It's not very often that we experience a cosmic shift in a product category. Everyone wants their product to be the next Netflix or Apple, inspiring a flurry of competitors frantically chasing after the carrot of consumer brand loyalty. The fact is: innovation is often set aside in favor of immediate market share.
Truly innovative products are ones that put the customer experience first and build upon user interfaces with which they are already familiar. By doing that, companies can pretty much guarantee that their new product will slot seamlessly into a consumer's daily life. Need a real-life example? Enter the Ring Video Doorbell.
A Simple Premise: Access Home Security From Your Pocket
The Ring offers a simple solution: home security that you can access from your pocket computer (aka your smartphone of choice).
That premise is so simple, it should be old news, right? Smartphones have been part of our lives for years now, and video security systems have been around for longer. Why did it take until now to get a viable app to access a live feed of your home security system in action?
Well, the answer is that yes, other people have tried, and many other video surveillance packages do offer some kind of smartphone integration, but the key phrase we mentioned earlier is what makes all the difference with the Ring’s offering: seamless integration. There’s a reason it won Editor’s Choice at this year’s T3 awards.
In our extensive months of testing the product and trying alternatives, the Ring simply had the most intuitively designed app. When the sensors pick up motion and the 720p (1080p for the Pro version) video recording is activated, an alert gets sent to your phone. Tapping the notification takes you straight into the live camera feed. That’s it. No sign ins. No ads to close out. One click and you’re in. Done and done. Peace of mind achieved.
That package you’re expecting while you’re stuck at the office? Not only can you make sure the box is placed, rather than chucked, at your front door, the Ring’s two-way communication feature allows you to tell the delivery person where you’d like to have the box stashed to thwart would-be thieves. This is 2017 after all, where online shopping is heavily preferred over brick and mortar institutions. Package theft is on the rise. Ring’s Video Doorbell couldn’t have come soon enough.
Ease of Use Starts at the Beginning
Here's a quick comparison of the two video doorbells available.
Bear in mind that unless you buy the Home Security Kit (which is what we used for the review), priced at $499.99, you’ll need to buy the stickup cameras separately. Each stickup camera costs $199 while the floodlight cameras with two-way audio and a siren will run you $249 each. The cameras are only needed if you want full security coverage of your home beyond the front door.
|Video Doorbell – $199||Video Doorbell Pro – $249|
|720p video recording||1080p video recording|
|Predefined sensor zones||Custom shapes/outlines for better sensor control|
|2.5 Ghz WiFi compatibility||2.5/5.0 Ghz WiFi compatibility|
|Night vision||Night vision|
|Two-way audio||Two-way audio|
|Android, Apple & Windows 10 compatibility||Android, Apple & Windows 10 compatibility|
|30 Day Cloud Service Trial||30 Day Cloud Service Trial|
|4.98in. x 2.43in. x .87in.||4.50in. x 1.85in. x .80in.|
A barrier to entry for most people when it comes to home security is the setup. There are robust surveillance systems that cost thousands and provide amazing coverage, but are just too difficult to install. The Inspire internal testing team were impressed with Ring’s ease of install, having experienced frustrating installation processes with competitors.
The home security kit ($499.99) comes with two stick up cameras and the video doorbell that takes less than an hour to install with no need for power tools. If you want to mount the video doorbell onto an existing doorbell framework, you can attach it to the hard wiring to save on the battery (note: this is a requirement for the pro version). The two stick up cameras should be placed around key points of entry to the house while still being able to connect to your WiFi network.
A Strong WiFi Connection Recommended
Connecting to the network was fairly seamless during our set up, but bear in mind that if you’ve messed with some of the backend security measures of your router, you might run into some connection issues.
Security-wise, on Ring's end they claim “Bank Level” encryption which sounds pretty intense. We never had any issues with it once it was fully connected to WiFi. Here's the downside to operating entirely on WiFi: if that goes down, the Ring stops working.
If you live in an area with regular outages, you should consider plugging your modem and router into an uninterruptible power supply. Ring also does provide a cloud backup service for video recording, but after the 30-day trial, it is $30 a year per camera (or $100 a year for all cameras). We would have liked to see Ring pair with an existing cloud service so that this won’t become an extra charge (and extra passwords to memorize). The cloud service is really beneficial, in case criminals break the Ring system. Knowing you’ll always have a backup recording just adds to that peace of mind.
Also, we found that a weak WiFi network was another downside. If you want to be more creative with your camera mounting placements, then a weak signal can hinder that, as the motion sensor won't be able to trigger video recording if the connection isn’t great. This happened once during our six-month testing period and recommend installing access points or upgrading to a more robust router to insure you have full strength WiFi coverage across your property.
Weather Conditions and Battery Life Concerns
What about weather proofing? How long do these cameras last when they’re outdoors 24/7?
The answer is: surprisingly well. One of our internal product testers had the cameras installed outside his house in Canada, and they faired well during the the colder months, even though one of those cameras was not 100% protected by the roof eaves.
Battery life was definitely the resounding downside of the Ring Doorbell system. Another internal product tester would have liked a timing feature for the motion sensing to help preserve battery life. Since he set them outside of his small business, he found he was getting a lot more battery drain since the motion sensor was being triggered a lot more than a residential usage scenario.
Ring does offer an optional solar panel to better address battery longevity, but it costs extra. Without it, juggling the logistics of which camera needs a recharge can be a bit frustrating. An additional accessory to consider for a small business use-case is the Ring chime, which alerts you of someone at the door if you don’t have your phone nearby. This is useful to set up if you work in a back office, for instance, and are often looking away from your phone.
Ring Video Doorbell Pros & Cons
|Easy to install and use||Not great battery life|
|Intuitive and seamless app||Strong WiFi network required|
|Can double as Nanny Cam||Can't schedule motion sensor|
|Two-way communication||Two-way video would be nice|
If you've been contemplating a security system for the home but are intimidated by traditional setups and want better ease of access while on the go, then the Ring Video Doorbell is definitely something to consider. We think that the suite of features it provides far outweighs the cons, especially at its price point, and we'd have to say that its defining feature is difficult to put a monetary value on: peace of mind.
Want more reviews? See the rest of our content around smart tech for the home.