LifeFone, At-home & On-the-Go GPS: Review

LifeFone, At-home & On-the-Go: Review

The Basics

Product name: At-home & On-the-Go GPS 

Manufacturer / Distributor: LifeFone

Compilation: Sept. 2015. Updated Q4 2018.

This page contains our LifeFone At-home & On-the-Go GPS review.

 

 

Analyst Summary: LifeFone At-home & On-the-Go GPS

The product works both at home and on the go. It does so by having two separate "base stations". One base station stays at home (connects via the cellular connection to the monitoring service), and one is small-ish and can be carried with you (for example in a purse). The mobile base station can also connect to the monitoring service via a cellular connection.

The wearable pendant/wristband stays attached to the person and communicates either to the home base station (when you are at home) or to the mobile base station when you are out and about.

This product comes either with or without fall detection. The difference between these choices is the pendant, which in one case can do automatic fall detection and in the other can not.

Voice communication is through the base station(s).

This is a rebranded version of the MobileHelp Cellular Duo. We acquired this system from LifeFone, and the testing you can see below applies to all of the rebranded versions of this product.

Pre-testing

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 14:41.

This company scores well on various online review sites, and we think this product is a good example of a particular class of alert systems: the mobile system that works out and about, but which requires you to carry both the pendant and the mobile base station. The picture of the system is remarkably similar to the picture of ADT's system. Maybe they have a common hardware supplier?

We decided to put this on our testing list. 

Day 1. Acquiring it.

We decided to acquire the version with the fall detection pendant. $50/mth. No apparent contract or need to commit to specific time.

Website was clear and easy to navigate. Not super elegant but informative. You could order the product online. Looked like it would have worked without pain. They were offering a "special" if we called and ordered it by phone which we did. Also pretty painless. The sales person was very personable.

Day 2. Unboxing.

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Thu, 11/17/2016 - 16:13.

This system arrived punctually, was easy to unpack, and had quite a lot of components as shown below.

The reason for this is that this product is designed to work both in the house (via an in-house base station) and out and about (via a mobile base station you carry with you). In addition, they provide two different pendant/wearables to choose from, and a nice little carrying case for the mobile base station. And the mobile base station requires a charging cradle. It all adds up to quite a few pieces but the result has powerful versatility.

Lifefone unboxed

 

The Pendants

This product came with two "wearables", although I only paid for one. There is a pendant, that includes auto-detection of falls. And a wristband-mounted, watch-like button that does not have the auto-detection of falls. Images of both are below.

The wristband button is not at all bad looking. It rather resembles a swatch watch. The pendant is inoffensive but has that white, medical-looking appearance. The fall detection pendant is larger than the wrist button, and quite a bit larger than some of the other non-auto-detecting, pendants that we tested. It seems that auto-detection comes at the cost of size. However the pendant does not seem so large and bulky as to make it too problematic.

Lifefone pendants

 

Out and About Functionality

This system is of the type that requires a mobile base station to be functional when out and about and away from the home. So one needs to carry with one two things: the mobile base station (about the size of a flip phone); and the pendant or wrist button. In the image below, the mobile base station is the larger white unit, and it is shown with the fall detection pendant. You would need to carry the base station somewhere near you and wear the pendant.

Lifeline out and about

 

Another approach is to carry the mobile base station together with the wrist-band button. You can see this in the image below. The base station is shown in its handy belt pouch.

 

How to use it (out and about)

We think this system would get used in one of two ways.

For people who typically carry a purse (handbag), the mobile base station could easily fit in the purse while the person wore the pendant or wristband. For those who have a belt but no purse, a better option would be the belt-mounted base station plus wristband or pendant.

lifefone wrist pendant and base station

 

The Base Station(s)

As you can see from the prior images, there are two base stations. In normal use one would imagine setting up the home base station in some convenient spot with the charging cradle for the mobile base station next to it (image below). Or the charging cradle and mobile base station could live in a different place, thereby extending the overall range of the system.

