When the doorbell rings, late at night it can be concerning. Or maybe it rings when you just got out of the shower or some other inconvenient time . And then there are the times when someone rings it when you are at work or shopping or away on vacation.
You just don’t know who is on the other side of the door!
The Skybell is a video doorbell that works with your WiFi to send you notifications to your smartphone that someone is at your door. You can see them, hear them and talk to them from anywhere your phone can get internet access.
It can help cut down on the opening of the door to nuisance calls, help you to work with a delivery company employee to arrange where to leave a package when you’re not there and could deter criminals by letting them know they’ve been seen. You can get a photo of them too.
In this review I take a look at how well it meets the requirements of making your life easier and giving peace of mind when you are not at home or you are there on your own and don’t want to open the door because you don’t know who is on the other side. It has some great features but there are a few things to be aware of before deciding if this is the best video doorbell for you.
- 1 Installation
- 2 Contract
- 3 Support
- 4 Cameras
- 5 Skybell Video Storage
- 6 Alarm System Compatibility
- 7 Notification
- 8 Remote Monitoring
- 9 Battery
- 10 Sensors/Detection
- 11 Chime
- 12 Camera Panel
- 13 Protection Against It Being Stolen
- 14 Coverage
- 15 Wireless or Wired
- 16 Dimensions
- 17 Features
- 18 Accessories
- 19 Pros
- 20 Cons
- 21 Skybell Consumer Ratings
- 22 Skybell Price
- 23 Summary
Installation and set up is fairly simple but it is important to know the requirements beforehand to save any frustration. It can all be done in less than 60 minutes if you take the time to check out the instructions and the videos online. The installation will take most of the time with set up taking just minutes.
There are a number of requirements to make sure your WiFi and doorbell have before you install the doorbell (it is similar to the Ring Video Doorbell in this respect). It is recommended you have an existing mechanical doorbell that has transformer with a power output of 10 to 36 VAC, 10 VA or 12 VDC with an amp range between 0.5 and 1.0 amp to wire the doorbell to. On Skybell’s site they have instructions on how to determine if you have a mechanical doorbell.
But you can set it up without an existing doorbell (see details here ttp://www.skybell.com/pages/power-diagrams) but it is more difficult. It won’t work with an electronic or wireless doorbells. For a simpler solution checkout Ring Video doorbell which uses a rechargeable battery.
The requirements of your WiFi are that it operates on 2.4 ghz and routers are set to 802.11 b/g/n. It does not work with “N” only settings. The upload speed needs to be at least 1.5 mbps and a download speed of 1.0 mbps. There are speed test apps you can download for free to check the speed of your WiFi.
It works with the mobile devices that are either iOS with 7 or iOS 8 Operating System and Android operating on Jelly Bean 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, or Kit Kat 4.4.
The company’s site has videos and instructions to help with the installation and they are definitely worth checking out before you start the installation to make it as simple as possible.
Installation involves removing existing doorbell button, attaching the mounting unit to your wall and fitting the Skybell to the existing wiring. It can be done easily by most people.
There are 2 parts to the installation process that can take some time.
The 1st part of the process is wiring to your existing mechanical doorbell is to connect its wires to your skybell. It is low voltage and won’t normally need to have an electrician involved.
It involves using the crimping connectors. Then it is trying to fit them and the wires into the space between the mounting bracket and the device. There isn’t much room and if you haven’t got a hole in your wall to fit the wire into you may struggle to get the bracket and device together. You may need to use electricians tape to join the wires instead of the crimping connectors.
The second part of the process is counterclockwise screwing the small security screw with the included Allen wrench at the bottom of the device. It is very small and you have to be very careful and it might need 2 of you with one shining a torch to complete the tightening.
The additional tools required for installation is pliers, power drill, screwdriver and maybe outdoor adhesive and wire strippers.
It is weather resistant but not waterproof so is best installed out of direct weather conditions. It is designed to work between – 40 degrees F to 160 degrees F. You do need to think where it is installed also to make sure it gives you coverage of the door and you may need to tilt it using the wedge kit (sold separately) to get it right as you don’t want people to be able to hide from the camera when they are at the door, but for most people the existing doorbell will be in a good position for the best coverage.
Once it has been installed it is ready to be set up which involves waiting about 10 minutes for the skybell to power up, downloading the app from itunes or Google app store depending on your phone, syncing the device and following the instructions to register.
