Ever wonder why traditional and some of the best home security systems cost thousands of dollars and force you into a long-term, expensive contract? If that's not your jam, Abode is a way to avoid that. The company offers basic security systems that are essentially a set of wireless, magnetic contact sensors and a hub to notify you when a door or window is opened. And they work well.
We spent a couple of weeks testing an Abode starter system that costs just over $300. Although to be fair, it did lack some bells and whistles, such as an outdoor camera and touchscreen (though an outdoor camera has since become available). The Abode system we installed monitored a few of our critical entryways, so we didn’t have a full perimeter of protection. Nonetheless, it satisfied our desire for peace of mind. Want to read the full scoop? Take a peek below at our full findings.
Ordering Abobe starts by visiting GoAbode.com. Click on its “Build Your System” online wizard and then select either Home, Apartment, Business, or Other. Next, you identify the size of the building as under 1,000 square feet, 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, or over 5,000. Then, determine how many doors or windows you want to protect.
The next question is if you want video, photos, both, or no images to be part of your system. Finally, choose if you'd like to control your system from your phone, a a keypad, or key fob.
These are the basic questions to ask when ordering any home security system. Abode automates the process, loading your selections into the online shopping cart for easy checkout.
For this review, we wanted to see how inexpensive yet robust a home security system could be. So we ordered the IOTA All-in-One Security Kit, which currently costs about $290. It has a built-in camera and a motion detector. The package also comes with one Mini door/window sensor and a key fob. We added three more Mini sensors to the order, which will come to $84.We strongly recommend getting the keypad for another $95 and an outdoor siren for $90.
Everything you need to install Abode arrives in a box. The packaging is high-quality and well designed. Our order arrived in one medium-sized box, plus a padded envelope with three additional door sensors.
We were immediately impressed with the industrial design. The IOTA hub is a 7.1-inch cylinder with an ultra-deluxe feel, accented by a cloth-mesh texture on the bottom. The Mini contact sensors are smaller and more aesthetically pleasing than door sensors from high-priced competitors.
We were immediately impressed with the industrial design. The IOTA hub is a 7.1-inch cylinder with an ultra-deluxe feel, accented by a cloth-mesh texture on the bottom.
We began by downloading the Abode mobile app and creating an account. The app guides you through the necessary steps. At first, we encountered a hiccup in which we were asked to identify the type of hub—either Abode’s conventional Gateway or the all-in-one IOTA hub. But we got stuck in a loop of the same screens only to discover the “Activation Successful” message. Abode later told us that this problem was an anomaly. But we found it indicative of the entire Abode experience. In other words, it’s easy to use, but the messages and help functions sometimes leave you guessing.
Getting started with the IOTA hub required plugging it into our Internet router via an Ethernet cable. The linkage between the IOTA and our account was immediately established. However, if your house is like our test environment, the router is far away from the hub’s ideal location. So we unplugged the IOTA and relocated it to a spot where its wide-angle camera can see the front entryway and adjacent living room. At that point, the main hub becomes reliant upon Wi-Fi. “Ninety-five percent of IOTA customers use Wi-Fi rather than Ethernet,” said Scott Beck, Abode’s chief technology officer. Beck told us that Wi-Fi systems have become very reliable in the past few years.
The process to install the four Mini door/window sensors was straightforward. We pulled the battery tab, pressed the activation button on the sensor, and in a split-second, the hub found the device. We used the provided double-sided adhesive to stick one part of the sensor on a door frame and the other to the swinging or sliding door. Labels showed us where to align the two pieces. It couldn’t have been easier.
After we named the location of that sensor in the mobile app, and we were in business. In each case, we opened the door to test that the IOTA responded. And each time, the response was immediate. Beck said Abode’s radio transmitter is strong enough to allow some customers to put a sensor on a mailbox nearly 100 feet away from the hub.
The process to install the four Mini door/window sensors was straightforward. We pulled the battery tab, pressed the activation button on the sensor, and in a split-second, the hub found the device.
