I don’t review products, but The Watchdog makes an exception here because I found something exceptional and fun.
The Wyze camera is a $20 camera for indoor use that I’ve tested for a month. If you’ve longed for an indoor home surveillance system but didn’t want to spend a lot of money or deal with wires or data storage machines, you’ll want to read about the Wyzecam.
Cameras are a great protection tool. For $20, this little thing is significant because of everything it does.
The 2-inch tall, white boxy camera connects to Wi-fi and uses an electrical outlet. No battery here, which means it won’t work in a power failure.
Pictures and video are in high definition, and the camera switches to night vision when surroundings are dark.
The user-friendly phone app is where the easy-to-navigate master controls reside. The app shows livestream video and photos taken by the camera, which serves as a microphone and a speaker. You can talk through it or listen via smartphone.
MicroSD cards up to 32 gigabytes can be inserted into the camera and record up to seven days. Data also is stored in the company’s cloud for free.
The camera also contains a motion detector, a sound detector, even a carbon monoxide detector.
There’s no limit to how many cameras you can install.
All this for $20 if you buy on this Washington start-up company’s website, wyze.com. (On Amazon, the camera costs $26, down from $30.)
Does Wyzecam protect privacy?
Some Amazon reviewers gave it the lowest rating and write that the privacy controls are weak.
The company says all of my data is encrypted.
On its website, Wyze promises, “Each camera has its own secret key and certificate so that we can validate its identity. … Even if a hacker intercepts the data package, the data cannot be decrypted.”
Personally, I assume that anything on a Wi-fi network is hackable, so when the Secret Society meets at my house, I’ll be sure to turn it off.
The reason the camera is so inexpensive? Founder Yun Zhang has said he wants Wyze to develop a following before introducing new products. I’m following.
I’m guessing the next version is an outdoor camera, but the company won’t say. This inaugural camera is recommended for indoor use only. I plan to put a third camera I bought outside under an overhang for a test, but the specs say the camera may only work down to 32 degrees. We’ll see.
A carbon monoxide detector?
I was curious about how the little camera detects carbon monoxide. Wyze marketing director Jessie Zhou explains that a carbon monoxide leak causes a unique sound pattern emitted by a carbon monoxide monitoring device when it detects that poison in the air. Wyzecam can then send a phone alert. (I didn’t get to test for poison gas.)
I was going to tell you how easy the camera setup was but now I can’t. My editor, Dave Hiott, bought one on my recommendation and his couldn’t connect to Wi-fi. (Watchdog is in the doghouse now.)
My editor has a 5 GHz router, and the Wyzecam needs to be set up on a 2.4GHz router.
Not to worry, says Wyze’s Zhou, who tells me that most routers are dual band, meaning they have are 2.4 and 5. Setup is made on the lower band, and then the camera can run on 5 GHz forever more, she says.
The company’s website doesn’t say this, so this could be a problem for some buyers. A router adjustment isn’t something I know how to do.
Zhou says Wyze tech support can help if you know your router’s manufacturer and model number. Sounds like a lot of trouble. But for $20 …
If this interests you, why not buy one for $20 and play with it like I’ve done? I have two “channels” set up. My own private TV network.
My only problem is that the camera doesn’t work at night through window glass because of light reflection.
The camera and app were easy to learn. The company website gives plenty of instruction (although not on the router issue). Wyze also produces weekly instructional videos on YouTube that taught me how to use the different functions.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun with a new tech toy, but more than fun, the Wyzecam is a significant breakthrough.
Sophisticated, high-definition tech products no longer have to cost a lot. With this, you could set up a three-camera surveillance system needing only three electrical outlets.
Cost: under $100.
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.