There is no contract or subscriptions fees needed to use any of the functionality of the doorbell. This may change when or if they introduce recording and storage services.
The company does not always seem to have their customers at the center of their business. i thnk they do try hard to do this but at times they let themselves and their customers down by making it harder than it should be to get faulty parts replaced or issuing of refunds. But on the most part they do a good job and hopefully this is just growing pains.
They have a comprehensive website with lot of information that can help customers and prospective customers understand and get the most out of it. When they get right they can be very good.
When I contacted them for this review by email on Saturday they responded within 30 minutes, which is by far the quickest response I’ve ever had.
The Skybell has one camera which has a 120 degree wide angle lens with a 640 X 480 resolution. It is not HD. The quality of video day and night is acceptable – it is a bit grainy. You’ll be able to identify someone you know but identifying strangers when you take a snapshot won’t be as easy. It works best up to 5 -7 feet away from the doorbell for the best view during the day and night. You can see further during the day but the view does degrade in terms of identifying someone and quality.
When a person is backlit against the sky it can be difficult to see the persons face, this can be alleviated by using the contrast button to adjust for the background light and you can then see the person better. It’s best to ensure it is not directly looking at the sun to get a good view – just like any camera.
The company says that the camera is not HD it means that it can work in a wider range of temperatures There is less disruption to the video feed with less choppiness and less time spent buffering as not as much data is being transferred. Although the feed can be choppy at times which can be a result of data traffic on the internet and the quality of the connection.
The 2 way speaker works well with you hearing a good strong voice when listening but it can be a bit choppy for the person at the door but they can hear what you have to say. To speak you have to “hold down” the microphone while speaking . There is a short delay but it doesn’t interfere with the ability to communicate with someone at the door.
Skybell Video Storage
You can’t record video with this system. You can take snapshots of the feed with the App and save to your phone.
If storing video of your callers is important then the Ring Video Doorbell records and stores video. There is a monthly charge for this and at present you can’t initiate a live stream from your phone. In other respects it is similar to the Skybell and is better rated by customers.
Alarm System Compatibility
This is not a security camera as such but it can help in providing peace of mind and can also help in deterring criminals from breaking in. Criminals as a rule don’t like – noise, being seen or taking too much time.
However, this doorbell could work well with a DIY wireless security system although you won’t be able to control them using the same App. If you see someone on your porch with the camera you can take a picture with Skybell and sound the alarm remotely before they enter if you see them trying to enter your premises using the home alarm system and then call the police. It may be enough for them to know they’ve been discovered to deter them and move on.
Although you can’t control and monitor them with your smartphone App, 2 of the best DIY wireless systems for reliability and the amount of components you get are the Fortress Security Store GSM-B and the Pisector GS08-M systems – they can communicate with you over the landline or cellular network (when you buy a SIM card and network package separately). You receive texts to your phone if an intruder is detected, you can hear what is happening and you can remotely sound the siren. With each of the systems you get 10 door/window sensors, 3 motion detectors, 3 remote FOBS. They can contact up to 6 numbers and playback a short recorded message. It does provide you with a level of security you don’t have with relying on the Skybell.
If you are wanting a security camera for securing your property and not just your front door then Simplicam is a good option, although you can’t use it outdoors you can point it out a window but will need to turn off night vision at night as infrared lights with reflect off the window. You can store video on the company’s cloud servers and it will alert you when it detects movement but it doesn’t have a doorbell feature. Or you can use it to detect the door opening by having it pointed at the door to detect motion when it opens.
You can set it up so as many people as you like can be notified when it detects movement or the doorbell is rung. However only one person can answer it or view the live feed at a time. Other users will see that someone else is using the camera.
The notifications arrive within a few seconds of the doorbell being pushed and makes a chime sound to let you know it has arrived. If you’ve closed the app you do need to go back into it and open up the video feed to see who is at the door.
Note, you do need to be careful who you set up on the account as there is only one password so they have access to your account and if you want to remove someone from the account you need to change the password which may make it difficult if you have a disagreement with someone especially if they change the password.
