Amazon is taking over my house. Cardboard boxes emblazoned with its brand arrive in a steady stream at my doorstep. I watch shows from its studio on my television through a Fire TV stick, and Alexa is a constant companion, updating me on the weather, broadcasting the news, and pumping out the jams. For the last five days, I’ve added a new Amazon gadget to the mix: the Cloud Cam.
Cloud Cam a relatively straightforward device that delivers all the features you would expect out of a home security camera. It doesn’t offer any cutting-edge features you can’t find elsewhere, or an innovative twist on remote monitoring, but it helps Amazon connect another piece of the puzzle, bringing the company ever closer to integrating itself into every aspect of my home life.
The camera was easy to set up: I plugged it in, downloaded the Cloud Cam app, and was able to detect the device right away. I connected it to my home Wi-Fi network, and it was up and running. It has motion detection on by default, and “people detection” as well. Within a minute, I was getting notifications on my phone as the camera caught sight of me crossing my living room to inspect its field of view. You can tune the sensitivity on the camera, but I found it simpler to just turn the camera off when I was home. You can set the unit up to turn itself on and off when it detects your smartphone in the area, which is a nice touch.
The camera is $119.99, which is cheaper than comparable units from rivals like Nest and Logi. (Although it’s worth noting that it doesn’t offer the advanced people tracking of a Nest right now.) The price drops to $100 per unit if you buy two, and $96.67 if you buy three or more. It’s important to note, however, that if you’re getting a Cloud Cam to work with Amazon’s Key service, you’ll need one unit that costs $139. The extra $20 is for a special power cable that allows the camera to talk with a smart lock. If you start with a Cloud Cam and decide later you want to get Key service, you can also buy that power cable separately.
You get 24 hours of cloud storage for one camera with your basic purchase of the hardware. To unlock advanced features, you need to pay for a monthly service subscription. There are currently three tiers:
- Basic ($6.99 / month, or $69 / year): offers access to the last seven days of motion-detection clips for up to three cameras
- Extended ($9.99 / month, or $99 / year): offers access to the last 14 days of motion-detection clips for up to five cameras
- Pro ($19.99 / month, or $199 / year): offers access to the last 30 days of motion-detection clips for up to 10 cameras
The review unit I was testing was connected to a Pro account. I really liked zone detection. I was able to draw a box around my TV and my ceiling fan, preventing them from triggering motion or people detection alerts. I would have liked a little more fine-grained control when it came to drawing zones — I had to delete a few attempts before getting the right shape — but once I had the zone in place, it worked well.
Amazon says that as its machine learning improves it will be able to offer things like pet detection, which would recognize the animal you have around the house and refrain from triggering a motion alert during the day if it can determine it’s just your pooch rolling around on the rug. This is definitely needed, as my dog ended up prompting a number of alerts, clogging my phone with notifications.
The microphone on the camera is good, about on par with the one on the Logi Circle I use to keep an eye on my kids. Like the Logi, the Cloud Cam has both a microphone and a speaker. This is a lot of fun when I want to spook my dog in the middle of a workday. It’s also nice if you decide to use Amazon’s Key in-home delivery service and want to pass along some instructions to the courier who is dropping off your packages.
I use the speaker on my Logi camera to scold my kids at night when they sneak out of bed. The Cloud Cam would work for this as well, and its night vision capabilities, powered by a ring of infrared cameras, worked just as well, if not better than, my Logi Circle. The Cloud Cam streams video in 1080p with a wide angle lens. To my eye, it looked a little crisper than the Logi Circle I have.
Key was the impetus behind the development of the Cloud Cam, although Amazon eventually decided it made sense as a standalone product. Sadly, Key is not available yet in New York City, as Amazon only offers it in zip codes where its in-house logistics team handles the deliveries.
Last but not least, you can use the Cloud Cam with Alexa. If you have a Fire TV, you can use the voice remote to say, “Alexa, show me the living room.” The live feed from that camera will pop up on your TV screen. This worked well in my testing, but isn’t very useful in a small apartment with just one Cloud Cam. I could see this being a really nice feature if you had a full security setup with Amazon, however, and cameras in places like a basement or garage that were quite removed from your living room.
The biggest question for the Cloud Cam is two-fold. First, will customers actually flock to Amazon Key? The response to our article on that service included a lot of people who felt letting Amazon open your front door was madness. Second, if people aren’t ready to trust Amazon through Key, would they be willing to trust it with their home security? In my testing, the Cloud Cam was reliable and nailed the important features. But it’s not backed up by human beings who can respond in a crisis situation. (The kind of thing offered by ADT or other more traditional home security systems.)
Home security is clearly not Amazon’s main focus. So the big question on my mind is: will consumers choose the Cloud Cam over more dedicated providers like Canary or Ring simply because they offer an extremely competitive price? I think a lot of that depends on what Amazon does over the next year or two. If it continues to invest in the product and expand it functionality, that will help to build consumers’ trust in the Cloud Cam as a serious security device, not just a hardware experiment.
Update November 9th, 12:07PM ET: A standalone Cloud Cam costs $119.99. If you want a Cloud Cam that works with the Amazon Key service, it will cost $139.99. The extra $20 is for a special power cable that allows the camera to communicate with a smart lock. You can also update an existing Cloud Cam to work with the Key service by purchasing the power cord separately.