Review: First Alert's Onelink Safe & Sound Packs HomeKit, a Speaker, and Alexa Into a Smoke Detector

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Back in mid-2018, First Alert launched its Onelink Safe & Sound smoke and carbon dioxide detector that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and Wi-Fi connected Alexa assistant while also including HomeKit support to integrate with the rest of your smart home products in the Apple ecosystem.


    I've been using the Safe & Sound for a few months now, and I must say, it's turned out to be more useful than I'd initially thought it would be.


    The Onelink Safe & Sound is a hardwired smoke detector, so you'll have to use this in a location that's tied into your home's electrical system rather than being able to rely on battery power. But if you've already got hardwired smoke detectors, swapping them out for Safe & Sound units is simple and straightforward for anyone with a modicum of do-it-yourself experience. Just make sure you turn off power to your existing detector at the breaker, unscrew the detector from the ceiling, and disconnect the wiring.


    Once you've got the bare wires hanging out of the ceiling, it's just a matter of attaching the Safe & Sound's mounting plate to the ceiling (likely by simply screwing it directly into the existing junction box in the ceiling), plugging in the proper wiring harness to the back of the Safe & Sound, connecting it to the house wiring with included wire nuts, and attaching the body of the detector to the mounting plate with a twist.


    Turn the power back on at the breaker, run through the setup for Onelink, HomeKit, and Alexa in the Onelink app on your iOS device, and you're good to go. It sounds like quite a few steps, but they're all pretty easy and quick to accomplish.


    The Onelink app makes it easy to set up the Safe & Sound, walking you through a series of illustrated steps to ensure your device has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth active, configure Wi-Fi for the Safe & Sound, and pair it to your device with optional notifications for various events. From there, you can scan the HomeKit code on the body of the alarm to allow the Safe & Sound to show up alongside your other HomeKit devices, while also assigning it a name and location within the house and setting a name Siri will recognize.


    If you have multiple detectors, you'll need to set them up one at a time in the Onelink app, but as you add them to the same home in the app it will automatically interconnect them so that an alarm activated in one area of the home will be repeated on all other alarms to ensure everyone in the house is alerted in the event of an emergency.

    Verbal Cues

    When the alarm activates, it includes both loud alert sounds and voice instructions urging residents to evacuate the premise. Using names given to the various locations for the alarms, the voice instructions will say, for example, "Smoke detected in the hallway." A carbon monoxide alarm trigger will include the location of the detected danger and the peak level of carbon monoxide detected.

    Onelink App

    Once the detector is set up, the app continues to be used as the place to manage it. The app lets you adjust various settings on the Safe & Sound, as well as activate a testing mode to ensure everything is working properly. First Alert recommends the alarms be tested weekly, although most people likely won't do it nearly that frequently once the novelty wears off.


    The app can also be used to set the color and brightness of the nightlight feature of the detector, which I've found to be a nice addition considering its location in the upstairs hallway where my children and guests may need to find their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


    Beyond the alarm and nightlight functions, the app is also where you can manage the Alexa and speaker functions of the Safe & Sound, which are the more unique aspects of this product.

    Speaker Functionality

    A distinguishing feature of the Safe & Sound is its ability to function as a Bluetooth speaker, allowing you to stream music to it directly from your phone, computer, or other Bluetooth-enabled sources. The sound is actually fairly decent with a surprising amount of depth considering the limitations of putting a speaker in a smoke detector. It's not going to win audio awards, but it's good enough if you just want some tunes or a podcast beamed to a centrally located speaker for background sound.


    Following my original installation several months ago, I did notice a bit of choppiness over Bluetooth, particularly at the beginning of tracks as they were buffered. Performance improved the closer I got to the speaker, but given the fixed placement of the Safe & Sound, it's not always convenient to get closer to it. That choppiness has, however, improved significantly in recent months, presumably through firmware updates to the Safe & Sound. I can now reliably stream audio from my phone to the Safe & Sound from at least 20 feet away in another room with no choppiness.


    Not only does the Onelink Safe & Sound act as a Bluetooth speaker, but it also supports direct access to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. My kids in particular have found it handy to use Alexa as an encyclopedia or dictionary, as it's the only Alexa-enabled device on our second floor.

