ADT Medical Alert Review

ADT is the largest home security company in the U.S. and one of the few medical alert services in our review that own and operate the monitoring centers that the system calls. But because ADT focuses primarily on home security, you don't get the advantages of a medical-alert-only monitoring center, which don't have to prioritize incoming calls with fires, burglaries and other emergencies.

For our review, we purchased and tested the Plus package, which features the same MobileHelp CBS2-01 system used by four other services in our review. We also added the fall-detection pendant, which was a $24.99 one-time purchase plus an additional $10 per month.

Cost Comparison: B-

At the time of this review, ADT's pricing structure earned a B- grade in our cost comparison. It offered better month-to-month prices than most services. However, unlike many other services, it didn't reduce the overall cost if you opt to put down larger up-front payments. The base package was $27.99 per month (about $2 cheaper than the market average). The midrange package was $33.99 per month (about $3 cheaper than the market average). And the premium package was $37.99 per month (about $5 cheaper than the market average). As you can see, these prices provide significant savings compared with other services.

However, most medical alert services provide some savings when you pay for multiple months up front — usually in annual, semiannual or quarterly payments. On average, these bigger payments lower the monthly cost by an average of $3.90 per month. And that adds up. For example, if you make month-to-month payments at the market average for a base package, you'll pay about $360 over the course of a year. But if you pay for 12 months at once, you'll pay an average of about $313 — a savings of about $47. With ADT, you gain no such advantage. So, while ADT is slightly more affordable than average for monthly payments, many other services can beat ADT's prices for customers who are willing to pay more up front.

The Results of Our Hands-On Testing

As an in-home cellular system, the MobileHelp CBS2-01 is our favorite in-home cellular system because it had the highest-rated speakerphone in our tests. The speakerphone is loud and clear, and doesn't distort, even at full volume. This provides clear communication with operators, which is why it received an A grade in our evaluation. It's also the only medical alert system with a display, showing the time, date, cell signal strength and room temperature. In other words, it provides practical information in a way that no other system does.

The MobileHelp CBS2-01 does have some faults, though. First, the wireless pendant's range isn't great. In our tests, the average range was just 86 feet between the wireless pendant and the base station. Although the pendant was 100-percent reliable within the 1,200-square-foot apartment where we tested, the range didn't allow us to roam very far from the apartment. While that range sounds unimpressive, it still offers plenty of coverage, even for large homes

The fall-detection pendant received a B in our tests. This was primarily because it was too sensitive. It recognized every simulated fall, which is excellent, but it also activated on 100 percent of the drops from 12 inches and 75 percent of the drops from 6 inches. In addition, the pendant called for help when we were just casually swinging it around and when it lightly bumped into other pendants while we were moving them from our lab bench to a box. So, if you don't mind dealing with false alerts (where you simply have to tell the operator that the pendant went off accidentally), then it's a great pendant. Otherwise, the overly sensitive sensors can quickly become annoying.

ADT's average call-response time was 52.25 seconds, which made it the fourth-fastest average response time in our tests and 17 seconds better than the average response time. However, it's still much slower than the fastest response time — 20.67 seconds, from GreatCall. When every second counts, that difference is significant.

We gave the monitoring center's call quality a C grade in our evaluation. The operators generally spoke with clear diction and a calm pace, but several operators were difficult to understand. That can make for difficult communication, especially for people with age-related hearing loss. In addition, they always assumed we were the name on the account rather than asking us to state who we were, which was disconcerting coming from a home security company.

Final Verdict

Despite coming from the largest company in our review, ADT's medical alert service doesn't stand out much from the others. We liked the company's choice for an in-home cellular system, because it has an excellent speakerphone and a display. But the pendant's range is subpar, and the overly sensitive fall-detection pendant can quickly become a nuisance. And while the call-response time was the fourth best in our tests, it was still twice as slow as the fastest.