Ring vs. SimpliSafe: Best DIY Home Security System For Most?

Cam Secore
Updated 08/28/2019

After two weeks of testing, I determined the Ring Alarm 5 Piece Kit is the best DIY security system because you can self-monitor for free or professionally monitor for $10/month, and it has better smart home integration. The SimpliSafe 5 Piece Security System has a better build quality, but it’s almost useless without the $25/month plan.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two DIY home security systems (Ring vs. SimpliSafe) while evaluating five categories: setup, price, software, hardware, and optional accessories.

Setup & Support (A+):

  • You install your system with the Ring phone app. You scan the QR codes located on the back of the accessories to activate and add them to your system. Ring holds your hand with a step-by-step interactive walkthrough guide.
  • Ring includes a wireless z-wave range extender to increase the distance that your accessories can be from the base station. I didn’t use the range extender because my house is only 1,200 square feet, but I love the potential versatility that it adds.
  • Ring has 24/7 technical support via phone and chat services. I had a question about smart lock integration that I thought would trip them up (because it’s a new feature), but it took the representative less than a minute to come up with a solution.

Monitoring (A+):

  • Ring uses a third-party service, Rapid Response, for their paid monitoring service. I didn’t test the response times myself, but Ring claims a 30-second average response time, and I didn’t find anything on the internet that contradicts that.
  • Ring asks you for three emergency contacts. When your alarm is triggered, all three contacts get called and if no one picks up, the authorities are called automatically. If you pick up the call, they’ll ask for your safe word, and you’ll decide what should be done next.
  • You get a seven-day training period where the authorities won’t be called when your system is triggered, but you can turn the training mode off once you’re ready.
  • My favorite part about Ring’s security system is that you can self-monitor the system for free. While self-monitoring isn’t as safe as having a professional monitor your house, it’s great if:
    • You want peace of mind but can’t afford SimpliSafe’s $25/month plan.
    • You want assurance that certain things have happened in your house. For example, certain rooms stay vacant, your kids arrive home, a door stays shut, etc.
  • Protect Plus Plan” is Ring’s only subscription plan. It’s $10/month or $100/year and includes:
    • 24/7 professional monitoring for break-ins, burglaries, smoke, carbon monoxide detection, and floods.
    • 30-days of video recording storage if you have Ring Doorbell or other Ring cameras.
    • You don’t unlock any new app features because you get them all for free.

Software (A-):

  • There are three modes: Disarmed, Away and Home. Each mode can be turned on with the keypad by entering your code, then tapping the mode button you want. 
  • You can choose which accessories you want active in each mode. For example, when you’re home, you’ll care less about motion in your living room than when you’re away.
  • You can change modes inside the Ring app too.
  • Ring gives you control of the types of alerts you want enabled. You can customize individual accessories to instantly notify you without sounding the alarm. For example, you want a notification when someone goes into your closet, but you don’t need the siren to go off in that situation. There’s an option for email alerts too.
  • You’ll want an entry delay when you arrive home so that you have enough time to enter your code. The default delay is one minute, but you can increase it to up to three minutes.
  • You’ll want an exit delay when you’re leaving the house to give you enough time to exit and shut the door. During the standard one minute delay, the base station and keypad make an annoying countdown noise with a red indicator letting you know how much time you have left. There’s no way to silently arm and leave the house unless you want to disable all sounds.
  • While your system is disarmed, the doors can play a chime sound via your base station when they are opened.
  • You can give additional household members access to your system in the app by entering their email address. They’ll each get their own access code too.
  • You won’t get Google Assistant or HomeKit support. The only smart home platform that Ring supports is Alexa. You can ask Alexa to arm your system without a code, but disarming will require you to speak your code.
  • Ring has partnered with Schlage, Yale, and Kwikset smart locks that are z-wave compatible. If you add compatible smart locks to your Ring app, you’ll be able to use the app to lock and unlock the door and create access codes.
  • You can arm and disarm your security system with your smart lock too. For example, you’ll enter your access code on your smart lock to unlock the door and the security system changes modes (disarms in this case) automatically. You can make your system arm whenever you lock your door too. It’s an opt-in feature because not everyone wants tight integration like this. Ring’s smart lock integration is its best feature for people who have them.
  • Ring instantly alerts you when accessories are tampered with or aren’t working.
  • In my opinion, Ring has more potential to innovate than SimpliSafe for two reasons:
    • Ring is an app-focused system. Software platforms can be iterated quickly and be tailored to specific user needs more easily than a fixed hardware solution.
    • Ring’s owned by Amazon. They are a technology giant with unlimited funds and huge connections for future smart home integration with other companies.
  • First minor annoyance: when you’re in Away mode and arrive home, you can’t put the system into Home mode without disarming the system first. Ideally, you would enter the code, then hit the Home button and it would disarm and change the mode at the same time.
  • Second minor annoyance: when you arm your system, and it’s in the exit delay, you can’t cancel it without entering your PIN again.

