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ByLidia Davis Contributor

Lidia is a former writer for Reviews.com. She’s researched and written extensively about home security, home automation, online privacy, and many other subjects.

Abode Smart Home Security Review

In our original assessment of the DIY home security space, we were impressed with the amount of integrations and monitoring autonomy Abode offered, especially without having to opt into a higher price tier. Today, Abode still seems to live up to these claims and continues to provide one of the most robust free plans on the market for similar hybrid systems. Meaning, unlike most professionally-monitored and installed systems, Abode doesn’t require you to pay a monthly fee in order to receive text and email alerts on your system.

Abode CEO and Co-Founder Chris Carney was part of ADT Pulse’s strategy team before branching out and building his own home security system. The impetus behind Abode, he says, was driven by making the product consumer-centric. “It started with providing them [consumers] with professional-grade home security that could compete with the ADTs of the world,” Carney said, explaining that Abode offers environmental sensors and equipment comparable to a professionally-installed system, but in a way that requires only minutes of installation (if you want to do it yourself).

For this review, we spent around 10 hours researching and comparing Abode’s systems to competitors, tested online plan customization features, chatted with customer service reps, and interviewed the company’s CEO — all to bring you the full scope of Abode’s home security and automation systems.

The Claim

Abode claims its systems are designed to help customers build their own smart security systems, as well as maintain and manage them on their own terms.

Is it true?

Yes. Not only does Abode offer a plethora of third-party integrations to better customize and automate systems, but it also stays true to its “no contract home security” marketing language. You can opt for a month-to-month or yearly billing cycle (which is cheaper) — going with the former gives you the freedom to self-monitor or even boost your plan at will. For context, other professionally monitored and installed systems, like ADT and Brinks, require 36-month contracts and charge 75% and 80%, respectively, of remaining contract balances in the event that you decide to cancel.

Like with traditional or primarily professionally installed/monitored systems, Abode still gives you the option to enable cellular backup with certain plans and add environmental and glass-break sensors for greater protection. Abode offers a decent amount of interoperability between its systems and those from different companies, like Zigbee and Z-Wave integrations in the hubs, Philips Hue, IFTTT, Google, and Nest (although these might change in light of the recent merge). But you won’t see as many Abode-specific products like additional indoor and outdoor cameras.

Abode’s Z-Wave and Zigbee integrations within the hub broaden the scope of integration possibilities beyond your home security system. “This network can expand to devices outside the home as well, allowing customers to program smart home commands or automations that make outdoor security lights feel like an extension of their smart home,” said Mitchell Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance, in a statement to Reviews.com.

Overall, if you’re interested in a home security system that allows you to automate and customize your system without any contractual baggage or hefty fees, Abode is the way to go. Plus, if you don’t feel confident enough to install the system on your own, Abode offers an option for professional installation with its HelloTech partnership.

Product Overview

Best for

Those who don’t want to be tied to contracts, who want to opt in and out of professional monitoring at will without penalty, and who prefer building their own systems.

Not for

Those who prefer relinquishing all control to professionals or bigger names in professional monitoring.

Features

Price $199 minimum starter kit price; free, $8/mo, or $20/mo; $40/yr, $100/yr professional monitoring plans. Additional equipment prices vary.
Standout features Full suite of third-party integrations for home automation, customizable, opt-in and -out monitoring backed by UL-listed monitoring center
Number of locations / states served All 50 states
Ratings 8.3 out of 10 and 1,819 reviews on Trustpilot, 4.2 out of five stars and 71 customer reviews for Abode Essentials Starter Kit, C- Better Business Bureau*
Services Home security, home automation
Terms One-year warranty (only valid under the Secure Plan), 30-day return (with exceptions)

* Ratings gathered on June 24, 2019

Full suite of DIY monitoring features for less

Abode comes with most of the standard protection elements you’ll find in a traditional or professionally monitored/installed system, except its plans allow you to forgo added fees. You can take full advantage of the self-monitoring route for free — no, there aren’t any hidden strings attached. For comparison, major DIY competitor SimpliSafe requires a monthly fee in order to receive mobile notifications. If you opt to self-monitor completely with a SimpliSafe system, you won’t receive these mobile alerts (which, frankly, almost defeats the purpose). Granted, professional monitoring will likely get you the most robust protection — but for those looking to save or who feel as though they can monitor on their own, the ability to wield and act on notifications regarding the status of your home immediately is of utmost importance.

