Ooma Butterfleye review

“World’s Smartest Camera” is let down by not-so-smart omissions

The Ooma Butterfleye camera features some smarts, but fails to bring night vision to the table.
The Ooma Butterfleye camera features some smarts, but fails to bring night vision to the table.
The Ooma Butterfleye camera features some smarts, but fails to bring night vision to the table.

Highs

  • Wire-free operation and internal storage
  • Good quality, auto-adaptive imaging
  • Free 7-day cloud recording
  • Made of quality materials

Lows

  • No night vision support
  • No manual imaging controls to adjust brightness and contrast balance
  • Premium features locked behind subscription paywall

DT Editors' Rating

While you may know Ooma as an Internet phone provider, this year the company is pushing into smart home protection with a range of devices that include a smoke alarm, door, window and motion detectors, and today’s focus, the Ooma Butterfleye Camera.

Billed as “The World’s Smartest Camera,” Ooma acquired the product at the end of last year when it gobbled up Butterfleye, Inc., an Indiegogo start-up launched in 2016. Priced from $199, Butterfleye is a compact, wire-free 1080p security camera packing the intelligence to detect people, pets and various sounds.

With an internal battery backup, storage, and seven days of free cloud recording support, the camera is designed to be a convenient, “set and forget” home monitoring solution. It takes on the likes of Netgear Arlo Pro 2, the Swann Smart Security Camera and Logitech Circle 2, all of which offer the same, wireless operation and high definition imaging.

Ooma Butterfleye review
Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

Available in black or white, the Butterfleye’s chunky, rectangular (3.7 x 3 x 1.5 inches) form factor resembles a mini-PC or media streamer rather than a smart cam, but it’s solidly built. Whether you’re a fan or not of the unconventional design, it does restrict the device to desktop mounting, unlike competitors that support standard wall or ceiling mounts. On the flip side, 16 or 32 GB ($249) internal storage and a battery supporting “multiple weeks” of usage on a single charge ensure the camera keeps operating through power and Internet outages.

If you’re thinking of letting Butterfleye spread its wings outdoors, note that the camera hasn’t yet received a waterproof rating, but is designed to withstand extreme temperature and humidity levels. Ooma is committed to replacing cameras that experience issues when used outdoors. That’s good news.

Rapid setup, patchy pairing

If you’re busy building out a collection of Ooma Home security products, you’ll be happy to discover that the camera now is integrated into the company’s home security app (it didn’t integrate before) and also works with Amazon Alexa.

The Ooma can now interact with all other Ooma Home sensors through the Ooma Home app, and the app shows the list of video clips recorded by the Butterfleye. For example, if a motion sensor detects activity in the front entryway, a camera in the living room can automatically record a clip to show if an unauthorized person entered the house. Or if a camera hears a loud noise while the Ooma Home app is set to “Away” mode, a siren could automatically start blasting to scare away an intruder.

Butterfleye did a better job than most of adjusting contrast for views that include bright window areas.

We found setting up the camera with our smartphone to be tricky. The Butterfleye app instructs users to power on the camera and a Bluetooth connection and set up should be automatic. It wasn’t. We paired the camera manually and prodded around for five minutes or so until setup magically (and mysteriously) sprang to life.

High-quality, if narrow, imaging, but no night vision

Butterfleye’s 1/3-inch, 3.5 megapixel CMOS sensor does a great job of capturing a sharp, clear daytime image, although despite claiming a 120-degree field of vision, we felt the view was rather narrow compared to other recently-reviewed smart cams. On the plus side, video didn’t suffer from any noticeable fish-eye effect.

The camera is equipped with auto-adaptive white and black balance and exposure, which helps to optimize image capture. We found the feature works, but you may need to play around with positioning to get the best results. Butterfleye did a better job than most of adjusting contrast for views that include bright window areas (in tests, we’ve found most smart cameras suffer from overexposure here), although it did lead to a much darker interior image than we’d like. As we see with many smart cams, Butterfleye lacks manual imaging controls, which could help.

One more significant omission is night vision. Pretty much all smart cameras we test include an infrared sensor to illuminate areas of darkness – a sensible inclusion for a security device. Unfortunately, Butterfleye only includes a “low-light high-sensitivity” feature that, in fairness, does a decent job of boosting low-light images. In pitch darkness, however, Butterfleye simply can’t cut through the gloom, which is a show-stopping weakness.

Intelligent features, locked behind a paywall

Despite this obvious imaging issue, Butterfleye’s developers have clearly worked hard to add intelligence under the hood, but much of the magic is tucked behind a paywall, which is a real shame. While the camera records continuously (on AC power), it conserves storage space (and saves you time when monitoring activity) by only capturing recordings when an event is triggered, such as motion or a sound detected. A five-second buffer of video before the triggered event is added, ensuring you can see everything that happened. Recordings run for 20 seconds when the camera is plugged in and 10 seconds when battery-powered.

