Security cameras account for 60 percent of all spending on smart home devices in the US, so it’s hardly surprising that so many manufacturers (on both sides of the pond) are keen to get a slice of that growing market.
Most security cameras provide an app for iOS devices that allow you to control the camera, and send notifications to your iPhone in case the camera detects any suspicious activity when you’re away from home. But in recent months, Apple has been making a number of improvements to its HomeKit software that are designed specifically for use with security cameras, and we’re now starting to see manufacturers adding HomeKit support.
The HomeKit software lives inside the Home app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac, and is designed to link smart devices so that they can work together. Instead of using two different apps to control your security camera and
smart lights, you could use the Home app to link those devices together, so the lights automatically turn on when the camera sees someone. Just remember that both devices will need to support HomeKit in order to work together like that, so look out for the logo – it’ll look something like this:
Admittedly, Apple’s been a bit slow jumping on to the home-automation bandwagon – in fact, the first version of HomeKit didn’t work with security cameras at all. But the current version allows you to view live video from multiple cameras in different rooms, and to create ‘automations’ so that a trigger action – such as the camera detecting movement – can activate lights or turn on a thermostat. It’s this ability to link devices together that makes HomeKit more versatile than just the basic features found in the manufacturers’ own apps.
With so many different options, it’s worth thinking about the particular features you need when choosing a new camera.
The resolution and image quality are obviously vitally important, so we’d recommend buying one with at least 1080p resolution (the same as a high-definition TV set). Some of the more expensive cameras go up to 4K resolution, but they’ll cost £200 or more and buying three or four for your home or office will soon get pretty expensive. You should also make sure the camera has a night-vision mode for detecting movement in low-light conditions.
Most security cameras are designed for indoor use, so they’re not particularly sturdy, but manufacturers such as Netatmo and Arlo also make weather-resistant models that are designed for outdoor use, in locations such as gardens or car-parks. Other useful features include a speaker and microphone that will allow you to have a quick chat with the folks back home, and a built-in siren or floodlight that can help to scare intruders away.
The cost of the cloud
One of the most important features to look out for is the cost of online cloud storage for the video clips that your camera records. The apps provided with most devices will allow you to view live video from your home, and if the camera detects movement when your home is empty it will record a video clip and store that clip online, so you can use it as evidence in the event of a crime being committed.
This is where things can get a bit complicated. Some cameras allow you to store short video clips – typically around 30 seconds each – on their online servers for up to one week without charging any fees. But if you want to record longer clips, and store them online for longer periods, then you’ll probably have to sign up for a subscription plan to pay for extra online storage.
Individual manufacturers may also offer several different levels of subscriptions, perhaps with more expensive subscriptions also providing additional features, such as face recognition. Alternatively, some cameras, such as the Netatmo Indoor Smart Camera, can use an SD memory card to store videos directly on the camera itself.
But Apple is about to change that approach, as the next update to HomeKit – due towards the end of 2019 – includes a new feature called HomeKit Secure Video. As well as providing additional security features that can prevent hackers taking control of your security camera, HomeKit Secure Video takes a different approach to the storage of online video recordings. All iCloud accounts include 5GB of online storage for free, but if you also have an iCloud subscription for an additional 200GB or 2TB storage then you will be able to store your security camera records in iCloud at no extra cost for up to 10 days – rather than paying an additional subscription to store them on servers provided by the camera’s own manufacturer.
Those video recordings won’t be counted as part of your iCloud storage plan either, so you’ll still have all your iCloud storage available for other files as well. At time of writing, Arlo and Logitech have already indicated that their cameras will be able to work with HomeKit Secure Video, but some older cameras may not be able to support new features such as this, so that’s something we’ll keep an eye on.
For a wider look at the HomeKit options available right now, take a look at our roundup of the
best smart home devices for HomeKit & HomePod.
Best HomeKit security cameras
Logitech Circle 2 (Wired)
Free storage: 24 hours
Subscription: from £3/$4 per month
Circle 2 is one of the most versatile HomeKit cameras currently available, but there are a few details that you need to look out for before buying. The main thing to remember is that there are actually two versions of the Circle 2 – called Wired and Wire-Free – and it’s only the Wired model show here that supports HomeKit. (The original Circle is also still available in a few online stores, so definitely make sure you get the newer Circle 2.)
The Circle 2 Wired costs £170/$180, and has a sturdy, weather-proof design that makes it suitable for use either indoors or outdoors. Logitech provides a handy wall bracket in the box, so you can mount the camera high up on a wall, and the camera stand can tilt and swivel to give you a good view of the room or other locations that you need to monitor.
As the name suggests, it does require a wired power supply, which might limit the locations where you can use it. However, Logitech also sells a number of accessories for the Wired model, including a
window-mount that lets you stick it to a window so that you can keep an eye on your garden or car-park, and a
4.5m extension kit that lets the camera move outdoors when necessary.
