iSmartAlarm Security System Review

We avoided monthly fees with iSmartAlarm, but how well did their system work?

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 15, 2020
7.5
/10
Editor's Rating
After we paid for our iSmartAlarm equipment, we didn't pay another dime. By self-monitoring through the iSmartAlarm app, we got home security on the go, with no monthly fees.
Page Contents

If you’re looking to get a security system with no monthly fees, with security cameras, and with smart home integrations, then iSmartAlarm is probably already on your radar. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place. We tested iSmartAlarm ourselves, and we’re more than willing to share what we learned about the system, both the pros and the cons, to help you decide if iSmartAlarm is the right security solution for you. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get started!

Editor's Rating
Overall Rating
7.5
  • No monthly fees required
  • Self-monitoring only
  • Works with Alexa and IFTTT

Pros and Cons

While testing iSmartAlarm, there were things we liked and things we wished were better. We were particularly fond of the fact that the $150 package we ordered included a good amount of gear. It came with a base station, a total of four peripheral sensors, and one security camera, just enough to cover our humble abode. On top of that, there were no monthly fees, good news for our wallets. We also liked how easy it was to install the system and the fact that we could control everything remotely through the mobile application.

Our biggest concern with iSmartAlarm was that it didn’t have any sort of backup power or cellular communication. If burglars attacked while either our power or internet was out, we would have been out of luck. That made us hesitant to entrust our entire home security to this system alone. We also wish that there was a professional monitoring option for when we went on vacation and left our house empty for a couple of weeks. Still, we found the system very easy to use and reliable in most aspects, and it’s a good choice if you’re okay with no 24/7 monitoring or cellular backup.

What We Like
  • Easy, DIY installation
  • No monthly fees and contracts
  • Native Alexa and IFTTT integration
  • Low-cost hardware
  • Discounts on security system bundles
  • Remote mobile app control
  • Different user access levels
What We Don’t Like
  • Limited hardware options
  • Lack of advanced security features
  • Reliant on internet and power
  • Limited cloud storage

A Closer Look at iSmartAlarm Components

To get a good feel of what iSmartAlarm offers, we purchased the Premier Home Security package, which included a CubeOne base station, a motion sensor, three contact sensors, and a Spot security camera. This particular package is no longer available from iSmartAlarm, as the Smart Home Video Bundle replaced it, which comes with one remote tag in addition to the components already mentioned.

CubeOne

iSmartAlarm CubeOne
iSmartAlarm CubeOne

The CubeOne was the brain of our iSmartAlarm system. It linked all our iSmartAlarm sensors and cameras to us via the iSmartAlarm app,1 which is where we controlled and monitored our security system. CubeOne only needed an internet connection and power to work, so we didn’t need a landline to use the system. In addition to its main function as the base station, CubeOne also features a built-in, 110-dB siren. Thankfully, it remained silent, as we didn’t experience any burglaries during our usage of the system.

We found the CubeOne’s design intriguing. It is a literal cube (slightly larger than a standard Rubik’s cube) with no visible buttons or ports. The only indication that it’s a security device is the iSmartAlarm mark printed on its top side. As we wanted to make our CubeOne even less conspicuous, we placed our Amazon Echo Dot with Clock on top of it to hide the mark.

CubeOne’s unique design also made for easy wire management. Both the power and ethernet ports are hidden on the underside of the cube, with only a small notch leading the cables to the back of the device. This setup allowed us to connect CubeOne to our router and plug it into a wall outlet without creating a mess of wires.

Motion Sensor

iSmartAlarm Motion Sensor review
iSmartAlarm Motion Sensor

The iSmartAlarm motion sensor uses passive infrared technology to detect movement coming from within 20 feet. When it sensed movement, it alerted us via the iSmartAlarm mobile app and triggered our CubeOne’s siren. Note, the sensor is not pet-immune, so if you’re living with pets, we recommend placing the sensor in a room that is off-limits to your furry friend, unless you want a ton of unnecessary notifications throughout the day.

We mounted our iSmartAlarm motion sensor in our living room using the double-sided adhesive that came with the package, but if you want a permanent installation, you can use screws to secure the sensor to the wall.