    I've found the Safe & Sound to be quite sensitive to the Alexa wake word, to the point where the Safe & Sound in our upstairs hallway will activate instead of the Amazon Echo in our living room even when I'm speaking in the living room. As with other Alexa products, we do experience the occasional spurious activation of the voice assistant, which isn't helped by having a kid named Alex, but aside from that, it will occasionally wake up in response to speech that isn't obviously close to the intended wake word.


    If you've got Alexa set up to handle other functions in your house such as phone calls, smart home control, and more, you can also access those functions from the Safe & Sound.

    If you're listening to audio content on the Safe & Sound over a Bluetooth connection, you can still access Alexa. The Safe & Sound will reduce the Bluetooth audio to a whisper for the duration of your interaction with Alexa, returning it to normal volume when you're done.


    With Alexa, you can also access a variety of music services, letting you stream songs and other content from Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, iHeartMedia, Audible, and TuneIn. Playback can be controlled via voice and a simple info/control screen in the Onelink app, or in the Amazon Alexa iOS app to some degree. You won't have full app support in the Alexa app, but if you just need to access a playlist, album, or song, it's easy enough to get it going on the Safe & Sound.

    For Apple fans with Alexa devices around the house, a welcome recent addition is support for Apple Music, letting you play content from your Apple Music subscription right from your Alexa devices. Unfortunately, the feature is currently limited to Amazon's own Echo devices, so Apple Music isn't supported on the Onelink Safe & Sound at this time. Amazon has, however, said it plans to extend support to third-party Alexa devices in the future.

    HomeKit and Siri

    With HomeKit support, the Onelink Safe & Sound detectors become part of your larger home automation ecosystem, meaning you can organize them into Rooms for grouping various HomeKit items in the same location. The detectors will also show up in some other apps such as the Eve and iDevices Connected apps, enabling you to see all of your connected devices and check on their status.


    HomeKit support also means First Alert's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work with Siri commands. Given that these detectors are generally passive devices that primarily only need to be interacted with on rare occasions, it's not a critical feature, but can be a handy one for those times. Available commands include variations of:

    - How is my [location] CO detector?
    - How is my [location] smoke detector?
    - Do I have a smoke detector?
    - Is the [location] smoke alarm tripped?
    - Is the [location] CO alarm tripped?
    - Change the brightness on my [location] smoke detector to [x] percent.


    Even though I don't use HomeKit and Siri controls very often with the Safe & Sound, it's nice to know they're available and that I can quickly use Siri or the Home app to check on my alarms while away from home if the need arises.

    AirPlay 2

    From the time of the Safe & Sound's original announcement at CES 2018 and launch in mid-2018, First Alert has promised future support for AirPlay 2, which would let the Safe & Sound's speaker functionality integrate with other devices and speakers in the Apple ecosystem for synchronized multi-speaker playback, Siri music support, and more. Unfortunately, a firmware update to add AirPlay 2 support to the Safe & Sound has yet to appear, and First Alert has not committed to a timeframe for a launch, so we're still waiting for that feature to make its debut.


    When I first had the opportunity to test the Onelink Safe & Sound, I was skeptical about how it would perform. I had a pair of first-generation Onelink Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (one hardwired and one battery) back in 2016 that simply failed to perform well, and that's a major issue when these detectors can be a matter of life and death. Despite being rated for a ten-year lifetime, my original battery-powered unit began chirping a low-battery warning within a matter of weeks. A replacement unit died within a similar timeframe. It wasn't clear whether something with my network setup or some other factor was causing excessive battery drain, and First Alert later issued a firmware update intended to address the battery life issue.

    When it came to my original hardwired Onelink Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, that detector performed a bit more reliably than the battery-powered version, although it did lose its connection to the app and HomeKit and have to be reset a few times. And after a year, it stopped accepting firmware updates, with the app reporting the detector's firmware was up to date when it definitely was not. First Alert did replace the detector free of charge (as it did with the battery-powered ones that failed), and the replacement had no similar issues.

    Those experiences gave me significant pause when considering the Onelink Safe & Sound, but in over six months of testing, I've had absolutely no problems with its reliability. It's maintained a connection to my HomeKit setup ever since the initial configuration, and I've had no trouble connecting to it via the Onelink app.

