disarm it right away and the monitoring center will abort the alarm. If you don’t disarm, they’ll assume you may need help, and they’ll call to see what’s going on.
The few times I tested it, the monitoring center contacted me in just 20 seconds on average. As far as response times go, 30 seconds is the industry average, so 20 seconds is pretty fast. Here’s what this looks like in the SimpliSafe app.
If you’re like most people, you tend to use your smartphone for just about everything. Thankfully, SimpliSafe offers an intuitive mobile app that allows you to control your system from pretty much anywhere. A strong app experience is essential these days, and SimpliSafe really delivers here. (Keep in mind that you do have to subscribe to one of their two monitoring plans to use the app.)
FYI: I managed my system with the app about 75 percent of the time. The other 25 percent of the time, I used the keypad.
The SimpliSafe app gets an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store, with nearly 200,000 reviews. And it bats a strong 4.3 out of 5 in the Google Play store. After testing the app inside and out for several days, I rate it 4.5 stars. It’s good, but it’s not that good. I think companies like Vivint and Ring have SimpliSafe beat in the app department. (For more on how SimpliSafe stacks up against Ring, read our SimpliSafe vs. Ring Comparison.)
In the app, you’ll be able to set up custom notifications — sent via push alerts, email, and/or SMS text messages. Getting those instant alerts is extremely important, which is why I recommend subscribing to one of their monitoring plans.
If you have a SimpliCam set up, you’ll also receive a notification with a short video clip every time you enter your home. As you’ll see in a bit, I experienced a bit of a lag with the camera footage, but it was nice to see video recording of our home right in the dashboard.
Overall, the app was easy to use and quite functional. It would just be nice if it had more customization features. As it stands, you’ll have to use the push button keypad to really fine-tune your system.
That cool glowing base station is BRIGHT. Though it’s nice to look at, there are times when the light might be distracting. (I had it set up in the living room, and it nearly blinded me 10 minutes into ”Braveheart.”)
But never fear, the keypad has an on/off switch for the base station light. It also has controls for the siren volume, chime volume, alarm delay, and other handy things.
This functionality is refreshing, as many DIY systems don’t offer it. SimpliSafe is simple, but it’s not lacking much. That said, don’t get the idea that the keypad (or mobile app) is super high-tech; it’s not. It doesn’t stack up to Vivint’s SmartHub or ADT’s touch-screen keypad. But it’ll give you just enough to scratch your ‘features and tech’ itch.
One last thought on additional features: You might want to consider buying an extra siren. If you live in a large home, it’s a good idea to put one near your front door. While burglars can gain entry from pretty much anywhere, believe it or not, most burglars are brazen enough to enter through the front door.45 So a siren in your entryway is a smart idea.
Pro Tip: SimpliSafe’s 95 dB siren is loud, so you might want to set it to ‘low’ while learning the system. If you do, just remember to change it back to ‘high’ the first night. Want your siren to be even louder? SimpliSafe sells add-on sirens that put out 105 dB for $59.99.
The SimpliCam is SimpliSafe’s indoor security camera with 1080p HD resolution, two-way talk, and instant alerts. It might not be the most advanced camera out there, but it does the job.
To set it up, just plug it into a wall (unfortunately, it’s not wireless) and follow the prompts in the app. Then you just have to name the “property.”
Once your SimpliCam is set up, you can open the app and view your live feed. Note that your SimpliCam will record a short clip every time your sensors are tripped or the system’s status changes. It’s a little much, but you can adjust these settings in the app.
The only issue I had with the camera was the lag. It lagged behind “real time” by about five seconds. So what you see is not always what you get!
Both SimpliSafe monitoring plans include video recording with 30 days of cloud storage. The Basic plan ($9.99 per month) covers you for up to five cameras, while the Interactive plan ($24.99 per month) covers you for up to 10 cameras. If you choose not to have a monitoring plan, you can pay a separate monthly fee for camera recording: $4.99 for one camera, or $9.99 for up to 10 cameras.
I did end up liking the SimpliCam. It was a great addition to our perimeter alarm. But as far as cameras go, there are better options. (Check out our guide to the Best Home Security Cameras.)
Pro Tip: SimpliSafe sells glass break sensors, too. Just don’t place yours in the kitchen, as even the sound of glasses knocking together can cause a false alarm. It’s happened to me!
I’m extremely pleased with the design and performance of the system. But no home security kit is perfect … not even our top-rated system, SimpliSafe.
For instance, SimpliSafe’s bypass feature could use improvement. When arming the system via the app, it doesn’t send up a red flag if you’ve got a window or door open. It just turns the alarm on, with that opening unprotected.
With Ring and other systems, the app will ask if you want to bypass a tripped sensor (i.e., open window or door) before arming. This is important, because you may not know you’ve got something open.
Now, to be fair, the SimpliSafe base station does announce the bypass, but if you’re far away from it, you may not hear it. A two-step “bypass warning” in the app would be a huge improvement.
Another small gripe with SimpliSafe: motion sensor placement. With most systems, you can put these sensors a good seven feet off the ground, even if you own pets that the motion sensors need to ignore. But with SimpliSafe, dog owners have to mount the motion sensor four feet off the ground. That’s about the height of a light switch. Just imagine a chunky little sensor where a light switch should be. It’s a bit awkward. (If you’re a cat owner, you’ll mount it 6 to 10 feet off the ground, which is more in line with the norm.)
It’s also a little disappointing that SimpliSafe still doesn’t offer an outdoor security camera. (One is supposed to be coming, though.) They do sell an outdoor camera kit ($19.99) that weatherproofs the indoor SimpliCam. But you’re better off going with a Ring Stick Up Cam ($99), which has superior features and is meant to live in the great outdoors.
It’ll be nice to see SimpliSafe level-up their camera offerings in the months to come. In the meantime, since you can’t just ask intruders to kindly stay off your property, take a look at our guide to the best outdoor security cameras.
And one last thing in the complaints department. SimpliSafe could stand to be a bit “smarter” in some areas. That is, it would be nice to see better smart home integration, even if it made SimpliSafe a little less simple. As it stands, the system does work with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control, but that’s about it.
I did feel protected in my home. And while away, I was confident that SimpliSafe would keep things secure — or at least notify me immediately should a break-in occur.
But for an affordable DIY system, I was most impressed by how conscientious the system seemed. That’s not something one typically says about a machine, but SimpliSafe sort of feels like a friendly little robot in the house.
For instance, the lady robot in the base station says “Alarm Off” in the evening as a friendly reminder to arm the system for the night. A very conscientious thing to do!
FYI: SimpliSafe also warns you when your batteries are running low. The company claims that battery life is approximately one year for the keypad and five years for sensors.
Also, on my third day using the system, I received a software update notification on the keypad. It said it would take about two minutes to update, but it only took four seconds. That’s like pulling a high number at the DMV and then being the very next person to be served.
Needless to say, the user experience is top-notch. SimpliSafe looks and feels like a system should look and feel. It’s sleek and kind of futuristic with intuitive functionality. Sure, it could use a touch-screen panel and an outdoor camera or two — but if you can overlook those minor drawbacks, SimpliSafe brings a lot to the table.
On the first day using SimpliSafe, I actually needed some help from the tech department to get squared away with monitoring. So I called in and spoke with a service agent named Khalil.
Khalil was friendly and professional, and he solved the problem in minutes. He even offered his personal extension for callbacks. I really appreciated this continuity of service. After all, it’s the worst having to explain your situation to one customer service rep, only to have to rehash it five minutes later with a different rep. (We’ve all been there.)
FYI: SimpliSafe also has an FAQ section, a troubleshooting forum, and email support services. You’ll find it all in the SimpliSafe app under ‘Help & Support.’