Contact Sensors

iSmartAlarm Contact Sensor installation
Installing the iSmartAlarm Contact Sensor

Our iSmartAlarm system included three contact sensors, which alerted us when doors and windows opened or closed while the system was armed. We also found them great for monitoring medicine or liquor cabinets, drawers, and safes in our home. Throughout the day, we checked the status of our doors and windows, i.e., whether they are open or closed, which came in handy one time when none of us remembered closing our living room windows. Instead of driving 10 minutes back to our house, we simply checked the app to find that all windows were, thankfully, closed.

Spot Indoor Camera

iSmartAlarm Spot Camera review
iSmartAlarm Spot Camera

Studies show that security cameras are one of the most effective protection against burglaries,2 and that seemed to be the case when we tested the iSmartAlarm Spot indoor security camera. It’s a pretty simple indoor camera, but it showed great potential. It had a 720p resolution with 4x digital zoom, night vision for low-light conditions, and a 130-degree field of view that made it great for monitoring our entire living room. It also offered two-way audio, which allowed us to listen in and speak through the camera using the iSmartAlarm mobile app. As for security features, Spot alerted us of movement and loud sound. It also alerted us specifically of the sound of smoke and CO alarms.

iSmartAlarm Spot Camera Video Display review
iSmartAlarm Spot Camera Video Display

We usually recommend cameras with at least 1080p resolution, but when we tested Spot, we were impressed by the clarity of its videos. The 130-degree field of view and infrared night vision didn’t hurt either. Infrared night vision allowed us to view the cameras even in low-light conditions. It turned the video black and white, but the picture was still pretty clear, as shown in the sample below. With the addition of the iSmartAlarm mobile app, we were able to view the camera live, use two-way voice, and set up recording parameters for local and cloud storage.

When it came to storing our footage, the Spot had both local and cloud storage for free. Locally, it stored clips in a microSD card, which we purchased separately. For cloud storage, Spot saved up to 30 clips, each 10 seconds long. Although we wished there was an option to expand the cloud storage with a paid subscription, we’re glad that iSmartAlarm offers cloud storage free of charge to all users.

iSmartAlarm Spot Camera Night Vision review
iSmartAlarm Spot Camera Night Vision

If you’ve been following home security trends, then you’ve probably noticed that Spot looks strikingly similar to the Wyze Cam. We did some research and found that the two cameras, the Spot and the Wyze Cam V1, indeed use the same hardware,3 but the differences lie in the firmware. Each iSmartAlarm and Wyze developed their own firmware, which means you can only view Spot cameras using the iSmartAlarm app and Wyze Cams with the Wyze App.4 There are also minor differences in features such as cloud recording. Moreover, iSmartAlarm limits each camera’s free cloud storage based on the number of clips (up to 30 10-second clips), while Wyze limits their free cloud storage by deleting clips once they’ve been in the cloud for 14 days. Also, when we livestreamed footage, we noticed that the Wyze Cam has better video, 1080p HD compared to 720p HD with the Spot.

Our Experience Setting Up iSmartAlarm

iSmartAlarm promises a quick and easy setup process. We were excited to have a go at it ourselves, and the results didn’t disappoint.

Step 1: Creating an Account

We downloaded the iSmartAlarm mobile app first. The base station lacks a user interface, so we had to rely heavily on the app for feedback and control. They asked us to provide a phone number during account registration, which was where iSmartAlarm sent our verification code. They also sent us a test alert call to ensure that our phone number was capable of receiving call alerts. Note that the phone number we used was permanently linked to our account and thus to our security system.

Step 2: Setting Up the Hardware

On the hardware side of things, the first thing we did was plug the base station into a wall outlet and connect it to our router using the included Ethernet cable. CubeOne required both power and internet to work. We waited about a minute for the LED indicator to start slowly flashing white, an indicator that the device had booted up. Next, we simply pulled out the battery tabs on the sensors to actuate their batteries, and they automatically connected to the CubeOne. All the included components were pre-programmed to work out of the box.

Take Note: The CubeOne requires a hardwired Ethernet connection to the router to connect to the internet. This necessity may complicate the setup process for those who don’t have a free Ethernet port or are planning to place the base station away from their router.