Hardware (C):

  • Ring accessories have a cheap feel, but that’s because Ring is a budget system. It works as intended, just don’t expect great craftsmanship.
  • I bought Ring’s most popular package, Ring Alarm 5 Piece Kit. It includes a base station, contact sensor, motion sensor, keypad, and wireless range extender.
  • Base Station:
    • It has 24-hour battery backup power that’s rechargeable. It’s an advantage over SimipliSafe’s AA batteries.
    • It’s a 7″ x 7″ x 1.5″ modem-like box and takes up more shelf space than I’d like.
    • It has a loud 104dB siren. It’s noticeably louder than SimpliSafe.
    • It has a cellular receiver when your WiFi goes down.
    • It has a speaker to alert you of the enter and exit delays, but the voice isn’t as helpful as SimpliSafe’s.
  • Keypad:
    • One thing holding Ring’s system back is the keypad. It gets the job done, but there are issues:
      • It feels like a toy.
      • The keys are backlit, but not until you touch them.
      • The buttons to arm and disarm can’t be seen at night because they’re not backlit. You’ll get used to the button placement, but it’s hard when you’re first learning the system.
      • You need to redundantly enter your PIN to arm the system.
      • There’s a panic button if you get in trouble, but there’s no way to secretly inform Ring that there’s an intruder present. SimpliSafe uses “Duress Code” for this.
      • There’s no screen.
    • You can power the keypad with the power cord, but there’s also a rechargeable battery inside for when you lose power. You can run the keypad on the batteries for 12 months before needing a charge if you’re not near an outlet.
  • Contact Sensor:
    • The contact sensor comes in two pieces and is used to detect when doors and windows are opened. The big piece goes on the door, while the smaller piece goes on the door frame. These sensors are bigger than the competition and might affect where you can put them, and they’ll be more prone to fall off because of the extra weight.
    • The CR123A batteries are rated for up to three years and they’re the reason why the sensors are larger.
    • Ring gives you strong adhesive double-sided tape and screws. The screws aren’t necessary, but they reduce the chance that the sensor will fall off.
  • Motion Sensor:
    • The motion sensor is twice the volume of SimpliSafe’s.
    • It uses heat to detect motion via passive infrared sensors.
    • Unlike SimpliSafe, you can change the sensitivity level for how often it triggers.
    • You can choose between five chirp tones for when the doors are opened and the system is disarmed.
    • There’s a test mode to establish the best sensitivity level automatically. 
    • The range is stronger than SimpliSafe’s, but I wouldn’t rely on the motion sensor as more than a failsafe.

Accessory Options (A):

  • Ring doesn’t have a key fob or a glass break sensor in their product lineup yet, but the tight smart lock integration makes up for no key fob.
  • Here are Ring accessories that aren’t typically included with a traditional set. You can add them to your system via the Ring app and customize when and which modes you want each accessory to trigger:
    • Ring Doorbells are what made Ring famous. I reviewed them earlier this year. The video calling aspect is a gimmick, but getting a motion alert when your package arrives on your doorstep is helpful.
    • Ring has three different outdoor camera options: Ring Stick Up Cam, Ring Spot Light Cam, and Ring Floodlight Cam.
    • Panic Button triggers the siren when you press and hold for three seconds.
    • Third-party accessories like smart locks, smart switches, smart outlets can be managed in the Ring app too.
    • Smoke & Co Listener is a device that should be placed next to your existing smoke detector. When your smoke detector sounds, it triggers your Ring Listener, which then calls the fire department.
    • Flood & Freeze Sensor gets placed near water sources to alert you when water or low temperatures are detected.
    • Outdoor Motion Sensor detects motion outside.
    • Ring has five outdoor smart lights that can be turned on via timers, motion, or the triggering of another accessory. For example, when a contact sensor is triggered the lights will come on.