Lifefone system

 

Activation

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Thu, 11/17/2016 - 16:11.

There are simple instructions for setting up the system. Because it uses a cellular connection to the responders there is no need to connect it to the home phone line which keeps things simple.

The system has a "test" functionality that worked well and allowed me to test how far from the base unit I could go and still use the pendant to summon help. It worked fine throughout my moderately large house.

I tested how far away I could be and still hear the voice of the responder when they called me back after I pressed the alarm. If I was relying on the main base unit for this functionality (ie just carrying one of the two pendants on me) then the voice range was only a couple of rooms at best. Similar to the Bay Alarm system we tested.

If you carry the mobile base station with you, then the voice comes out of that mobile base station and avoids this issue.

Out and About

I tried it out during my normal day. Worked as expected. The wrist "button" is comfortable and rather unobtrusive. It is black and I could easily imagine wearing it at all times.

However the mobile base station is a bit large and cluncky. It comes with a belt pouch that works fine. However it feels like you are carrying around a large 10 yr old cell phone. See the image below.

Overall the functionality of the mobile unit plus pendant was pretty good. The big negative is the need to carry two items with you. The positive is the ability to use the small wrist button alone while you are at home.

belt pouch lifefone

Testing completed

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 14:41.

While I originally thought this product was clunky (which it is), after testing it for a couple of months, I like it a lot. This is one of our "best of breed" recommendations.

View: "Comparative testing: Go Anywhere Medical Alerts".

The things I especially like are:

  • you can use a nice small unobtrusive watch-type pendant with it (because the out and about electronics are in the separate portable base station);
  • the pendant/watch-style buttons have a long life battery. The manual claims it will last for 18 months.

These two details make it far more likely you would put the pendant/watch on and keep it on at all times, and this is very important if one seeks to minimize risk — since many falls happen when the pendant is not "on the person".

The downside is the extra portable base station. It was not too bad wearing it on my belt, but a definite annoyance. However, our Explorers tell me that carrying it in a purse "would be no problem".

In terms of speed of response and location capability, here is what we found.

GPS adequate, but not great.

Location capability for this product was neither the best nor worst of the competitors. It failed to deliver a location within a block of actual location on 3 out of 13 tests (23%). On 1 occasion it reported a location more than 10 blocks from where I actually was, on 1 occasion it simply had "no location information" according to the responder, and on the third occasion it thought I was in England, when I was actually near Palo Alto in CA. While errors are inevitable, this last was concering because the responder did not seem to immediately realize just how absurd that was. This is a reflection more on the operator than on the product itself.

Read the comparative testing article above to see how this compares with competitors.

Speed of response

One of the areas we tested was speed of response. In our tests, the average time from pressing the button to hearing a responder was 62 seconds. In 13 trials spread out over a month, the maximum response time was 120 seconds, and the response time was over 60 seconds on 5 occasions (38%). The fastest response was about 20 seconds.

To see how that compares with competitors, read the article on comparative testing linked to above.

 

 

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Product Line & Company: LifeFone

LifeFone is often well reviewed in the various online review sites and offers a fairly broad range of medical alert systems. For in-home use they have all you might expect, including fall detection and the choice of cellular or landline connection to the responders.

They have an App for those who want to use a smartphone as their medical alert system.

For out-and-about use, they offer a single pendant that can connect by itself to the responders.  .........Read more

 

About this Research

This product review is part of an extensive series of medical alert system reviews of over 50 products, including hands-on evaluation and real-world testing of the most promising ones, in real-world situations.

These reviews and analyses are part of our Research Project designed to help older adults and their families Choose the Right Medical Alert System for THEM — the result of which is our Medical Alert Systems: Selection Guide.

We have tried hard to make this research as independent and objective as possible. It has not been funded or sponsored by any of the vendors of these products, and includes no advertising or "sponsored content". The team that conducted this research has strong scientific, clinical, and aging services backgrounds. You can read more about the team that did this research at the links above. 

 

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