Step 3: Linking CubeOne and the App

Linking the base station to the app was the final and easiest step. Using the app, we simply initiated a scan of our network while making sure that our smartphone was on the same network as our CubeOne. It took a couple of minutes for the CubeOne to sync up with the app. Once that process completed, we checked to conform all the sensors and accessories were visible on the app before finishing up. All in all, the setup process took us less than 45 minutes, from unboxing to ensuring the basic features were functioning properly.

Using iSmartAlarm

We believe that testing a security system means more than just blowing through its features to see if they work, so we lived with iSmartAlarm to see how it functioned in real-life situations.

The iSmartAlarm system has three arming modes: Armed, Home, and Disarmed. In Armed mode, all of our sensors were active, and any possible security breaches were reported to us immediately. We used this mode when everyone was away. When set to the In-Home mode, all sensors except our motion sensors were armed, which we found useful at night or when at least one of us was home. When Disarmed, the system didn’t alert us of anything, but we were still able to see the status of sensors using the app. For example, we could see if a door or window was left open, which, given our somewhat forgetful minds, was practical and relieving, especially after leaving for a big trip.

Without the remote tag offered in iSmartAlarm’s latest system, we only had one way to control our security system, which was the iSmartAlarm mobile app. It was fairly easy to use as the Arm, Disarm, and Home buttons, as well as a Panic button, were located right on the app’s home screen. When pressed, the Panic button set off an alarm by sounding our CubeOne’s siren. The system also notified us via push alerts.

If you prefer using physical controls, the remote tag has the same exact buttons. Also, iSmartAlarm offers a keypad that can arm and disarm the system using PIN codes. So, while we just controlled it through the app, there are other options available.

Monitoring Options

The iSmartAlarm system is exclusively self-monitored. Alerts were sent only to us and only us, and it was our job to verify them and call for help, if necessary. The Spot camera was helpful in emergencies, as it allowed us to check on our house wherever we were.

Although we usually prefer professional monitoring because we like to have a team of people monitoring alerts for us 24/7, we appreciated the fact that iSmartAlarm sent alerts through different mediums. If we connected our smartphones to Wi-Fi or cellular data, we received push notifications through the iSmartAlarm mobile app. It also sent text and automated voice alerts to our registered phone numbers, and the CubeOne sounded its built-in siren to alert us while we were at home. However, because iSmartAlarm is self-monitored, we had to be always on the lookout for alerts, which meant checking our phones for every notification or text we received.

iSmartAlarm Mobile Application

iSmartAlarm App review
iSmartAlarm App

The iSmartAlarm mobile application became our system’s control center. We used the app to set our iSmartAlarm system to different arming modes, receive push notifications, check our activity history, watch live video feeds from our Spot camera, and personalize our system’s settings.

Although it worked most of the time, there were times when the app was buggy. For instance, we were once locked out of our system for a couple of days, unable to arm or disarm it, as well as check on our sensors. We got a “network down” error every time we tried to log in even though our internet was working fine. Luckily, we were home when that happened. With further investigation, we found that we weren’t the only ones experiencing the issue and that it wasn’t the first time it happened. They released a fix a couple of days later, but we finally understood why the app holds only 2 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store and 1.8 stars on the Google Play

On the brighter side, one of the things we liked most about the app was that it supported multiple users with different levels of access. If you live with your family or roommates, this is a helpful feature. In our case, we used the feature to give all our testers and reviewers access to our system. We didn’t have to share the same account and password, which made it easy for us to monitor who accessed (e.g., armed, disarmed, etc.) the system and when by checking our activity history.

In addition, we were able to limit the access of some users. Each system can have one Superuser as well as several Administrators and Members. The Superuser is the owner of the system. The account we used to set up iSmartAlarm was automatically appointed as the Superuser and received complete access to all system features. It was also the only account that received push notifications with pictures taken from our Spot camera every time the alarm went off.

Administrators have almost the same access as the Superuser, but they don’t receive picture notifications. They could, however, add new users and access the system settings. Members have the most limited access. They can set the system to arm or disarm the system as well as set off a panic alarm, but they can’t access system settings. As for notifications, we all received push notifications, but only phone numbers appointed by the Superuser and Administrators received text and call alerts.

