Update: This post was originally posted on 2018/11/20. It was updated on 2020/01/07 to add information about Wyze Sense (and their other new products), fix outdated information, and answer questions.

My friend Josh had a break-in scare that ruined his vacation. I’ve been looking at cameras and smart doorbells off and on for a while, but I’ve never found the right balance of price (initial + subscription), convenience, and reliability. With renewed enthusiasm, I decided to start my search again, and I discovered Wyze Cam (pronounced “Wise Cam”).

Looking at Wyze Cam on Amazon, I assumed it was a Chinese business with non-existent support and lousy hardware. For $25 shipped, who could blame me? But after reading some positive reviews, I decided to dig a little deeper.

Warming Up to Wyze.

Is Wyze a Chinese company? No! Wyze Labs, LLC is a Seattle-based startup founded by some people who met while working at Amazon. On their About page, I read this introduction:

Our first product, the WyzeCam, is the solution to a problem that one of our cofounders faced. He had been looking for a smart home camera to stay connected with his family with while on the road. He found that better-recognized brands were ridiculously overpriced for their quality and cheaper ones were unreliable. We believe consumers deserve better than that.

Bird up close and personal captured on the Wyze Cam

Sorry birdie, this isn’t the overpriced Nest Cam.

That’s my story, too. And what he found (poor quality or terribly overpriced cameras) lined up precisely with my own research. That all sounds good for WyzeCam, but there was one critical issue holding me back. There was a concerning review asking why the cameras were sending data all over the world; including servers in China, Japan, and Germany.

This was a dealbreaker for me. And it’s actually a big problem with most internet-connected devices made by unknown foreign companies. Privacy is important, but especially for a camera. I need to know I can trust that the footage isn’t being used for anything malicious and my family isn’t being spied on.

This didn’t jive with what I had learned about Wyze, so I researched the issue. I came across the same person asking the question on Reddit. What I didn’t expect to find was a Wyze Labs engineer answering questions.

What did he say to convince me that Wyze was the real deal?

On the Reddit post the user WyzeTao explains that the service provider who connects their hardware to their online storage space has servers all over the world. This is normal for redundancy and load balancing. But in response to the community concerns, Wyze Labs asked them to only route traffic through the US from now on. The service provider complied and Wyze Labs rolled out that change to all cameras in an update.

This was the clincher for me because Wyze Labs:

  1. Had a legitimate issue reported by the community.
  2. Took the concern seriously and said they would look into it.
  3. Made a change and asked people to verify things are better.

Most companies don’t get that right, but Wyze won me over with the way they handed this.

So we made the purchase.

From their website, you can get a Wyze Cam V2 for just $19.99 + $5.99 shipping and handling. There is no subscription fee. (They also have a Wyze Cam Pan for $29.99 that can spin around.)

They connect to the wifi and have apps for Android or Apple phones. I get alerts whenever there is movement within a specific zone that I highlight in the app. All alerts are saved online for 2 weeks (no subscription necessary).

Only alerts get recorded to the internet, but if you insert a microSD card, it records continuously to the card. A 32GB card will let you save a few days of continuous recording. When it fills up, it overwrites the oldest recording so you never have to take it out unless you need footage.

The cameras work very well at night.

I have it on our front porch. It uses 4 infrared LEDs to light up night vision mode, which means it works much better at night than I expected. They’re technically not made to work outdoors, but there are kits you can get online to protect it from the rain.

Capture from my Wyze Cam contrasting the view from day and night

Since I first got the camera, we won a second camera that we’re using for the back door and a third one in our detached garage. The cameras regularly receive firmware updates (updating software running on the camera). This is great because it means they’re rolling out bug-fixes. Even the mobile app has received updates to make things even easier to use.

You can mount the cameras anywhere.

The cameras have magnets in the base so they can be easily mounted to any metal surface. Or you can attach it to the wall or ceiling with the metal disk and a strong 3M strip included with the camera. They’re powered by USB (6ft cable and plug included). There’s no battery, but I’ve considered something like this to both power and provide battery backup if needed.

