What happens when a rash of burglaries sweep 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 we’ve seen SimpliSafe grow into quite the contender in the industry.1
But is SimpliSafe really all that it’s cracked up to be? It’s affordable and effective, sure, but we were concerned it would be a little too basic. So we got our hands on their latest system and spent over 100 hours testing it (it’s what we do). And we’re sharing our full experience with you today.
But before we dig in, we’ll say that SimpliSafe is ideal for renters and homeowners who want an easy-to-use security 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 #1 ranking on our top 10 best security systems list.
FYI: We found that SimpliSafe offers basic, intermediate, and even some advanced home security options. Just don’t expect fancy features like you’d get with ADT or Vivint, but SimpliSafe is also a fraction of the cost of those systems.
Signing up was fairly easy, and right away we liked that SimpliSafe offers a 60-day money-back guarantee. This helped to take the edge off of our purchase.
We went with the SimpliSafe Essentials kit, with a few extra fixin’s like additional sensors. And two days after ordering, our neighborhood delivery driver brought the package to our doorstep. Here’s what came in the box:
Keep an eye out for a free camera promotion — they sweetened the deal for us by throwing in a SimpliCam indoor camera. That’s a $99 value right there.
We also got 30-days of SimpiSafe’s 24/7 professional monitoring for free.
So when the dust settled, we had spent a grand total of $301.56 for the equipment. Keep in mind that most home security companies would charge $500-$1,000 for a package like this. So we felt like we got a pretty good deal.
All right, first things first — we had to roll up our sleeves to install our new SimpliSafe system. Actually, there really wasn’t much to it! The word “simple” is in the name, so we were expecting a fast and easy setup process.
First, we plugged in the base station. When it powered on, a soft blue light illuminated the base and a female voice said, “Welcome to SimpliSafe.” The silky-smooth robot greeting almost made it feel like one of those lucid dream movies.
One thing to note here: if you’re a Ring Alarm user who’s jumping ship for SimpliSafe, then you might get confused at first by the arm/disarm colors being opposite. At one point we thought our system was disarmed (it was blue!) when it most certainly wasn’t. But hey, at least we got to hear the siren for the first time.
Next, the wireless keypad connected to the base station, and then it walked us through the setup process.
Pro Tip: Since the keypad is wireless, we recommend taking 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 from companies like Alder.
We then chose a ‘Master PIN’, which we can’t stress enough to make it memorable, as you’ll be using it constantly with the keypad. Then all that was left to do was connect to WiFi.
If we’re being honest, this next part shook us right out of the “futuristic feels.” When we went to customize device names, we had to go through each and every letter (and digit!) to select the letter we wanted. Remember texting from your Nokia cell phone in 2001? It was kind of like that.
This brings us to an important point about SimpliSafe. We found that the hardware itself was 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 we get with more expensive systems with touchscreen controls. Was this a deal-breaker? Not at all. In fact, we welcomed the simplicity.
FYI: The SimpliSafe setup and configuration only took us a few minutes. So far, it’s the easiest and fastest setup we’ve ever done.
It’s worth mentioning that it took us a bit to warm up to the wireless keypad. It has funky navigation where you press on the screen itself to move through the menu. This is something we haven’t seen before from other brands. It actually grew on us pretty fast!
All we had to do now was mount our door/window sensors and motion sensor. You can use the adhesives that come on the back of the sensors, but we prefer using velcro to mount our equipment. It just makes it easier to take down in the future.
And that’s it! We were up and running in 20 minutes flat. With other DIY systems, setup and installation is tolerable, but it can feel like a chore. With SimpliSafe it didn’t feel like a chore at all. It was actually kind of fun.
At this point, we stopped and had a good look at the system as a whole. We’re tempted to say something like “this system won’t win any awards for dashing good looks.” But the truth is, it very well could. Maybe not the entry sensors (those are a little chunky to be honest), but in our opinion the base station is a sight to behold.
The base station just sits there… and 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 have a look at the image we snapped below.
See what we mean? At any rate, we thought it was a nice little addition to our home.
Now before we dive into SimpliSafe’s features and what it’s like to actually use the system, you should know about their monitoring plans.
SimpliSafe has two monitoring plans: Standard and Interactive. You’ll get a free 30-day trial of the Interactive plan, which gives you 24/7 monitoring and the SimpliSafe app. It’ll set you back $24.99 per month after the first month, but we think it’s worth it.
|SimpliSafe Plan||Upfront Cost||Monthly Cost||Installation||Features|
|Interactive||$229+||$24.99||DIY||24-7 monitoring, SMS and email alerts, remote arm and disarm|
You can self-monitor your SimpliSafe system using the keypad. This approach won’t cost you anything. However, with a paid plan you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the C.O.P.S. monitoring center has you covered if (or when!) someone breaks into your home.3 Plus you’ll get smartphone controls, which we recommend no matter which home security company you choose.
Bear in mind that we didn’t sign any contracts with SimpliSafe. This is nice, but most DIY systems are contract-free. 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. So now you can feel safe in your home and binge episodes of The Office 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 protected our home well. But we did come across some minor hiccups that you should know about.