If you’re okay with leaving all the default settings for things like the length of the countdown timer, then you can install Abode in less than an hour. On the other hand, as you get a sense of how things work over time, you can adjust the volume of hub sounds, change the time provided for entry or exit, or add emergency contacts. Many of these settings can be changed in the mobile app. However, we found it easier to manage system settings, notifications, and automations via the web dashboard.
If the hands-on installation feels too challenging, Abode has a partnership with Hello Tech, an in-person tech service. Base pricing for this service starts at $99 but could be higher for large homes.
How It Works
The main distinction between Abode and other home-security systems is its app-based approach. The IOTA hub doesn’t have buttons or a screen. However, the mobile app is robust. It handles all the functions—like arming for Home or Away, viewing the timeline of events, and watching video clips.
“We are heavily investing in the mobile app and how to make it a great experience on tablets as well,” said Beck. However, the tablet version of the app is not yet available—another sign of Abode being a work in progress. For now, there’s no larger touchscreen.
All packaged Abode systems come with a key fob. It’s a convenient one-touch way to arm and disarm the system. The icons on the fob—a dot, a dot with a circle around it, an X, and a plus sign—don’t describe what those buttons do.Abode told us that keeping the functions vague is for added security, but admitted that some users find it confusing. It just took a few days to memorize the functions.
All packaged Abode systems come with a key fob. It’s a convenient one-touch way to arm and disarm the system.
It’s rare that you wouldn’t have access to your smartphone. But it happens, such as when your phone runs out of juice. So we recommend the optional keypad to avoid a panicked search for the key fob or your phone if the alarm goes off.
We give a B+ to the design of the mobile app and web dashboard. We got used to it, but in the early going, settings are not necessarily where you think they should be. Similarly, the indicator lights on the IOTA have different colors and blinking patterns that took us a while to figure out. (Hint: White is for standby; Blue is for Armed Home; and Amber is for Armed Away).
You can view a live feed from Abode’s camera at any time. But it’s important to understand that the camera is not recording continuously. We used Abode’s CUE Automation to trigger a 30-second clip and place it in the timeline anytime a door is opened. It’s an easy and powerful tool. At the time of my installation, Abode did not make a doorbell or outdoor camera at the time of review, so we were only able to view video clips from inside the house, but since then the All-In-One Kit has added an included outdoor smart camera.
Setting up automations is a three-step process: Trigger, Action, and Condition. We set the system to automatically arm for Home at 11 p.m. every night, and turn it off at 6 a.m. every morning. The Home status ignores motion detection, which is engaged in the Away mode.
We also tested Abode’s geofencing function, which worked like a charm. Abode tracked the location of our smartphone to trigger events—like disarming or turning on lights—when we got within about two blocks of our test location. A long list of third-party devices, such as thermostats and locks, are offered in the “Works with Abode” ecosystem, but we did not test these integrations.
We also tested Abode’s geofencing function, which worked like a charm.
Where Abode beats much of the competition is its affordable monitoring plans. The Standard Plan (which is just $6 a month) allows you to monitor all activity, see a timeline of activity, view clips, and a live video feed, and set up unlimited users. That includes nearly everything you need for home security, except for a cellular backup in case your Wi-Fi goes down.
The Pro Plan for $20 a month adds cellular backup, professional remote monitoring, and access to exclusive discounts. This is a very competitive price for what's offered.
Where Abode beats much of the competition is its affordable monitoring plans.
Phone support was hit or miss. The most frustrating experience was the hour we spent on a support call trying to figure out why the key fob wasn’t working. It turned out that two of our door sensors had become demagnetized because they were attached to metal doors. The problem was not totally resolved, so we were left uncertain if metal doors could be reliably protected. Abode told us that the problem was very uncommon.
Expandable Platform:Professionally installed home security systems aren’t cheap. In many cases, you can expect to spend one or two thousand dollars to get up and running. Or you might find yourself with a bundled package that adds up to $100 to your household bill for a locked-in two- or three-year period. You also have little to no ability to affordably add smart-home devices over time without occurring fees and possibly getting forced into a longer contract. Abode provides an easy way for you to manage a home security system on your own.