While you’ll still be able to integrate third-party devices and the full suite of automations with the Basic Plan (free), you’ll lose the one-year warranty and 4G cellular backup that keeps your system working if the power goes out, and you’ll only get three days of media backup storage. It’s a tradeoff, but it’s not permanent. With this free plan, you can opt in and out of paid monitoring as many times as you want penalty-free. Customer service says as long as you’re on the Secure annual plan when you reach out, the warranty is valid. Again, you can alter your monitoring status on the app at will.

Customize systems upfront

Abode doesn’t leave anything to be desired when it comes to pricing, products, and customization opportunities. You’ll find a full lineup of products on the website to add to one of its basic starter kits — the Smart Security Kit and the iota Security Kit. This means you won’t have to worry about choosing a certain plan — or even purchasing a system (like AT&T Digital Life requires you do) — in order to see what’s available to you or add devices based on the layout of your home. And if you need help deciding, Abode has a questionnaire tool that lets you fill out specific information about your home, which is then used to better tailor a system to your needs. You can go straight to your cart after completing the questionnaire, or you can opt to chat through the details with a representative before making any decisions.

Great for home automation

Companies like Brinks, ADT, Frontpoint, and Protection 1 all save some of the most crucial, yet basic home automation features for paid plans. In fact, with Frontpoint, you won’t even be able to use video monitoring without paying for its most expensive monthly plan. Considering the exponential growth of the smart home, treating home automation features as novelties in home security doesn’t exactly keep pace with the trend’s trajectory. Even with Abode’s free plan, you can still connect up to 160 devices to your system and take full advantage of geofencing. For example, Abode’s geofencing allows you to control the monitoring status of your home based on your phone’s location.

Abode’s systems don’t require traditional keypads (although they’re offered). “We found out by doing a lot of focus groups early on that a lot of people didn’t even turn on their system because it was kind of a pain to do that — you have to touch the keypad and run out before the timer,” Carney said. Abode puts all of the control in your hand — not only on the app, but also in the form of a key fob. Again, this isn’t unheard of in the home security space, but Abode doesn’t place a premium on it.

Third-party device compatibility

On top of Abode’s third-party device connectivity, the company offers a proprietary platform dedicated to helping you more seamlessly string these devices together to form automation commands. From Yale and Kwikset door locks, to Philips Hue lights and your Amazon Echo or Google Home, Abode’s Cue allows you to create your own automations with the devices you’ve chosen so they work with your home security system. For example, if you want to turn the lights on at sunset without ever having to flip a switch, Cue can help.

We haven’t physically tested the Cue feature, but it seems to function similarly to Abode’s IFTTT (If This Then That) integrations, which give you preset automations to choose from. The only difference with Cue is that you can create your own automations on the Abode app directly.

Possible Drawbacks

No HomeKit integration

While Abode offers one of the greatest home automation lineups for no extra cost we’ve seen, it still doesn’t work with Apple HomeKit. If you’re an avid HomeKit user and glued to your iPhone, this might not be a dealbreaker, but it could mean you’re forced to use yet another app to automate everyday functions. However, Carney says Abode is currently working on partnering with Apple for HomeKit integrations, starting with the iota and working toward other kits as well.

Limited proprietary camera options

Abode’s iota comes with a 1080p camera, motion sensors and two-way talk function, and the company also offers an indoor standalone camera and wide-angle motion-sensing camera. Within the Abode network, these options seem limited, especially without an outdoor camera or two-way audio integration within the existing standalone indoor camera. However, you can opt to choose a Nest camera to backfill these needs with your Abode system, as long as you link your Nest device to your Abode system before August 31, 2019. This is when Google will discontinue Works With Nest integrations, even though you can still use its integrations after that date. You just won’t be able to take advantage of any new Works with Google Assistant integrations if you go this route.

Carney says outdoor camera protection and more refined video recognition (like deciphering between people and animals) are on Abode’s roadmap. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any new Abode advancements.

