Most home security camera owners are failing to get the best from their devices

Nest Cam (battery)
(Image credit: Google)

Smart security devices have made protecting your home even easier. Traditional CCTV systems were out of reach for most homes thanks to the cost, and also the complicated installation which required a professional. 

The best home security cameras and video doorbells are more wallet-friendly, can be self-installed, and don’t need wires trailing over your home. So it’s no surprise that one in five US homes has a home security camera installed, according to security site’s recent home protection survey.

However, only 41% of consumers who own home security cameras, security systems, or smart doorbells are paying for a subscription service to accompany these devices, the latest Home Automation Ownership & Usage Report from NPD Connected Intelligence, reveals.

This means many of these devices aren’t capable of the major reason for investing in home security devices in the first place – storing video of any activity that happens in the camera’s field of view so it can be reviewed at a later date.  

Tempted to join the hoards and get your hands on one of the best home security cameras or video doorbells? Then check out these great deals for some of the best on the market. 

Pointless if you can’t review footage

The majority of home security cameras and video doorbells on the market today allow you to log in from an app on your smartphone and view the camera’s live feed. They’ll even alert you when motion is detected… but most don’t let you review this footage at a later date unless you pay for a subscription service, which stores the footage in the cloud.  

While the presence of home security cameras on your property can certainly go some way to deterring burglars, and the live feed can offer peace of mind if you want to check in on your property at any point when you’re not close by, for many of us the real reason for spending out on these devices is to be able to review the footage at a later date. 

Modern life is busy and most of us aren’t glued to our smartphones, so it can be easy to miss an alert. And if you don’t have your phone close by, it may not be convenient to review the notification. On more than one occasion, I’ve received an alert that someone’s at my front door, but I haven’t been able to converse with the person at my threshold because I’ve been in a meeting. 

In other instances, I’ve also struggled with spotty Wi-Fi, which means the feed simply won’t load. So once the meeting has finished, or I’ve got a better signal, being able to review the footage from the alert is extremely helpful. It means I’m not spending the entire day worrying that the motion alert I received was in fact someone breaking into my property, as viewing the live feed from the camera can only provide an idea of what’s happening at the time, and it may not be immediately obvious if something untoward has happened.  

Some home security cameras, such as those from Swann, Eufy, Blink and Arlo, do offer the ability to storage footage locally for free. Although certainly in the case of Arlo, footage stored locally on the base station can’t be viewed through the app. Instead, you’ll need to remove a microSD card from the base station and plug it into a computer, or other device, if you want to review the footage – a fiddly and time-consuming process. 

However, these subscription services offer more than just cloud storage for videos. You also get access to handy features that can help reduce the number of false-positive alerts on the camera or doorbell issues. For example, identifying whether the motion has been created by a person, vehicle, or animal – or setting activity zones so you’re only notified about motion detected in these areas. 

The idea of an ongoing subscription cost may not be particularly appealing, especially when the cost of living is rising and we’re all looking at ways to make savings; but when it comes to a home security camera, you may find that you’re missing on the most crucial reasons for investing in the device in the first place. 

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.