If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get through a learning curve, then a relatively basic Abode system can serve as a smart-home platform. You can get started for a few hundred dollars and no monthly expense. As you get the hang of adding devices and setting up integrations, the Abode platform expands. The list of Abode devices, such as glass-break sensors, water leak detection, and an external siren, is nearly complete. When the need or desire arises, order and install third-party components such as smart locks or remote-control lighting.
You should expect the occasional technical challenge. But if that doesn’t bother you, Abode can grow into a complete, low-cost home security solution.
No Contract:Competing DIY solutions also offer the ability to self-monitor and thereby avoid any monthly expense. But most of those no-cost solutions strip down the functionality by removing the ability to monitor from a mobile app remotely. Those systems are compromised unless you enroll in a monthly, fee-based service. Abode’s Basic monthly plan maintains all the system’s functions and tools in place—even though it’s free.
At the same time, it’s a few clicks away to add cell backup or professional monitoring as you go. Moreover, these plans are very affordable. Twenty dollars for professional monitoring on a month-by-month basis is nearly as cheap as it comes. Add that service for a month and then cancel without any penalty. That’s an excellent price for providing peace of mind while you’re away for a week-long vacation or three-day weekend.
Prices and Fees
Abode’s IOTA All-in-One Security Kit sells for about $290. The kit includes the hub device with a camera and motion sensor, along with one Mini door/window sensor and a key fob. The price drops down to about $230 for the Smart Security Kit that swaps the IOTA with a Gateway device that lacks a camera.
Those setups are the backbone of the system. From there, you can add these devices available directly from Abode:
- Mini door/window sensor: $28
- Standard door/window sensor: $24
- Recessed door/window sensor (that hides away): $33
- Slim strip sensor (that fits in a door/window frame): $33
- Motion sensor: $44
- Vibration glass-break sensor: $38
- Acoustic glass-break sensor: $52
- Smoke alarm monitor: $40
- Water leak sensor: $55
Abode also offers these Security accessories:
- Keypad: $95
- Key fob: $26
- Indoor siren: $56
- Outdoor siren: $80
- System status indicator: $30
Abode sells two branded smart-home devices. There’s a $45 Smart Home Power Switch, which uses automation to turn on lamps and appliances plugged into an outlet remotely. Abode offers stickers for $3 and a Yard Sign with solar-powered light for $25.
As we mentioned, you can remotely monitor, create user accounts, add devices, and get customer support—all for just $6 a month with their Standard Plan. The next step up is $20 a month for their Pro Plan to add cellular backup and professional remote monitoring. Most security experts will advise you to get the option with professional monitoring. In the event of the alarm getting triggered, or fire conditions being detected, the monitoring center will dispatch police or fire services. We appreciate that the monitoring center sends images from your cameras to the police so the situation can be assessed.
The Competition: Abode vs. Ring
If you’re willing to install your own equipment, you might also consider Ring Alarm. Ring provides a basic system for a similar cost. Whereas Abode doesn’t offer a doorbell or outdoor camera, Ring takes a camera-based approach to security. In fact, Ring provides some of the market’s most full-featured outdoor cameras with lights, motion detection, and two-way communication. That’s compelling, mainly because it notifies you before a potential intruder has entered your home. If you get Ring’s professionally monitoring for $10 a month, clips from an unlimited number of cameras are included.
Worth a look if you're into DIY security and want to save a buck.
Abode is not perfect. The app and web dashboard have a learning curve. We also encountered a few technical hiccups. But if you’re an avid DIYer, or don’t mind hands-on technical tasks around the home, Abode is a great solution. With a low start-up cost and no locked-in contract, you can quickly start monitoring when doors and window are open—and track activity in your house via video. Moreover, the system can serve as a smart, affordable foundation that grows with your appetite to add sensors, cameras, and smart devices.