First off, we were able to arm and disarm our alarm using the SimpliSafe app, wireless keypad, or keychain fob. Using the keypad is straightforward, you’ll just touch the keypad anywhere to wake it (pretty neat feature), enter your 4-digit PIN, and press “Off,” “Home,” or “Away.”
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 have to assume there could be a break-in, and they’ll call to see what’s going on.
The few times we tested it, the monitoring center contacted us in just 20 seconds on average. As far as response times go, 30 seconds is the industry average, so 20 seconds is pretty fast. See below for what this looks like in the SimpliSafe app, which we’ll touch on next.
If you’re like us, you prefer to use your smartphone for just about everything. Thankfully, SimpliSafe offers an intuitive mobile app that allowed us to control our system from pretty much anywhere. In our opinion, a strong app experience is essential these days, and SimpliSafe really delivers here.
*Note that we used the app about 75% of the time to manage our system, and we used the keypad the other 25% of the time.
The SimpliSafe app gets an impressive 4.8 stars out of 5 stars in the App Store, with nearly 100,000 reviews. So our expectations were reasonably high. After testing the app inside and out for several days, we rate it 4.5 stars. It’s good, but it’s not that good. We think companies like Vivint and Ring have SimpliSafe beat in the app department.
We were able to set up custom notifications — sent either via push alerts, email, and/or SMS text messages. If our home was targeted by burglars, we’d be the first to know with an instant mobile alert. This is extremely important and the reason why we recommend SimpliSafe’s Interactive plan.
Also, since we had a SimpliCam set up, we received a notification with a short video clip every time we entered our home. As you’ll see in a bit, we experienced a bit of a lag with the camera footage, but it was nice to see video recording of our home right in our dashboard.
Overall, the app was easy to use and quite functional. We just wish it had more customization features. We had to turn to our trusty keypad to really fine-tune our system. No biggie.
As you’ll recall from our aforementioned Raiders of the Lost Ark reference, the base station is bright. And we mean BRIGHT. On the first night, we had it set up in the living room — that is until the blue light practically blinded us only 10 minutes into Braveheart. So we moved the base station into our dining room. Crisis averted.
The next morning we found that the keypad offers plenty of features and settings, one of which is an on/off switch for the base unit light. So we could have easily turned off the bright blue light from the comfort of our couch. We were also able to control the siren volume, chime volume, alarm delay times, and other settings using the keypad.
This was refreshing, as many DIY systems don’t offer this kind of functionality. SimpliSafe is simple, but we didn’t feel like it was lacking much. That said, don’t get the idea that the keypad (or mobile app) is super high-tech; it’s really not. It doesn’t stack up to Vivint’s SmartHub or ADT’s Pulse touchscreen keypad. But it gave us just enough to scratch our ‘features & tech’ itch.
Now before we touch on the SimpliCam, we have to say we wish we had purchased an extra siren. We recommend placing a siren near your front door if you live in a large home. 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 well-placed siren at your entryway is never a bad idea.
Pro Tip: SimpliSafe’s 95 dB siren is loud, so we went into ‘Settings’ and set the siren volume to ‘Low’ while learning the system. If you do this, just remember to change it back to ‘High’ the first night. This way, if a bad guy tries climbing through a window, he’ll be sure to get the message that your home is not to be messed with. Want to go 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 we put it to the test and found that it does the job.
To set it up, we just plugged it into a wall (unfortunately it’s not wireless) and followed the prompts in the app. Then we just had to name the “property” — the default suggestion sounded nice, so we went with it.
Once our SimpliCam was set up, we could open the app and view our live-feed. Note that our SimpliCam camera recorded a short clip everytime our sensors tripped or the system’s status changed. It was a little much, but thankfully you can adjust these settings in the app.
The only issue we had with the camera was the lag. It lagged behind “real-time” by about 5 seconds. So what you see is not always what you get!
Keep in mind that you can sign up with SimpliSafe’s cloud storage plan for $4.99 per month if you want to store video clips for up to 30 days and access other advanced video features.
We did end up liking the SimpliCam, and we found it to be a great addition to our perimeter alarm. But as far as cameras go, we think there are better options out there.
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 sound a false alarm. It’s happened to us!
So far we’re 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, sometimes we like to sleep with our upstairs window open when the weather’s nice. But as we turned in, the app let us arm the system without asking if we wanted to “bypass” our window sensor. This means that any door or window — including our front door! — could be wide open and the system would still “arm,” no questions asked. And any passerby would have free reign to our home.
FYI: With Ring and other systems, the mobile app asks if you want to bypass any tripped sensors before arming, which is kind of important. Note that the SimpliSafe base station did announce the bypass, but we couldn’t hear it from way upstairs. So we think a two-step “bypass warning” in the app is needed. This is something to keep in mind.
Another small gripe we have with SimpliSafe is regarding their motion sensor. We’re used to putting these sensors a good 7 ft. off the ground. But alas, we had to mount SimpliSafe’s motion sensor 4 ft. off the ground because we own a dog. That’s about the height of a light switch, so just imagine a chunky little sensor where a light switch should be. If you’re a cat owner, you’ll mount it 6-10 ft. off the ground. This wasn’t a big deal, just a funky detail to note.
