Editors' note, February 27, 2015: BOT Home Automation recently launched a software update that adds motion detection and customizable zones. The review and rating have been updated to account for this change.
BOT Home Automation left behind a-sized hole when it stopped production on its poor-performing connected video buzzer. But instead of scrapping the endeavor entirely, the team poured all of its knowledge into a second generation product, cleverly rebranded as the $199 Ring Video Doorbell. (Ring is available in 83 countries including in Australia for AU$244 and in the UK for £127, plus additional shipping charges).
Ring is a major departure for BOT Home Automation. It doesn't look like Doorbot, its camera boasts a better resolution and an expanded field of view, and the audio is markedly improved. It also has a handful of fresh features, including motion-sensing capabilities for non-doorbell-related activity detection, optional cloud recording and storage and a built-in humidity, barometric pressure and temperature-sensing "weather station."
Sadly, only some of those nifty additions are available now, so I was left to compare Doorbot and Ring in terms of present-day features alone. Here's the gist: Ring is better than Doorbot, but some glitchy Wi-Fi moments still made it hard to distinguish one front door guest from another, and the lag time between ringing the doorbell and receiving a push alert varied from 2 to 30 seconds. Get it if you're sure of your Wi-Fi connection; everyone else should be a bit wary.
Judging a book
I didn't really mind Doorbot's aesthetic, but Ring is noticeably smaller. Someone will still notice that you have a fancy, camera-equipped doorbell, but Ring makes is less intrusive. It's much less, "HEY, LOOK! I'm a $200 camera/doorbell!" and much more, "Psst...you do know that I'm recording you, right?"
Where Doorbot was limited to a brushed aluminum finish, you can snag a Ring unit in satin nickel, antique brass, venetian bronze and polished brass. It's nice to have options, but I liked the silvery Doorbot as much as I like Ring's similarly-silvery "satin nickel."
Ring speaks up
The Ring app works on Android (4.0 or newer) and iOS (7 or newer). I used an iPhone 6 Plus and found the app very simple to navigate. It walks you through all of the basics -- creating an account, picking a device (BOT Home Automation won't be manufacturing more Doorbots, but it will let existing users operate their Doorbots from the Ring app) and confirming your address.
Then, it instructs you to press the orange button on the back of the faceplate and to link Ring with your local network. That's it for the software setup -- you're ready to run through the physical installation. If you get stuck, Ring will ask you questions: "Will this device be installed inside or outside?", "How will you power your device (hardwire or batteries)?" , "What surface will you mount the device to (wood, concrete, brick)?" Once you've answered all three, it will send you to a video tutorial so you can visualize the process.
Ring comes with everything you need for installation, including a cute little "tool kit" complete with a drill bit, a screwdriver, a dual-sided screwdriver bit and a variety of screws and anchors to suit your specific setup. Like Doorbot, the Ring faceplate can either be hard-wired or removed periodically and recharged with the included Micro-USB cable.
I don't have a wired doorbell at home, so I just mounted the baseplate where I wanted it and attached Ring to the baseplate. I noticed a couple of things at this stage. My Ring unit was at 70 percent battery life when I installed it initially and it's down to 42 percent after only a couple of days.
Yes, I have put that doorbell through a lot in a short period of time -- definitely well outside the range of "normal doorbell usage," but I do wonder how Ring's battery would fare with its upcoming motion feature enabled. If I wanted Ring to record footage and send me alerts every time it detected motion, I seriously doubt that the battery would last for the year that BOT Home Automation estimates (It has been two months since the initial review date and the battery life hasn't changed much, but I plan to update this review again to weigh in on the newly-added motion-detection feature and battery life.). The $199, a HomeKit-compatible Ring competitor, has a motion-detection feature, but it works via wired installation only. Andrew Thomas, SkyBell's co-founder told me that a hardwired setup was needed for this sort of feature to work.