    Besides the Safe & Sound, First Alert recently launched second-generation versions of its basic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms, so hopefully lessons learned from the original version and incorporated into the Safe & Sound have also made their way to the new standalone detectors.

    The Future

    Just last month at CES 2019, First Alert announced its second-generation Onelink Safe & Sound that includes built-in mesh Wi-Fi technology as part of First Alert's push into home Wi-Fi with an upcoming Onelink Surround Wi-Fi system that will be able to use second-generation Safe & Sound units as nodes for a mesh network.


    I thankfully haven't had an opportunity to test out First Alert's Onelink Safe & Sound alarm capabilities in a real-life scenario, but I've been pleased with the easy setup and solid reliability in connecting to the Onelink app and HomeKit.

    The Alexa and speaker capabilities are a nice bonus, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it's able to produce decent sound, certainly sufficient for casual music listening and providing assistant functions like answering questions, setting timers, and more. Music service integration through Alexa is rather basic with only barebones app support, but Bluetooth gives you another option for piping music straight from another device.

    If you're okay with being part of the Alexa ecosystem, it's a convenient package, but the Onelink Safe & Sound's price tag will undoubtedly give many potential customers pause. It carries an MSRP of $249.99, although it can regularly be found through some retailers such as Amazon for around $199.

    Granted, the technology packed into the Safe & Sound necessitates a premium price, but this probably isn't something you're going to want to buy a six-pack or more of and scatter all around your house wherever you need a smoke detector. But if you want to put one or two in central areas of your home to supplement your more basic smoke detectors, it's an interesting product.

    AirPlay 2 could really be a game-changer for the product, delivering a lot of extra value to those in Apple's ecosystem by helping deliver whole-home audio through an array of speaker products. Unfortunately, the long-promised feature has yet to appear and we don't have an estimate of when it might show up. So at least for now, I'd recommend making any buying decisions under the assumption that AirPlay 2 may never arrive, and if it does, it'll be a nice bonus.

    Note: First Alert provided MacRumors with a Onelink Safe & Sound for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

    Article Link: Review: First Alert's Onelink Safe & Sound Packs HomeKit, a Speaker, and Alexa Into a Smoke Detector
  2. Trekkie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 13, 2002
    Wake Forest, NC
  3. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    New England
    Of all home appliances that I do not want to mess with, the smoke alarm is probably at the top of the list. I really hope the smoke detection and alarm is on a wholly different circuit than the assistant wifi stuff. Wouldn't want to miss a fire because Alexa crashed.
  4. Le Big Mac macrumors 68030

    Le Big Mac

    Jan 7, 2003
    Washington, DC
    This really seems more like an Alexa device that piggy backs off the wiring for smoke detectors, and adds that functionality.

    I'd be much happier with a "connected" smoke detector that did just that, perhaps with the pretty nightlight, for half the price or less. That said, I have my hardwired smoke detectors already installed, with 10 year lithium batteries, so probably not looking to upgrade for another 7-8 years. Maybe by then they'll offer something more appealing.
  5. sirgromit macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2009
    I had three of their original first gen model. All three failed within two weeks of use including warranty replacements directly from Onelink. I’m never purchasing anything from Onelink again.
  6. harriska2 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 16, 2011
    Man, our smoke detectors only last 3 years and have to be wholesale replaced as they get clogged and set off all the other ones. I just heard last night from my CERT class (community emergency response team) that even the 10 year lithiums don’t last that at all in smoke detectors.
  7. Dave-Z macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2012
    I'm convinced stuff like this needs to be as low tech as possible. Keep it simple.
  8. dontwalkhand macrumors 601


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    A speaker in a smoke alarm? Ours is in the hallway. Why would I care to play music for nobody in our hallway?
  9. blacktape242 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2010
    Sacramento, CA
    neat idea and all but smoke alarms are usually put in places that speakers dont work, hallways, in bedrooms near doors, makes no sense to please music in those locations. I dunno maybe thats just me.
  10. Vasilioskn macrumors 6502


    Jun 30, 2010
    New York
    Mine is in kitchen so would be perfect with speaker.
  11. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
    Forget the speaker.....that’s what the HomePod is for, and with much better mics and sound. This is a perfect example of when not to combine a toaster and refrigerator.

