AT&T Digital Life Review 2020: Home Security and Automation
The Good: AT&T Digital Life: Digital Life offers good security specs. The systems' home automation is on par with similar systems. Users are able to design their own home automation programs.
The Bad: AT&T Digital Life makes customers sign a 2-year contract and contract renewals. Also, between the potential costs, pricey initial setup fee, and equipment upgrades, it may be hard to justify the system's expense.
The Bottom Line: AT&T Digital Life is a strong alternative to a more modular way of viewing smart living. Anyone who is thinking about installing a professional security system may want to consider AT&T Digital Life. The service offers rates that are competitive with other professional security systems. If it doesn't break the budget, consumers can upgrade their package to include features like home automation will create on best smart home systems available.
The do-it-yourself security market has experienced a lot of growth in the past couple of years. People are starting to see DIY security systems as a viable security option. Because of this, more companies are starting to offer whole-home, DIY security systems.
Now, professionally installed security systems are not the same as their modular counterparts. Instead of having to select individual components, like a lock or alarm, people sign a contract and receive a fully integrated security system. For the duration of the contract, subscribers to this service will have to pay a monthly fee. Testing out AT&T's Digital Life packages for this review meant working more closely with the company than usual.
AT&T's Digital Life is a highly-recommended service. The app's interface is easy for consumers to use and modern. Also, the security features and home automation devices are competitive with the ones offered by other comparable companies. While the devices and security features are basic, they integrate well. The biggest issues with AT&T Digital Life is the pricing. The cost of AT&T Digital Life includes the monthly fees, which can be $40, $55, or $65. There are also initial equipment fees that can be $50, $150, and $200. Consumers have to sign a two-year contract and could pay cancellation fees when they discontinue the service before their contract ends. Despite all of this, Digitial Life is a good option for people who don't want to be bothered with the installation of a DIY system.
What are the Security Options?
There are several do-it-yourself security systems, like iSmartAlarm and SimpliSafe, that consumers can purchase for a couple of hundred dollars. These security systems do not require any contractual obligations. The packages tend to include contact sensors, devices that indicate the opening and closing of windows and doors, and motion detectors, an alarm, camera, a remote, or a combination of these devices.
The majority of professionally installed systems come with the similar components. AT&T's Digital Life's Smart Security package comes with an alarm, a motion detector, six contact sensors, and a motion detector.
It is possible to upgrade the system. AT&T lets customers add flood sensors, smart door locks, cameras, connected outlets, and more. DIY systems are ideal for smaller apartments and homes. Systems like AT&T's Premium Security and Automation can be personalized to meet the needs of the home and apartment owner. This system is for homes and apartments of all sizes as it can be scaled to fit the needs of the environment. To review this feature, the Premium Security and Automation was customized.
Scaling isn't the only benefit of using a professional security system over a DIY system. These types of systems offer 24-7 professional security monitoring. Should an emergency occur, the professional monitors will notify the right authorities. With AT&T Digital Life, customers will not have to worry about whether or not the proper authorities are contacted during an emergency. A lot DIY system will set off an alarm or send the homeowner a notification should something happen. Unfortunately, many of these DIY systems do not call the fire department or police. Some DIY systems will add this feature, but the customers will have to pay an additional monthly monitoring fee to use the service.
While professional monitoring services are beneficial, they tend to be involved. These types of services are not likely to allow their customers to avoid contracts. AT&T Digital Life requires their customers to sign a two-year contract. Having the security system will cost, at a minimum, $30 a month. On top of the monitoring costs, consumers will have to pay additional installation or technology fees. In some situations, customers may pay both fees. Over the two-year period, AT&T's Digital Life system can cost customers between $1,010 and $1,760. These charges do not include the charges for extra devices customers may add to their package. While being tied down to a contract is bad enough, customers could face early termination fees. Anyone who decides that they want to cancel their service after two weeks of having it will pay an early termination fee. The fee is $30 a month for the remaining months in the contract.
The Advantages of Using AT&T's Professional Security
Digital Life is a good professional security system for several reasons. First, Digital Life has an uncomplicated pricing structure in comparison to other security systems. The website contains basic information about the duration of the contract, monthly costs, and initial equipment fees. AT&T's website also includes information about the devices that are included in each package. Most of AT&T's competitors make finding pricing information difficult. They force customers to call the company to get information about the contract length, a quote, and the prices of other items.
With the exception of the $55 mid-range package, the packages offered by AT&T are well put together. The Smart Security package is $40 a month. These rates are similar to the packages offered by companies like ADT, Protect America and Frontpoint. The Premium Security and Automation package is $65 a month and customers get a lot for their money. Vivint offers a similar package that is slightly more expensive but has a cheaper setup fee. Also, customers can customize AT&T's packages by adding devices like locks, energy, cameras, etc.
To produce the most accurate review possible, it was important to replicate the process that a customer would undergo when having their security system installed. When it is time for the installation appointment, like with most services, someone needs to be home for the installation. AT&T makes an effort to ensure the safety of the home and those inside of it. All of AT&T's installation specialists have undergone background checks. The technicians are professional and even wore booties while inside the home.
Once the installation was complete, the on-site manager explained the Digital Life system. They also answered any questions. AT&T's service comes with everything that most people who want a home security system would want: professional monitoring, sensors, remote access, tamper-alarms, and wireless connectivity. Because the purpose of the install was to review the product, the monitoring service was not fully operational. AT&T could monitor the system, it would not automatically contact any emergency services.
The installation experience was positive. Although, the quality of service may have been affected by the fact that the installers knew the service was being reviewed. Before the installation process is completed, they optimized the strength of the signal. It's important to note that the quality of the service a person receives can depend on the installation team. The experience can be affected by how busy the installers are, who show up at a home, the expertise of the installer, and a host of other factors.
