Smart home devices are all the rage right now, and just about every company is making some kind of connected plug or camera or gadget that qualifies as an IOT device. Some of the stuff that’s coming out is really great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a lot of junk out there, too.
So when the WyzeCam showed up, touting itself as an HD WiFi video camera with motion and sound detection for just $20, I was more than a little skeptical. Nest offers these features at $200, and even Amazon’s new Cloud Cam breaks the $100 mark. How in the world was this unknown company supposed to do what the big fish can’t?
Let’s dig into that.
First off, that price tag is incredibly important to remember with this device. Yes, other WiFi cameras offer 4K video recording with globs of cloud storage and integration with your smart pet feeder. They’re fantastic devices, and if you have the cash, they’re well worth your money. But the WyzeCam is only $20 if you buy directly through Wyze, plus shipping, or $30 on Amazon, including shipping.
The design is pretty utilitarian, which is good and bad. It’ll definitely blend in with your other furniture and gadgets and never calls much attention to itself, which might be just what you’re looking for in a WiFi camera. But it’s still a cool little gadget, and it’d be nice if it, I don’t know, looked cool, too.
It feels cheap, too. It’s made of plastic with a swivel base that allows you to position and angle the camera based on where you’re putting it. Wyze includes a 3M adhesive strip and magnetic circle base if you’d like to mount it on the wall, too.
It’s powered by a micro USB cable, one of which Wyze throws in the box complete with a power adapter, but you can use whatever you have laying around. There’s a microSD card slot for storing video footage.
But really, it’s a camera. How it looks doesn’t matter as much as how the video it captures looks, and Wyze somehow managed to make something absolutely fantastic for $20.
It’s not 4K quality, obviously, but it’s bright and clear and manages to capture enough detail to show you exactly what you need to see. Plus, you’re primarily going to be looking at this through the connected app on your smartphone where the smaller screens make the footage look a bit better.
The video is also surprisingly smooth, and despite not looking like a high-end video game, for a security camera it’s plenty.
Even in uneven lighting, it still manages to mostly hold everything together. It blows out a bit in some situations (see the window on the right in the first picture, or the light on the left in the second) but that’s tough to nitpick about.
It even does night vision for when you want to see what’s in your house without any lighting, and that also works surprisingly well.
Yeah. Even when it’s dark, you can pretty easily make out what’s going on. That’s invaluable for a security camera.
So the quality is great, but what about the companion app? Unfortunately, that’s a little less great.
It gets the job done, and the interface is pleasing and simple to use, but it’s got a fair share of bugs and kinks that need to be worked out. I’ve had to log back into the app multiple times, and it’s crashed when moving between camera feeds more than once. It’s not like it’s going to blow up every time you use it, but I probably had one or two problems per week.
When it’s working, you can customize a few things with your camera. You can change whether or not it streams in standard definition or high definition, plus set up alerts for motion, sound, CO, and smoke detection. The camera can either record continuously or just record your alerts, and it also offers free cloud storage for those alerts. Whenever it detects something, it pushes 15 seconds of footage to Wyze’s cloud for you to view for up to 14 days. It’s pretty useful, but it can also get overbearing if you have dogs that frequently set the cameras off.
The WyzeCam features two-way audio, too. That means you can listen to what’s going on in your home while you’re away, but you can also talk to anyone that might be in the house, too. It makes for a fun prank (I had it around Halloween, what can you expect?) but audio quality is pretty lackluster otherwise.
All in all, for the price tag, this thing probably deserves gadget of the year. It brings a smart home accessory to anyone that wants it, assuming you can catch it in stock on Amazon, and offers a good enough experience that won’t turn anyone off.
I did have some legitimate concerns about what might be going on behind the scenes with a camera this cheap, but Wyze assured me that they aren’t selling any customer data, they’re using Amazon’s cloud infrastructure to store everything for security, and it’s a small team selling a ton of units at scale with razor-thin margins. It seems too good to be true, but this is that one rare time when some managed to underpromise and overdeliver.
We’d all expect the tech giants to lead the smart home charge, but you know what? It might be companies like Wyze.