Update: Vivint now offers 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup for $39.99 a month plus $5 per camera for 14 days of cloud storage. Without this plan, your system will be a local alarm only.
Where do I even start? ADT, Frontpoint, Protect America and Vivint are four of the most popular home security companies in the country so naturally, I bought systems from each so I can compare them. With companies like this, it’s going to be a tough competition. Let me give you some fast facts.
ADT: The oldest security company in the United States, ADT has been around for 140 years. No big deal.
Frontpoint: Only a decade old, Frontpoint was the first nationwide alarm company to include smart security in all of their systems and make a self-guided setup app. If it had a middle name, it would be Innovation.
Protect America: Founded in 1992, Protect America was the first to create a security system with DIY installation in the first place. Take that, Frontpoint.
Vivint: With over 1.3 million customers in the U.S and Canada, Vivint is quickly becoming a top brand for home security.
Clearly, these are all winners in their own rights, but I’m going to put them head to head, specifically the ADT Video Package, the Vivint Basic Security System, and customized kits from Frontpoint and Protect America. I’ll be going over the systems’ key similarities, key differences, system components, professional monitoring options, customer support, and last but not least, apps. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Before you learn everything there is to know about ADT, Frontpoint, Protect America and Vivint, I want to make sure you’re okay with a few things:
- Long-term contracts: All of these companies require that you sign a contract ranging from one to five years.
- Key system components: All the systems I bought include motion sensors, entry sensors, and indoor cameras.
- Customer support online and over the phone: If you need help, these companies offer customer support via online help centers and phone lines, among others.
If that’s all fine and dandy, we can move onto the key differences.
With this many systems, there’s bound to be some major differences.
- Installation: While ADT, Frontpoint and Protect America offer DIY installation, Vivint requires that you pay for professional installation.
- Monitoring: ADT and Frontpoint require you to pay for 24/7 professional monitoring while Protect America provides it for free. Vivint gives its customers the option to self-monitor or pay more for professional monitoring.
- Apps: Protect America’s apps don’t have great ratings on the Apple and Google Play store, unlike all of the other apps.
Overwhelmed yet? Let’s actually open these boxes and see what’s inside.
As you can see, all of the systems have a bunch of components, but across all of the systems I bought, they included motion and entry sensors, plus indoor cameras. Keep in mind that my systems from Frontpoint and Protect America are customized, so this is just a list of the components I decided on. All of the companies offer more products than I bought, but hey— I’m not made of money!
While ADT, Frontpoint, and Protect America have DIY installation, Vivint will be installed professionally for a fee. Let’s see what it’s like to install each system.
The first thing you should know about installing the ADT security system is that everything comes pre-programmed, so it won’t take much technical know-how on your part. The first thing I did when I got the system was call ADT to activate it, and thankfully, the conversation only took a few minutes. After that, the most difficult components to install were the Alarm.com security camera and the Kwikset deadbolt. As the camera is manufactured by Alarm.com, a different company, setting it up on the ADT Pulse app proved difficult. To avoid this mess, I recommend setting up the camera on ADT’s website. The deadbolt installation was the same as any other deadbolt, plus a few electrical components. I advise you to follow ADT’s step-by-step guide, and if that doesn’t work, you could always get it professional installed. From start to finish, I installed the ADT Video Package in about an hour, which I’m happy with.
Most of the Frontpoint security system is wireless and peel-and-stick, making installation a breeze. Like ADT, Frontpoint comes pre-programmed so everything can communicate with the Hub and your app. The hardest part? Installing the camera. I had to plug in the ethernet and power cables, add the camera on the Frontpoint website, and connect it to my Wi-Fi— not too bad, but certainly more complicated than peel-and-stick. Overall, the process was incredibly straightforward and took me no more than an hour.
Installing Protect America
Installing Protect America works a bit differently than Frontpoint and ADT, although it’s also DIY. While you’re setting up and testing your system, you’ll be on the phone with someone from customer support to help you along the way. I had a great experience with my rep, who guided me through each step and made sure my components were installed correctly. Like Frontpoint and ADT, the hardest component to install in my Protect America system was the camera. With an incredibly small field of view of 60 degrees, it was hard placing it in an area where I could get a good view of the room I wanted to record. The camera’s ethernet cable only made placement harder. Despite that, I had a great experience installing Protect America, mainly due to my support rep, Tiffany. Tiffany, if you’re reading this— thanks again.
