SimpliSafe Home Security
Is SimpliSafe a good buy in 2023?
The home security category continues to be a competitive mix of professionally installed services and DIY options. Among them, SimpliSafe takes a hybrid approach with devices that are easy to set up and install yourself combined with the option of 24/7 professional monitoring. It’s still a relatively good value, particularly when compared with established names like Vivint and ADT, which can cost hundreds or even thousands more for a full-home setup.
SimpliSafe’s offerings haven’t changed much since the last time we tested the system in the fall of 2021. You’ll find the same mix of sensors, cameras and other equipment as you build out your system, and for the most part, prices have held steady in recent years. That said, the cost of 24/7 monitoring, which used to be available for $18 a month when we first tested it, has risen to $30 a month (you can also monitor things yourself with unlimited storage for motion-activated camera clips for $10 a month). Meanwhile, the cost of optional professional installation (which SimpliSafe says 97% of customers skip) has risen from $99 to $125.
There’s also a smart wireless indoor camera that promises to allow SimpliSafe’s monitoring centers to communicate with anyone they see on camera via two-way talk, and has a built-in motion sensor. The camera is $140, which is $40 more than the standard wired camera.
Current competitors, including Ring, Wyze, Abode, Arlo and others, have worked to muscle their way into the DIY security market in recent years, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best security camera on its own. Still, as one of the most well-rounded systems on the market — and one that doesn’t require you to call a salesperson to hear what it’ll cost to set up — SimpliSafe is an attractive and straightforward option for home security shoppers in 2023.
Our full review, originally published in September 2021 and updated in November 2023 to reflect recent pricing changes, continues below.
SimpliSafe Home Security has quite a track record. It won a CNET Editors’ Choice Award back in 2014 after exploding onto the still-burgeoning DIY home security scene. Then in 2018, when the third-gen system launched, it impressed us again — and it’s remained one of our top DIY home security picks ever since (only Amazon’s Ring Alarm Pro system has bested its score).
SimpliSafe’s home security packages start at $245, technically speaking, but you can almost always find them at steep discounts on the company’s site. At the time of today’s update to this review, for instance, the basic package only costs $196 and the most generous one (which includes two outdoor security cameras in addition to the base station, two motion detectors and four entry sensors) costs $560. I’ll do a more thorough breakdown of the prices compared with competitors later in the review, but suffice it to say, it’s a solid deal.
The system is just as capable as before, too. It works reliably, the devices on offer cover everything you’d need, and you can bag 24/7 professional monitoring alongside your local alarm for $30 a month. That’s a steep increase from previous monitoring plans, which only cost $18 a month, but SimpliSafe lessens the sting by bundling in attractive features like a cellular backup for your system at no additional cost.
In short, SimpliSafe is still fantastic — even if it’s not quite as dominant a value as it once was.
We’ve tested SimpliSafe a number of times, but our latest test, in August and September of 2021, was of a package that totaled about $827 — or $630 if I opted for a free two-week trial of the 24/7 professional monitoring service. Yes, the company incentivizes signing up for a monthly subscription.
Part of SimpliSafe Home Security’s appeal is that you can also build your own custom system with the specific sensors that make sense for your living space. To do so, you’ll start with the mandatory base station and keypad, which together now cost $80, down from $185, then add additional devices a la carte. Here’s the full menu, plus what I paid:
- Entry sensor: $15
- Motion sensor: $30
- Wireless Outdoor Camera: $190
- Wireless Indoor Camera: $140
- Wired Indoor Camera: $99
- SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro: $169
- Glass break sensor: $35
- Panic button: $20
- Smoke and Carbon monoxide sensor: $60
- Smoke Detector: $35
- Temperature Sensor: $30
- Water Sensor: $20
- Keypad: $70
- Key fob: $25
- Siren: $60
- Yard sign: $4
I used three entry sensors, one motion sensor, one of each camera, along with a glass break sensor, leak detector (now called a water sensor), freeze detector (now called a temperature sensor), panic button and key fob. The single biggest factor in my total price was the three cameras — without them, my total with a subscription would’ve ended up at $272 (more on the cameras later).
When it comes to the sensors, SimpliSafe’s pricing is nicely positioned: It’s not as cheap as Wyze’s Monitoring system, where motion and leak sensors are both $9 each, and entry sensors are $24 for three. But it’s consistently cheaper than, say, Abode’s comparable devices (Abode’s entry sensors, for example, are $40 each, though you can get them at a significant discount by catching a sale or getting a six-pack).
Even though SimpliSafe’s devices cost a bit more than Wyze’s industry low, they feel much more solid, and they look better, too. In my time with SimpliSafe, all the sensors performed as expected.
Once your system arrives, it’s up to you to install it yourself. SimpliSafe made this really, really easy. Each sensor comes with a preapplied sticky tab on its detachable backs. Just peel and stick — no wiring necessary. If you need to move something, the sensors detach from their backings, exposing the sticky tabs for easy removal that won’t damage your walls. The only thing you’ll need to plug in is the base station.
That said, SimpliSafe does offer professional setup help for $125 if you need it, but also says 97% of its customers set their systems up themselves.
