Review: Swann Smart Security Camera – wireless simplicity, quality camera, but lacks IFTTT

Securing your most valuable asset is an incredibly important thing to do right. There’s a lot of options on the table when it comes to security cameras, but in...

Securing your most valuable asset is an incredibly important thing to do right. There’s a lot of options on the table when it comes to security cameras, but in 2018 there’s an easily definable feature set that’s imperative to a product being considered up to the task.

First off, a security system should work 24 hours a day, that means infrared capability, so should an attacker approach your house, you’ll capture video of them. Having access to see a replay of a threat is useful, but you want pro-active notifications when someone is around your house, when they shouldn’t be. This means your camera system needs to connected and accessible from wherever you are in the world (via your mobile).

The Swann Smart Camera offers push notifications of motion events, allowing you to remotely monitor the camera feed when someone’s nearby. Importantly the camera also offers peace of mind to fire up the live view at anytime, this is great for those away on holidays who want to make sure their place is ok. There’s other uses for this too, imagine you position it in a location that captures the garage door, you can tune in to confirm you put the garage door down when you left for work.

The mobile app also gives you access to historical recordings and during the review I quite enjoyed tracking back through the footage to find birds visiting and finding a place to watch the world go by. This happened often enough if felt like some kind of feathered reality TV.

The camera records in 1080p which provides the quality necessary to read critical components in the footage like number plates or logos on clothing, should a breakin occur. Frankly this should be standard in cameras by now, but unfortunately isn’t, so look out for it on the spec sheet when looking around. If you’re considering this and concerned about quality, don’t be, the footage is crisp and clear.

Design

When it comes to the appearance of the camera, you want it to blend in and thanks to the compact white housing of the camera, it was easy to hide away on the side of a drainpipe on our lightly coloured, rendered facade. I’d expect most houses to be able to hide it somewhere under the eaves of a home. In a way, its not terrible if the bad guys see the camera, as that would deter some from even trying.

Because the camera is going to be positioned in many locations, particularly if you buy multiple cameras, it needs to be able to withstand the outdoors. Thanks to its unique magnetic mounting mounting system and IP65 waterproofing, this camera is ready to go in outdoor environments. Personally I positioned in a location that wouldn’t get rain on it, mostly so the lens didn’t get dirty.

The front of the device features a black panel that wraps the 120 degree lens as well as the light and motion sensors.

When it comes to charging the camera, that was as easy as pulling it off the magnetic base and connecting it via USB to power for a night. During the review I’ve only charged it once and that battery level can be monitored through the app on your phone. All going well the battery life should last months. Snapping the camera off the magnetic base every once in a while to charge is a small price to pay for the easy, wireless installation.

Features

Naturally you want to be able to view the camera on your phone, but you may also want to give access to others either living with you or friends/family who could monitor your house while your away, without actually physically visiting. Keep in mind the camera is for security, but you could absolutely use it for monitoring pets or other creative use cases.

This raises the issue of what gets captured by the motion sensor. This camera, unlike many, actually uses heat-sensing motion detection. That means the motion alerts are only triggered by objects that generate heat, like people, animals and vehicles. This important, but perhaps subtle differentiation means that its not simply a detection of pixels changing frame-to-frame, but rather smarter sensors that mean you’ll have less false positives and ultimately longer battery life.

The platform is expandable, in that you can simply purchase more cameras to cover more of your home and once connected are available in the same app. If you’re looking at buying a security solution for your home, staying with a single brand like this is definitely preferable over a mix and match solution. Personally I have that issue with smart lighting, some Hue, some LIFX bulbs and remembering which app I need to use to control which light is a point of frustration that could easily be avoided.

The SAFE by Swann mobile app is available for Android and iOS. From the app, you can review the footage recorded. If your camera captures something important, its easy to download it (one tap) and then share it with social media, or the police. This could be improved with the addition of a share button within the playback screen that may download the footage in the background, making a share process 1-step for the user, instead of 2.

In terms of storage, the camera stores up to 7 days of recording locally. You’ll get access to the last 2 days of recordings via the cloud for free, but if you want longer durations (like if you’re on holidays) then you can upgrade to the ‘ExtraSafe Plan’ for A$7.49 per month which gets you access up to 30 days of recordings. You can opt-in and out of this plan month-to-month, so if you’re planning a 3-week holiday in September, you could add the plan just for that month.

Issues

Lack of IFTTT here is a glaring omission and when I enquired about its support, Swann informs me there’s no current plans to add it. That’s a real shame as competitors on the market around a similar price point do offer this and the additional functionality available. The ability to integrate to with the rest of your home automation, is a really something we expect from an IoT device in 2018 and is a real opportunity and potential customer lost.

Price and Availability

Swann’s Smart Security Camera is available now from their website direct or electronics reatilers like JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. It’ll cost you A$269.00 for a single camera, but they can be purchased in packs of 2, 3 and 4. The price increases accordingly, with the 4 pack costing A$899.00 from Swann direct as a current special until March 3rd, with the RRP costing A$969.95.

Now for the cost of the service. Lets imagine you add 4 cameras (one for each side of your home), you’ll then be up for A29.96 every month.

For peace of mind, maybe that’s worth it, but considering your Netflix and Spotify bills are each less than $15 per month, that definitely seems high. While each camera does require more storage and the number of recordings isn’t capped, it does have a cost to Swann for hosting the data, but I think a lot more people would opt-in if it was capped at A$10pm for up to 5 cameras and perhaps a higher tier up to 10 cameras.

By way of comparison, one of Swann’s newest competitors is Ring. Now moving their product range broader than video doorbells, the Floodlight cam costs just A$4 per month, per camera and has the added benefits of an in-built siren and two-way talk, potentially scaring off threats, not simply watching them happen.

Overall

All things considered, the vision you get from the camera is great quality and the simplicity of a wireless installation means this Smart Security Camera from Swann will appeal to many. Its decisions like the inclusion of a permanent fixed backing plate, along with 3M double sided tape that demonstrates Swann’s understanding that home owners and renters alike have the need to secure their homes.

The lack of IFTTT is a big one for me and a missing feature important enough to have me looking elsewhere. In 2018, I should be able to ask Alexa to show me the secure cameras on the TV in the lounge room and that just happen (via a Logitech Harmony). Unfortunately that’s not available here, its mobile or nothing. There’s also no web client or desktop apps. While mobile is convenient, plenty of us are on computers for too many hours everyday and accessing your camera from any web browser, PC or Mac, should definitely be a possibility.

Of course I wish the monthly price was cheaper and then you’d consider leaving it on the whole time, instead you’ll likely just enable it for the month you go away on holidays.

Probably the biggest positive about home security products like this is that installation is now simple, easy and free. Traditional security installers will have to look elsewhere now home owners can install it themselves in seconds.

8.6
Swann Smart Security Camera
The Good
  • Camera Quality
  • Mobile Access
  • Wireless installation
The Bad
  • No IFTTT support
  • Plans can get expensive
  • Features
    8.7
  • Design
    8.5
  • Value
    8.5
Categories
CamerasHardwareHomeHome AutomationReviewsSecurity

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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