Arbor, a new Silicon Valley startup, is announcing its first product today: the Arbor Video Doorbell. Coming this summer, Arbor does everything you’d expect and maybe a little bit more for a price that might surprise you, especially if you get your preorder in early.
First, let’s get past the base-level functionality. Arbor streams 1080p HD video and two-way audio day or night over an 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) connection to your home’s Wi-Fi. It features a removable Li-ion battery that lasts about a year on a single charge, according to the company, and the doorbell can be mounted without the need to connect any special wiring to the electricity or your old chime. The iOS and Android apps alert you to people at the door, either after they press the large doorbell button or when motion is detected across any of the user-defined zones spread across the camera’s 160-degree field of view. The app also lets you check a live stream of the video feed at any time when home or away. All stuff you’d expect from a video doorbell in 2018.
One thing that sets the Arbor doorbell apart is the inclusion of an integrated chime inside the bundled Wi-Fi extender. That makes Arbor suitable for a household or family as everyone can hear the doorbell ring, not just those who have the app installed and their phone nearby. (Arbor lets you add additional users for smartphone alerts.) The other advantage Arbor offers is 48 hours of free encrypted cloud storage for your video and audio recordings. (Browser access to recordings will be offered when Arbor ships.) Besides the security benefits, recordings let you see what you missed when you were in the shower or otherwise too busy to immediately respond to app alerts. Unlimited recordings beyond two days will cost $2–3 per month.
Arbor promises the “best and fastest picture” and the “most reliable Wi-Fi connection on the market.” In my testing with a near-final prototype unit (running beta firmware) positioned close to my Wi-Fi access point, the chime rings about a half-second after I press the large doorbell button on the unit mounted outside my front door. I then see an alert in the beta app running on my phone another half-second later. That’s good, but it’s no better than the Ring doorbell and chime I’ve had installed in my house for years. Also, Arbor sometimes gets stuck on the initiating stream, presenting me with a static image for a few seconds before the video starts. When away from home, Arbor’s smartphone alerts can be delayed by a few seconds — same as with other Wi-Fi-connected doorbells.
As to the “best” image quality claim: it’s fine, but Arbor’s 1080p video doesn’t look obviously better (or worse) than the 720p video produced by my Ring doorbell when viewed on the tiny display of my phone. Arbor likes to play up the fact that it doesn’t suffer from the “odd fish-eye distortion” like other video doorbells, but other video doorbells produce a much wider field of view as you can see in the images below:
The Arbor app also features an on-screen Panic button when viewing the doorbell feed. Presumably, you’d swipe this while viewing a threat outside your home, although the only alarm it triggers is the 115-decibel chime inside your home. Arbor says it plans to augment the feature in the future to alert police.
Unfortunately, Arbor doesn’t offer much in the way of theft protection for the doorbell. It ships with two mounting options: double-sided tape or a bracket that you attach outside your door using standard Phillips screws. Other doorbells, like Ring, are fastened to their mounts using propriety security screws as a deterrent against theft.
Where Arbor really shines is on price, especially at the start of the Indiegogo campaign launching today. The Arbor Video Doorbell and chime is priced at $199, but the first 100 buyers get it for $119, a 40 percent discount with delivery slated for mid-June. For comparison, Ring, which absolutely dominates US sales of video doorbells with a 90-plus percent marketshare, sells an entry-level 720p doorbell for $99, but you’ll pay $199 for the second generation model if you want 1080p video and a quick-release rechargeable battery. Add another $59 for the indoor chime with Wi-Fi extender, and another $30 per year if you want to view stored recordings. All totaled, Arbor looks like a pretty good deal for early birds.
True, it’s always a gamble to back a technology campaign from a brand new company on crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo. But Arbor isn’t the usual startup: CEO and founder Farshad Taheri is leading a team of 15 people that includes Patrick Lazar, former VP of Engineering at Netgear; Hiroki Asai, former VP of Marketing at Apple; and a smattering of seasoned engineers. And remember, Ring, the billion dollar company now owned by Amazon, also got its start through crowdfunding back in 2013 when it was still called Doorbot.
In other words, there are far riskier tech bets you could be making on Indiegogo if you think the Arbor Video Doorbell might be right for you.