Alternatively, you can just opt for the more expensive Circle 2 Wire-Free model, which costs £200/$200. This includes a rechargeable battery pack so you can place the camera anywhere you want, either indoors or outdoors. The Wire-Free model doesn’t currently support HomeKit, but there are apps for iOS and Android that will still allow you to use the Circle 2 with most smartphones and tablets.
The camera itself is the same for both models, with 1920×1080 resolution and 180-degree viewing angle. The camera also has a night-vision mode, and a speaker and microphone so you can talk to the people back home via the smartphone app.
The Circle app allows you to view live video, and can send notifications to your iPhone when it detects movement inside your home. However, you only get free online storage for your video recordings for just 24 hours at a time. If you want extra storage then you’ll need to pay for a ‘Circle Safe’ subscription, starting at £3/$4 per month for 14-days of storage, or £8/$10 for a Premium subscription with 31 days of cloud storage. The Premium subscription also activates additional features within the app, including Person Detection, which can use artificial intelligence techniques to tell a wandering pet apart from a human intruder.
However, Logitech has indicated that it plans to support the new HomeKit Secure Video features that Apple is launching later this year, which provide an alternative to Logitech’s own subscription fees.
Arlo Pro 2
Free storage: 7 days
Subscription: from £1.99/$2.99 per month
Arlo’s range of security cameras can be quite confusing at times, with portable and outdoor cameras, and even the top-of-the-range
Arlo Ultra which provides 4K video recording and a matching top-of-the-range price. You should also keep an eye out for older models, such as the original
Arlo Pro, which is still on sale (although that requires expensive batteries, which we wouldn’t recommend).
However, a good all-round option is the current
Arlo Pro 2. It’s a little more expensive than many conventional security cameras, but that’s because the kit also includes a hub that connects to your home Wi-Fi router. The hub can control multiple cameras, as well as accessories such as the new Arlo Doorbell. The hub also includes an ear-splitting 100 decibel siren, so it can form the basis of a more extensive security system that covers your entire home, or perhaps an office or warehouse.
A kit containing a single Arlo Pro 2 camera and hub costs around £230/$250 (UK customers can’t buy direct from the Arlo website, so you’ll need to shop around online). However, you can buy kits containing multiple cameras as well, going up to £650 in the UK for four cameras and a hub – although, for some reason,
Arlo’s US website only sells kits with three cameras and hub, at $530.
On its own, the Arlo Pro 2 camera is fairly straightforward, providing 1920×1080 resolution, motion detection, and a night-vision mode for low-light conditions. However, the camera can run off mains power or its own rechargeable battery pack, which means that you can easily move it around and place it wherever you want. The casing of the camera is weather-proof too, rated IP65, so you can use it outdoors in your garden or car park if you need to. There’s a wall-mount kit included with the camera as well, allowing you to place it high up and get a really good view of a room or garden. Arlo even throws in some little stickers you can put on your windows or doors, just to let people know you’ve got your eye on them.
You can use the Arlo app to view live video, and to get notifications sent to your iPhone if the camera detects any motion inside your home. However, Arlo’s HomeKit support means you can use automations in the Apple Home app to link the camera to other HomeKit devices, such as smart lights, so the camera can turn on your lights if it detects any unwanted visitors.
Like most Arlo cameras, the Pro 2 provides free online storage for your video recordings for up to one week, but longer periods will require a monthly subscription. These start at £1.99/$2.99 per month for a single camera, but there are more expensive subscriptions that cover multiple cameras, and also unlock additional features, such as ‘motion zones’ that focus the camera’s motion-detection features on specific areas such as doors or windows.
Netatmo Smart Indoor Camera
Free storage: via SD memory card (included), Dropbox, or FTP
This is slightly confusing, as Netatmo originally launched this as the ‘Welcome’ security camera a couple of years ago. However, the Netatmo website now refers to it as the
Smart Indoor Camera – although the camera they sent us to test did still say Welcome on the box, and online retailers such as Amazon and Apple often refer to it as Welcome too.
It’s a little pricey, costing £199.99/$199.99, but Netatmo occasionally runs special offers with twin packs at discounted prices (although the company was a little vague about pricing and availability for these offers when we enquired).
The Smart Indoor Camera is part of a wider range of security products, including a weather-resistant
Smart Outdoor Camera for £249.99/$299.99 (which also supports HomeKit). The Outdoor camera is a good option for monitoring locations such as gardens and car-parks, and it has a built-in floodlight that can help to scare away intruders. Netatmo also sells additional accessories that can work in conjunction with the Smart Indoor Camera, such as an
alarm siren, and sensors to protect doors and windows, allowing you to build a more wide-ranging security system.