The Competition

  Abode Frontpoint ADT SimpliSafe
Our review Our review Our review
Professional monitoring $20/mo Starting at $35/mo $29/mo $15-$20/mo
Self monitoring Free N/A N/A Free, but without in-app alerts
Device warranty 1 year 3 year 6-month (money-back guarantee) 3 year
Home automation
Self-installation
Professional installation
View plans View plans View plans View plans

Abode vs. Frontpoint

Abode and Frontpoint are similar in mission: Both aim to give users more autonomy in building and creating systems that best fit their lives through the do-it-yourself model. However, Frontpoint places a higher premium on home automation, whereas Abode includes these features for free. With Frontpoint, you won’t be able to access geo-location control by paying the minimum $35/mo monitoring price, nor will you be able to receive mobile and email alerts on the status of your home. While you will get cellular at the lowest price with Frontpoint, the price for cellular function with Abode is only $8 per month, if you choose to go for a month-to-month subscription. In our assessment, Frontpoint’s equipment is of good quality and easy to install. But if you’re looking for more flexibility and lower prices without a three-year contract, Abode is the way to go.

Abode vs. ADT

Abode and ADT are fundamentally different companies with different business models and ideas of what home security should be — and this is by design. Carney says Abode was designed to make home security consumer-centric and focused on easy installation and flexible management. But this doesn’t mean ADT doesn’t deliver, although you may find higher recurring fees in order to protect your home. Nearly 8 million people trust the service enough to secure their homes. With Abode, however, you have the freedom to opt in and out of professional monitoring without penalty, whereas all ADT plans come with strict three-year contracts. Again, deciding between the two boils down to which system works better for your home and what you feel comfortable paying.

Do note, though, that Abode doesn’t offer any theft protection. ADT will pay up to $500 toward your insurance deductible if a burglary occurs while your system is armed.

Abode vs. SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe is another DIY home security system that offers flexibility and professional installation, if you need the extra help. Neither SimpliSafe nor Abode requires a lengthy contract or penalizes customers for choosing to opt out when they feel necessary. The devil is in the details, though, as SimpliSafe currently offers fewer options for home automation than Abode, as SimpliSafe doesn’t support Zigbee, Z-Wave, IFTTT, and other protocols. This means you won’t be able to seamlessly use some smart locks (excluding the August Smart Lock) or lights in conjunction with your home security system. You’ll find a decent amount of hardware and pre-built packages to choose from on SimpliSafe’s website (albeit with scant camera offerings), so if you’re looking for more options, SimpliSafe might provide when it comes to equipment.

Abode FAQ

How does Abode handle data privacy?

Abode’s Gateway (which comes with its Smart Security Kit) utilizes standard encryption methods like AES256, iTLS, and HTTPS. For example, after communicating with the camera via Zigbee, the Gateway then communicates with Abode’s cloud using TLS encryption. The same chain applies to the iota. According to Carney: “For us, we don’t do anything with the data. It stays with us.”

However, because an Abode system likely communicates with third-party devices with different ideas on how to handle data, it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re using the network securely. You can do this by updating passwords, securing your network connection, and staying on top of software updates.

How does the Google Nest merger affect Abode?

The existing Abode/Nest integration will continue to work beyond Aug. 31, 2019. New customers with Abode after the August cutoff will only be able to use Google logins for Works with Google Assistant. Works with Nest functionality will continue for those grandfathered in or who actively enable the feature before the August cutoff. Abode solutions already work with Google Assistant, but we plan to keep you updated with movement on the merger as we see it.

Can I get a professional to install my Abode system?

Yes. Abode partners with HelloTech, a smart home services company that will install the system for you.

How do I build a home security system?

Building your own home security system can seem overwhelming at first, especially with so many options. It’s best to take stock of what you value most, what you want to protect, and how comfortable you feel managing the status of your home security system on your own. In general, it’s best to consider placing camera coverage over high-traffic entryways and areas that hold valuables, like master bedrooms. After a strict cost-benefit analysis and making sure this home security company will allow you to cover what you need at a budget that suits you, you should be well on your way.

The Bottom Line

Abode holds its own in the face of big home security names like ADT, Frontpoint, and SimpliSafe. By design, it’s meant to give users more freedom in how they want to secure their home — the caveat, perhaps, being a slimmer warranty. But if you want an a-la-carte home security system with no strings attached, the up-and-coming Abode certainly lives up to its marketing claims.

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