Opportunity Knocks: Your Guide to Smart Doorbells
Smart doorbells mean you don't have to run before the delivery agent has sped off, and you don't even have to be at home to answer the door.
Smart doorbells are really a variant of the smart camera, but one that replaces your doorbell, so instead of ringing a bell – which you may or may not be within earshot of – visitors trigger a phone alert.
In fact, many smart doorbells consider the traditional ringer an optional extra, sold at more cost than a complete 'dumb' doorbell.
That said the key advantage, of course, is simply not missing anyone.
When someone presses the doorbell, even if you're at the bottom of the garden or away on holiday, the chances are you'll have your phone with you.
Just as with security smart cameras, there will be a two-way talk feature, so that you can not only see who has pressed the button, but also speak to them.
Maybe it's a visitor you were expecting but you popped out to the shop to stock up on supplies – you can just tell them you'll be there in a moment.
Or perhaps it's a sales caller, in which case no need to get up!
If you've fitted a smart lock and a smart doorbell, you have all you need to let people in remotely.
If they're from the same brand (or a linked brand, like the Yale/Nest lock) then you might even be able to control them without swapping apps on your phone.
So picture the scenario: the Amazon guy arrives just after three and presses the doorbell.
You're still at the office, but you get an instant alert on your phone, check it, and speak to the delivery driver.
Tell him to open the door, leave the parcel inside, then close the door behind him.
You can keep an eye on him as he does this with the camera and check the lock is locked with the lock app.
If all goes well the package will be indoors when you get home and you won't have to disturb your neighbours or go to the depot.
Of course, if the driver needs a signature, or doesn't manage to close the door behind him properly so the lock can't engage there are problems, but the manufacturers are less keen on mentioning these.
Doorbells are also capable of using their smarts to keep an eye on your doorstep for suspicious activities and can usually be set up to alert you when someone is near, even if they don't press the button.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
VIDEO RESOLUTION IS IMPORTANT
A visitor is likely to be taller than the button's positioning, so their face will only occupy a small part of the picture you're seeing.
1080HD video is considerably better than 720p in terms of quality.
BATTERY OR WIRED?
Many of the big brands require connection to a traditional doorbell wire, but many homes don't have these as plenty of dumb doorbells are wireless.
Usually described in terms of degrees (ie 185° field of view), anything over 180 is quite large which is useful but may also lead to a fish-eye effect.
This will let you know if someone is near the doorbell but doesn't actually press it -you can designate the active area using the app.
THE NEST HELLO SMART DOORBELL
The Nest Hello Doorbell, although expensive, has a field of view and picture quality that are miles better than many other offerings on the market.
The doorbell is powered through your existing doorbell wiring, and the installation could be confusing to nontechie people, so a professional may be required.
As with all other Nest products, it provides 24/7 video monitoring just like a security camera, but that does come with an extra subscription cost.
AMAZON RING SMART DOORBELL
Amazon's Ring Doorbell was one of the first well-known brands on the market.
It provides an easy-to-use app and has multiple doorbells ranging in price from $100 to ~$250 for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.
The doorbells can be wired or battery powered and extra chime accessories can be dotted around the house, so even without a phone you can still never miss the door.
ISEEBELL VIDEEO DOORBELL
Although the iseeBell shares its aesthetic with the Apple Watch (probably not a bad thing), it is also an easy-to-fit wireless device (just download the iseeBell app to connect to your network) and the standard kit includes a chime that you can simply plug into an outlet indoors.
You can even choose your ringtone.
ELAGO SILICONE CASE
Just as with phones, a market in protective cases for the better-known brands of smart doorbells has sprung up, and it's not the worst idea at all; regrettably a very nice doorbell might occasionally attract the wrong kind of attention, so while no extra protection from water is needed, a covering like this from Elago still doesn't hurt.
Also, be sure to check out my hands-on review of the Ring Security System.