We’re also a little disappointed that SimpliSafe still doesn’t offer an outdoor security camera (we hear one’s coming though). They do sell an Outdoor Camera Kit ($19.99) that weatherproofs the indoor SimpliCam. But we’d sooner go with a Ring Stick Up Cam ($99), which has better features and is meant to live in the great outdoors.
We’re hoping 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 of your property, we recommend checking out our guide to the best outdoor security cameras available.
And one last thing in the complaints department. We think SimpliSafe could stand to be a little “smarter” in some areas. That is, we would have liked to see better smart home integration and features, even if it made SimpliSafe a bit less simple. As it stands, the system does work with Alexa and Google Home for voice control, but that’s about it.
We did feel protected in our home. And while we were away, we were confident that SimpliSafe would keep our home secure — or at least notify us immediately should a break-in occur.
But for an affordable DIY system, we were most impressed by how conscientious the system seemed. That’s not something we’ve ever said of a machine before, but it felt like we had a little friendly robot in our house.
For instance, one night as we sat down for dinner, we heard “Alarm Off” out of nowhere. It was the lady robot in the base station. We thought it was strange at first, but then it dawned on us that it was just a friendly reminder to arm the system for the night. A very conscientious thing to do!
FYI: SimpliSafe will also warn you when your batteries are running low. The company claims that battery life is approximately 1 year for the keypad and 5 years for all other sensors.
Then, on the third day using the system we received a software update notification on the keypad. It said it would take about 2 minutes to update, but it only took 4 seconds. That’s like pulling a number at the DMV and then being the very next person to be served.
Needless to say, the user experience is top-notch. After living with SimpliSafe for a while, we can say that the system 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 touchscreen panel and an outdoor camera or two — but if you can overlook these minor drawbacks, we think SimpliSafe brings a lot to the table.
On the first day using SimpliSafe we actually needed some help from the tech department to get squared away with monitoring. So we called in and spoke with a service agent named Khalil.
Khalil was friendly and professional, and he solved our problem in a matter of minutes. He even gave us his personal extension if we needed to call back. We really appreciated this continuity of service. After all, it’s the worst having to explain your situation to one customer service representative, only to have to rehash it 5 minutes later with a different rep (we’ve all been there).
SimpliSafe also has an FAQ section, troubleshooting forum, and they offer email support as well. You’ll find what you’re looking for in the SimpliSafe app under ‘Help & Support’.
It’s worth mentioning that we also received great service from a SimpliSafe rep named Glenda. Thankfully, both times we called in we found the help we needed. So the company makes the grade as far as customer service goes.
Keep in mind that SimpliSafe also offers environmental monitoring. If you want extra peace of mind (especially while out of town!), you might want to look into the company’s smoke and CO sensors, flood sensors, and freeze sensors. We didn’t find anything particularly special here, as most home security companies offer environmental hazard monitoring these days.
If you want to protect your home without losing your shirt, we do think SimpliSafe is the best way to go. The company runs deals that start at $149 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, we purchased an 11-piece kit for $301.56 that secured our 2,800 sq. ft. home just fine.
Here are SimpliSafe’s current packages and pricing:
|Monitoring Plan||Price||Equipment Quantity||Perks|
|The Haven||$318||14 Pieces||– Equipped to monitor for
unexpected water damage
– Comes with a panic button
|The Knox||$292||13 Pieces||– Great for large homes
with 4+ bedrooms
|The Hearth||$243||13 Pieces||– Offers smoke detection
– Equipped with a 105 dB siren
|The Essentials||$168||6 Pieces||– Most affordable price for all
the essentials of home security
|The Foundation||$149||4 Pieces||– Perfect for small apartments
and single-family homes
We also recommend going with a paid monitoring plan. The Interactive plan costs $24.99 per month and comes with camera support, SimpliSafe’s mobile app, and 24/7 professional monitoring. With a few exceptions, this is one of the more affordable monitoring plans we’ve seen (and we’ve seen lots!). Also, you don’t have to worry about installation or activation fees. But affordable monitoring and no-fees is fairly standard for DIY systems today.
When we set out to test SimpliSafe, we figured we’d miss out on critical features. But that just wasn’t the case. We enjoyed pretty much everything we look for in a home security system, minus outdoor cameras and smart home integrations. We also felt safe and secure in our home, which is really the most important thing.
So is SimpliSafe worth it? Well, it certainly doesn’t rank #1 on our list by accident! We think it’s a safe bet, especially if you sign up with their Interactive monitoring plan with app-based controls. And remember, SimpliSafe has been known to throw in a SimpliCam to sweeten the deal (we scored one for free!).
Although these systems aren’t packed to the gills with high-tech features, we think SimpliSafe offers some stiff competition at a more affordable price point. At the end of the day, the system was refreshingly easy-to-use, with just enough features to keep us happy.
SimpliSafe systems are 100% 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