Only one person can use the video at a time. When making an on demand call which is one initiated by you can take up to 2 minutes to connect. You access this from the homepage by tapping on the Skybell you want to make the call to and then tap on the call icon on the right. I’m not sure why it takes this long but does make it difficult to use if you are trying to see what is going on in a hurry, but I guess for just doing it out of curiosity it won’t seem that bad.
When you receive a notification you can accept the call and go straight to a live feed from your door where you can see and hear what is happening at your door. To speak to someone at the door you press on the microphone, and to hear what they are saying you need take your finger off the microphone.
The App is where you control and monitor your doorbell. From the home screen you can set your preferences for receiving notifications, whether you want the doorbell to ring, turn the motion sensor on and off and access your doorbells. It is fairly simple to use and there isn’t loads of unnecessary functionality included which helps in keeping it easy to use.
After 5 minutes the feed turns off automatically. You can reconnect from your phone to continue your conversation after waiting 30 seconds if you haven’t finished but most interactions with people at your door aren’t going to last more than a minute so this cut off time should not be an issue.
There does appear to be some issues as a result of the latest software update and it is not connecting properly to the doorbell for some users.
You can set up multiple doorbells on your account and give each an individual name. So, you could have one for your backdoor as well as the front door. If you have elderly parents you can have it set up on your account too, so that you can answer on their behalf especially if they are a little unsteady on their feet that can help them out and give the impression they aren’t on their own too. Also you could add it to a vacation home or vacant property to deal with callers while you’re not there as long as there is internet WiFi access.
There is an internal battery that helps in providing consistent power to the unit. It helps to regulate supply but it does not work as a backup supply in the event of a power outage.
The motion sensor does not notify you of every motion it detects. It only notifies you of someone that stays in the field of view for 10 seconds or more.
The camera detects movement along with IR motion sensors. The field of view is 120 degrees and up to 5 feet, so there is unlikely to be false alerts from people and cars passing in the street. It is designed to just detect people at the door who either knock on the door or stand there without letting you know they are there.
When the motion sensors do detect someone the default is to ring the doorbell which may be off putting to some people. If you don’t like it you can turn this feature off.
The doorbell doesn’t come with its own internal chime. Instead your existing chime continues to work when the button is pushed to let you know someone is at the door as well as the chime you get on your phone when you receive a push notification to the app on your Smartphone.
The Skybell itself makes a dingdong noise when the button is pushed but this is outdoors.
If you want to turn off the chime inside so it doesn’t wake you or a sleeping child you can set it to do not disturb mode which turns off the internal chime but you still receive the notification to your phone.
There is not a lot to the outside of doorbell. It is made of plastic and can seem cheap which is disappointing considering the price. But it is sturdy enough to get the job done. The plastic cover helps to reduce interference so that there is a stronger signal between the doorbell and the WiFi.
At the top of the doorbell is the infra red for night vision. Just below is the camera and at the bottom of the front is the button and LED lights that indicate the status of the doorbell – that indicate if it is calling you, in use or inactive. Just above the button is motion sensor for detecting people at your door who don’t ring the doorbell or knock on the door. Underneath the doorbell is the speaker and microphone for two way communication.
At the back are the 2 wires for connecting to your existing doorbell.
Protection Against It Being Stolen
In theory this device can be stolen but the chances of that are unlikely.
There is the security screw that helps to keep it securely in place and someone would need to use the Allen wrench to use it to remove it.
The company also offers a Theft Replacement Guarantee where they will replace a stolen Skybell for the cost of shipping. If someone else does use it you will be able to see the view out of their front door so it is unlikely to be of use for anyone else and you can inform the police and it may help them track down the person that stole it.
The distance the doorbell can be from your router is dependent on your router and the number of walls and their composition. Having said that most people find that they get coverage up to 50 ft to 100 ft. The upload and download speed needs to be 1.5 mbps for it to set up correctly and also to watch video.
There is an App that can be downloaded to your smartphone called Speedtest that can be used to determine the speed of your WiFi at the location you are planning on installing your doorbell.
If the signal is not strong enough you can try moving your router closer or boost the signal with a WiFi extender or repeater that boosts the WiFi signal.
Wireless or Wired
The doorbell works wirelessly with your router to send video and audio to the internet and then onto your phone and vice versa for audio and instruction from your phone to the doorbell.
It is powered by being attached by wires to your existing doorbell.
The device measures 2.75 inches across and is 0.75 inches deep and weighs in at 1.9 ounces.