SimpliSafe

7

Setup & Support (B-):

  • Most smart home products have an interactive, step-by-step walkthrough in the app for installation. I love phone app installations because they are tailored to specific user needs and companies can tweak steps after seeing where users get stuck. I can’t remember the last time I read paper instructions to set up a tech product. While you can set up SimpliSafe with the phone app, you’ll run into issues.
  • I was stuck after trying to set up with the app, so I called SimpliSafe for troubleshooting tips because they won’t help via email for security reasons. Once they helped me reset my system, I located my paper instructions and followed them. The setup process was easy after you connect your keypad to your base station, then carry around the keypad to set up the other accessories.
  • Bottom line: if you follow the paper instructions and then use the keypad to sync your accessories, you’ll be fine. But if you’re a techie and want an app setup, go with Ring.
  • “Dave at SimpliSafe” blew up my inbox with automated emails every day with tips on how to use my system while I couldn’t get it running due to my installation errors. It’s my fault because I didn’t have time to call SimpliSafe for a few days, but it left a bad taste in my mouth when I couldn’t respond to the emails because SimpliSafe requires a phone call.
  • Once the system is running and you’ve paid for a subscription, SimpliSafe smartly puts your system in “test mode” for three days to let you learn and play around with the system without calling the police when the alarm is triggered.
  • As you add new accessories to your system, the speaker on the base station gives you status updates and prompts.
  • While SimpliSafe has 24/7 monitoring, their technical support is only available from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM via phone. They respond to support emails within 48 hours, but there’s not much they can help with. Most issues require a phone call.

Monitoring (F):

  • Without a paid subscription, your system functions as a siren when one of the sensors is triggered, but it won’t call the police or send you a notification. You won’t get monitoring, remote access, or smart assistant control either. The free plan is only helpful when you’re home and someone breaks into your house while you’re sleeping.
  • SimpliSafe uses a third-party service, COPS, for their paid monitoring service.
  • Once your alarm is triggered, SimpliSafe calls both of your emergency contacts. If no one picks up, emergency responders are called automatically. If you pick up the phone call, you’ll be asked to confirm your safe word, then they’ll ask you what you need.
  • SimpliSafe has two subscription plans:
    • Standard ($15/month): 
      • 24/7 professional monitoring.
      • A cellular connection so that your system works when your WiFi stops working.
      • Detects fires and calls the fire department if you have the SimpliSafe smoke detector.
      • Detects water damage if you have the SimpliSafe water sensor.
    • Interactive ($25/month): 
      • You get everything included with the standard package. 
      • You can arm and disarm with the phone app.
      • You get alerts on your phone.
      • You can create “Secret Alerts” that won’t trigger the alarm, but silently notify your phone. For example, you could put a secret alert on your liquor cabinet to keep your kids out.
      • Video alarm verification that will start automatically recording on your cameras (if they’re installed) once the alarm is triggered.
      • You get smart home controls with Alexa, Google, August and Apple Watch.
  • You need the Standard plan for SimpliSafe to be functional, but it’s hard to avoid the Interactive plan because that’s where you get the helpful features. Do you want to pay $15/month for a security system that doesn’t have phone notifications when someone breaks into your house? I don’t.
  • $25/month is reasonable for peace of mind, but relative to Ring’s similar offering at $10/month, it’s hard to go with SimpliSafe.
  • SimpliSafe’s position on the market is confusing because it’s too expensive for DIY and casual monitoring, but it’s not as efficient and safe as a system that’s installed by a professional team considering the sensor’s stuck on the door with double-sided tape.

Software (B):

  • SimpliSafe’s app is useless if you don’t have a subscription. The only thing you can do in the app for free is view a list of your system’s activity or pay for a subscription. Surprisingly, the app is useless with the Standard plan too. You can’t even arm or disarm the system.
  • Aside from the lack of an interactive app setup, SimpliSafe’s app has a clean and straightforward interface if you have the Interactive plan. I’ll grade this section, assuming you have the Interactive plan.
  • You get three modes: Off, Home, and Away. Each mode can be turned on with the phone app, the keypad, or the key fob.
  • You can change your Master PIN, add a Duress PIN, and create custom pins for other family members to disarm the system.
  • You pick how you want each accessory (motion sensors, door sensors, flood sensors, etc.) to act in each of the three alarm modes (Off, Home, and Away).
  • You’ll want an entry delay before the alarm is triggered on your accessories. SimpliSafe’s default is 30 seconds, but you can increase it to up to four minutes. If you don’t, when your system is armed, and you open the door, you have 30 seconds to enter your PIN before the siren goes off.
  • You’ll want an exit delay too. SimpliSafe’s default is one minute, but you can increase it to up to four minutes.
  • You can pick the alert type (alarm, activity, and error) and how you want to receive the alert (push notification, SMS, or email). For example, you can choose to send all error messages to your email, but send alarm triggers via push notifications.
  • August is the only smart lock that has an integration with SimpliSafe, but it’s not overly helpful because you need to be inside your house. August will automatically lock when you’ve armed your system or unlock when you’ve disarmed the system. Ring’s integration is done the smarter way with the opposite approach: when you lock your door your system is armed.
  • Hypothetically, you can unlock your door and disarm the system with one button on the SimpliSafe Key Fob. If you have the key fob this is a powerful feature.
  • You can’t give household members access to your system via the app. They’ll need to use your login credentials.
  • You can arm and disarm your system with Alexa and Google. The smart assistants can arm without a code, but disarming requires you to say your code.
  • You can single out specific accessories to instantly trigger the alarm.
  • Neither SimpliSafe nor Ring have native geofencing, where your system changes modes based on your phone’s location, but if you have Nest products you can integrate SimpliSafe with Nest to get geofencing features. When Nest knows you’re in Away mode, it’ll arm your system.
  • First minor annoyance: SimpliSafe doesn’t warn you when you try to arm your system with one of your accessories out of proper position. For example, you can arm your system with one of your doors or windows still open.
  • Second minor annoyance: SimpliSafe doesn’t instantly notify you when one of your accessories isn’t working or is tampered with as Ring does. It takes up to 24 hours for it to notice something is wrong.
  • Third minor annoyance: the app doesn’t sync to the base station in real-time, like Ring. If you want the status of a door, you need to manually refresh the page to get its status.

