Page Reviewed / Updated – November 21, 2020

Wearable medical alert devices allow users to enjoy a greater level of freedom in their homes and while out and about. These devices, usually in the form of a pendant or wristwatch, summon assistance with the push of one button. The devices are monitored by professional operators who can help assess the user’s situation and alert nearby emergency services and police. Using a medical alert device can be quicker than dialing 911, and some devices can summon aid even when the user isn’t able to communicate.

Many companies provide medical alert systems, and each company has different plans, apparatuses, and pricing. Marketing information can often be confusing, and company websites are designed to sell medical alert devices, so we’ve gathered information on two of the most popular systems, Philips Lifeline and LifeFone, and conducted our own independent assessment of each system. Our guide features a side-by-side comparison of pricing, features, and plans, in order to help seniors make an educated decision about the right system for their needs.

We’ve discovered that Philips Lifeline and LifeFone offer many of the same features and benefits for subscribers, although Philips Lifeline has more to offer users, both with affordable pricing and the selection of plans and devices.

Overview Table

Category Side By Side Comparison Philips Lifeline LifeFone
Up-Front Equipment $0 $0 – $39.95 depending on the device and plan
Monthly Monitoring $29.95 – $64.95 depending on the plan level $24.95 – $39.95 $5 per month extra for fall detection monitoring $10 per month extra for On-The-Go fall detection necklace $19 per month extra for daily check-in calls and medication reminders
Activation Fee $50 – $149 per device depending on the plan None
Contract Month to month, cancel any time Month to month, upfront payment but refunds available for unused services when the plans are canceled
Optional Monthly Add-On Services None – plans are inclusive $5 for device insurance $19 for daily check-in $6 for medication reminders $9 for GPS location service
FEATURES Water-Resistant Wearable Devices Yes, both pendant and wristband Yes, both pendant and wristband; both have a temperature sensor
Connection Landline and cellular through AT&T Landline and cellular through AT&T or Verizon
2-Way Voice Communication Yes, both In-Home and the Go Safe 2 pendant Yes, through the In-Home base units or the On The Go pendant
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service) Up to 800 feet Up to 600 feet for at-home fall detection Up to 1300 feet for two-way communication
Battery life Wristband and pendants of the Home Safe devices are non-rechargeable; Philips will replace when batteries are low HomeSafe base has a 48-hour backup battery 2-7 days backup battery for wearable GoSafe devices 32-hour battery backup in At-Home Landline base unit 30 days for wearable devices without fall detection Up to 5 days for devices with fall detection
Fall Detection Yes, with all plans. Included in the monthly fee with HomeSafe with Auto Alert and all GoSafe units Yes, available as a monthly add-on option for an extra fee
GPS Locator Yes, with GoSafe and GoSafe 2 wearable devices Yes with On The Go GPS-enables wearable devices
Coverage Away From Home Yes with GoSafe and GoSafe 2 devices Yes, with the On The Go system
24/7 USA Call Center Yes; services are available in up to 140 different languages Yes
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES None Wall-mounted help button Extra wearable alert buttons Hanging and wall-mounted master lockboxes to allow EMS access to the home Beaded lanyard for pendant devices

Philips Lifeline Overview

Philips Lifeline is developed by the electronics giant Philips Electric. Currently, Philips Lifeline has over 7 million enrollees, with operators stationed in both Canada and the United States. Representatives must go through at least 80 hours of training, with emphasis on the needs of the elderly and disabled. While there are 140 different languages available for clients, most operators use either English or Spanish or both.

The company created in-home monitoring devices that can cover the entire house and its occupants, which is beneficial for couples or companions aging in place together. The devices are very sensitive and have Braille writing on the buttons. The devices must be installed in the home by a certified Philips technician, resulting in one-time activation and installation fees.

One of the highlights of the Philips Lifeline programs is the medication management and dispensing system. Users or their caretakers simply load the device with a week’s worth of medicines and program the times for each to be dispensed. This is helpful for seniors with a complicated medication schedule, those who are forgetful or those with arthritis or another condition that makes opening medicine bottles difficult.

Philips offers three different plans, starting at $29.95 and ranging up to $54.95 for the on-the-go systems. Philips devices work well for those in larger homes, as the range is greater, and the medication management option is unique among medical alert systems.

Philips plans start with the HomeSafe base plan, which has a speaker in the house connected to either a landline or cellular service. This plan starts at $29.95 and is water-resistant. There’s an upgraded home plan, the HomeSafe with Auto Alert, which will automatically contact emergency services even if the subscriber isn’t able to communicate. The cost for this plan is $44.95.

Philips Lifeline also has wearable alarm devices, called the GoSafe. These are equipped with GPS positioning, which helps EMS responders pinpoint the location of the wearer, and can help track seniors who are prone to wandering. These have unlimited range, as long as the wearer is in AT&T cellular coverage space.

Philips Lifeline Pros

  • Multilingual operator support in over 140 languages
  • The larger range for in-home devices, better for those in larger homes
  • Medication dispensing system that either the subscriber or their home health aide can restock
  • Professional installation available (this is required but does eliminate any errors with installation)

Philips Lifeline Cons

  • One of the highest up-front costs of major medical systems
  • Limited design for wearable devices (no smartwatch technology)
  • No apps for cell phones and no ability to store friends and family as contacts

LifeFone Overview

LifeFone has been creating medical alert devices for more than 40 years and is a company with a solid history. The company owns and operates its own security operations center, based in the United States. Operators are expected to complete thorough training and there is continuing education training for the operators. While there may be some Spanish speaking operators available, there isn’t the diversity of linguistics that the Philips operations center has.

LifeFone offers several different add-on services, including medication reminders and fall alert for the wearable devices. Safety checks from trained operators are also available for an add-on, and the wearer needs to only press the button to acknowledge the check-in.

LifeFone plans start at $24.95, although the maximum cost for monthly plans depends on the number of add-on services that the subscriber desires. The base plan doesn’t have an activation fee, although the on-the-go plan does.

LifeFone Pros

  • Zero activation fee for the base plan
  • Discounts and free products available for subscribers who prepay
  • A second subscriber may be added for free
  • Lifetime warranty for all devices

LifeFone Cons

  • Battery life is just 30 hours, and batteries must be manually changed, challenging for forgetful seniors
  • Pricing for plans can be hard to understand, and plans aren’t all-inclusive
  • Equipment may be difficult for some users to operate
  • Refunds and cancellations can be difficult to obtain

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Our Pick

While on the surface LifeFone and Philips Lifeline look similar, the quality of the Philips products and the professional installation of the service make this the better option. While Philips plans can be a little pricey, the quality of service and responsiveness of operators, plus the sensitivity of the wearable devices mean that subscribers truly get what they pay for.

LifeFone may have lower up-front costs, but the add-ons can quickly add up, and obtaining refunds after cancellations can be troublesome.