Many of you out there who have busy lives and work in corporate offices know the all-too-common problem of missed package deliveries while at work, and the pain of having to reschedule those deliveries with the couriers; not to mention worrying whether those packages are indeed safe in front of your door when you’re not home. As such, a video doorbell may be an option you’d like to explore – but before you hit the buy button, there are a few factors you’ll want to consider.
1. Remote visitor identification
This one is rather obvious, but the primary reason you’ll likely be considering buying a video doorbell is the ability to see who’s standing outside your front door. In the past you’d have to find some way to sneak a peek to see if you wanted to proceed in opening your door to the person standing in front of it. If it was the aforementioned package delivery staff – no problem. If it was a nosy neighbor – the door stayed shut and you stayed quiet.
Now with video doorbells like the August View (shown at the head of this article), it’s quite easy to check who’s at your door. You pull out your phone, take a peek at the screen and see whether your visitor is worth getting up for.
2. Package delivery confirmation
The problem of not being home when an important package is delivered could be a thing of the past with the right video doorbell. The convenience of being able to answer your door from just about anywhere via your smartphone is absolutely priceless to many working professionals. Once set up, you will receive a notification as soon as someone rings the doorbell, or comes close enough to trigger the built-in motion sensor (depending on the doorbell model you’ve chosen). You can then set up the device to automagically record video for later review (again, depending on which doorbell you have). This can come in quite handy as proof of whether a package, letter, or other deliveries were actually successfully delivered.
3. Porch pirate proof
A lot of this depends on your neighborhood, but in some areas, your front porch can potentially become the Bermuda Triangle for any and all packages. There one minute, and vanished into thin air the next… Unless it’s Halloween when you’re reading this article, we can rule out the supernatural here. A video doorbell can make make it blatantly obvious that from the time of delivery, someone – henceforth referred to as porch pirates – snatched your Loot right from your front porch or entranceway.
A video doorbell has the potential to act as a deterrent for potential porch pirates. With the power of the video camera at your door, it’ll be a heck of a lot easier to track down malicious parties – or even catch them in flagranti.
4. Night vision action
Assuming criminals in your area use the cover of darkness to succeed in criminal behavior, the inclusion of night vision in a video doorbell might be the key to your future security’s success. See the Abode Wireless Video Doorbell for an example of a video doorbell with a night vision feature.
Not only is it a true boon to see what’s happening in front of your door at night, but also – if there are several of these devices in use – it can potentially give the whole neighborhood a slightly greater sense of security. Night vision expands the potential surveillance capabilities of the user, be it you or whomever is utilizing your video doorbell. This can also be spun as a negative, as you’ll see in the second half of this list.
5. Ease of install
So far we’ve looked at the functions of video doorbells, but how difficult are they to actually install and use in the first place? Let’s put it this way – if you can assemble an IKEA chair, you can install most big-name video doorbells. For many major-label video doorbells sold today, there are usually only two major steps involved. First, you’ll likely need to connect the device via an app to your Wi-Fi network and set it up in the app. The next step generally involves connecting the doorbell to the wall outside your door.
Everything you need to install the device will almost certainly be included in the package, and helpful instruction videos will very likely be easily accessible via the manufacturers’ site. The only caveat is that you might need a drill to make the holes for mounting.
So far so good, right? But to bring balance back to the Force… to this article anyway: Below you’ll find 5 reasons you shouldn’t buy a video doorbell.
1. Internet access quality
If you have a slow internet connection, you might not be fully satisfied with the video doorbell you just bought. Many major label modern video doorbells, require a reasonably high-speed internet connection to have good video transmissions. Your Wi-Fi signal strength also determines how well your device will hold a connection. If your router is located at the opposite end of the house and you have a weak signal near the door, you’ll run into connection problems and choppy, delayed video.