    So I opted for the non speaker version for much less and I’m pretty happy with it:
    --- Post Merged, Feb 7, 2019 ---
    Exactly. It’s a gimmick.
  12. Le Big Mac macrumors 68030

    Le Big Mac

    Jan 7, 2003
    Washington, DC
    We'll see what happens. The NFPA and company rec is replace every 7-10 years. Will see what happens with batteries, but it's a heck of a lot better than replacing those every year.
  13. balticgreen macrumors member

    Sep 8, 2004
    Since we need to have smoke alarms on the ceilings throughout our homes anyway, I sort of love the idea of them also being speakers, Alexa microphones, and WiFi mesh nodes. It's certainly simpler than having all of those things separately. But a single Bluetooth speaker is useless to me; it needs AirPlay before I'm interested. And the WiFi mesh version was announced but is not yet available. So maybe I'll be interested in the future, but I'm not now.

    The picture that shows the wiring harness sticking out of the ceiling shows three wires. Does this support wired interconnect? If it does, that's a clear advantage of the OneLink over, say, a Nest Protect. For the price of any of these smart alarms, few people want to replace all of them at once. I have six smoke alarms in my house so that would be $1200 at the Amazon price. But if you don't replace them all and the smart alarm doesn't support wired interconnect (most, like the Nest Protect, don't) then you've not only caused a fire safety hazard by defeating the interconnect but also possibly broken the law depending on jurisdiction and when your house was built.
  14. Trekkie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 13, 2002
    Wake Forest, NC
    I was too originally. Then I got the Nest Protects and let me tell you the ability to shut the thing up when smoke from the grill wafts in an open window or you are searing something in a cast iron plate is a lot better than the KISS method ones.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 7, 2019 ---

    The nest protect Gen 1 and Gen2 support interconnects just fine, you just have to buy the right one. There is a model that has that, and one that didn't. This is the one that did ( note the 'wired' connotation. They log in via wifi, but use the pre-built interconnects that most homes have.
  15. balticgreen, Feb 7, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019

    balticgreen macrumors member

    Sep 8, 2004
    Nest Protect will interconnect wirelessly to other Nest Protect devices, but they do not support wired interconnect to other types of alarms. The installation instructions tell you to cap off the third wire in your ceiling that is used for interconnect. The "wired" in the description means that the alarm is wired to AC power and does not rely solely on a battery; that has nothing to do with interconnect.

    Nest's own site says it does not interconnect to other alarms. Last question on this page:

    Edit: The Onelink does support wired interconnect to other First Alert/BRK alarms.
  16. MadeTheSwitch macrumors 6502a


    Apr 20, 2009
    Why do people think their use case applies to everyone? For some, including me, this would be awesome. Why wouldn’t I want to hear my living room music play upstairs in my hallway too as I transition from room to room and between floors? Also would be great for parties too.

    I can definitely see a use for it. Thoigh the idea of replacing a perfectly good speaker each time the smoke detector gets replaced too is not as appealing.
  17. enigmatut macrumors regular


    Jan 28, 2008
    Yes. Or rather, the mic can be disabled.

    Regarding the “gimmick” and “why” of this, I’ll echo that there’s a clear use-case for some people. In my case, one in the baby room is perfect for playing lullaby music (from Amazon, just by asking Alexa), asking for the weather (or really anything; my 1yr-old giggles anytime Alexa talks to her), and several other things, including asking Alexa to log a diaper/feeding/whatever (into the BabyConnect app). I have several other rooms (and yes, hallways) where this could be convenient, except...

    AirPlay 2: at one point OneLink’s site said “August 2018”, then “by end of 2018”, and now “available later this year” (in 2019). I’m most bummed about this. If it arrives I will outfit other rooms. If it does not...

    New non-Alexa/speaker smart detector: I have one of these as well. My one complaint is that while it has a nightlight like the Safe & Sound, that nightlight does not show up in HomeKit (as the S&S’s does), so you can tell Siri to turn it off/on/dim/etc, and while the Onelink app allows adjustment, it is slow as molasses and ultimately useless for me.

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