The hardware design of the Smart Indoor Camera is fairly straightforward, with 1920×1080 resolution and an infra-red night-vision mode. It runs off mains power, or you can use the included USB cable to provide power from a computer, but there’s no internal battery, which slightly limits your freedom when placing the camera around your home.
However, there are other features that do add to the camera’s versatility. As you’d expect, the Netatmo Security app provides notifications on your iPhone if it detects movement when you’re away from home, but it can also use facial-recognition technology to recognise friends and family and avoid false alarms if the kids come home early from school.
And while the camera is relatively expensive, you don’t have to worry about subscription fees for online storage, as the Smart Indoor Camera includes an 8GB memory card for storing your video recordings on the camera itself. The risk there is that any damage to the camera could also destroy your video recordings, but the Security app also provides an option for uploading video clips to a Dropbox account or an FTP server for online storage. And, as well as being one of the first security cameras to support HomeKit, Netatmo has also announced that it will provide a software update that supports Apple’s new HomeKit Secure Video later in 2019.
Free storage: 7 days
Subscription: from £1.99/$2.99 per month
It’s worth remembering that the popularity of security cameras actually started a few years ago, when manufacturers started to make special webcams designed to act as baby monitors. These ‘baby cams’ allowed parents to keep an eye on their little ‘uns while they were sleeping, but from there it was only a simple step to add a motion sensor that turned the baby cam into a new category of home security camera.
Arlo, of course, makes one of the widest ranges of security cameras, and the
Arlo Baby is a high-end baby monitor that is packed with features to help keep your kids safe. The camera provides HD resolution (1920×1080), with an 8x digital zoom option so you can zoom in and go “ah, bless” while they’re sleeping. The camera is designed to run off mains power, but it does have a small battery that lasts for about six hours, so you can move it around occasionally if you need to.
Other security-related features include a night-vision mode and a motion sensor, which can tell if the little nipper is trying to escape from their cot (or perhaps keep an eye on the babysitter as well). The microphone and speaker can be used to talk to your children, but can also be set to listen out for crying babies and let you know if they need a little TLC.
There’s a built-in, multi-colour night light that can be controlled from the Arlo app, and even a music player that has a number of pre-recorded lullabies and soothing nature sounds, and also allows you to record your own voice as well. It even includes an air sensor that allows you to monitor temperature and humidity in the baby’s room.
The Arlo app is well designed and easy to use, but the Arlo Baby also supports HomeKit, and Arlo has a
helpful page on its website that explains how to use the camera with HomeKit and Siri. You use either the Arlo app or Apple’s Home app to view live video from the camera, and the app can also send you notifications if it detects any noise or activity from the baby’s room.
Arlo also provides free online storage for your video recordings for one week, but if you want to store your recordings for longer then you’ll need to sign up for a monthly subscription. There’s a rather confusing range of subscription options available, but the most suitable subscription for this device is probably the Arlo Smart plan, which provides 30 days of online storage for £1.99/$2.99.
Free storage: via SD memory card (not included)
Subscription fees: n/a
Omna was proudly announced as “the world’s first HomeKit-enabled camera” when it was first launched back in 2017, although Apple’s slow progress with HomeKit meant that the camera didn’t really attract the attention it deserved at the time.
More recently, D-Link seems to have buried the Omna in the depths of its website as it updates its range of cameras. However, the Omna is still available from
Amazon and a number of other online retailers – including the
Apple Store (UK only), where it is still one of the few security cameras listed in the HomeKit section of the Store. And, now that it’s a couple of years old, the Omna has also come down in price to a competitive £115 – although it no longer seems to be available in the US.
The Omna is well worth considering at that price, as it provides a good HD camera with 1920×1080 resolution, along with a number of other useful features. It includes a motion sensor so it can send notifications to the Omna app on your iPhone when you’re away from home, and a 180-degree wide-angle lens to give you a really clear view of the room where the camera is located.
There’s an infra-red sensor that D-Link claims can see up to 5m in complete darkness, and it includes a microphone and speaker so you can check in with the people at home and see if you need to buy some milk on the way home. The only limitation with the design of the camera is that it needs to be plugged into a mains power supply, so you can’t move it around and place it as freely as other cameras that have their own internal battery.
You don’t have to worry about subscription fees for online storage, though, as the Omna has a slot for an SD memory card, which allows it to store video recordings on the camera itself, rather than uploading them to on online server. But, unlike the more expensive Smart Indoor Camera from Netatmo, the Omna doesn’t include its own SD card, so you will have to provide that for yourself.
And while the Omna worked perfectly well in our tests, we have seen a few complaints on the Apple Store that the app is a little buggy at times. It’s still being updated by D-Link, so it’s worth checking on the App Store for recent updates before making your decision.