How We Got Wyze

My friend Josh had a break-in scare that ruined his vacation. I’ve been looking at cameras and smart doorbells off and on for a while, but I’ve never found the right balance of price (initial + subscription), convenience, and reliability. With renewed enthusiasm, I decided to start my search again, and I discovered Wyze Cam (pronounced “Wise Cam”).

Looking at Wyze Cam on Amazon, I assumed it was a Chinese business with non-existent support and lousy hardware. For $25 shipped, who could blame me? But after reading some positive reviews, I decided to dig a little deeper.

Warming Up to Wyze.

Wyze Labs, LLC is a Seattle-based startup founded by some people who met while working at Amazon. On their About page, I read this introduction:

Our first product, the WyzeCam, is the solution to a problem that one of our cofounders faced. He had been looking for a smart home camera to stay connected with his family with while on the road. He found that better-recognized brands were ridiculously overpriced for their quality and cheaper ones were unreliable. We believe consumers deserve better than that.

Sorry birdie, this isn’t the overpriced Nest Cam.

That’s my story, too. And what he found (poor quality or terribly overpriced) lined up precisely with my own research. That all sounds good for Wyze Cam, but there was one critical issue holding me back. There was a concerning review asking why the cameras were sending data all over the world.

This was a dealbreaker for me. And it’s actually a big problem with most devices made by unknown foreign companies. Privacy is important, but especially for a camera. I need to know I can trust that the footage isn’t being used for anything malicious.

I researched the issue. I came across the same person asking the question on Reddit. What I didn’t expect to find was a Wyze Labs engineer answering questions. What I read there convinced me that Wyze Cam was the real deal.

They explain that the service provider who connects their hardware to their online storage space has servers all over the world. This is normal for redundancy and load balancing. But in response to the community concerns, Wyze Labs asked them to only route traffic through the US from now on. The service provider complied and Wyze Labs rolled out that change to all cameras.

This was the clincher for me. Wyze Labs had a legitimate issue reported by the community. They took it seriously and said they would look into it. Then they made a change and asked people to verify things are better.

Most companies don’t get that right.

So we made the purchase.

From their website, you can get a Wyze Cam V2 for just $19.99 + $5.99 shipping and handling. There is no subscription fee. (They also have a Wyze Cam Pan for $29.99 that can move around.)

They connect to the wifi and have apps for Android or Apple phones. I get alerts whenever there is movement within a specific zone that I highlight in the app. All alerts are saved online for 2 weeks (no subscription necessary).

Only alerts get recorded to the internet, but if you insert a microSD card, it records continuously to the card. A 32GB card will let you save a few days of continuous recording. When it fills up, it overwrites the oldest recording so you never have to take it out unless you need footage.

I have it on my front porch. It uses 4 infrared LEDs to light up night vision mode. It works much better at night than I expected. They’re technically not made to work outdoors, but there are kits you can get online to protect it from the rain.

Since I first got the camera, we won a second camera that we’re using for the back door. The cameras regularly receive firmware updates (updating software running on the camera). This is great because it means they’re rolling out bug-fixes. Even the mobile app has received updates to make things even easier to use.

The cameras have magnets in the base so they can be easily mounted to any metal surface. Or you can attach it to the wall or ceiling with the metal disk and a strong 3M strip included with the camera. They’re powered by USB (6ft cable and plug included). There’s no battery, but I’ve considered something like this to both power and provide battery backup if needed.

It’s not perfect.

I’m glad that we have the cameras, but I have some complaints. The quality of the footage should be better for 1080p. I’ve been talking to support, and they’re working with me to fix this. It seems like some of the footage speeds up in places for no apparent reason. It has two-way audio, but my experience with this has been pretty poor so far.

When I first set it up I got alerts nonstop. I had to make my alert zone tiny so that it’s focused on what matters. If I get too many alerts, I’ll start to ignore them. And that defeats the purpose.

See that green square at the bottom? Because a car lit up that area of the screen, the camera registered an alert.

Ultimately, for the price, even if you had to replace one every year, it’s cheaper than anything else and it works well enough. (Did I mention there’s no subscription fee?) Now to obscure that big ugly USB cable hanging from our window…

Why am I posting this?

A neighbor recently had a package stolen from their front porch. I was able to review my footage, confirm the package dropped off by USPS, and find the thief taking the package. The footage was dark and blurry, but this was the first real-world use since we got the camera.

I’m not a Wyze Cam fan-boy. But after sharing the video with our neighborhood watch group, several people have asked for information. So I fleshed out my notes and wrote this post.

I hope this helps!

Have a question?

Leave a comment below, and I’ll reply or reach out to me in person.

 

David Needham