Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
It’s one thing to snap up a cheap Bluetooth speaker or a bargain-basement set of earbuds, but skimping on a home security system rarely makes for a good deal, and the Kangaroo Motion + Entry Sensor is a case in point.
Kangaroo’s new sensor (we’ve previously reviewed its motion-only sensor) makes for an enticing choice given its no-tools, no-hub setup, not to mention its $30 price tag. The key benefit to this new model is that it can detect whether a door or window is open or closed, in addition to detecting motion. But without a camera in the ecosystem—or the ability to sync with a third-party lens—Kangaroo’s Motion + Entry sensor only offers a sketchy picture of what’s happening in your home.
Installation and setup
On the positive side, the Kangaroo Motion + Entry Sensor is (for the most part, anyway) a snap to set up, requiring only a few minutes and no tools.
The first step is to install the Kangaroo app onto your Android or iOS smartphone. Once that’s done, the app prompts you to set up a new device, a process that involves pulling a yellow plastic tab out of the AA battery-powered sensor and tapping the Find Devices button on the app. Once the Bluetooth-enabled sensor is paired with the app (it happened for me in a matter of seconds), the app walks you through the details of connecting the sensor to your Wi-Fi network.
While the Bluetooth pairing process was fairly straightforward, I had a few hiccups connecting the Kangaroo sensor to my Wi-Fi. The device had no trouble detecting my network, but it kept insisting that something was wrong with my password. After some back and forth with tech support, it turned out that the 2.4GHz-only Kangaroo sensor was getting tripped up by my dual-band Wi-Fi router. The solution—creating a separate 2.4GHz network just for the sensor—is an annoying workaround.
Once the sensor has successfully connected to Wi-Fi, the app guides you through the process of installing both the indoor-only sensor and a small magnet (which is encased in a plastic shell) on your door or window. Kangaroo recommends placing the peel-and-stick sensor about four feet off the floor, while the magnet needs to be right next to the sensor, with no more than a 0.6-inch gap between the two. A blue light on the sensor turns on when the magnet is in range, and the app prompts you to open and close your door or window as well as walk in front of the motion detector to make sure everything is working properly.
While we’re generally leery of adhesive backings when it comes to motion sensors, the two Kangaroo devices I installed stayed securely fastened to my front and basement door frames throughout my testing. If you wish, you can secure the sensor a little more tightly using the included mounting screw.
Finally, you’ll need to name each of your sensors (“Front Door,” “Back Door,” etc.) and then fill in the salient details about your home (including your name and physical address).
Arming the sensors is a simple matter of firing up the Kangaroo app and tapping a button. If you’re home and you want Kangaroo to warn you if someone has opened a door or a window, you can tap the Home button. If you want to leave your house or just go outside for a moment—or open a protected window for some fresh air—without disarming the entire system, you can press the large circular button on the sensor to open your door or window without tripping the alarm. The sensors will remain off as long as the door or window stays open, and they’ll re-arm themselves within a minute after you close up again.
If you’re heading out for work, dinner, or a long weekend, you can tap the Lock button on the app to enable both the door sensor and the motion detector, which has a 110-degree field of view and can sense movement within 20 feet. The sensor’s entry and motion detectors are armed following a five-minute exit-delay timer. A battery-saver mode extends the timer for an additional five minutes, but the length of the timer can’t otherwise be adjusted or removed.
So, what happens if someone trips the alarm? Well, that depends on the Kangaroo service plan you’ve picked. If you’ve opted for the free plan, the app will fire off a notification within 15 seconds or so of someone cracking open your door or (if the sensor is in “Away” mode) sneaking around inside. The free Kangaroo plan doesn’t forward app alerts to the authorities, but if you’ve got a neighbor who’s willing to install the app, you can send them an invite that allows them to get alerts from your sensors.
For a monitoring service that’s a bit more involved, $9 per month ($60 per year if paid annually) gets you Kangaroo Complete, a plan that includes text alerts, robocalls, and 24/7 monitoring by a UL-certified monitoring station. A setting in the app lets the monitoring station dial 911 if you don’t dismiss the alarm or answer their calls. You can leave notes in the app for the authorities, perfect for letting the police know the entry code to a gate or where you’ve stashed an extra house key. Professional monitoring usually entitles you to a 20-percent discount on your insurance premiums, and Kangaroo says it will help you score that.
In my tests, the Kangaroo’s app alerts went off reliably whenever I opened a protected door or walked near the motion sensor, and I never got a false alarm, although I did get at least three false “low battery” alerts. While not totally shaking my confidence, the false battery alerts (the included batteries are rated to last up to eight months, by the way) certainly gave me pause.
The Kangaroo sensor does what it does reasonably well, but it doesn’t do nearly enough.
Kangaroo doesn’t have any kind of home security camera in its arsenal, and it doesn’t have a means of tying into any third-party security cameras (one of the downsides of not having a central hub), so there’s no easy way to tell who or what it was that tripped the alarm. If you’re away from home when an entry alarm sounds and you don’t have a neighbor who can take a peek around, what should you do? Ignore the alert in the hope it’s a false alarm, or call the cops without knowing whether there’s an actual threat?
Neither is a great choice, and if the police respond to more than a few false alarms, you could be fined (in some jurisdictions) or have your security alarm permit suspended (again, this depends on the jurisdiction you live in). It’s worth noting that Kangaroo does have indoor and outdoor cameras on its roadmap, slated to arrive later this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how closely they integrate with its existing entry and motion sensors.
Equally problematic in the absence is geofencing support. This would enable the sensors to automatically arm themselves when you move outside a defined perimeter surrounding your home, and disarm themselves when you return. That means you’ll need to manually arm and disarm the sensor based on your comings and goings. During my testing, I frequently forgot (or simply didn’t bother) to arm the sensor before going to bed, and I found myself occasionally setting off the alarm because I’d forgotten to disarm it before coming home.
Other missing features include event logging and a siren that will ward off an intruder (Kangaroo says a siren is another item on its near-term roadmap).
Back on the plus side, the sensor integrates with Amazon Alexa if you pony up for Kangaroo’s paid service plan, which would be handy for arming the sensors using voice commands. Kangaroo says Google Assistant and IFTTT integration are yet more features still in development.
Is a $30 entry and motion sensor that’s missing key features better than no home protection at all? Arguably not if the system it’s a part of can’t provide a complete picture of what’s going on inside your home. While we’re glad to see that Kangaroo’s latest sensor adds entry detection to the mix, its lack of camera and geofencing support make it tough to recommend.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.