With most medical alert systems, the midrange package is an in-home cellular base unit that costs about $36 a month.
These are the most commonly purchased packages, because cellular base units are more affordable than on-the-go GPS devices, but easier to setup than a landline unit. MobileHelp designs and manufactures a popular cellular base unit used by many medical alert services, and it has a great call center, a good fall-detection pendant and a price that beats those of other cellular base units. Given all of that, it's our clear pick for best cellular base unit.
The Technology: The MobileHelp CBS2-01
’There are plenty of reasons you could say most medical alert services are little more than clones of each other — same product, same service, different brand slapped on the bill. However, MobileHelp doesn't fit this description. While four other services in our review (Acadian On Call, ADT, LifeFone and Medical Guardian) use the same cellular base unit, MobileHelp is the company that designs and manufactures the device. And the company deserves credit for that.
Pendant Reliability & Distance Tests
We took the MobileHelp CBS2-01 to a two-bedroom apartment to see how reliable the pendant was in a real-world setting. We simulated emergencies in as many locations throughout the apartment as we could, choosing spots that blocked the line-of-sight signal between the pendant and the base unit. If your loved one falls in the shower with the water running, and there are two bedrooms (with walk-in closets) between the person and the base unit, will the pendant struggle to call for help? In short, with MobileHelp, no. These pendants are extremely reliable. They even worked when placed next to devices, such as refrigerators and washing machines, known to interfere with wireless signals.
The aspect of the pendant that wasn't great, however, was its effectiveness over distances. Compared to other pendants we tested, it received a C grade for distance with an average of 86 feet – just two feet below the average overall range in the tests. We tested this by walking down two hallways in the apartment and simply finding the distance at which the pendant stopped reaching the base unit. The MobileHelp CBS2-01 is rated for 600 feet, but we managed to reach only 118 feet down one hall and 54 feet down the other.
Design & Style
As with most medical alert systems, there's nothing particularly stylish about the pendant. You can wear this device on a necklace or a wristband, but it's not going to win any style awards. However, the design of the base unit stands out compared to other base units. It is the only base unit with a display. The display shows the time, the signal strength and the temperature. It also lights up when an emergency alert is activated, which is excellent for times when you accidentally hit the button on the pendant.
One of the main reasons MobileHelp is our midrange pick its speakerphone.
During calls to the monitoring center, we evaluated the speakerphones of every device for volume, clarity and general quality. If your loved one has age-related hearing loss, the quality of the speakerphone matters a lot, and the MobileHelp CBS2-01 had the highest marks for quality.
And there is a significant difference with other services, which use base units that often make it sound like you're ordering lunch at a drive-thru window. This speakerphone lacks distortion, sounds very clear and is loud enough to be heard rooms away.
Additional Packages to Consider
MobileHelp manufactures an on-the-go GPS device, which is also used by other medical alert services. You can choose to get the GPS device on its own or you can package it with the cellular base unit, which is ideal if your loved one is active enough to leave the house but doesn't want to wear the bulky mobile device when they're home.
The Emergency Response Call Center
During our research, we found that most medical alert systems use third-party monitoring centers, but few admit it. MobileHelp is one that does, openly saying that it partners with Rapid Response, which was named the 2016 monitoring center of the year by Central Station Alarm Association. MobileHelp doesn't own and operate the monitoring center, but at least the company put the duties in the hands of an excellent organization, which has monitoring centers in New York and California.
Call Response Time
In our testing, we timed how long it took for an operator to respond once we hit the emergency button on the pendant. With MobileHelp, the average time was 53.12 seconds. This is consistent with other services that we know are contracted with Rapid Response.
For comparison, the average response time in our tests was 69.58 seconds, or a minute and a half. The fastest response time (for GreatCall) was 20.67 seconds.
Call Center Evaluation
We also evaluated the quality of the operators. None of the calls with any of the services in our review had operators who were unprofessional, but there was certainly a difference in quality.
Rapid Response's operators (at least when using MobileHelp and other services that we're sure are contracted with Rapid Response) received the highest grade in our comparison, tying with GreatCall for the best call quality. The operators didn't sound bored or scripted. They spoke clearly, with a good pace that was easy to follow. They made a point of confirming that we were OK multiple times.
The Medical Alert Company
As we've mentioned, MobileHelp develops and manufactures PERS (personal emergency response systems) devices that its competitors use. That shows that the company leads the industry. However, there isn't a lot that separates MobileHelp from other medical alert companies in how they approach sales, customer service or subscription values.
MobileHelp's overall value is average. The base package costs $29.99 a month while the midrange costs $37.95 and the premium costs $41.95. In addition, the fall-detection pendant is an add-on that costs $10 per month, which is on the high end for fall detection. All these prices hover at the market average.
Still, if you pay in a bulk payment (annual, semiannual or quarterly), the savings average around $10.96 per month, which increases the value significantly..
Customer Service, Sales & Support
MobileHelp is not very different from other companies in its sales tactics and customer service. The website does, however, provide significantly more information than most medical alert services' sites do, which suggests that the company is confident in its product and service.
The website employs sales-funneling tactics designed to get you into a sales call, , and the sales reps we talked to were very friendly. But we're not too keen on any design that feels manipulative, especially when customers are seniors.
For example, we took the risk assessment and answered every question with an answer that would indicate we don't need a medical alert system — don't live alone, young, 0 falls in the past year, 0 medical issues, 0 medications, very active, no need for mobility assistance, no fear of falling. The assessment still recommended the Cellular Classic. Tactics like this are worth taking note of.
The Final Verdict
As a midrange package featuring a cellular base unit, the MobileHelp CBS1-02 is your best option, though it still comes in second to GreatCall overall. The speakerphone was the highest-rated in our review, and the pendant is very reliable. There's a good reason why many other services use the same device.
The overall value is average, but you can save a lot per month with bulk payments. And if you're worried about the call center, you shouldn't; MobileHelp partners with Rapid Response, which is one of the best emergency monitoring centers in the country.