Home Automation and Smart Home Integrations

As for integrations, iSmartAlarm worked with Amazon Alexa6 and IFTTT.7 We used Alexa to control our system with our voice, using the trigger word “Alexa,” followed by “tell iSmartAlarm to” and then the command (arm, disarm, set to home mode). We found Alexa particularly helpful in arming our system before leaving. Instead of pulling out our phones from our pockets, we simply said, “Alexa, tell iSmartAlarm to arm my security system.”

Pro Tip: By default, Alexa can only arm and set iSmartAlarm to home. If you also want to disarm the system with your voice, open the iSmartAlarm app, swipe from the left to open the menu, select Integrations, then Amazon Alexa, and then enter a 4-digit PIN and tap Save. You will need to provide the PIN every time you disarm iSmartAlarm with your voice.

IFTTT, on the other hand, is more of a background worker. It’s an automation engine that ties together hundreds of brands using “If This, Then That” Applets, wherein “this” is the trigger and “that” is the action. If, like us, you own other smart home or security products that don’t work with iSmartAlarm directly, you can use IFTTT to connect them. As an example, we used an Applet that let us arm iSmartAlarm using Google Home. The difference between the Applet and iSmartAlarm’s native Alexa integration was that we had to memorize the Google Home command word-for-word, whereas Alexa allowed us to use a variety of trigger phrases.

The iSmartAlarm system does offer a home automation device called the Smart Switch. It’s a smart outlet you can control using your smartphone to turn appliances on or off remotely or by schedule. We didn’t test this device, but it looked pretty straightforward.

Video Review

We’ve pretty much summed up our experience of living with and using the iSmartAlarm system, but if you want to see how each component looked and how they worked in action, we’ve created this video review for you. We also included actual footage from our Spot camera to show you its video quality.

Customer Support

When we ran into the “network down” issue on our iSmartAlarm app, we had the opportunity to assess iSmartAlarm’s customer support.

We found that calling them is the quickest way to reach their support team. Their phone support is available Monday through Friday between the times of 8 AM and 6 PM (PST). However, we didn’t get much help from their tech support. They said they were working on a solution (which was probably true), but they didn’t offer any details as to what happened and what to do in the meantime.

Outside the phone support’s hours of availability, our only options were to fill out an online form or send them an email. Note that it usually took them one to two business days to respond to our emails. Interestingly, we learned more about the issue not from iSmartAlarm’s support team but from their user forum. Moderators and contributors were actively manning the forum, which is where we learned that other users were also experiencing the “network down” error. We also looked at the company’s FAQ and help center, but because it was a complex issue, we didn’t get much information there.

Final Words

So is iSmartAlarm the right security system for you?

Who We’d Recommend iSmartAlarm For…
  • People who want no monthly fees, ever
  • Anyone who wants integrations with Alexa and IFTTT
  • Someone who wants free local and cloud storage
  • Those wanting affordable prices
Who We Wouldn’t Recommend iSmartAlarm For…
  • Someone who is not tech-savvy and may have to rely on their questionable customer support
  • Someone who wants a professional monitoring option
  • People who want cellular/power backup

After living with iSmartAlarm for some time, we realized that it’s not a bad security system. It may not be the ideal system for us because it lacks professional monitoring and power/cellular backup, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be the right system for others. If you think iSmartAlarm works for you, and you can live with the few hiccups we mentioned, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider getting an iSmartAlarm system. Just remember to have a backup plan for when your internet or power goes out.

Citations
  1. Apple App Store. (2020). iSmartAlarm Mobile App.
    apps.apple.com/us/app/ismartalarm/id615159814

  2. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology. (2012). Burglar Survey Study Final Report.
    airef.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/BurglarSurveyStudyFinalReport.pdf

  3. Reddit. (2018). Wyze vs. iSmartAlarm.
    reddit.com/r/wyzecam/comments/7ico18/wyze_vs_ismartalarm_spot_who_copied_who/

  4. Apple App Store. (2020). Wyze Mobile App.
    apps.apple.com/us/app/wyze/id1288415553

  5. Google Play Store. (2019). iSmartAlarm Mobile App.
    play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=iSA.common&hl=en_US

  6. iSmartAlarm. (2020). iSmartAlarm now has an Alexa Skill.
    ismartalarm.com/integrations/amazon-alexa

  7. iSmartAlarm. (2020). iSmartAlarm connects to hundreds of devices & services using IFTTT. ismartalarm.com/integrations/ifttt