Of course the porch pirate won’t know how good your connection is, but dealing with cut-outs and choppy video is an exercise in extreme patience on the best of days. So the real key to success with these devices is how good of a signal you’re getting near the door, or wherever you want to set up the device(s). In general, your video doorbell should not be more than 30 feet (9.14 meters) from the nearest router, which might limit your placement options.
2. Dead batteries
There are plenty of smart home devices that have chosen rechargeable batteries over your old-fashioned outlet options for power – including our main subject today: the video doorbell. Choosing a battery-operated video doorbell allows you even greater mobility and a wider range of potential installation points, but it does have its drawbacks.
Wireless, battery powered video doorbell devices can lose their charge over time depending on a variety of factors, including weather/temperature-related issues. The video settings, installation location (high vs. low trafficked area), and other such factors can all affect battery life. If these issues become too much to handle, wireless (battery powered) video doorbells aren’t all necessarily capable of switching back to the old and reliable electrical socket. Even if they are, such a transition will require some extra installation work.
Another issue is that charging the battery in some video doorbell devices requires opening the body of the hardware. This may require you to unscrew safety screws and remove the doorbell from its base entirely. It’s probably not so bad the first few times you do it, but it could become rather cumbersome to have to go through that removal process every time the battery is low. Yes, these are first-world problems, but still an exercise in patience.
This brings us to yet another issue with the battery – it could potentially run out of juice at rather inopportune times, so you have to make sure the battery is always sufficiently charged over night, or before leaving for a trip somewhere.
3. Serious digital security flaws
As is the case with pretty much all smart devices connected to your home network, there is a certain potential for hacking and the exposure of your personal data.
Ring doorbells by Amazon came under fire in the past for potentially leaking Wi-Fi usernames and passwords to hackers. With these credentials, a hacker potentially had the ability to launch a wider privacy-invading attack on affected households, accessing all kinds of data and devices on users’ home networks.
So the very device you bought for security could become a security threat itself, and could potentially be used to spy on the owner(s) instead. The issue has been patched as of this writing, but the incident served its purpose, showing the potential for leaks and/or security issues in these devices.
4. Porch pirate magnetism
Given the popularity and price of these devices, it is no wonder that some thieves have taken to stealing the devices themselves in order to make a quick buck online. With the high demand of the latest models come higher prices and therefore a higher risk of these devices being stolen. At this point you may be wondering…”Are they really so easy to steal?” Well… yes and no…
Physically, it takes take some force to remove most video doorbells from their wall brackets and connection. Someone either skilled in unscrewing the safety screws quickly, or using enough brute force may be able to pull your video doorbell off the wall in a short order. Given that your basic video doorbell can only record video, if the thief wears a mask, there’s virtually no chance of catching him/her.
If you’re using certain Ring devices, the video doorbell will (or should) continue to record while a robbery is in progress. Ideally, Ring owners will be able to tell if their doorbell is being stolen (or has been stolen). With evidence recorded by the doorbell and uploaded to the cloud for retrieval by the owner, a video doorbell maker like Ring may be able to replace your doorbell for free.
5. Limited viewing range
While they certainly act as a deterrent to casual thieves, professional burglars won’t be so easily scared off by video doorbells. Because a serious burglar will (likely) take their time to scope out a target property before they attempt to rob said property, they’ll aim to know the limits of the surveillance devices they’ll face.
While a video doorbell can certainly act to protect the front door area, depending on their angle of installation, they won’t be able to catch someone attempting to enter through another point of entry, thus rendering them useless in that regard.
On the one hand, video doorbells can be incredibly useful for busy people who are not home during a standard work day. Some video doorbells allow a person to interact with delivery personnel or other visitors remotely. At home, a video doorbell allows an individual to see visitors without needing to physically stand and walk to the door.
On the other hand, these devices have the potential to run low on battery, run poorly without top-tier connectivity, and allow access to home networks, surveillance abilities, and personal data to determined hackers.
A small set of potential prices to pay for the convenience they provide? Only you, the reader and potential buyer, can determine whether or not the pros outweigh the cons for you.