Page Reviewed / Updated – September 15, 2020

Wearable medical alert devices allow seniors to have more independence, knowing that help, whether an ambulance or a designated caretaker, is just a button push away. Many medical alert devices use wireless or cellular technology to contact a monitoring system, send an SOS call to local emergency services or send a text alert to preloaded contacts, such as friends and family members. Some even incorporate GPS technology, especially beneficial for seniors prone to wandering.

Selecting the right wearable medical alert device can be complicated. Companies use a lot of marketing language, and some of the descriptions of the features can be confusing. We’ve conducted an easy to understand, in-depth analysis of two popular brands, Philips Lifeline and Life Alert, comparing them side-by-side along with costs and features.

Through our research, we’ve determined that while Philips Lifeline is suited best for those who speak different languages or those with a complex medical schedule, the ease of use of Life Alert devices is beneficial to wearers unfamiliar with cellular technology. Both companies offer comparable pricing and support, as well as the durability and reliability of their respective devices.

Overview of Life Alert and Philips Lifeline

Category Side-By-Side Comparison Life Alert Philips Lifeline
Up-Front Equipment $0 $0
Monthly Monitoring $49 – $89 $29.95 – $64.95
Activation Fee $95 – $198 $50 – $149 per device
Contract 3-year Month-to-month
Optional Monthly Add-On Services N/A N/A
Water-Resistant Wearable Devices Yes Pendant and wristband
Connection Landline and cellular Landline or cellular (AT&T network)
Two-Way Voice Communication Yes Through in-home communicator or GoSafe 2 pendant
Range (from in-home base unit for landline service) 800 feet for In the Home and In the Bathroom plans Unlimited for On the Go plan Up to 800 feet
Battery Life 72-hour backup for In the Home and In the Bathroom plans Up to 10 years for On the Go plan Non-rechargeable batteries in wristband/pendant of HomeSafe devices; wearables are automatically replaced by Phillips when the battery is low 48-hour battery backup in HomeSafe base unit 2-7 day backup in GoSafe wearable devices
Fall Detection No Included in the monthly fee with HomeSafe with Auto Alert and all GoSafe units
GPS Locator Yes, with In the Bathroom and On the Go plans Included in GoSafe and GoSafe 2 products
Coverage Away From Home Yes, for On the Go Included with GoSafe devices
24/7 USA Call Center Yes Yes; service available in up to 140 languages
None None

Life Alert Overview

Life Alert was one of the first companies to provide wearable medical pendants, starting in 1987. The company has grown and continues to innovate, for example, being the first to offer 4G LTE coverage. We like Life Alert’s pendants for the extended battery life; the devices don’t need to be recharged and can easily last more than 10 years. This can give forgetful seniors peace of mind, knowing that they’re protected around the clock.

Life Alert offers three tiers of coverage: In the Home, In the Bathroom and On the Go. In addition to the emergency services available at the push of a button, Life Alert also administers a customer care center with experienced operators, contactable over the phone or through an app downloaded on the subscriber’s smartphone or tablet. In cases where the wearer needs help but not an ambulance, the Life Alert operators can help determine the correct level of response.

Life Alert Plans and Pricing

In the Home In the Bathroom On the Go
MONTHLY COST $49 $69 $89
TYPE OF DEVICE In-home system In-home system Mobile system
CONNECTION Landline/Cellular Landline/Cellular Cellular
RANGE 800 feet

800 feet Unlimited
ONE-TIME FEES $95 $96 $198

Life Alert Pros:

  • Most established company in the medical wearable device industry
  • Lifetime guarantee on all products
  • 10+ years of battery life for On The Go and Bathroom devices
  • Cell phone apps for additional coverage at no extra cost
  • Live support through customer care call center

Life Alert Cons:

  • Mandatory three-year contract
  • Wearable devices look like medical alert devices, not a smartwatch
  • A one-time fee to sign up
  • Higher monthly fees for plans than other companies
  • No fall detection services (Life Alert believes this technology is still inferior)

Philips Lifeline Overview

Philips Lifeline combines wearable medical devices with an in-home speaker device for monitoring seniors and those with a chronic health condition. The company serves over 7 million clients and has client care operators in both the United States and Canada. Operators at Philips undergo 80+ hours of initial training and ongoing response training to help clients. Both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking representatives are available.

Philips products must be installed by a Philips technician, and there are installation and one-time activation fees for services. Where Philips shines is in its medication monitoring system, including a medication dispenser that automatically dispenses the correct dose at the correct time. This feature is especially useful for seniors who have significant health conditions that require multiple medications and those who are living alone or who may be forgetful. Plus, the dispenser reduces the need for the elderly to struggle with hard-to-open medicine bottles.

Philips offers month-to-month contracts and a full refund for those who return their device within 30 days. Plans start at $29.95 and range up to $54.95 for the base plan. The medication monitoring system is extra. Philips products are well-suited for seniors who live in large homes and need the extended range of coverage, those who prefer multilingual support from the monitoring center and those who have a complex medication schedule or arthritis that makes opening medicine bottles challenging.

Philips Lifeline Plans and Pricing

HomeSafe HomeSafe with AutoAlert GoSafe 2 GoSafe
STARTING MONTHLY COST $29.95 + activation fee $44.95 + activation fee $44.95 + activation fee $54.95 + activation fee
TYPE OF DEVICE In-home system In-home system Mobile system In-home and mobile system
CONNECTION Landline or Cellular Landline or Cellular Cellular Landline or Cellular
RANGE 500 feet 500 feet N/A N/A
COST PER DEVICE $50 $50 $99 Included

Philips Lifeline Pros:

  • Multilingual operator support
  • Larger range for in-home devices
  • Medication dispensing system
  • Professional installation available

Philips Lifeline Cons:

  • Substantial up-front fees
  • Cost of add-on services can quickly add up
  • No apps for cell phones and no ability to store friends and family as contacts

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Our Pick

Both Philips Lifeline and Life Alert medical alert systems have comprehensive coverage and flexibility for subscribers. Seniors who have complex medication schedules or those who may require Spanish-speaking assistance from the monitoring call center will be better served by Philips Lifeline. The 10 years + battery life for Life Alert systems and the additional cell phone apps that are available at no extra charge may be more helpful for forgetful seniors and their loved ones, who may also monitor the wearer using their cell phone app.