AT&T's Digital Life Offers Great Integration and Technology
The installation process was positive. The Smart Security plan was installed and it came with a siren, contact sensors, and a keypad. To try out some of the extras offered by AT&T, a thermostat, glass-break sensor, CO sensor, an extra smoke detector, two cameras, two smart door locks, four smart plugs, and two garage door controllers. This package, with the additions, was $5 a month less than the Premium Security and Automation package. The extra features mean that the installation costs would be much higher.
The garage door and camera controllers need to be plugged into an outlet. Everything else is battery operated. These devices communicate wirelessly to AT&T's controller box. The box is installed in a closet. Wireless installations like this are common for contract providers.
AT&T Digital Life uses its partnerships to its advantage when it comes to devices. This can be a good or a bad thing. Some of the products, like the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro, are excellent products. While other products, like the thermostat or tablet, are less than stellar.
AT&T is actively increasing its partnerships to expand and strengthen their product offering. Currently, AT&T has relationships with Lutron Electronics, Nest, Samsung, and Qualcomm. According to AT&T, integration with Nest's Learning Thermostat will happen soon. The integration should improve the devices' consistency.
Two of AT&T's best devices, besides the Samsung camera, are the Yale Touchscreen Deadbolt and smart plugs. The plugs are designed well. Unlike the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch or iDevices Switch, these plugs cannot measure energy consumption. But, these indoor switches have something that others don’t have, they have dual outlets. Meaning, one outlet is always on. The other outlet is the smart outlet that users can control from their phone. Having two outlets may not seem like it is that important, but it is useful to have an outlet for remote control and one that's always on.
The Yale Deadbolt, like the Samsung camera, are two standalone products that have been available to consumers for a while. The Yale Deadbolt is a great device on its own. However, when paired with AT&T's Digital Life it really shines. The device not only allows owners to create personalized entry codes for family and friends, these codes can now be programmed to control different devices inside the home.
Most of AT&T's Digital Life products are good. However, there is one product that is disappointing: the ZTE tablet. The ZTE tablet is terrible and it comes with every mid- and high-level package. The interface is simplistic and unresponsive. The app and online portal are much more responsive. Some major complaints about the tablet includes the fact that it freezes often. Users will find themselves turning it off because it freezes on the loading screen. The touchscreen controls aren't functional and the tablet is quite limited in its capabilities. The one positive aspect of the tablet is the fact that it is easily accessible. Users won't need to sign into the tablet to use it. Unfortunately, that's not enough to make the tablet worth it. It may be easier to use a phone than try to use the tablet.
Customers may experience some latency issues when sending commands to the system using AT&T's online portal, sending commands using the website or the app. It should be noted that having a lot of wireless devices may affect the system's responsiveness.
When the technician installed the system to review, he optimized all of the connections and gave a tour of the app. During the explanation of the app, the technician wasn't too concerned that the commands lagged for about 10 seconds. In fairness, there isn't a home automation system that doesn't have some type of lag issues with the remote access. However, the Digital Life system does highlight a common complaint with the products. When using this system, it was sometimes faster to manually turn on the light.
Digital Life does have its issues with latency, but what makes this system shine is its online interface that users can access using the Digital Life online portal and the phone app. The interfaces are user-friendly and organized. User sharing is easy to do, the user simply has the share the account. Anyone who has the account information can set the automation and do things like establishing a command schedule or triggered Programs. There are downsides to the interface. Users have to log-in every time they want to use the app. Digital Life does not have a keypad sign-in like ADT Pulse. The other downside involves account creation. Users cannot create accounts with different access levels. For example, users can't establish a command that would only allow their kids to control certain items. These shortcomings don't really have a significant impact on the quality of the system. The critique is more about the app's design.
The best element in the online portal and app is the Programs feature. This feature allows users to put an input into a gadget trigger to control another gadget. Using this feature does not require having any type of programming skill. While not difficult to use, it may take some getting used to. However, when the user figures it out, they will have a lot of fun with it. The Program feature allows users to create programs that let them turn off lamps, set the thermostat and automatically lock the doors. All of this is done by putting the system 'Away Armed' mode. When the person comes home, they can quickly re-establish their regular settings.
A lot of people have made creative uses of their Program features. The possibilities of this feature will expand as the types of equipment that are available expands. Voice recognition and automation is one expansion that is coming. As of now, this technology going through a trial phase. If the trial of the expansion is a success, Digitial Life will have a feature that puts it ahead of the majority of its competitors.
The Digital Life website interface allows subscribers to purchase additional products for their system. Having the ability to do this is important because users can't buy products from other proprietors. By having a flexible purchasing system, users can customize their security and their bill.
Is AT&T Digital Life Worth the Money?
Honestly, the answer depends on what you need. Homeowners with a larger house will gain a system that is secure and integrated. The system won't turn homes into a futuristic landscape, but it is a highly-effective system.
The Smart Security package, the basic package, is $40 a month. It's a well-designed packaged that is competitively priced. The Premium Security and Automation package is $65 a month. This package comes with a lot of equipment and is a decent security system. The Smart Security and Automation package is the only package that some people would not recommend. At $55, this package is $15 more than the Smart Security package. Unfortunately, it doesn't have enough added features to justify the price increase. Also, it comes with a tablet that might as well be a paperweight.
AT&T Digital Life is a good system. However, a do-it-yourself system might be better for smaller homes and apartments. Anyone who is considering installing a home security system and home automation may want to research Digital Life. If signing up for a two-year contract is a deal breaker. Digital Life is a system worth monitoring. It's actively increasing its technology partnerships and increases its automation features.
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