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Manything (iOS) review: This free app wants to be your DIY security destination

Have an extra iOS device kicking around at home? The free Manything app can transform it into a security camera in seconds.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton covers renewable energy, climate change and other environmental topics for CNET. Before starting at CNET in 2013, she wrote for NBC Universal's DVICE (now SYFY). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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Manything is a free iOS app that can convert your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad into a security camera in under a minute. Then, you can use a second iOS device as your mobile monitor or opt to keep an eye on things from the Manything Web app. This is an incredibly convenient way to experiment with DIY security -- assuming you already have a spare iPhone, iPod, or iPad at home.

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7.6

Manything (iOS)

The Good

The Manything app can transform your old iOS devices into surveillance cameras for free, and Manything's IFTTT channel adds additional home security and automation possibilities to the mix.

The Bad

Manything compatibility is limited to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and requires iOS 6 or later.

The Bottom Line

Manything can't match the video quality and options of some traditional Wi-Fi cameras, but there's no easier way for iOS users to experiment with DIY home security.

No, it doesn't have the 1080p video quality of the $199 Dropcam Pro , but you also won't have to spend hundreds to decide if entry-level home security suits your needs. Aside from being free, the Manything app has a couple of defining features: its own IFTTT channel and a free, 12-hour Cloud storage option. Since there's no financial risk, you might as well give this simple Wi-Fi camera app a try.

Manything has your home-security needs covered (pictures)

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Manything's free app works with iPhones, iPods (Touch models), and iPads running iOS 6 or later. Once you download the app, you can either register through Facebook or with an email address. Log in with your newly registered account and select "Record using this device" to turn that device into an instant security camera and "View my cameras" to access live video -- and other features -- remotely.

Since there's no limit to the number of Apple products that can run Manything, you can set up any combination of compatible devices to assume the roles of camera or on-the-go viewer. That way, multiple iPhones, iPods, and iPads can be repurposed into a whole fleet of security cameras. They'd be collecting dust in a drawer anyway, right?

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Setting up the Manything app takes seconds. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

When you select "Record using this device," that device turns into a DIY home security camera. Simply point it at the area you'd like to monitor and press the red "record" button. Since Apple products don't come with stands, you might have to get creative to position it correctly. The Joby GripTight Micro Stand came with my review kit and made it much easier to adjust the iPod Touch I used as my camera to the correct height and angle.

One usability drawback I encountered related to changing camera settings. Currently, any device you use as a camera can only be reviewed or updated directly from that device. Basically, you are out of luck if you want to make a quick adjustment to the camera recording in your living room when you are at work -- settings are only accessible on the origin device. While that isn't ideal, Manything told me it will be adding remote control of the app in September.

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Recording with Manything on an iPod Touch. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Considering that Manything is a free app, it offers a surprising number of features. You can customize the sensitivity of the motion sensor and even set detection zones, so you can focus the motion detector on a particular area, like a window or a doorway. You can enable push and/or email notifications whenever motion is detected and adjust the frequency of the alerts.

You can also tweak the video quality, which ranges from 8 frames per second and 200K ("very low") to 24 frames per second and 700K ("very high"), and enable cellular data if you want a backup when your device loses its Wi-Fi connection. You can mute the audio, enable "stills mode," which takes photos rather than video, and customize the "low-light mode," which works OK in dim lighting, but not as well in a very dark room. And when you're viewing footage on the app, you can access the live video and view clips of saved motion activity.

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Viewing saved clips. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Currently, Manything offers 30 days of free continuous Cloud storage, but expects to introduce a tiered fee system later this year. Fortunately, Manything plans to always offer a free storage option. The free option will include 12 hours of storage on one active recording device. There will also be a $5/month, 7-day storage option and a $15/month, 30-day storage option.

Here's a side-by-side comparison between Manything and some more traditional IP cameras:

Belkin NetCam HD+Dropcam ProPiperSamsung SmartCam HD ProManything
Price $130.00$199.00$199.00$189.00Free
Color WhiteBlackWhiteWhiteN/A
Field of view (diagonal) 95 degrees130 degrees180 degrees128 degreesiPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad specs
Video quality 1,280x7201,920x1,0801,920x1,0801,920x1,080iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad specs
Cloud storage Yes, $10/month or $100/year for 14 daysYes, $10/month or $99/year for 7 days or $30/month or $299/year for 30 daysYes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra costNoYes, 12 hours free, $5/month for 7 days, or $15/month for 30 days
Local storage No, but you can download clips from the Web appNoNoYes, SD cardNo
Glass lens YesYesYesYesiPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad specs
Night vision YesYesNoYesNo, but low light mode
Mobile app Yes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, but iOS only
Web app YesYesYesYesYes
Bluetooth NoYesNoNoNo
2-way audio YesYesYesYesNo
Motion and sound alerts Motion only, and limited to email alerts unless you subscribe to Cloud+.YesYesYesMotion only
Protocol or third-party integration NoNoYes, Z-WaveNoYes, IFTTT

While the device periodically lost its Wi-Fi connection, video quality varied, and the live feed did lag at various intervals, the motion detection feature and related notifications worked extremely well. When the Wi-Fi connection was especially bad, the camera would temporarily switch to "stills only" mode and continue to capture photos of motion activity and send out alerts.

I like that stills mode acts as its own built-in backup during periods when the Wi-Fi connection was slower. And while it didn't match the video quality of the Dropcam Pro, I also didn't experience any significant problems using this app -- that's particularly impressive, considering that this is a free IP camera "hack."

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The Manything app in regular day mode and low light mode. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I also tested Manything as an IFTTT channel and it didn't disappoint. I paired Manything with a lamp-connected Belkin WeMo Switch, so every time Manything detected motion, the WeMo Switch turned the lamp on and then off. Manything is the first security camera to offer an IFTTT channel and there are several customizations that would work well.

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Creating an IFTTT recipe with Manything and Belkin WeMo. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

While Manything's IFTTT channel is unique, it isn't the first app to offer an IP camera work-around. It's very similar to the Presence iOS app, and the IP Webcam app for Android devices. The Presence app has two-way talk, motion alerts, and separate home automation product add-ons. The IP Webcam app is a bit more rudimentary, but you can still use it for remote monitoring.

Recap

If you're looking for crisp, high quality videos, the $199 Dropcam Pro is still your best bet. But for a quick, free set up, you can't beat Manything. It isn't available on Android devices yet (Manything told me an Android app is in the works for 2015), and it doesn't offer two-way talk or audio alerts, but this iOS app offers free Cloud storage, an IFTTT channel, and motion alerts. When you factor in the value, this is a great way to experiment with DIY home security or simply keep track of what your mischievous pets get up to when you're away from home.

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7.6

Manything (iOS)

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 7Interface 7.5Performance 8
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