Philips Lifeline, GoSafe: Review

Philips Lifeline, GoSafe: Review

The Basics

Product name: GoSafe 

Manufacturer / Distributor: Philips Lifeline

Compilation: Sept. 2015. Updated Q4 2018.

This page contains our Philips Lifeline GoSafe review.

 

 

Analyst Summary: Philips Lifeline GoSafe

"Go anywhere" PERS product. Philips Lifeline is a leader in the medical alert system space, with a large number of users. Includes fall detection, 2 way voice through pendant, and waterproof. Also, has an extra base unit for the home, ensuring good coverage even if cell coverage at home is not great everywhere.

This product uses the AT&T network for communication when the pendant is out and about.

Pre testing comments

On paper this looks like the most full featured product for the "go anywhere" scenario, and the company is a market leader in this space, so this product was on our test list.

 

Update: Q4 2018

This product was one of our top recommendations when we acquired it and did an extensive comparative evaluation of this and several other "go anywhere" medical alerts. See the comparative evaluation at the link below.

The Go Safe is still the top of the line product in the Philips Lifeline product line, and we believe the review below remains current.

Go Safe 2

Since we acquired the Go Safe, the company has added the Go Safe 2 to its product line.

While we have not purchased this product, as best we can tell it is the same as the Go Safe except without the home communicator. This means it probably works equally well when you are out and about. However there were some nice extra features that came with there being a home communicator, that you can read about below. 

The Go Safe 2 is less expensive than the Go Safe, so you need to decide whether the saving is worth the reduced feature set.

To keep things in perspective, the home communicator provides a degree of extra "perfection" in the ability to call for help at all times. However the primary competitors to the Go Safe work very much like the Go Safe 2, and lack the extra features of the home communicator.

 

Hands-on Testing

The Hands-on evaluation below was done in Q1 2016.

Acquiring it. Day 1.

Website is clear and rather elegant looking. Looks very serious and professional, as one might expect from a large, blue chip company like Philips. Says "Monthly service starts at $55 and requires an additional $149 to purchase the pendant. This is seeming more expensive than the other products we are testing.

This product is not easy to buy. You can't buy it online it seems but are told to call Philips Lifeline. Hate that. But we did it. When we first enquired, there was a 7 week backlog to get this product.

 

Update: Q4 2018.

In Q4 2018, the website says delivery is in 2-5 days. And it seems you can buy it easily online via the Philips Lifeline website.

 

Really acquiring it

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Sat, 01/02/2016 - 14:17.

After quite some time, I came back to this product. It is now available, which is great. I purchased it. Price was $149 for the pendant plus $65 / mth for the monitoring service. It might have cost $10 less per month if I could have connected the base station to a landline. But they told me it would not work with ATT U-Verse (which is what I have) and thus I was forced to use the version of the base station that connects via cellular network to the responder.

One rather confusing detail was that they told me they "needed" a phone number and that the responder would "call back to the base station using that number". We discussed this at length, since as best as I understand things this is not possible. I was not able to resolve this with the sales person. I ordered the product anyway and expect to figure this detail out once I have it in my hands.

Notes [added later]:

  1. The purchasing process was suboptimal. They took my credit card over the phone and told me all was done. However I later got an email saying the sales rep had neglected to capture all the necessary informaqtion, so they would be sedning me an invoice. I had to swap several emails to discover whether they would or would not be shipping the unit.

  2. Once that was all sorted out, all went smoothly. However the final bill included an additional $50 "enrolment fee" which had never been mentioned during the purchase process.

  3. So, the total invoice when I got it was $279.17 (which included tax). This covered the first mointh only as well as the various start up costs. More expensive than the competitors, and more expensive than the sales rep told me it would be.

Unboxing and initial testing

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Thu, 11/17/2016 - 14:33.

The GoSafe arrived as expected without event. It came in some rather professional looking packaging and you can see below the contents of the package, which include the pendant, the base station and a charger for the pendant.

Package contents

Very cool voice prompted setup

As you might expect from a large company like Philips, there is a clear professionally presented manual, with simple "get started" instructions. Surprisingly, the base station and pendant also talk to you and guide you through the setup process. I found it very straightforward. I think the voice prompts were a nice touch especially for those who don't like reading manuals.

The pendant

My initial impression of the pendant was a bit negative. It is quite large and a little heavier than many of its competitors I think. And it is very white and "clinical" looking. I would have a hard time wearing that unless I really saw myself as an invalid.

You can see the pendant below.

Lifeline pendant

Initial testing

I started as with other products by testing the range of the button. This, and all the other products I tested so far, work fine throughout my house.

I pressed the emergency button, and when I got the responder talking to me through the base station I walked away until they could no longer hear me. The range seemed a bit better than with other products but after 2 - 3 rooms the responder could no longer hear my voice.

However in subsequent testing I got a very nice surprise, as explained below.

Excellently thought out 2 way voice

This GoSafe is designed so the pendant works everywhere. When in range of the base station the signal goes via the base station, but when out and about the pendant can communicate via the cell network with the responder.