Vivint is the only company of the four that requires professional installation. For $129, a professional will come into your home and set everything up for you. I had a good experience with the technician. He was clearly very knowledgeable about the system and was very courteous to me, even putting booties around his shoes to avoid tracking in dirt.
Top System Installation
Comparing DIY to professional installation is kind of like comparing apples and oranges, so I have to give a tie for this round. Truthfully, this category is based on your personal preference.
Now that you have your system installed, you’re probably wondering how to monitor it. With home security in general, you have two basic options— self-monitoring and professional monitoring. Self-monitoring simply means that you’ll monitor your system through your mobile app, while professional monitoring brings in a team of people to monitor your home’s security 24/7. In the event of an emergency, they’re able to contact help for you, which could be helpful if you’re unable. Let’s see how these four companies compare in terms of monitoring.
Monitoring Options and Contracts
While ADT, Frontpoint, and Protect America all require that you do 24/7 professional monitoring, Vivint gives you the option to self-monitor.
If you go with professional monitoring, the costs differ depending on which plan you choose, but the range in general is $30 to $60 a month. That is, except Protect America— they offer professional monitoring completely free! As far as contracting goes, no company offers monthly contracting. Instead, you’ll commit to a period of one to five years. Let’s take a closer look at your options with each company.
ADT Monitoring and Contract Options
ADT’s monitoring plans will differ based on what equipment and services you’re getting. Traditional security monitoring starts at around $30 a month, while life safety monitoring for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will cost at least $36 a month. To add an indoor and outdoor camera, the cost will be around $60 a month. Unfortunately, ADT doesn’t have a set list of plans, so this is something you’ll need to negotiate with your sales person.
Unfortunately, ADT only offers a three-year contract that must be paid out after the first six months.
Frontpoint Monitoring and Contract Options
Frontpoint lets you choose from three plans, all of which include 24/7 professional monitoring and cellular backup. Let me explain a few features of the plans that may not be glaringly obvious.
- Expandable and Portable: Basically this means that you can add components to your system at anytime, or pick it up if you need to move.
- Crash and Smash Protection: A common tactic of intruders is to break a security system’s control panel, effectively nullifying the entire system. Crash and Smash Protection alerts the professional monitoring team the instant your control panel is smashed so they can send help.
- Geo-location Services: Finally, geo-location services enables you to track your family’s location through their phones. As most smartphones have location services built-in, I don’t think this service is terribly useful, although it might make more sense for someone without a smart phone (if those people still exist).
What I don’t like about Frontpoint’s plans is that only the Ultimate Plan gives you night vision, and livestreaming, two essential tenets of any security system. It’s disappointing that you have to spend about $50 a month just to be able to livestream footage and use your camera at night.
Frontpoint lets you choose between one or three year contracts. Believe it or not, one year is actually the shortest term-length available from any of the companies by two years! Let’s just say none of them are known for their flexibility. If you want to cancel Frontpoint before your contract is up, you’ll still need to pay for 80% of the remainder. However, if you end up staying through your contract and want to renew, you can go month-to-month. Hallelujah!
Protect America Monitoring and Contract Options
Here’s some great news: Protect America includes 24/7 professional monitoring with all of its systems, completely free! After those steep Frontpoint and ADT prices, this is quite the relief. On a less happy note, ADT only offers three year, binding contracts. Boo.
Vivint Monitoring and Contract Options
Like I said before, Vivint is the only company out of the four that lets you choose between self-monitoring and professional monitoring. Keep in mind that even if you self-monitor with Vivint, you’ll still be paying for your equipment in a monthly fee rather than upfront— see the below chart for details.
If you wish to do professional monitoring, you’ll pay an additional monthly fee based on the amount of cameras you have.
Again, these prices are not cheap, but none of the companies’ monitoring is— except for Protect America, of course. With Vivint, you can choose between three and a half or five year contracts. You can cancel anytime without a fee, but you would need to pay for the rest of your equipment.
As from monitoring, you should also consider cellular backup, which will keep your system on in the event of a power outage. ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint all include cellular backup for free, but Protect America will charge anywhere from $20 to $60, depending on your equipment.
As ADT, Frontpoint, and Protect America all offer DIY installation, if you want to move, you can just pick up your system and go— no fees required. Before you move your Frontpoint system, just call them up and they’ll send you more double-sided adhesive and activate your system. They’ll also ensure you have a cellular signal at your new home. In the same vein, Protect America will send you a relocation key and update your information. If you want to move your Vivint system, you’ll need to pay that $129 installation fee again, whether you move your system or get new starter equipment.