With your sensors in place, you’ll put the keypad into pairing mode, then pair everything up by pressing a button on each sensor, then giving it a name on the keypad. From there, you can make any final tweaks to the system settings by logging in to SimpliSafe’s web portal, or by using the SimpliSafe app. The whole process took me less than an hour; it’s not quite as simple as with Abode (where all the devices came already paired), but it’s about as painless as self-installs can get.
SimpliSafe charges $30 a month for the interactive plan, which includes 24/7 professional monitoring alongside other features like the cellular backup, alarm texts and video alarm verification. The other option is to monitor your system yourself with a $10 monthly plan that includes unlimited storage of motion-activated camera clips for up to five cameras. Both are sensible enough, but it’s a shame that SimpliSafe eliminated the middle-ground plan that offered 24/7 monitoring for $18 a month.
How it works
The SimpliSafe Home Security system’s sensors keep in constant contact with the base station, which relays everything to your phone (or, in an emergency, to authorities) via Wi-Fi. The base station also includes a 24-hour battery backup and a fee-free cellular connection to the company’s monitoring service — if the power or the Wi-Fi ever goes out, it’ll still be able to call for help. This cell backup is one of SimpliSafe’s standout features, and it’s one of the big ways the service differentiates itself from more affordable alternatives like Wyze and Ring Alarm, which don’t offer that extra safety measure (although the more recent and more expensive Ring Alarm Pro does).
SimpliSafe’s approach also separates the most sensitive system components from the keypad, the part that beeps and asks for a PIN if the alarm is ever tripped. In many cases, that beeping keypad is probably the first thing that an intruder would try to smash in order to shut down the system, but doing so wouldn’t make a difference.
The system offers three modes during use: Off, which is pretty self-explanatory; Away, which arms the sensors; and Home, which leaves some sensors on but disarms things like motion detectors so you can move around inside without setting anything off. By default, SimpliSafe gives you 30 seconds to disarm the system upon entry (you can customize that length of time in the app).
To disarm the system, press the off button on the key fob or in the app, or enter your code using the keypad. You can assign specific codes to specific users or guests, and you can also set a duress code for situations where someone is forcing you to disarm the system against your will. Punch it into the keypad, and it will appear as if the alarm is canceled and the system disarmed, but SimpliSafe will still send in the authorities.
If you’re paying $30 a month for the full system controls, you’ll be able to arm and disarm the system from the SimpliSafe app, or arm it on your way out the door with a quick voice command to Alexa or Google.
If the alarm is ever tripped, your phone will ring and a SimpliSafe representative will ask if everything’s OK. They’ll also ask for your safe word — a secret password of your choice that acts like an extra vocal PIN for the system. Fail to give it, and they’ll still send the authorities, no matter what else you say. Like the duress code, it’s a nice, extra layer of protection.
SimpliSafe also lets you specify which sensors will trigger an entry delay and which ones will trigger an instant alarm. You’ll probably want a chance to disarm the system if you trip a contact sensor or a motion detector, for instance, while a glass break sensor alert might merit an instant alarm with no delay (again, you can personalize this, in case you’re prone to dropping plates or have kids around the house).
You can also set secret alerts that can send you a SMS, email or app notification without tripping the alarm at all. Hide a contact sensor on the inside of your liquor cabinet, for instance, and you’ll get an alert if your teenager ever tries to sneak a sip.
You’re on, cameras!
SimpliSafe’s system has been among our favorite home security systems for a number of years — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have room to grow. Sure, the sensors — those crucial bits of connective tissue for any good home security system — offer solid value for the price, but the cameras aren’t quite as unmitigated a success.
These days $99 indoor cameras and $169 video doorbells are fairly standard devices, even when you’re buying them stand-alone from top brands like Google Nest, Amazon Ring or Arlo — and SimpliSafe’s options simply don’t stand up to those top devices.
The video doorbell offers all the basics you’d expect, like two-way talk, motion alerts, night vision, live feed monitoring and storage (with camera plans starting at $10 per month). But its wide-angle lens means you don’t get a great view of your actual doorstep, where packages are usually left. What’s more, the doorbell can’t be set up wirelessly — which is a real bummer, since many customers looking for DIY home security kits won’t have doorbell wiring, or won’t be allowed by their landlord to fiddle with it.
The indoor camera, which again comes with all the basics, like a 120-degree field of view, motion detection and night vision, is a little more impressive. It includes a privacy shutter, like Arlo’s indoor camera, and person alerts using heat sensing.
The outdoor camera costs $190, but you’ll get a lot out of it: live monitoring, two-way talk, 8x digital zoom, night vision and a built-in siren. The outdoor camera was a breeze to install and use, and I loved that it came with a built-in spotlight. The one disappointment there was that I couldn’t manually control the light, setting times for it to turn on or off, or simply switching it on when I wanted.
For $190, though, the outdoor light/camera is a solid deal.
SimpliSafe’s approach to DIY security is appealing, but it’s all for nothing if the sensors don’t work reliably well. Back in 2018, we put the sensors through a weeklong battery of tests, and the results were solid.
The open/closed contact sensors were the most reliable, triggering the alarm each and every time they were supposed to. The motion detector performed well, too. It was able to distinguish between people and small pets just fine, and it caught our reviewer walking through the room about 95 percent of the time. The other 5%: a test where something seemed to hiccup and it was a few minutes before any motion was sensed. That wasn’t a great result, but it was the only true misfire across several days of testing.