Just as heads-up, customer support from Ring was top-notch. After a week of use, I had an issue with a sensor that wasn’t communicating properly. Fortunately it didn’t trip the alarm (I say fortunate as I wouldn’t want to local police to show up for faulty sensor). A late night call to the Ring customer service, which appears to be U.S. based, helped to resolve the issue. The rep was professional and patient. All told, I’m glad I chose Ring.
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Ring Alarm hits nearly all the right notes for a basic DIY home security system. I’ve already touched on a couple of its shortcomings—including an absence of support for smart speakers—but tighter integration with Ring’s own cameras would be another welcome development. When an alarm is tripped, the cameras should begin recording to perhaps capture a glimpse of what triggered it—potentially valuable forensic evidence you could provide to the police investigating a break-in. And if Ring Alarm could control your home’s smart lighting, it could turn on all the lights if the alarm is triggered after dark, which might convince an intruder to make a hasty retreat.
abode uses the abode app. If an event occurs, you will receive a notification on your phone. From the app, you can decide how to respond to events. You can review video footage, notify the police, the monitoring center, or even your family. You can also view sensor history and manage your rules. For example, you can create a “coming home” rule that turns on the lights and unlocks the door. And of course, you can use the app to arm and disarm the system.
There is currently no support for controlling the system with voice commands, but it should come as no surprise that Ring is developing an Alexa skill. Once you can arm your security system using a voice command, you won’t want to do it any other way (disarming it that way is whole other question). Harris was slightly more circumspect about supporting Google Assistant. “We remain committed to being open to all of the different pieces that are important to our customers. We’ll continue to march down the path of trying to support everything we can.” I got a similar answer when I asked about support for Apple’s HomeKit technology: “We’ve given it a lot of time. Again, we remain focused on bringing HomeKit support across the product line, but it won’t be available at launch with the Alarm products specifically.”
Ring lacks third-party integrations. The Base Station communicates with Z-Wave and Zigbee, and I’ve confirmed those protocols were added for a reason, but they haven’t taken advantage of them. The system supports the First Alert Z-Wave Smoke/CO detector which is also compatible with the Ring Response service. Soon, it will also work with the Dome Siren. But that’s it. Ring currently lacks an IFTTT channel and even an Alexa integration, which is odd as Ring is owned by Amazon.
I don’t think I mentioned the answer in this article, but I know I’ve talked about this elsewhere. Unfortunately, all I can remember is abode and Ring. I can’t remember anything about Nest. All abode devices and sensors use the abode RF encrypted protocol to talk to the gateway. They also encrypt all communication between the gateway and the cloud. Ring uses Z-Wave Security 2 and Z-Wave SmartStart technology which encrypts the signal between the base and cloud as well as the base and sensors.
The biggest physical difference between the Doorbell 2 and the original is the new, slide-out battery. With the first model, recharging the battery required removing the entire doorbell from the frame and plugging it in for five to six hours. The new, removable battery (which looks like something you might find in a DSLR or camcorder) is much easier to charge: you just remove the front panel of the doorbell (a security screw underneath needs to be removed with the included screwdriver first), slide the battery out, and plug that into a Micro USB cable. Charging still takes five or six hours — it’s a hefty, 6,100mAh battery and this doesn’t have any quick charging features you might find on a smartphone — but the modularity of this design means you can buy a second battery and put that in to keep your doorbell functional while the other charges. Ring provides one battery in the box, but you can buy spares from Ring’s website for a reasonable $20.
After I installed the second Ring I noticed I was not able to connect as quickly and sometimes not at all to the doorbell. I watched a few YouTube videos for troubleshooting and BOOM! I found the issue (I can not fault Ring for this). My current doorbell transformer was only max 16V of power. I went and purchased a max 24V transformer and a plug-in WiFi extender (approximately $50 total for both). This solved the issue and we were able to connect to both doorbells with no problems. Since July of 2017, and the upgrades, we have had no issues. We had temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit and they were still working.
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You can also disarm the system from the app, but in a break from convention, Ring does not offer a key fob for arming and disarming the system. Geofencing that would automatically arm and disarm when you leave and return isn’t supported either. Harris said those were conscious design decisions. “What it came to was security,” Harris said. People said ‘Hey, I want this to automatically disarm my security system when I get close.’ The question then becomes: How close? And is it really you with your phone? Or did someone pick it up at the park, find your address, drive to your house, and let themselves in?”
So what happens if an Alarm is triggered? If an event is detected, you will get an email and an instant push notification to your phone which you can swipe to open the Nest App. From the Nest App, you can see which sensor triggered the alarm, and you will be presented with two options: call the police or turn the alarm off. If you have a Nest Cam, you will be able to view footage from the event simultaneously. If you have multiple Nest Cams, you can swipe through to a view a live feed from all of your cameras. If you’re subscribed to Nest Aware, the Sightline feature will bookmark the event so next time you access your camera’s timeline, you’ll see a red bar. Tap on the red bar to review the footage of the event. Of course, while all of this is happening, your siren will sound.
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From the app, you can control and manage your Nest Secure system. Of course, you can arm and disarm your system, but you can also see sensor status as well as sensor history. For example, you can see if your door is open or closed and you can see when it was last opened and last closed. You can also use the app’s Remind Me feature to remind you to arm your system if you forget to do so.
Also, this is not a miracle product. It will only work as well as your internet connection. That means a little lag if you’re on a cable connection at peak times. There are a few times I’ve had the video come up in laggy and weirdly pixilated forms that took a second to work out. I’ve also noticed our voice connection is VERY quiet. As in, the person at the door can barely hear the person on the phone, so I consider that feature a bit useless. We managed to scare our cat sitter from the other side of the country and greet my mom, but I wouldn’t rely on it for communicating with people often. We managed to talk to our lawn service but we had to yell into the phone and they had to ask us to repeat ourselves a few times. Also we live on such a busy road that there is a lot of noise which makes the video sound very choppy. So again, I just consider this feature a novelty and not something to rely on.
Where abode Wins: abode offers free cloud storage, and they offer the widest range of equipment including glass break and flood sensors which are viewed as essential home security devices. Also, abode uses an open platform allowing more third-party integrations via Z-Wave and Zigbee backed by their CUE automation engine. It’s true that Ring offers Z-Wave and Zigbee too, but details on compatible products are still scarce. Fourth, abode has more home security experience than Nest and Ring.
From what I understand, it’s not so much a matter of just buying a device, but also programming it to the exact frequency that matches your alarm system. (Which makes an interesting case for not using a security sign, but that’s another debate.) That said, a really good signal jammer can cost upwards of $1,000, and as CNET pointed out, they would still have to smash a window or break down your door. The guy who wants money for his addiction isn’t going to spend the money and effort needed to pull off a jamming heist. Of course, if you are a public figure or might be the target of a more complex attack, I would suggest looking into a wired alarm system.
Where Nest Wins: Nest has a better design, fantastic cameras, and cheaper cellular backup. Their multi-purpose sensors may cut down on the number of sensors you need, though they are more expensive than abode and Ring sensors. Also, Nest Guard is the most intuitive with LED lights, a keypad, and voice feedback. Finally, Nest Secure offers a 2-year warranty where abode and Ring offer 1-year warranties. However, there are areas where abode and Ring win too.
Quiet Open allows you to bypass an armed sensor simply by touching it. For example, if your system is armed, but you want to check the weather outside, you can press the sensor, and open your door. While I’ve heard only praise for this feature, my initial reaction was that it seems like a security flaw. Your teenagers, for example, can press the sensor and sneak out. Furthermore, there is no identification tied to using the feature. For example, it won’t say, “Rose bypassed the sensor.” Fortunately, you can turn this feature off if you’re concerned.
Once your trial of ring video recording ends, you can no longer access past events without a paid subscription. That's not such a big deal until you realize what counts as a "recent event". If you don't press the button within about 5 seconds of getting a motion alert, you missed your shot and now it's a past event. Say the UPS guy comes, presses the doorbell and walks off immediately. Your phone properly notifies you that somebody is at your door, but you've got something in your hands, or your phone is in your pocket or any other distraction is going on that takes 5 seconds to finish. By the time you hit the notification banner and go into the app, it will take you to a screen that says you need a paid subscription to see past events. Earlier today I got a notification WHILE holding my phone, clicked it immediately, but the live video loaded slowly and by the time it did load, the "event" was considered done and it took me to the screen saying I needed to pay. I have no problem paying to record everything and be able to pull up events from hours, days or weeks ago, but needing to pay because 5 seconds went by and the app loaded slowly is a rip-off. This is a $200 item which replaces a $5 hardware store doorbell, and the ONE thing it's supposed to do (show you live video of rings or motion events at your door) doesn't work about half the time without paying extra. There needs to be about a 30 second window at minimum where you can see what's going on without having to pay extra.