Presence (iOS) review: Presence brings free home security to iOS users

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The Good The Presence app gives iOS users a free way to monitor their homes.

The Bad Presence isn't compatible with Android devices, it doesn't have an IFTTT channel, and it's constantly trying to sell you its optional fee-based cloud storage upgrades and third-party products.

The Bottom Line The free Presence app is a great way to experiment with home security -- just don't let its prominently-featured online store trick you into spending hundreds on accessories.


7.5 Overall
  • Setup 7.5
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 7.5

People Power knows that you probably have a nice assortment of outdated (but still decently functional) iOS devices at home. And if they're just taking up space anyway, you might as well find a clever way to repurpose them.

So it developed Presence, an app designed to quickly convert your backup iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a quasi-security-camera.

Similar to the free Manything iOS app , Presence gives you the chance to set a spare device as your stay-at-home "camera" and the newer device as your on-the-go access point. That way, you can view live streaming, receive email notifications and push alerts, set rules, and have a better overall idea of what's going on at home. Presence is a solid way to ease into DIY security, but Manything's IFTTT channel and comparatively streamlined interface has a slight edge.

Presence works on iOS 6.1 or newer and is optimized for iPhone 5. Still, it will work on the iPhone 3GS and newer, iPad 2 and newer and iPod Touch 4G and 5G. I tried Presence out on an iPhone 5, an iPad 2 and a first-generation iPad Mini -- both as cameras and as on-the-go viewers.

It's similar to Manything in many ways -- here's a quick side-by-side comparison:

Belkin NetCam HD+ Dropcam Pro Piper Presence Manything
Price $130.00 $199.00 $199.00 Free Free
Color White Black White N/A N/A
Field of view (diagonal) 95 degrees 130 degrees 180 degrees iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs
Video quality 1,280x720 1,920x1,080 1,920x1,080 iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs
Cloud storage Yes, $10/month or $100/year for 14 days Yes, $10/month or $99/year for 7 days or $30/month or $299/year for 30 days Yes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra cost Yes, 50MB free, $2 for a 7-day pass, $5/month or $50/year for 5GB storage Yes, 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 app No No No No
Glass lens Yes Yes Yes iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch specs
Night vision Yes Yes No Uses device flashlight, if available on model Uses device flashlight, if available on model
Mobile app Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, but iOS only Yes, but iOS only
Web app Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth No Yes No No No
2-way audio Yes Yes Yes No No
Motion and sound alerts Motion only, and limited to email alerts unless you subscribe to Cloud+. Yes Yes Motion only Motion only
Protocol or third-party integration No No Yes, Z-Wave Some third-party integrations available through the Presence online store Yes, IFTTT

Presence and Manything are both limited by the devices you use and the last OS you downloaded, including whether or not a flashlight is an included feature (if not, night vision won't work). That means that you'll have the same resolution, field of view and so on -- areas that can make or break traditional Wi-Fi camera comparisons that simply aren't applicable here.

Still, the apps differ in a few key ways.

Presence doesn't have an IFTTT channel, but it does offer in-app rules. These came preloaded in the app and duplicated whenever I added a new device. One rule says, "If I come home, then make my iPad disable motion detection."

That rule sets up automatic Home and Away modes, a hands-free way to have the camera record motion-related security events when you're out of the house and stop when you return (so you aren't constantly triggering it yourself).

The Presence app. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET