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Wyze to hike up camera prices starting May 18. Is that a deal breaker?

The company known for its budget-friendly security cameras is still one of the best values in tech, but you might not know it from the new controversy.

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The Wyze Cam v3 works both indoors and outdoors and, even after this month's price bump, can still be had for $34.

Wyze

When Wyze burst into the smart home in 2017, you could be forgiven for wondering what was the catch? A little unheard-of startup launching a then-only $26 security camera with a suspiciously generous 14 days of free cloud storage raised more than a few eyebrows in the tech world. Remember, back then the competition was all still peddling cameras costing 10 times as much -- with monthly service fees that could nickle-and-dime you for years to come.

But Wyze impressed the reviewers at CNET, and we became ardent fans. Wyze products are now on our lists for best indoor home security cameras, best outdoor security cameras, best cheap home security cameras, best cheap home security devices, best home security systems and even a few more, often right at the top.

CNET's Megan Wollerton sums it up well in her review of Wyze Cam v3: "Sure, there are more sophisticated cameras out there, but Wyze continues to impress us with its high-value, low-cost smart home products…"

Just like much of the tech world, we let out a collective gasp when we saw Wyze's announcement earlier this month that the company plans to increase the price of its beloved Wyze Cam v3, and its slightly less-beloved but still sensibly priced Wyze Video Doorbell, starting May 18. Like everyone else, we wondered, "How dare they?"

Especially when we learned that Wyze expects its pricing to remain "volatile for the foreseeable future" on account of "fluctuating costs in the post-pandemic world." In other words, thanks to the current global chip shortage and the inflated cost of materials, you can expect even more price increases coming from Wyze in 2021.

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How huge of a price hike are we talking here?

Here's where things get a little math-y: Another change set to arrive May 18 is that Wyze will no longer include a shipping charge (usually $6) separate from the cost of its devices. Therefore, while the list price for the Wyze Cam v3 will jump to $33, that's actually only $3 more than the current cost of the camera ($24) plus shipping ($6).

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Wyze recently came out with its own video doorbell.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Likewise, the Wyze Video Doorbell currently retails -- or would, if it were in stock -- for $45 ($39 plus $6 shipping) and the new out-the-door price will be $55, or $10 more overall.

But there's more to the story.

When Wyze released the Wyze Cam v3 late last year, it pulled what a lot of folks felt was a bait-and-switch in terms of pricing. Basically, before the updated device's release, Wyze hyped up how the new weatherproof indoor/outdoor Wyze Cam v3 was still going to cost only $20 (plus $6 shipping) like the indoor-only v2. But then, just before the v3 went on sale, Wyze added this caveat: That $26 price was for customers of its premium Cam Plus subscription service only. Everyone else would have to pay $30 ($24 plus $6 shipping).

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Wyze's smart light bulbs are among our favorite and they cost less than $10 apiece.

Wyze

Cam Plus subscribers still get to shave off a few bucks

Even though Wyze offers a free 14 days of motion-detection video cloud storage, it does charge for something most consumers would consider an integral feature of any modern smart security camera: person detection. There are a few other features bundled into Cam Plus, too -- sound-triggered alerts, unlimited video length, package detection and whatnot -- but the main difference, the thing you're really paying for, is person detection.

Wyze didn't originally charge for person detection (you can read more about what led to that change here). Now that it does, the company says it will continue to offer discounts to Cam Plus subscribers after it raises the undiscounted prices. That said, the particulars -- like how much of a discount -- are still a little hazy.

Wyze also says it's working on special discounted bundles to mimic the kind of discount current customers can occasionally get on shipping when they buy several devices at once, but again, details aren't quite clear yet.

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Wyze even makes an affordable smart plug.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Wyze still represents a fantastic value, even at $3 more

No one ever really wants to pay more for stuff, right? And to make matters seem worse, when you're dealing with relatively low prices to begin with, a few dollars can feel like a lot more than it actually is. A $30 to $33 price hike is a whole 10% increase. That feels like a lot, even if it really kind of isn't.

Regardless, you're not going to find many other security cameras as well-built or with as high a resolution (1080p), as polished of an app or as smooth of a user experience as you're going to get with Wyze. At least not for much better than $33, especially when you include the free cloud storage.

Same goes for Wyze's other products, like the company's smart bulbs, doorbell or security system. While they may not all be the best in their respective categories, they're usually far from the worst. But most importantly, they're almost always the cheapest, even if they do cost a few bucks more this year.