ArcSoft's $150 Simplicam struck me as "just another Wi-Fi security camera" at first. It has all the usual specs -- 720p resolution, Android and iOS mobile apps, a Web app, live streaming, email and push alerts, night vision, two-way talk, and optional cloud storage. On closer inspection, though, this mid-price security camera has a couple of things that separate it from the competition.
Cloud storage fees typically start around $10 per month, but ArcSoft's partnership with cloud service and app purveyor, Closeli, allows for a lower, $5/month entry-point for folks who want added features, but not the Dropcam-or-Belkin-level cost. (In the UK, the Simplicam will be available in September for £90, with no word on what the cloud storage fees will be. Australian availability has not yet been announced.) Cloud subscribers can also get notifications based on face recognition. No, it won't tell you it's recording, just that it sees .Cloud subscribers can also get notifications based on face recognition. No, it won't tell you who it's recording, just that it sees someone.
Even so, Simplicam impresses and in some ways even surpasses pricier models. Still, I had some trouble during the setup and never received an email alert -- even though I had email alerts enabled. If ArcSoft can fix these hiccups, Simplicam might just have what it takes to compete with the $200 Dropcam Pro, our highest rated security camera to date.
Simplicam is a glossy black camera with a silver stand. The stand has a unique pivot design that lets you rotate it in many different directions. The camera itself looks nice; it's definitely reminiscent of the Dropcam Pro. While I still prefer the sleek look of the Dropcam Pro, Simplicam's slightly awkward, multi-angle stand gives you much greater flexibility. It also comes with a long, ribbon-like power cord and a black mount with hardware for wall installations.
The Simplicam setup instructions are straightforward enough, but I ran into some roadblocks along the way. The Closeli app is available on Android and iOS devices and walks you through a series of steps -- plug in the camera, press the Set button on the back until it beeps, scan the QR code until the camera beeps again -- and then wait for it to connect.
If the LED on the camera begins to flash green, you know that it's on its way to connecting. I downloaded the app on my iPhone 5 and, unfortunately, the first dozen tries didn't return a flashing green light. I moved it various distances from the router to confirm the Wi-Fi connection to no avail.
Then, I tried it on a Motorola Droid Maxx and on an iPhone 5s using the same login information. Those phones were able to connect, but only after a series of confusing glitches, which consistently returned one of two error messages pictured below. The first error message necessitated a full reset.
The second error message was erroneous. In other words, when I selected "Cancel setup," the app returned to the main screen with a fully functioning camera already live streaming. I was eventually able to get the app to work on my iPhone 5 via the second error message. If you get that same message, try canceling to setup to see if the app is in fact recording and working as it should.
Here's a rundown of the Simplicam's features compared to similar Wi-Fi security cameras: