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Commentary Smart Home

More security camera companies should offer free cloud storage

Commentary: Free cloud storage > subscription cloud storage. Why don't more home security companies offer it?

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The RemoBell S has three-day free cloud storage. I like that.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Earlier this month I wrote about Wyze, a smart home company whose uber-affordable products hold their own alongside Nest and other high-end brands. That trend continues with the RemoBell S from startup Remo Plus. The RemoBell S has all of the regular stuff you get with every live streaming doorbell, like HD resolution and night vision.

It also has three-day free cloud storage. In a market dominated by brands with optional subscription services -- that are actually quite necessary if you want any access to saved video clips -- free cloud storage is a unique offering and kind of a big deal.

Factor in its $99 upfront cost and the hardwired RemoBell S is well worth considering. The Remo Plus app is a bit clunky, but it's a small price to pay for such a great value. 

Why pay for a monthly subscription when you can get roughly the same thing for free? (Honestly, I'm asking. Let me know in the comments.)

Free cloud storage is kind of a big deal

The RemoBell S isn't the first smart doorbell from Remo Plus. Its battery-powered $199 RemoBell has many limitations that make it tough to recommend. Fortunately, the RemoBell S is a significant improvement.

I first spied the RemoBell S at CES 2019 and liked its black finish and simple design. It's hardwired, meaning it can't be powered by batteries like its predecessor and some of its competitors, such as the $199 Ring Video Doorbell 2. Your RemoBell S purchase includes a Power Kit, which is required for installation with mechanical chimes. This process is pretty straightforward, but be sure to ask a qualified professional if you have questions, or consult Remo Plus's walkthrough video

The RemoBell S also supports Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. Basically, you get access to a lot of the same things without the headache of a monthly subscription plan. 

Of course, the RemoBell S isn't perfect. I don't like the Remo Plus app. It's minimal, but somehow manages to look outdated and clunky too. It also has an optional fisheye view on the live feed screen that makes it more difficult to pick out details. 

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At least the fisheye view is optional.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Ring still sells its original Video Doorbell for $100 (the closest competitor to the RemoBell S), but Ring charges $3 per month to view any recorded, saved clips captured when it detects motion. No, $3 per month isn't much to spend, but why pay for a subscription plan when you don't have to? And most of Ring's doorbells cost $199; the high-end hardwired Ring Video Doorbell Pro costs a whopping $249. Pricing in the $200 range is pretty standard across the board for DIY smart doorbells.

But the RemoBell S is quietly changing things. (Maybe we really will have another Wyze trend on our hands at some point. It's a little too soon to tell.) Ring did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. 

Is it better than Ring? 

It's hard to argue with the value of the $99 RemoBell S. Its relatively low upfront cost and generous three-day free cloud storage has a ton of appeal. Add on its decent performance and integration with Alexa and Google Assistant and it's easy to see why the RemoBell S has replaced the $100 Ring Video Doorbell as the best value for a smart doorbell

I wish the Remo Plus app were better and I don't know why Remo Plus gave the live feed a fisheye effect, but the RemoBell S is a strong competitor alongside brands like Ring. Definitely consider the RemoBell S if you're looking for a hardwired video doorbell with free cloud storage. 

Also, I have a plea for companies that don't currently offer any free cloud storage. Apple is going to make it look like you're nickle-and-diming when it turns on Secure Video and its 10-day free clip storage requirement for HomeKit cameras when iOS 13 hits in September. Please consider it. Even a few hours of free access makes a difference. 

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