How we test personal alarms


We put personal alarms through our rigorous test method to find the most reliable.

Will it work in an emergency?


Personal alarms aim to give people a way to communicate quickly in emergencies. Normally this is via a single button, which then either dials or sends an SMS to contacts configured on initial set-up (self-managed), or a 24-hour monitoring plan which can then alert an ambulance or contacts. 

Personal alarms can be used for two-way conversation as well. 

CHOICE tested the self-managed plan for several devices on the market. These devices are either worn around the wrist (smartwatch) or neck (pendant).

Ready to buy? See which models we recommend in our personal alarm reviews.

Our expert testers

With their 30-plus years experience in the laboratory, we're proud of our expert testers. They've seen all kinds of gadgets come through the labs and they focus on the basics as well as the finer details so that when it's time to buy, you can be sure your new purchase will work well.

How we choose what we test

Why do we choose one personal alarm over another? There are a number of reasons for this, but our priority is to test what you'll see in the shops. That means that sometimes we might not cover a product that has sold few units in Australia, and instead focus on the big brand models that you'll most likely see in the retailer. How do we know what's in retailers? We check current market figures to see what's selling well. We'll also include models that you've requested; if a lot of members want it, we're going to test it.

When we know what you want, our buyers go out and use member funds to buy the personal alarms from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as-is – this means we get what you'd get, so we can be sure the results are what you'll find, and not 'tweaked' any way.

How we test

Reception and tracking

Our tester Scott O'Keefe undertook several extensive journeys to track each of the devices, testing their mobile network reception, GPS accessibility, and battery life to find which ones perform the best. We tested reception in a number of areas, including a shopping centre, a house and a black-spot area. We made calls to the device, and sent an SOS from the device. Scott also conducted two longer multiple-stop journeys to see whether the GPS tracking functionality was effective throughout busy areas of suburbia.

Ease of use 

A good user manual is essential, and this is the first thing we look at. We also check whether each product has email and telephone support. If the device needs a SIM card to be inserted, we assess how easy this is to do, however most come with the SIM pre-installed. We assess configuring – and in some cases reconfiguring – each device, and score based on how easy this is to do. Where applicable we also assess the ease of sending an SOS, recharging, using buttons, the shape of the device and whether it's easy to grip and carry. If there are differences in these areas, you might see a range of scores for what appears to be exactly the same product. 

Test criteria explained

Overall score

The overall score is a combination of the reception and tracking performance and ease of use, weighted as follows:

  • Reception and tracking (50%)
  • Ease of use (50%)

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

Ready to buy?

See our latest personal alarm reviews or check out our buying guide for help on what to look for.


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