When in the house, but out of voice range of the base station, you get the best of both worlds it turns out. The pendant communicates back thought the base station (robust). Then the responder first talks to you through the base station. But if you don't answer, they switch to talking to you via the pendant. This is a very impressively thought out approach, and gets around the false alarm concerns I have with many of the home based systems.

And by using the base station when possible, this system will also work well at home even if cell coverage in your house is poor.

Intelligent charging prompts

When the battery runs low on the pendant, the pendant started talking to me and reminded me I needed to charge it. The charging cradle seemed simple to use, and it charged fairly quickly.

This is one of the negatives of this system however, as the charge is supposed to last only a few days.

 

 

Testing results complete

Written By: Richard Caro.  Last Updated: Sat, 01/02/2016 - 15:56.

After a number of tests and days of wearing around the Philips Lifeline GoSafe, here are the results.

This product was part of our "go anywhere" comparative test of emergency response products, and you can read how this product compares to the others at the link below.

Read the "Go Anywhere medical alerts comparison".

Summary

My biggest take away from testing this product is that it is extremely well engineered. It has numerous nice features. More on the good features below. But it also has two negatives. And it is the most expensive of the products we tested.

If I wanted a product that maximized my chances of staying safe, and was not concerned about price or appearance, this would be the product I would choose, with one caveat. In terms of performance, the one area where this product fell short was the time it took for a responder to come on the line after I pressed the alert button. If you care a lot about speed of response, this should be a cause for concern.

Precision engineering

This product has numerous touches that make it stand out. Some of these are discussed in the comparative article mentioned above. But here they are again.

  1. Because it uses a home base station, as well as having a pendant that can "go anywhere", it eliminates the concern about working at home in rooms that don't have good cell coverage.

  2. Because the pendant has voice through the pendant, even if you hurt yourself out of voice range from the home base station (eg in the bathroom or garden) you dont need to worry whether you will hear the responder. They will talk to you from the pendant.

  3. It has autodetection of falls, which is a nice feature. Given the quality of the rest of the engineering, we suspect their fall detection is as good as anyone's. Although we have not confirmed that with tests.

  4. Autodetection of falls has an inevitable corollary of false alarms. Because of the "talk through pendant" feature, it greatly reduces the danger of a false alarm leading to people breaking down the door, because when the false alarm goes off, the responder will talk to you through the pendant, and assuming you have it on, you will be able to tell them it was a false alarm.

  5. The product has a built in siren that the responder can activate if they think you are in danger but dont know exactly how to pinpoint your location for the emergency responders.

  6. The pendant is not a simple box, but a smoothly rounded ergonomic shape and wearing it under a shirt or sweater is comfortable.

  7. The button itself has a very nice positive click when you press it. There is no uncertainty about whether or not it "activated". This is in contrast to some of the other products we tested that sometimes take a press or two before activating.

  8. There is a very comprehensive communications engine that talks to you under a number of circumstances. For example it guides you though setup, and reminds you when to charge the pendant. While I normally find this sort of thing annoying, this implementation was helpful.

  9. The sound coming from the pendant (ie the volume of the responders voice when they talk to you) is quite a lot louder than from any of the other products. I did not try and measure this but I felt it was a lot more easy to hear in noisy environments than the competing products.

Location capability

The Philips Lifeline GoSafe performed very well at finding my location, although like all such products it can not tell which floor you are on once you are inside. In 10 separate tests at different locations in Northern California, it failed to deliver a location within a block of actual location on only 1 out of 10 tests (and on that occasion it was within two blocks). This is better than most of the other products we tested, being similar to the GreatCall Splash in this respect.

Some negatives

There are two things I did not like so much. The first was the response times. The second was the appearance.

Slow response times

In our testing over the last month response time (from when I pressed the button until someone started talking to me) averaged 91 seconds. (Max: 146 seconds; Min: 66 seconds; N=13). This is noticeably worse than its competitors (see article above). This is a bit surprising as the Philips Lifeline website claims an average response time of 22 seconds. All I can say is that was not my experience in a series of 13 tests over 20 days.

Looks medical

The second negative is the fact that it looks inescapably like a medical product, and sends a clear message that you are old or a patient. I think once one reaches a stage in life were one does indeed feel old, frail, infirm and at risk, then this may well not matter. But for those who like the idea of an emergency response button, but still feel active and in the middle of living, I worry this is a negative.

Other comments

We triggered one false alarm when we dropped the pendant into its charging cradle. But the responder reached me and all was well.

According to my kitchen scale the pendant weighs 2.1 oz.

The Philips Lifeline GoSafe is waterproof to a specific standard called  IP67: ("highly water resistant: submerged in water for up to 3 feet and up to 30 minutes"). As are the competitors GreatCall Splash and Numera Libris.

 

 

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Product Line & Company: Philips Lifeline

Philips is a very large and highly regarded company with products ranging from consumer products to medical devices. Lifeline was acquired by Philips in 2006, and Lifeline was one of the pioneers of the medical alert business in the USA.

You can see more about the history of Lifeline on the Philips Lifeline website here. The website says that Philips Lifeline "has served over 7.5 million people" and claim "650,000 subscribers". They emphasize the quality of their call center and level of training of their responders.

As best we can tell this company is the market leader in medical alert systems, both from a... .........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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