Hardware (B):

  • If design aesthetics are your thing, neither of these systems are for you, but SimpliSafe’s accessories have better build quality and are made in a smarter way than Ring’s.
  • I bought a five-piece system called “The Nook.” It includes a base station, contact sensor, motion sensor, keypad, and key fob. The other packages include extra sensors and other optional accessories that are listed below.
  • Base Station:
    • SimpliSafe’s base has a useful speaker. When you arm your system, it says “please exit now.” A voice updates you during the installation process too.
    • It’s a 9” tall cylinder with a light ring near the bottom.
    • When the light on the base station is solid blue, your system is armed. When it flashes blue, it’s in the exit or entry delay, and you need to enter your code.
    • It has a 24-hour backup that uses four AA batteries if you lose power. I wish that they were rechargeable, like Ring’s.
    • It has a cellular receiver if your WiFi goes down.
    • It has a 95dB siren.
  • Keypad:
    • The keypad is powered by four AA batteries. I’d prefer rechargeable batteries.
    • The keypad is well-built with raised, backlit rubber keys. It feels more like a legit security system when compared to Ring’s keypad.
    • The keypad utilizes a backlit screen. It has status updates, notifications, and setting configurations. Even though the screen is old school and not a touchscreen, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
    • You add all your accessories with the keypad.
    • You can program a “Duress Code” for when an intruder is forcing you to turn off the alarm. SimpliSafe will immediately send emergency responders once the code is entered.
  • Entry Sensor:
    • The sensor is smaller than Ring’s and used to tell when windows and doors are open. The big piece of the sensor sticks to the door frame, while the small piece goes at the top of the door. It’s a smart design decision to have the piece that weighs less stick to the door because the door moves. It’s versatile due to the size too.
    • They come with double-sided tape without an option to screw them in. 
  • Motion Sensor:
    • It’s about half the size of Ring’s.
    • It detects motion within 30 feet and has a 90-degree field of view.
    • If your sensor is higher than five feet off the ground, it shouldn’t be triggered by pets under 50 pounds, but the internet says otherwise.
    • They recommend you place it in a corner, and it’s perfectly shaped for this.
    • The range isn’t nearly as strong as Ring’s. It performed mediocrely in my tests. I wouldn’t rely on either brands’ motion sensor as more than a failsafe.

Accessories (A):

  • SimpliSafe doesn’t have outdoor cameras in its product line. 
  • Here are the accessories that are not typically included with a traditional set that can be added to your system via the keypad. You can customize when and which modes you want each accessory to trigger.
    • Video Doorbell Pro is a smart doorbell.
    • SimpliCam is an indoor security camera.
    • Glassbreak Sensor distinguishes between a broken plate and a broken window and triggers the system when it’s glass.
    • Panic Button is a button that can be pressed to trigger your system’s alarm.
    • Smoke Detector detects when there’s smoke.
    • Temperature Sensor detects when the temperature reaches below 41 degrees.
    • Water Sensor detects leaks and potential floods. It should be placed near water sources, like a washing machine or water heater.
    • Extra 105dB Siren is for bigger houses that need a siren to travel further than the regular base station.
    • Key Fob lets you change your system’s mode to Off, Home, or Away. It works almost instantly when you’re within 200 feet of the base station.
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