Top System for Monitoring
Overall, I’m going to give the medal to Protect America for its professional monitoring. Although I’m not thrilled that they don’t give you the option to self-monitor or a contract length other than three years, I love that 24/7 professional monitoring is free. Unfortunately, none of these companies really satisfy me when it comes to providing flexible, affordable monitoring options, so this isn’t the biggest accolade.
Now let’s talk customer support. No matter which of the four companies you end up with, you’ll be able to contact customer support over the phone, or check out their online help centers. All of the companies except Frontpoint have live chat, which is my personal favorite, and ADT even offers support over Facetime. This may seem a little strange, but I could see it coming in handy if you want to show the rep something that’s broken.
To see the quality of the customer support, I took a look at Google reviews. Google reviews are combined from all corners of the Internet and then factored into one easy rating, so it’s a great way to get an overview of what people have to say. Except for ADT, all of the companies have great customer support ratings, but one company stood out above the rest- Frontpoint.
“Setup is straightforward and technical help is as near as a phone call. Service is so important to be sure your system is operating as designed and that you can count on. I am a very satisfied customer and highly recommend Frontpoint,”
wrote Tony G in a five-star review. That’s exactly what I like to hear!
Top System for Customer Support
This one’s easy— Frontpoint has incredible reviews, especially when it comes to their customer support.
In case you missed the memo, we’re talking about smart security systems, so naturally the apps are super important. I’m looking for apps that connect with the systems well and that are easy to use.
Through any of the apps, you’ll be able to remotely arm and disarm your system, control any connected devices you have, livestream footage, and receive push notifications. You’ll also be able to review video history and in the case of the Vivint system I bought, speak and see visitors through the video doorbell. All of the apps are available for both iPhone and Android users, and save for Protect America, they all have high ratings.
Why does the Protect America app have such a low rating on the Apple store, you may be wondering. I took a closer look, and it seemed like people had trouble connecting the app to the system, clearly a huge issue. The app also didn’t allow users to name their sensors, which makes the notifications less meaningful. Due to the Protect America app’s low rating on the Apple store, I can’t recommend this system to iPhone users.
On a more positive note, Vivint has one of the highest-rank apps of all the security companies around— not just these four.
With the large majority of the reviews at five stars, Vivint is definitely doing something right when it comes to their app.
Top System App
Another no-brainer— Vivint has a better app than ADT, Frontpoint and Protect America.
So, which security system should you choose? The decision will come down to your personal preferences— in other words, different strokes for different folks. Let me break it down for you a little further.
Pick ADT if you’d like…
- Customer support via Facetime: You’ll be able to show your customer support rep the problem over Facetime, not offered by any other security company.
- Highest-rated app for iPhone: The ADT Pulse app has a 4.8 out of five star rating on the Apple store, the highest of the four.
- Negotiable monitoring: ADT’s prices for professional monitoring aren’t set in stone, so if you’re a good negotiator, this could come in handy.
Learn more by reading our full review of the ADT security system.
Pick Frontpoint if you’d like…
- Best customer support: Frontpoint consistently has the best customer support reviews of any security company, let alone these four.
- One-year contract option: Frontpoint’s one-year option is the shortest term out of any of these four companies.
- Can go month-to-month when contract ends: Once you’re done your initial Frontpoint contract, you can enter a flexible monthly contract.
Want more information? Read our full review of the Frontpoint security system.
Pick Protect America if you’d like…
- Free 24/7 professional monitoring: Protect America is the only security company I’ve reviewed that offers professional monitoring on the house.
- Over the phone help with DIY installation: Protect America is the only company of the four that gives you a customer support rep over the phone to help with installation and testing.
- Most affordable equipment: The Protect America system I bought was only $358, about half the price of the others (although it does have less components).
For more information, read our full review of the Protect America security system.
Pick Vivint if you’d like…
- Option to self-monitor: Vivint is the only company of the four that doesn’t require you to do professional monitoring.
- Highest-rated app for Android: The Vivint Smart Home app has 4.6 rating on Androids, the highest of the four.
- Professional installation: Vivint is the only company that requires professional installation.
To learn more, read our review of the Vivint security system.
That’s it for me! If none of these sound appealing to you, I recommend checking out the best home security systems of 2019 or ask me for a recommendation. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!