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Last updated: 17 April 2018

Personal alarms are safety devices that, when triggered, send an alert to a pre-set number of mobile phone numbers or a 24-hour monitoring service. We lab test and review the latest models, including watches and pendants, to help you find the best personal alarm for an emergency.

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Our test covers both watch and pendant-style personal alarms.

Our expert testers give every personal alarm a thorough workout to help find the models that:

  • are best at keeping their charge
  • are the easiest to set up, use in an emergency and recharge
  • have good tracking and geo-fencing.

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which brands are the best performers and which carry through on their claims. Our Recommended list will help you quickly see which models come out on top.

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Brand

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List of brands we tested in this review.

Price

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Price at time of purchase. We were surprised and a little disappointed by the pricing on these devices: from $140 up to almost $500 excluding the pricing of the SIM card. We checked on a large shopping website based in China and found pricing for some identical looking, and similarly featured, devices to the Live-Life, Mind Me and Safe-Life for around $50, or a tenth of what some are available for in Australia. Now admittedly these large websites tend to sell in bulk, but considering the scale of profit this might involve, their pricing in Australia is a bit steep. Sellers will say you are getting software and setup support, but we don't think this is worth the substantial mark-up.

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Type

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All personal alarms we tested came in either a watch (worn around the wrist) or pendant (worn around the neck) design.

Test results

Ease of use score

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Such a complex product means a good user manual is essential, which is the first thing we look at. We also check whether each product has email and telephone support. If the alarm needs a SIM to be inserted, we assess this, but most come with the SIM pre-installed. Configuring – and in some cases reconfiguring – each device is assessed, and scored based on how easy this is to do. Also assessed, where applicable, is activating an SOS, recharging, using the buttons, the shape of the device and whether it is easy to grip and carry.

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Reception and tracking score

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Our tester, Scott O’Keefe, undertook several extensive journeys to track each of these devices, testing their mobile network reception, GPS accessibility, and battery life to find which ones perform the best. Reception testing was conducted from a number of areas, including a shopping centre, normal house and a harsher black spot area. Calls were made to the device, and SOS sent from the device to see whether they can be carried out and received. Our tester also conducted two longer multiple-stop journeys to see whether the GPS tracking functionality was effective throughout busy areas of suburbia. 

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Voice call score

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Calls were made both to and from the device, to test whether the voice quality was clear and loud enough to hear.

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GeoFence result

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Geo-fencing allows you to set up a virtual fence. When the device crosses the perimeter it creates an alarm that sends a warning to a contact. Some do this via a radius, but we found the polygon setup was more useful. A radius only creates a circle, whereas a polygon means you can create a map that allows for some freedom. 

Features

Charging cradle

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A charging cradle is useful because it makes it obvious the device needs to be plugged in. It can sit in an obvious place in the home and it's less fiddly than a USB cover that needs moving. Some watches also have magnetic connections that only connect in a certain way, which means less mistakes in charging. 

Accept incoming call

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Does the device accept incoming calls?

Auto-answer from call to device

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Will the device auto-accept an incoming call? This would be useful if the user has fallen or is unable to move but able to speak.

Fall detection

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Activates if the device falls rapidly – which then triggers an alarm to a contact.

Non-movement alarm

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Sends an alarm to a contact if the device doesn't move for a specified amount of time.

Relocation alarm

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This is where you can set the device to tell you whether it has moved. Sort of the opposite of the non-movement alarm.

Speed alarm

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If the device starts moving rapidly, say by the wearer getting into a car or train, it creates an alarm to send to a contact with this information. 

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Included in this review

Members-only access
  • Overall score
  • Recommended
  • Ease of use score
  • Voice call score
  • Reception and tracking score
  • GeoFence result
  • Active standby hours
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • SOS voice calling process
  • Contact voicemail handling
  • Price
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Availability
  • Type
  • Charging cradle
  • Low battery warning
  • Water resistant
  • Accept incoming call
  • Auto-answer from call to device
  • Alarm clock
  • Fall detection
  • Non-movement alarm
  • Relocation alarm
  • Speed alarm
  • Dedicated emergency call button
  • Dedicated emergency SMS button
  • Configuration mechanism
  • Maximum number of contacts
  • Telco we tested on
  • Optus
  • Telstra
  • 4G network support
  • Vodafone
  • User maintainable phonebook
  • SIM size
  • Dimensions (mm, HxWxD)
  • Weight (g)
  • User-replaceable SIM
  • Origin
  • Contact
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