By Calvin at 15:38 GMT, 6 days ago
At the beginning of December last year I was contacted by a company that produces smart technology doorbells called RING™ at www.ring.com You may have seen them demonstrated on TV adverts which are currently running in London and maybe elsewhere around the country.
So what does the RING™ do for you?
In essence, when someone presses the very obvious bell push, the thing lights up and makes a noise confirming to the visitor that the bell has indeed been rung – a simple, but really important feature. When the bell is rung your smartphone comes to life and the cheery chime invites you to deal with the call. A simple press on the phone opens up a new window and ‘hey-presto’ there’s a clear fish-eye lens image of the caller standing outside your door. You’re then invited to speak to the caller using your phone - just press ‘Talk’ or, especially if it’s the person you are expecting, you can close down the application and simply go and open the door. You can, of course, be silly and say things to your friends like: “I don’t buy things from cold callers” or “I’ve told you to stop calling here”, but the real serious point of the device is that there will be no more opening the door to strangers/cold callers if you don’t want to – you can just talk to them and see them without opening that otherwise secure front door.
The device also has an inbuilt PIR detector which will detect movement in proximity to the doorbell. I find this useful as our car is always parked within the footprint of the detector and so is useful for security. If movement is detected then your phone rings out the pleasant ding-dingy of chimes blowing in the wind. Quite a pleasant sound and one you quickly get used to. When movement is detected you can again use the camera to see what caused it. Usefully you can adjust the device’s field of detection, or turn it off, which is particularly helpful if your front door is close to a footway with lots of passersby and traffic, because otherwise (especially at my place) it would go off every five minutes.
So let’s get back to the story. The UK/EU Business Development Manager, whom I shall call ‘Dave’, because that’s his name, asked me if I would be interested in having one on trial so that I might give it a go and report my findings about it on this website. Due to other pressing matters at the time I was unable to install it until about five weeks ago, so how did it perform and more to the point how did my wife and I get on with it?
First off, our circumstances are perhaps not the norm so I should explain. My wife, Julia, is beautician who works from home and therefore gets between ten and twenty clients calling at the door on each day she is working. We also get a fair number of packages delivered and so I suspect we get a great deal more calls at the door than the average person. I’m only saying this, because if the doorbell works for us then it should also work for you.
The doorbell comes securely packaged, supplied in a neat box with everything you need to install it save an electric drill! Seriously, it comes with its own screwdriver, two different bits and a spirit level!
You can wire it into your existing doorbell’s main’s supply or rely on the inbuilt battery, which is what we have done. The first thing we did was to charge up the doorbell, which takes about 4 hours and after that we followed the set up procedures and ‘connected’ the unit into our Wi-Fi network. This was very straightforward. In fact it was easy-peasy lemon squeezy.
I left my existing doorbell in place, but covered, in case of any issues and for the time I take out the RING™ for a recharge, but you don't have to do that; it's just me being a bit fussy. I might add that you should get up to 6 months battery life from a single charge, but because we have so many calls it seems like we’ll get about four months. All we’ll have to do then is bring the doorbell inside overnight for charging and pop it back out in the morning, so no problem there.
Next came the separate chime unit, which you plug into a wall socket. This is needed in case there’s only one smartphone user in the house and they’ve gone out. Unfortunately ours was kaput; completely deceased and so I had to contact Dave to get a replacement. It came two days later and the new one worked absolutely fine. You can choose from a selection of chimes for this device and what with both our phones and the chime going off you cannot miss a call at the door! Not that it bothered us in the slightest, but it seems you cannot change the chime your hear on the phone. I expect this is deliberate as RING have made this their signature tune, so to speak.
I thought long and hard about how and where to install it.
I’ve got a composite PAS 24 enhanced secure front door which has a PVCu frame. Either side of the door are two PVCu windows. Where the frames abut one another there is a cover strip which means that I had no flat surface on which to fit the doorbell. When you read the instructions you see they make a big thing about making sure the unit is fitted to an absolutely flat surface. This is to ensure that the back plate, to which the doorbell unit is fitted, doesn’t get bent and so prevent the doorbell from sliding onto it properly. So I had to make a wooden back plate that bridged the cover strip. It only took me twenty minutes or so, but was well worth doing. I followed the online and enclosed leaflet instructions and positioned the doorbell at about chest height.