We found Butterfleye’s motion detection to be sharp and responsive, with push notifications hitting our phone in seconds when triggered. Similarly, it’s smart enough to detect when it’s being moved and will alert you accordingly. Loud noise alerts can be triggered by bumps or window breaks, although we found audio capture overall to be very noisy and unrefined. The camera also supports pet alerts, reducing the number of false alarms when your furry friends wander around the home. However, despite enlisting the family cat to join the Digital Trends review team and wander round the room, we were unable to trigger a pet alert.

The camera is equipped with auto-adaptive white and black balance and exposure, which helps to optimize image capture.

Facial recognition is another useful addition to Butterfleye’s feature cabinet. However, it’s one that’s disappointingly locked behind a subscription paywall. You’ll have to pay $100 a year or $10 monthly to extend the camera’s features to include some that are available out of the box on many competitors. Two-way audio, geo-fencing (arming the camera when you’re away from home), multi-user support, and a notification “quiet mode” are only available when you purchase Ooma’s Home Secure membership, alongside 30-days cloud storage.

We’re not big fans of pay-as-you-play smart cam subscription models, particularly when they lock away features we’d expect to find in a $199/$249 device. Unfortunately for Ooma, it only dilutes what could have been a more competitive proposition for Butterfleye in a market packed with choice.

Warranty information

Ooma Butterfleye is protected by an excellent 60-day money back guarantee and generous three-year warranty.

Our Take

While supporting some intelligent features out of the box and packing several more away behind a subscription paywall, Ooma Butterfleye is a confusing proposition that ultimately fails to live up to its ambitious billing. A combination of wire-free operation, high quality (if narrow) auto-adaptive imaging and free seven-day cloud storage is a tempting proposition, but a lack of night vision is a critical flaw in any smart camera.

Facial recognition is an exciting, emerging feature that could set Butterfleye apart from mid-range competitors, but alongside other more basic features available out of the box in other cameras, you’ll have to pay $100 a year to find out just how well it works. Given Ooma Butterfleye’s lack of night vision support, few will bother.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re looking for a wire-free, weatherproof, premium smart cam and have money to spare, the Netgear Arlo Pro 2 may be pricey ($480 for a 2-camera system) but performs well and includes the night vision feature missing from Oomla Butterfleye and a security siren. For a budget pick, the $149 Swann Smart Camera may have had a recent security wobble but offers a good value blend of features and performance.

How long will it last?

Ooma is new to the smart home game and has a reputation to build in this category. While the Ooma Butterfleye package has a number of flaws, a strong money-back guarantee and three-year warranty suggests the company is committed to customer support.

Should you buy it?

No. Ooma Butterfleye has some solid features, but buying a smart camera without night vision support isn’t a smart choice. And with many of the great features of the camera only available through a costly subscription, you’d be wise to go elsewhere.

Updated in August 2018 to note that the Ooma Butterfleye now integrates with the Ooma Home Security system and Amazon Alexa.

Deals

How to watch Top Rank Boxing: Conlan vs. Hernandez free on ESPN Plus

St. Patrick’s Day is this Sunday, so it’s fitting that rising Irish star Michael Conlan will face off against Mexican boxer Rueben Garcia Hernandez. If you’re looking for a way to stream the fight, then start your ESPN Plus 7-day…
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Smart Home

Amazon knocks down the price on the second-generation Echo smart speaker

Amazon just knocked down the price of the second-generation Echo smart speaker with Alexa by 25 percent. The Echo can answer questions, control smart home devices, fill a room with music with its Dolby speakers, and make hands-free calls.
Smart Home

The five best teeth-whitening kits you can buy on Amazon

Teeth whitening can have a major impact on a person’s smile and overall appearance. You don't necessarily have to go to the dentist to get your teeth whitened though. Here are the best teeth-whitening kits you can buy.
Smart Home

Is your Keurig making gross coffee? Might be time for a cleaning

No one likes a dirty, scaled, or smelly Keurig, but how are you supposed to clean them? Before you throw yours out the window, here is a quick guide on cleaning your machine out thoroughly.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Which is better, the original Echo or the Echo Dot? We compare them

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

Viral porch pirate videos freak people out, cause unrealistic concern

Viral porch pirate videos convince others crime is more prevalent than facts indicate. According to polls, even though FBI reports show property crime rates are at historic lows, more people worry about crime today than ever before.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Deals

Amazon slashes $77 off the iRobot Roomba 690 multisurface robot vacuum

This special offer comes just in time for you to get a head start on spring cleaning. The Roomba 690 robot vacuum sucks up dust, dirt and pet hair — all while you're away at the office.
Smart Home

Get sweaty with the best smart home fitness gadgets on the market

Are you looking for smart fitness devices that will really help your workouts, no matter where you like to exercise? These smart home gadgets are designed to help you analyze your workouts and keep track of how you are doing.
Smart Home

Our favorite coffee makers make flavorful cups of joe from the comforts of home

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.