The box contains
1 Skybell – wide angle WIFI video doorbell
1 Installation Kit – mounting plate, wall anchors, wood and concrete screws, connectors, Allen wrench
Although not well advertised there are 4 accessories you can buy from the company’s website:
Wedge Kit – for tilting camera up to 15 degrees to get a better view
Wall Mount – for mounting Skybell to wall – it comes as part of the kit when you buy
Digital Door Adapter – required if you have a digital rather than mechanical doorbell
Hardware Kit – includes screws, Allen wrench, connectors and wall plugs. These are included in the box when you buy
Unfortunately, it does not work with other home automation kits or home security systems. It does mean you need to go to the door to unlock it if you want to let someone in, or you need to go into your smart lock app.
You can initiate and view a live camera feed from your smartphone at any time but it can take up to 2 minutes to connect depending on your WiFi and phone signal
You receive notifications to your phone wherever you are in the world when it detects motion or someone rings the doorbell
Wide angle lens provides a wide range of coverage – 120 degrees
Installation to an existing mechanical doorbell is relatively straightforward
Set up takes a few minutes
It is portable and can be taken with you when you move
You can speak with anyone at your door without being home
Motion detector to let you know when people knock on the door or just stand there with a set up to prevent false alerts
It is not compatible and can’t be integrated with other home automation services nor with home security systems
You are not able to record and store video locally or in the cloud
It does not work with PC, Windows or blackberry
It is possible for people to hide from the camera when at the door if you don’t angle the doorbell properly
It has a fixed lens and you can’t pan/tilt or zoom actually or digitally
If the internet goes down or the company’s servers go down you won’t get notifications but the doorbell will still chime when fitted to an existing doorbell
Everyone uses the same password to access the doorbell so you have to change your password to delete someone from your account
You are reliant on the company to properly test firmware updates and to be able to service the video feed functionality
The App itself is not bluetooth compatible on your phone so you can’t take calls hands free as you need to “hold down” the microphone icon to speak.
There is a cut-off point of 5 minutes for every call which should be okay for most interactions but where this isn’t there is a delay of up to 30 seconds for doorbell activated call before it reconnects and up to 2 minutes where you initiated the call
Skybell Consumer Ratings
I’ve read through over a 100 reviews online to understand how customers see this product. Most like the set up process and its ease of use. They like that they can see who is at the door without having to be at home to open the door.
However, there are some who have not had such a good experience. It seems that with any new piece of technology there can be issues with the first releases and the company keeping up with the sales growth.
Unfortunately, although they do try, they have let themselves down and their customers by not responding in a positive way to all customer complaints. When they get it right they do a good job but there have been instances when they have been found below par. I do believe they do want to be better and this is evidenced by their very informative website that has lots of good information about Skybell, how to install and how to use it. But it is a concern that there are these issues
It is priced similarly to its’ main competitor – Ring doorbell and the IP security camera Dropcam Pro. The video quality is not as good as either of those and it can be harder to install then both of them.
However, it can be installed outside and you can watch live video from anywhere you can access the internet with your smartphone. There is not any monthly charges to pay to access its features currently.
There are no discounts available at the moment. It does qualify for free shipping on eligible orders when I checked on Amazon. To see if that is still the case check here: Skybell
This camera can help make your life easier. If you are injured or ill it can help with not having to get up to door to answer it or look through a peep hole and determine the best course of action – open it or to say no thanks.
Also, if you aren’t at home you can use it to keep an eye on your front door, helping with deliveries and anyone who may not have your best interests at heart.
This is not a security camera but it can help in preventing break-ins by working alongside good security measures and DIY alarm systems. The front door being the first port of call for a criminal when they are looking to burglarize a house during the day. They ring the doorbell to check to see if someone is at home, this device could work as good deterrent because you can answer and talk to them as well as take a photo.
This may well be enough to deter them because they have been seen. If you have a self-monitored alarm system you could sound the alarm remotely if they start acting suspiciously to bring further attention to them.
It has a good wide angle camera for monitoring your front door and keeping an eye on any callers. You can do this from anywhere you can get internet access with your supported smartphone. You can’t record the video yet, and there are some issues with connectivity. But the doorbell and service keeps getting better with each software release. Even as it stands you should get a good way to remotely monitor your doors.
Filed under: Reviews
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