SimpliSafe Camera Tested

Published Mar 07, 2017 12:15 PM

SimpliSafe is one of the most controversial companies in the industry, as they have become the symbol of the DIY threat to traditional alarm providers. Indeed, Simplisafe is doing very well financially.

Expanding from their foundation in alarm systems, Simplisafe has a camera, allowing users to add video to their SimpliSafe system.

We bought and tested the SimpliSafe camera (along with their second generation hub) to see how it compared to other consumer/DIY cloud camera offerings in image quality, usability, physical features, and more.


Based on our testing, the SimpliSafe camera is limited compared to typical consumer/DIY cameras such as Nest or EZVIZ, with below average low light imaging, and limited in usability features (no digital zoom, mute, etc.).

Because of these issues, the camera is likely only attractive to existing SimpliSafe users who wish to add "eyes" to their system, not those looking for a full featured camera offering.

Key Limitations

These are the key limitations found in our tests of the SimpliSafe camera, which we asked SimpliSafe about.  Below are our test findings with responses from SimpliSafe:

  • Poor low light image quality: While its full light image quality was close or similar to 1080p competitors, the SimpliSafe camera performed poorly in low light, with more digital noise and artifacting.
  • Intrusion event recording only: Video is only recorded when intrusion events take place on its associated hub. There is no option for continuous or manual recording.
  • Limited usability live/playback usability: Only basic live viewing and clip playback/download are supported. Basic common features such as digital zoom, snapshot, fast forward/rewind, mute audio, etc., are not available. 

Response / Feature Additions

In response to our test feedback, SimpliSafe says they are working on several improvements:

  • Standalone app coming: A standalone camera only app is planned for early Q2 2017, which will eliminate the need for a hub/location to add and use the camera. [[Note: Cameras can now be used standalone, but use the same app as the Simplisafe alarm]]
  • PIR/VMD/Manual recording: SimpliSafe plans to release additional recording modes along with the standalone app, using the camera's PIR, video motion detection, as well as user initiated manual recording. [[Note: Now released]]
  • Usability additions: Finally, usability functions such as digital zoom, clip management, multi-streaming, and microphone adjustments are all planned after the release of the standalone camera app.

SimpliSafe has no immediate plans to release a higher resolution (1080p+) model, saying they are "heavily focused on bandwidth management and optimizing [their] compression algorithms so that [they] can provide higher resolution streams in future product." 

Camera Pricing

The SimpliSafe camera sells for $99 USD direct from SimpliSafe. This is significantly less than many consumer cameras, such as the Nest Cam (~$199), and priced similarly to EZVIZ's MiniPlus (~$90), though both these competitive models are 1080p instead of 720p.

Compared to lower resolution models, such as the 720p Yi Home or EZVIZ Mini O, both ~$40, the SimpliSafe camera is over twice the price.

Subscription Pricing

Without a subscription, the system is capable of live streaming, privacy shutter controls, and camera settings only.

With subscription, $4.99 USD per month after the first free month, the following features are available:

  • 30 days of event based recordings
  • Video verification of alarms
  • Video clip download (MP4)
  • Push notifications tied to video events

This pricing is moderately lower than typical cloud subscriptions, ~$8-10 per month per camera. There is no option for local SD card recording.

Physical Overview

In this video, we review the physical features of the SimpliSafe camera, including the privacy shutter, microphone, status LED, and size comparison to Nest.

Basic Configuration

There are limited configuration options available in the SimpliSafe camera, essentially only status LED on/off, IR LED on/off, and privacy shutter options without settings to optimize the camera.

Privacy Shutter

The SimpliSafe camera includes a removable privacy shutter which can be set to open/close manually or automatically based on system mode. When closed, no video may be captured. Along with the blue light extinguishing the steel shutter against the all black camera makes it is easy to verify that the shutter closed with just a glance. This animation shows the privacy shutter opening and closing.

Limited App Usability

Compared to most consumer cameras, the SimpliSafe app is limited in features available for live view and playback.

In live view, the only options available are play/pause by tapping on the camera's video. No snapshot, digital zoom, or audio functions are accessible here. Note that audio is always enabled in live and recorded video and cannot be disabled.

In playback mode, entered by tapping on a specific event, two additional controls become available: download clip and 10 second rewind/forward, shown here:

Image Comparison

The field of view for testing is shown below.  The image was taken from the SimpliSafe Home Security Camera.

In full light the SSCM1 performed well, providing similar facial details to the 1080p cameras. The SSCM1 provided only slightly less detail on he chart, showing enough detail to read the 2nd line and parts of the 3rd, while with the higher resolution cameras the 4th line can be read.

 In low light the SSCM1 performed the worst of the cameras tested, not showing enough detail to identify that there is a chart in the FoV.

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