Revised with Updated Information
The online chatter continues over ADT’s Pulse product, so I did a “deep dive” on some of the more confusing aspects of the three service offerings: “Select,” “Advantage,” and “Premier.” Put aside ADT’s absolute and bewildering online silence on equipment and service pricing - it turns out that just peeling back the layers to understand the different Pulse service levels is a full-time job. The latest tip-off was a grid on the ADT Pulse web site, which shows a GSM cellular radio included with only the “lowest” service level – the least expensive one. That seemed weird, and triggered a flurry of research, resulting in my own comparison grid, based on my interpretation of the information. Comments and explanations follow the grid. Note: the grid below is NOT the grid from the ADT web site, but my own interpretation!
This “lowest” service level includes Honeywell alarm equipment and a basic GSM cellular radio made by ADT to provide wireless monitoring (which is good!) and a smattering of interactive services. At least that is what the company's grid says! I’m a huge fan of cellular monitoring as the only safe method, and when it comes to interactive services, consumers are hungry for them. Unfortunately, the interactive services at this level don’t hold a candle to ADT’s higher service level features, or to whatother established providers have offered for years: companies like Alarm.com, who wrote the book on interactive monitoring (and they’ve already processed well over two billion signals). The Select level of Pulse is expensive for what it provides ($47.99). Want video or home management capability? Move on to the next Pulse levels!
Now it gets interesting. We change from Honeywell to GE Security equipment (which is good!), but the ADT grid no longer shows the GSM radio as being included in the package. It just happens that the primary path for your alarm system to contact the monitoring center is over a vulnerable regular phone line (which most of us are getting rid of!) or a GSM cellular radio. I was glad to learn that it's not broadband monitoring, since that can leave you exposed to power outages, internet failure, and intruders cutting your cable (which is happening more and more). But for some reason ADT appears not to be including the cellular radio in this (more expensive) package: they must think it's acceptable to depend on a vulnerable POTS line ("Plain Old Telephone Service") to protect your home and family. Hello, wire cutters... I guess you have the option to pay extra up front for a cellular radio and extra each month for cellular monitoring, but the web site does not spell that out.
But here's another important point - only the actual alarm signals to the monitoring center use the POTS line or the GSM radio. All the interactive features are forced to use your broadband connection. That’s right, though it’s hard to believe: for $49.99 per month, if you lose your internet connection (or lose power at your home), you lose all those cool interactive remote services. ADT does save money, however! The best systems (like Alarm.com) provide interactive features over the cellular link that is not impacted by internet outages, since it relies on the alarm system’s built-in 24 hour battery, which covers the great majority of power outages. In my opinion, ADT really did not think this one through. You do pick up home management at the Advantage level, but you had better pray that your power and broadband link stay up. Oh, and by the way, you can find better services for less money.
Premier has the same inherent weaknesses as the Advantage level: same primary dependence for alarm signals could be a POTS line, with a possible (costly?) upgrade to a cellular radio that only communicates basic alarm signals. You do pick up video services at this level, which is a nice feature. However, now you’re paying $57.99 a month, and a simple internet outage or line cut reduces you to a rudimentary level of service that other companies sell for $25 less per month. Ouch!
And remember, even at this highest level, you don’t get the important Crash & Smash protection that you should expect for this price. Even with Premier Pulse service, the intruder who breaks in can disable your alarm system before it can communicate to the monitoring center. No call to you to verify the alarm – and no call to the police. Smart crooks know this, so it’s happening more and more. In my book, another big miss.
When it comes to Crash & Smash, there’s only one technology that is virtually undefeatable, and it was developed and patented by Alarm.com, the leader in interactive alarm monitoring. And as the leader in wireless, interactive home security, FrontPoint has it. We’ll keep checking the Pulse – but it seems this patient should remain under observation!