And now Wyze Labs has sensors and other products!

In 2019 Wyze Labs released Wyze Sense: a suite of sensors that integrate with the Wyze Cam. As a result, our garage camera now starts recording anytime the garage door opens. We also get alerts if the door is left open! The starter sensor pack is the same price as the the camera: $19.99 + $5.99 S&H. Once you have the kit, you can buy additional sensors for just $5.99. How affordable is that? And they’ve worked perfectly so far.

Wyze Labs has also added several other prodcts in 2019 including Wyze Bulb, Wyze Plug, and Wyze Lock. You can find everything on their shop page.

But it’s not perfect.

I’m glad that we have the cameras, but I have some complaints. The quality of the footage should be better for 1080p. I’ve been talking to support, and they’re working with me to fix this. It seems like some of the footage speeds up in places for no apparent reason. It has two-way audio, but my experience with this has been pretty poor so far.

When I first set it up I got alerts nonstop. I had to make my alert zone tiny so that it’s focused on what matters. If I get too many alerts, I’ll start to ignore them. And that defeats the purpose. Fortunately, Wyze Labs rolled out an update that can detect human movement in 2019. As a result, false alerts are more or less a thing of the past!

Capture from my Wyze Cam showing a green square indicating movement from headlights

See that green square at the bottom? Because a car lit up that area of the screen, the camera registered an alert.

Ultimately, for the price, even if you had to replace one every year, it’s cheaper than anything else and it works well enough. (Did I mention there’s no subscription fee?) Now to obscure that big ugly USB cable hanging from our window…

Would I purchase this again?

Yes! Now that there is AI notifying me only when humans are in frame, I pay attention when there’s alert. I get notifications when packages are dropped off (even if we’re in the middle of Iceland) or when my kids get home from school (even if I’m working from my office upstairs).

If I were starting over today, I’d strongly consider the Wyze Smart Home Starter Pack. For $109 you get 1x Wyze Cam, 3x Wyze Bulbs, 2x Wyze Plugs, the Wyze Sense Starter Kit, and a microSD card so you can record directly to the card. That’s a great deal and would make a super gift for someone just starting to be interested in making their home smart.

Why am I posting this?

A neighbor recently had a package stolen from their front porch. I was able to review my footage, confirm the package dropped off by USPS, and find the thief taking the package. The footage was dark and blurry, but this was the first real-world use since we got the camera.

I’m not a Wyze Cam fan-boy. But after sharing the video with our neighborhood watch group, several people have asked for information. So I fleshed out my notes and wrote this post.

I hope this helps!

Have a question?

Leave a comment below, and I’ll reply or reach out to me in person.

Categories: hardware

David Needham

David Needham is a Developer Advocate at Pantheon where he focuses on developer education and training. When he's not blogging about productivity at davidneedham.me or speaking at conferences, you can probably find him with his bicycle-loving family playing board games in Champaign, IL.

2 Comments

Byron Reynolds · November 3, 2019 at 9:03 pm

I’m a wyze fan, and after finding some of your apps on IFTTT, I’m a fan of yours as well. I am trying to catch a mail thief that steals mail in the middle of the night on foot, in a very rural area. I bought a wyze contact sensor and have that connected to the mailbox door and I’m using your “Play an audio alert on my phone when the Wyze Contact Sensor opens” IFTTT app. It works relatively well, except that I can’t get it to simply play a local Wav file. It wants to open a much larger media player and source audio from the internet. In any event, it’s working, and thank you for that. It’s just not as reliable as I’d like it to be; every time it fetches the audio from a bigger player like google music, you never know if you’ll get a pop up ad and nothing will play. I wish I could figure this out. Thanks so much for the app; it’s far better than nothing.

    David Needham · November 3, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad my work has helped you. I’ve also been disappointed in the reliability playing audio alerts. I’m keeping an eye out for a new integration from IFTTT that would make it better, but for now this seems like the best option. If you have any ideas I’d be happy to try something different!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.