Invented by Jamie Siminoff, the Ring Video Doorbell is pitched as ‘Caller ID’ for your front door. The idea is simple. If someone comes to your front door you can not only see who they are, but you can also speak to them wherever you are in the world via the app (providing you have a mobile phone connection, of course).
Ring Video doorbell
It’s fair to say that the humble front door bell hasn’t changed all that much in the last 50 years. Sure you don’t need to run bell wire all around the house any more, thanks to simple wireless technology.
But unless you invest in a video-based door entry system (which can cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds), the chances are that the door bell you are using now isn’t essentially any different to the one used by your parents or even grandparents.
However, with Ring, the US start-up is hoping to drag door bells kicking and screaming into the 21st century using now commonplace IoT (Internet of Things) technology. And given the fact that we’re all ordering much more online which means deliveries arriving at all hours of the day, it’s a gadget that seems to make perfect sense.
After all, who wants expensive items left on the doorstep when you can speak to the delivery driver to tell them to leave them with a neighbour if necessary?
Four colours of doorbell (pictured above) are available: satin nickel, antique brass, polished brass and venetian bronze. I was sent the satin nickel version which seems to be the most popular of the four.
Five minute set up?
Although I’d seen a fairly cheesy advert for Ring on TV I wasn’t really sure what to expect when the package came through the door. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Everything I needed for the installation was neatly laid out in the well presented box (see picture above), including a drill bit, rawl plugs, a screw driver, and even a spirit level so you get it straight on the wall. Also provided was a set of exceptionally clear instructions.
Measuring about 13cm x 7cm , the video doorbell was somehow much bigger than I was expecting (several times bigger than a standard doorbell) but of course that’s necessary to house the video camera – more of that later. It’s also much heavier than a standard doorbell too.
A backplate is provided for mounting the door bell onto your door or wall with two power options available. Either you can charge the Ring’s internal Lithium Ion battery using the supplied orange USB cable or Ring can use the existing doorbell wires.
Wiring must be connected to a transformer with a voltage of 8VAC-24VAC and an internal doorbell or resistor (DC transformers and most intercoms are not supported). For the purposes of this review though we charged the doorbell through the USB cable provided.
During charging, the circular blue light on the front of the doorbell button flashes. When the doorbell is completely charged the circle is completely filled with a blue light.
Ring claims that the doorbell can run off its internal battery for between 6-12 months between charges. However, if you receive frequent motion events you will need to charge it more frequently.
Pay to play
Once you’ve installed the video doorbell (a process that takes a little more than five minutes but not too much longer once you’ve found the necessary drill etc.), then it’s time to download the app for your smartphone (see www.ring.com/app for more information).
Available for iOS (Apple) and Android (Google), this is a relatively straightforward process requiring you to log out of Ring’s app onto your WiFi network temporarily, then back into the app (you will need your network name and WiFi password to complete the task).
Within the app there are various options to show the rings (ie when your video doorbell was pressed), motion alerts (when movement is detected near the doorbell) as well as a live view. The latter is quite handy if you want to have a nose outside, perhaps to see what the weather is doing back home as you are sunning yourself on a beach miles away!
It’s also possible to adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor by going into the motion settings option of the app where you can set the motion zones (1-6) as well as the motion range. What’s more, you can disable motion alerts at certain times if, say, you know that people regularly walk close to your house at a particular time of day.
Other options within the app include being able to share Ring with another person (partner or housemate), check on the device’s battery life and link the Ring with a chime – an optional plug in device that rings within the house which is useful if you don’t have your smartphone to hand.
The downside is that, unlike rival products, (such as the Blink security camera we reviewed recently), if you want to store video clips on Ring’s cloud server you will need to pay for the service after a 28 day trial. Current pricing is $3 per month for a single camera or $30 a year.
In addition there’s the option of a multiple camera plan costing $10 a month or $100 per year. This is useful if you want to use the Ring video doorbell with additional Ring products such as Ring’s ‘Stick Up’ Security cameras which also retail for around £159.
However, on a positive note it is is possible to access the app via your laptop computer if you want to view footage and make adjustments to the doorbell set up. At present, this isn’t possible with all home monitoring systems such as the one we reviewed recently from Blink.
Through the keyhole
While from the outside there is little to distinguish the Ring from a conventional doorbell, apart from its large size and the lens pointing out at you of course, the user experience is very different.
If someone comes to the door and presses the button on the Ring’s front panel, the circular blue light comes on and a chime is played on the device. At the same time a push notification is sent to your phone with a chime telling you that someone is ringing your video doorbell.
Once this notification is opened it brings up the video display on your phone showing both a green answer button and red don’t answer button (useful if door to door salespeople come round and you don’t want to speak to them).
If you choose the green answer button you can then talk to whoever is at the door in real time, even if you happen to be the other side of the world. It’s also possible to disable the microphone and speaker and to zoom in on the image if you need to.
Alternatively, if the motion sensor is triggered, but no one rings the bell, you get a motion alert sent to your phone and video footage of who/what has caused the motion sensor to trigger is displayed through the app. By pressing Live View you not only see live action from your front doorbell, this is also recorded and available via the app (see pic below).
The Ring Video doorbell is a great little product. What I particularly like about it is the thought that has gone into the packaging to make it as easy to set up straight out of the box as possible. Indeed this same attention to detail is carried through to the smartphone app itself with well laid out menus, plenty of customisable options and links to a help centre.
I think the product will prove particularly useful to those who get lots of deliveries and who want to be able to communicate with delivery drivers to tell them where to leave the goods. However, it’s not a substitute for a door entry system as you can’t let anyone into the house either in person or remotely (probably just as well from a security point of view).
Nor is intended to be used by itself as a security device, although the effective motion sensor will send you video clips if someone approaches the door. The only real downside is the cost. I think £159 for the product is OK, but having to pay a monthly cost on top of this – albeit a fairly small charge – seems a bit much. Far better I think would be to have a basic level of cloud storage for free and have to pay if this is exceeded.
Another small downside is that the camera lens is very wide angle, more like a fish eye, which does distort images so it’s not always completely clear right away who is at the door. However, you can always use the zoom function to close in on the image if you so choose.