I fitted the unit’s back plate onto my bracket very easily and then slid on the doorbell. Prior to doing this the instructions tell you that when you slide the unit onto the back plate there will be a click when it’s become correctly seated. Well, mine didn’t ‘click’, but it nevertheless seated itself sufficiently to enable me to drive in the two security screws.
Something else worth mentioning is that the doorbell needs to be within a reasonable distance of your router. Our doorbell and the door chime are just four metres from one of our routers and so the connection between the devices is as good as it’s going to get and the delay between someone pressing the bell push and the phones activating is less than a second. Obviously the internet might be on a go-slow for the day or the service might go down for a short period, but this only happens in our area around twice a year, so we’re not too worried.
So, I hear you asking, how’s it been for us?
Our RING™ doorbell has been the talk of the neighbourhood and my wife’s clients. For the first four weeks (as callers got used to the new bell) it was a hallway of hilarious hoots of laughter as each client discovered they’d been caught on camera and maybe engaged in some silly conversation at the doorstep as Julia tried out the phone application. Things have calmed down now! One or two of them knew someone else who had one and several of them have since told us that they're going to buy one for themselves.
We’ve had just one occasion when the doorbell has been used and we’ve not been at home to answer it and instead used the phone app to deal with the call. It turned out to be the neighbour opposite whose face looked a real picture when he heard Julia talking to him.
So far the doorbell has been totally reliable; the image on our android phones has been very good indeed - easily clear enough to recognise a caller when you know them. There is a slight problem at night when my pair of bright porch lights floods out the caller’s face. But this would happen with a traditional CCTV camera and so this is more a criticism of my porch lights than the device. You can always ask the caller to step back or forward a little so that their face comes out of the main light spill and then you can see them just as well as if it were daylight.
The motion detector goes off a little too often than we would like, but having selected just two detection zones there’s little we can do to lessen those activations. That said, the wind chime sound that comes from the phones when movement is detected is not at all irritating and most times we do take a quick look to see who’s there. We’ve already worked out that it goes off more at night than during the day, which is probably due to the lower background ambient temperature making the PIR sensor more sensitive. In the summer I reckon the PIR won’t be triggered half as much. The motion detector is not triggered by single pedestrians walking along the footway outside, but it is triggered by two mums and their pushchairs. It’s also triggered by a couple of neighbours opposite when they reverse their cars/vans slightly onto our driveway when turning in the road.
All in all, having been ‘testing’ the product for the past five weeks, my wife and I are giving the RING™ doorbell 9/10.
It is doing exactly what it is meant to do. The caller knows that they have pressed the doorbell and we know that someone’s at the door. When we’re not expecting a call (or just want to have fun) we can speak to the caller without having to open the door, which is a hugely important aspect when it comes to personal security (see this link about opening the door to unexpected callers). We also know that, providing our phones are connected to the internet, we can deal with a caller when we’re not at home, which is just what happened when we were drinking a cup of coffee on the Compton Castle boat moored in Truro (Cornwall) just last week. It was the neighbour mentioned above, but it could have been something really important where the caller needed to get hold of us urgently. And, because you can speak with the caller, it means we could have passed over a phone number or advised them to speak to our keyholder next door.
I cannot think of a more useful security device I have installed to my home in the past couple of years. Obviously, my enhanced secure doors and windows and alarm system and safe and wall switch timers and all the other security bits and pieces that I’ve installed since I’ve lived here all play their part in keeping us safe, but this little gizmo is simply great and who would have thought that we would have had such fun using it. The online app is also very easy to use and there’s lots of guidance and support should things not go so well with the installation.
It takes a lot for me to recommend a security device, but this is one that I will. My only reservation is that I have not completed my testing in terms of its durability. The doorbell has been fitted to the front of my house which bears most of the inclement weather and so I will be looking to see how it fairs against water incursion and erosion. This is something I will be able to examine when I take it off for its first recharge in about two to three months. At this time I will report back.
If you would like to purchase one of these doorbells go to their website at www.ring.com
Look at this news page for future updates.