COVID-19 Update: Since the medical alert industry is considered to be “essential” during the COVID crisis, monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how a medical alert device can help keep you or your elderly loved one safe and connected during this pandemic, take a look at our list of essential products for seniors during COVID-19.

Medical alert systems make it easier for seniors to maintain independent living while providing peace of mind for relatives and caregivers. These devices, which can be wearable units or buttons installed in the home, work by sending an alert to a centralized call center when an emergency occurs. Having a medical alert system gives families peace of mind and ensure that seniors get tended to quickly if a fall or other medical event should occur.

When you’re ready to choose a medical alert system, side-by-side comparisons can help you decide between the dozens of options available. Our detailed guides give you at-a-glance information to simplify your decision, and we break through the marketing jargon to showcase the features that might be most important to you.

This guide covers medical alert systems from two popular companies, Life Alert and Philips Lifeline. These U.S.-based companies have both been in business for decades, and they offer similar basic functionality along with extra features that might be beneficial to individuals with specific needs.

We determined between the two companies that Philips Lifeline is the better choice for budget-conscious seniors due to it’s $0 down for equipment fees, low monthly plans and no contract to get locked into. Also Philips Lifeline has more services in its plan than Life Alert.

Side By Side ComparisonPhilips LifelineLife Alert
Up-Front Equipment$0$95-$98 One-Time Fee Per Device
Monthly Monitoring$29.95-$64.95$49.00
+$19/Month for an Optional in the Bathroom Device
+$19/Month for an On-the-Go Device
Activation Fee$50-$149 Per DeviceIncluded in One-Time Fee for Each Device
$1 Programming/Setup Fee for Bathroom and On-the-Go Devices
ContractMonth-to-Month3-Year Contract
Quarterly and Annual Payment Plans Available.
12th Month Free on Annual Plans.
Optional Monthly Add-On ServicesN/AN/A
Water-Resistant Wearable DevicesPendant and WristbandPendant and Wall-Mounted Bathroom Button
ConnectionLandline or Cellular (AT&T Network)Landline or Cellular (AT&T Network)
2-Way Voice CommunicationThrough In-Home Communicator or GoSafe 2 PendantThrough Bathroom HELP Button
Range (From In-Home base unit for landline service)Up to 800'800'-1,000'
Battery lifeNon-Rechargeable Batteries in Wearables are Automatically Replaced By Philips When the Battery is Low
HomeSafe offers a 48-Hour Battery Backup, and GoSafe has a 2-7 Day Backup for Wearables.
Pendant Has a Nonrechargeable Battery with a Life of 7 Years
10 Year Battery Life for On-the-Go and Bathroom Button Systems
72-Hour Battery Backup for Home Systems
Fall DetectionIncluded in Monthly Fee with HomeSafe with Auto Alert and All GoSafe UnitsNot Available
GPS LocatorIncluded in GoSafe and GoSafe 2 ProductsIncluded with On-the-Go System
Coverage Away From HomeIncluded with GoSafe DevicesIncluded with On-the-Go Devices
24/7 USA Call CenterYes--Service Available in Up to 140 LanguagesYes
Automated Medication Dispenser
Voice Extension Box

Philips Lifeline Overview

With more than 7.5 million subscribers in the U.S., Philips Lifeline is the largest medical alert business in the country. Philips is the only FDA-approved medical service alert system in the U.S., and the company has a wide range of models and price points to choose from. The HomeSafe plan includes a base unit with a 500′ range and wireless monitoring device that can be worn on your wrist or as a pendant on a necklace, while the GoSafe 2 plan uses mobile technology for medical monitoring coverage anywhere you go. GPS location tracking and fall detection are available with some plans. The call monitoring centers for Philips Lifeline are all based in the U.S. and Canada, and the operators have access to interpreters who can provide service in up to 140 languages.

One unique feature of Philips Lifeline is the ability to add an automated medicine dispenser that can be programmed to release the right dose up to six times per day and sends an alert to caregivers if a dose is missed. An optional voice extension box, which extends the range of the device to around 1,500′, makes this system even more effective, especially in a large home.

Pros of Philips Lifeline:

  • Well-established U.S.-based company
  • Device designed by a physician
  • Simple, all-inclusive pricing
  • Lightweight wearable devices
  • Automatic battery monitoring
  • Battery replacement included in plan
  • GPS location services and fall detection included
  • No annual contract required
  • Average response time of 11 seconds

Cons of Philips Lifeline:

  • No discounts available for additional members of the same household
  • No price guarantee, so the monitoring costs could increase over time
  • Equipment guaranteed for one year only
  • Activation fees of $50-$149 per device drive up overall costs

Life Alert Overview

With over 150,000 seniors as customers and a history dating back to 1979, Life Alert is one of the most well-established medical alert device companies in the business. Life Alert is well known for its popular “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” ad campaigns that highlight the challenges many seniors face while trying to remain independent. The company’s knowledgeable call center operators have access to medical records and previous call details, and Life Alert operators help oversee the emergency response to ensure everything gets taken care of throughout the process.

The In The Home plan from Life Alert offers reliable basic service if you just need a medical alert system that is home-based, but the On The Go plan is only available as an add-on, not a separate service you can use anywhere. The In The Bath plan, which includes a wall-mounted HELP button for the bathroom, is only available as an add-on to the basic In The Home plan. You can choose from a landline-based or cell phone-based system to use with the In Home base unit. A mandatory contract locks you into this service for three years.

Pros of Life Alert:

  • Well-established U.S. company
  • Operates own call centers, no outsourcing
  • Batteries don’t require recharging
  • Mobile app connects directly with monitoring center
  • Waterproof bathroom HELP button for shower and tub use
  • In-house setup included
  • Maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau

Cons of Life Alert:

  • 3-year service contract required
  • No fall detection available
  • High one-time fees
  • On the Go service only available as an add-on plan

Pricing Comparison

For basic monitoring services, Philips Lifeline is cheaper than Life Alert. The three-year contract requirement of Life Alert locks you into the higher pricing, so you may not be able to switch companies if you find something you like better. Philips Lifeline, on the other hand, has month-to-month billing. Both companies have upfront fees, such as device and activation fees, that make the initial cost higher than the recurring monthly charges. Philips Lifeline also offers some ways to save money, such as self-installation, which costs $19.95 instead of professional installation by a Philips technician, which costs $99.

Our Pick

Both Philips Lifeline and Life Alert offer reliable basic medical alert services, but the straightforward pricing and added features make Philips Lifeline stand out. Both companies provide options for in-home and on-the-go use, and Life Alert also has a bathroom button option for seniors prone to slipping and falling on damp floors or in the shower. Specific add-on options from Philips Lifeline, such as the automatic medication dispenser and voice extension box, help ease the burden on caregivers and improve the usefulness of the entire system.

The Philips Lifeline system lets you choose the outside-the-home option on its own if that suits your lifestyle better than an in-the-home plan, while the Life Alert system requires you to have the in-home option to get the portable device. This can drive costs up significantly for seniors who prefer an on-the-go option. The bathroom button offered by Life Alert is also an add-on, so it isn’t available as a solo system. If you’re already making adjustments to your home to help facilitate independent living, physical home modifications that reduce the risk of falling might be more beneficial than a separate bathroom button.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

Click on the links below to read about Medical Alert system comparisons.