Wyze Labs WyzeCam hands-on
“With a capable feature set and unbeatable price, the WyzeCam impresses.”
- Just $20
- 14 days of cloud backup
- MicroSD card slot
- 1080p video
- Time-lapse mode
- 12-second clip length limit
- No geofencing
- Indoor, plugged-in use only
Founded by ex-Amazon employees in Seattle, Washington, Wyze Labs is the newest player in the smart home market and the WyzeCam is its first product. A feature-rich smart home camera, the WyzeCam’s spec sheet stacks up nicely to other high-end home monitors, offering 1080p video, motion and sound detection, night vision, and two-way audio. But it also comes with 14 days of free cloud storage plus a MicroSD card slot for continuous local recording. It even offers a time-lapse mode.
All of these features are crammed into an impossibly small (and decidedly cute) white plastic cube. It rests on a magnetic stand for easy mounting to metal surfaces and can rotate and tilt to point in any direction. With the included adhesive tape, it can be mounted to other surfaces and repositioned without putting holes into walls.
This all sounds pretty great, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part: The WyzeCam costs just $20 (or $30, if you buy from Amazon). That is not a typo: It is but a fraction of the price of similarly equipped smart cameras from other manufacturers, and possibly the least expensive smart camera we’ve ever tested. But is it really a revolutionary new smart home device for the masses, or is it simply too good to be true? Find out in our WyzeCam hands-on review.
Disrupt and democratize
The WyzeCam isn’t just a new camera; it’s the initial product offered by Wyze Labs, so a lot is riding on it. And the company’s goal is no small undertaking. It wants to make high-end and easy-to-use smart home technology available to everyone in a way that established brands simply haven’t been able to do. But there are a lot of players in this game, so Wyze Labs needs to be radically different to stand out.
“Wyze Labs is on a mission to disrupt and democratize the smart home market,” Jessie Zhou, director of marketing for Wyze Labs, told Digital Trends. “We operate on a low margin, high volume business model,” Zhou explained.
By building a fresh company using some of Amazon’s DNA, Wyze Labs believes it can be successful in reaching a high enough number of consumers to provide a quality product at a very low price. If the company succeeds, it may force competitors to reevaluate their approach, either by lowering prices or improving features.
“Wyze Labs is on a mission to disrupt and democratize the smart home market.”
Wyze Labs is also confident that the WyzeCam can successfully compete across the full spectrum of smart home cameras, from baby and pet monitoring to home security. We’re not wholly convinced, at least not yet. It lacks a few features often found on higher-end cameras, including weatherproofing and battery-powered operation, but for indoor use it does indeed bring a lot to the table.
At $20 and with 14 days of cloud storage included, we’re not sure how it’s possible for Wyze Labs to make any money, but they may be cutting a few small corners here and there. What we can say is that the WyzeCam would remain a decent product even if it cost much more.
One of the positive side effects of that low price is that it allows users to affordably build out multi-camera systems in their homes, something that can cost several hundred dollars with other brands. The cameras can even be magnetically stacked on top of each other to monitor multiple directions from the same spot.
Like other smart cameras, the WyzeCam is controlled through a mobile app (iOS and Android) and the Wyze app is one of the better ones we’ve tested, with a simple setup process and easy to navigate interface. Adding a new camera is as easy as plugging in your home Wi-Fi information into the app, which generates a QR code for the camera to read. The camera then connects to your network and sets itself up. You may be prompted to install a firmware update, but other than that, you’re good to go.
Home security: not quite there yet
By default, motion detection is turned on and you can optionally turn on sound detection, as well. You’ll find additional options for smoke and CO detection, but note that this is not for some sort of air quality monitor built into the camera. Instead, these options merely tell the WyzeCam to listen for the signature sound of standalone smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
When motion or sound triggers the camera, a 12-second clip of the event is recorded, with about half of that time being a buffered prerecording leading up to the event. Aha! This would appear to be where we start to see how Wyze Labs can eke out 14 days of free cloud storage to every customer.