If you want extra peace of mind (especially while out of town!), you might want to look into SimpliSafe’s smoke and CO sensors, flood sensors, and freeze sensors. There isn’t anything particularly special here, as most home security companies offer environmental hazard monitoring these days. Still, these are nice options.
If you want to protect your home without losing your shirt, SimpliSafe is the best way to go. The company runs deals that start at $160 for a basic setup. But if you’re wanting a more robust system, you can still outfit your home for less than $400-$500. Remember, I purchased the six-piece Essentials kit and added some extra sensors. This secured my 2,800-square-foot home just fine — for a grand total of $301.56.
SimpliSafe offers five main equipment packages (see chart below), but you’re by no means limited to just these options. You can build your own kit by starting with the base station and keypad for $184.98 and adding on sensors ($14.99 each) and other goodies like a video camera ($99) or a video doorbell ($169).
|The Foundation||The Essentials||The Hearth||The Knox||The Haven|
|105 dB Siren||N/A||N/A||1||1||1|
And if starting from scratch sounds daunting, SimpliSafe has your back. They bundled together their most popular devices into 10 additional packages (!) beyond their five primary ones. To find these additional packages, first select one of SimpliSafe’s five primary equipment packages, like The Essentials.
On The Essentials page, you’ll see a section called “you might also be interested in.” There, you’ll find The Nook (five-piece), The Bedford (six-piece), and The Homestead (seven-piece). These are the supplementary packages most similar to The Essentials in price and composition. The Homestead, for instance, takes what’s in The Essentials and adds a key fob.
Couldn’t you just add that key fob onto The Essentials package separately rather than choosing The Nook? Yes. Either way gets you the same results (including the same price). But SimpliSafe knows that some people prefer browsing premade packages rather than dealing with add-ons, so they created these extra packages with all sorts of variations. It’s another way they’re looking to make things simple for their users.
When I set out to test SimpliSafe, I figured I’d miss out on critical features. But that just wasn’t the case. SimpliSafe has pretty much everything you look for in a home security system, minus outdoor cameras and advanced smart home integrations. I also felt safe and secure in my home, which is really the most important thing.
So is SimpliSafe worth it? Well, it certainly doesn’t rank No. 1 on our list by accident! It’s a safe bet, especially if you sign up for the Interactive monitoring plan with app-based controls. And remember, SimpliSafe has been known to throw in a SimpliCam to sweeten the deal. (I scored one for free!)
Although these systems aren’t packed to the gills with high-tech features, SimpliSafe offers stiff competition at an affordable price point. At the end of the day, the system is refreshingly easy to use, with just enough features to keep you happy.
SimpliSafe systems are 100 percent wireless and easy to install.
No, SimpliSafe is a contract-free home security system.
No, the company does not sell outdoor cameras at this time. However, they do have something called the Outdoor Camera Kit, which is weatherproof housing for the indoor SimpliCam.
Not at all. In fact, we found that SimpliSafe is one of the most affordable systems on the market today.
Yes, you can self-monitor a SimpliSafe system. However, your alarm will not send a signal to the monitoring center. If you self-monitor, it’s up to you to call for help if in an emergency situation.
Kirsner, S. (2016, January 3). SimpliSafe’s success awakens sleeping giant. Boston Globe.
Segall, K. (2016, October 28). The key to Apple's success? Keeping it simple – from the man who put the ‘i' in iPhone. Wired.
COPS Monitoring. (2020). Why COPS?
Iboshi, K. (2019, March 8). We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes. KGW.
SecurAmerica. (2013, July). Home Burglary Awareness and Prevention.
Rob is a professional writer and editor with an expertise in all things home security and home automation. Rob currently resides in the Reno/Tahoe area, however, he has spent thousands of hours researching and testing home security systems in a variety of environments and geographies, giving him the unique perspective that there is no “one size fits all” solution in technology. Rob holds a Master’s of Science and is a former Producer in the USAToday network in NY. When he’s not demystifying the latest home security and smart home tech, you’ll find Rob playing chess or hanging with his family. Learn more about Rob here