Canary, a connected home security camera company, announced changes to its free service last week that went into effect on Tuesday. Under the new terms, non-paying users will no longer be able to freely access night mode on their cameras nor will they be able to record video for later viewing. Night mode is a feature that lets you set a schedule for your Canary camera to monitor your home while you sleep without sending notifications.
On top of that, all the videos the company previously recorded for free will be converted into 10-second clips called "video previews." Essentially, important features are being taken away from users unless they're willing to pay $9.99 a month. People aren't happy about it, and they're airing their grievances on Twitter.
@canary why are you removing free features from you cameras and adding them to the paid for plans, screwing over your customers is poor...— Aaron Moorcroft (@AaronMoorcroft) October 4, 2017
@canary you took away night mode and home recording from the free subscription rendering my camera a paperweight, that's bad business.— Salvador Andrade (@MrAndradeHere) October 4, 2017
@canary nothing more frustrating then you continuing to change your memberships & not allowing night mode free of charge.— Heather Caldera (@heatherglamour) October 4, 2017
There are a lot of complaints. The company has responded to a few by pointing people to its updated FAQ page.
Hey Erin, you can still record in Away mode. Clips are limited to 10 second previews. You can learn more here: https://t.co/lhzdE2zYPr— Canary (@canary) October 3, 2017
Canary has indeed updated both that FAQ page above and its membership page to reflect the new free policy, but choosing only to inform current users about this change with one week’s notice is understandably upsetting some customers.
The Verge reached out to Canary for comment and Jon Troutman, cofounder and chief design officer, issued this statement:
"Today we stream nearly 500 million video clips per day. Most Canary users rely on notifications, Watch Live, and their timeline images to determine what is happening in their homes or businesses, which means that hundreds of millions of recorded videos travel through our platform unwatched, making the system slower, and costing Canary a significant amount in cloud expenses. To address this, we have aligned all free users on a plan that provides Video Previews that are still maintained on a 24-hour timeline. We have also introduced a faster Watch Live experience that can now be enabled while Canary devices are set to Away or Home mode. Our goal with these changes was to maintain a highly-competitive free service option while enabling continuous innovation and new feature development for all users."
Although Troutman doesn't say it, we can also probably assume the company realized it needs more people to sign up for its memberships because it needs to make money. That makes sense as far as a monetization tactic, but it doesn't work in execution. Users who bought the devices under the pretense of free recording and night mode aren't even grandfathered in, so they don't get to keep the features they're used to having. That's a bummer.
Now, Canary offers all-day live viewing and those 10-second video previews for 24 hours. People will also be notified if there's motion in their house. However, if they miss that alert, they'll only be able to see the 10 seconds after the commotion started. Canary says those 10 seconds will start whenever it determines there to be the most action, however. This is detected by AI, it says.
Other companies, like Logitech, offer free 24-hour video storage along with motion detection and night vision. Cameras from Nest, on the other hand, don't offer any free storage and are really only good for live viewing. Motion detection and clips also aren't free. The company offers a service called Nest Aware for $10 a month or $100 a year that gives users access to their video history for either 10 or 30 days. So while Canary isn't the worst as far as features offered, it also isn't the best, and taking features away is never something users appreciate.
The whole situation is slightly ironic because Adam Sager, Canary's CEO, told us last year: "We're going up against Netgear, and D-Link, and Google, so if we're gonna win it's gonna be on being a more human-centered company and having the biggest fanbase. We're not gonna outspend you on billboards. We're gonna out-think you and out-deliver on experience."
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly reported that Canary’s night vision feature would no longer be offered for free. That is incorrect; night vision is still free, while night mode requires the company’s new subscription service.
Update 8:16 AM ET, 10/5: Updated to include comments from Canary.