In testing, we walked around in front of the camera for about a minute, yet it never saved more than the first 12 seconds. There also seems to be a rather lengthy “cool down” period, which prevents multiple motion alarms from being triggered in a row. If somebody breaks into your home, you better hope they turn their face toward the camera within the first 12 seconds — actually, more like the first 6 seconds, considering the prerecord function.
Fortunately, the WyzeCam does come with a solution to this problem — sort of. With a MicroSD card loaded into the camera, it can record continuously, letting you replay everything that happened before, during, and after a motion or sound trigger. We very much appreciate that Wyze Labs included both local and cloud storage — a rare feat for smart cameras these days — but as we’ve pointed out in other reviews, local storage is not ideal for security purposes. If an intruder nabs your camera on his way out, you’re again left with just 12 seconds of footage available in the cloud.
We walked around in front of the camera for about a minute, yet it never saved more than the first 12 seconds.
We understand that being able to advertise 14 days of cloud backup sounds good, but given that you are alerted instantly to an event, we’re not sure most users really need that much time. You can save recordings from the cloud right to your phone, and if someone breaks into your house, there’s really no need for you to wait 14 days to do that. If you do a lot of camping or otherwise commonly spend time outside of cellular coverage areas, having some extra time is a good thing. For everyone else, however, we might have preferred just seven days of backup and boosting clip record times to 24 seconds.
At the time of our review, the WyzeCam also offers little in the way of automation, although the company says an alert scheduling feature will be available by launch (that is, it should be available by the time you read this). Simultaneous live-streaming is also coming, which will allow users to monitor multiple cameras at the same time.
However, there is no word on whether the camera will ever gain geofencing support to automatically turn alerts and recording off or on based on whether you’re home or away. This is a feature we really appreciate having on the cameras that offer it, like the Canary Flex (although, that camera was recently updated with its own clip length limit, limiting its usefulness). The WyzeCam also does not integrate into any smart home hub solutions, such as the Amazon Echo Show, although Wyze Labs told us this is something the company is currently evaluating.
The only pet or baby cam you’d ever need
Security aside, the WyzeCam is an excellent pet or nanny camera simply because it offers all the standard features of such a device at an incredible price. Two-way audio works well, although the speaker is not very loud, and the options for local storage and time-lapse videos give you multiple ways to review what went on in your home while you were away. You can also manually snap a photo or record a video at any time.
Image quality is good considering the price, and on par with other 1080p smart cameras. However, like other smart cameras, it suffers from excessive digital sharpening that leads to a “halo” effect around objects. This does make images pop a bit more on smaller screens, but when viewed full-screen on a plus-sized phone, the effect is a bit overdone.
The time-lapse function is pretty unique, and there are even some decently powerful controls for setting it up. You can select start and end times as well as the interval between shots, but the designers seemed to forget about the limitations of reality when building the controls. The app will let you set the interval to be longer than the total recording period. For example, you can set the time-lapse to start today at 2:00 p.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. but set the interval to as high as 400 days — oops.
Beyond giving a quick overview of what your pets got up to while you were at work, the time-lapse function could provide some fun while you’re home, too. Set it up during your Halloween party (make sure to choose an interval measured in seconds, not days) and send everyone home with a hilarious short video of all the shenanigans that went down. (On second thought, let’s not do that.)
An impressive first effort
WyzeLabs is coming out of the gate strong with a very competitive product. We don’t think the WyzeCam will be a replacement to higher-end security solutions like the Netgear Arlo Pro, but it will get users most of the way there for significantly less money. It’s a very solid entry point into the realm of smart home devices, and may even provide some genuine fun beyond the standard use cases of a smart camera.
While we certainly found a few shortcomings — the 12-second clip limit is not great — we were still continually impressed that such a small, inexpensive device could do so much. This is a $20 camera — that almost seems impossible.
We look forward to checking out the final feature set when the camera launches (which should be available by the time you read this) and are excited to see what else comes out of Wyze Labs in the future.
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