414 of 425 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2014
UPDATED September 24th, 2014 ---
I've had it with this thing. Finally bumped it down to one star after almost 9 months of use. Skybell simply doesn't work correctly, and their team can't figure out how to stabilize it.
Their team did an update at one point a few months ago that actually deleted all user accounts. Seriously? You guys can't figure out how to do updates correctly? We had to recreate the accounts with a new activation code.
More importantly - on-demand access still doesn't work. Just pulled up my phone today and there is no video and audio, ON THE SAME WI-FI network. The doorbell has also stopped ringing my phone. This is crazy - especially for how much this thing costs.
My advice after months of use? Stay away.
OK, well here it is. Ordering from Amazon.com, I received one of the first Skybell orders off their production line and felt obligated to write a review.
1) Installation of this device is a pain. The mounting plate is easy to use and screw into your existing wall or wood outside of your door, and so is connecting the wires to your existing doorbell connection. Unfortunately, the ease of use for installation stops there. The Skybell team instructs you to use their "special tool" to secure your doorbell to the mounting plate, as well as adjust the camera. There is a major problem with this. The "special tool" that they provide is really a very tiny hex wrench that is VERY difficult to use during installation. The tool is so small that it is easily lost, and the camera, while they claim is adjustable is very difficult to move as well. In the course of trying to move the camera, I actually bent the tool. Separately, the whole process is a bit awkward, since you're trying to work with the tool at a bad angle.
2) Once fully installed, the setup of the device was flawless. It only took approximately 5 minutes to charge the battery at which point the device glowed bright red indicating it was ready for setup. Once the device was in setup mode, I was required to enter the serial number of the device, and then enter credentials for the Wi-Fi network I was currently connected to. This took a few minutes and things went well after that.
3) I'm using an iPhone 5 as the client device with the Skybell. Response times from the doorbell press in my setup are excellent. It takes only 1-2 seconds to receive an alert that the doorbell has been pressed. So everyone can compare if needed, I have a 100/20 connection and N wireless - I'm not sure this affects anything, but it's worth mentioning. Unfortunately, the Skybell app has not implemented a custom notification tone like Skype. This is a huge issue, especially when you have silenced your primary doorbell like we have in an effort to only use the phones. Instead of a "doorbell" chime on the iPhones that you can easily recognize, Skybell uses the standard tone. This is a silly oversight and should have been fixed during testing. Why not use a doorbell notification tone to differentiate it from all the other apps on your phone?
If you have a hard wired doorbell already in place and will pick up your phone based upon the chime, this may be less of an issue for you.
4) A lot of the features that they claimed to have during launch are non existent. EDIT: In my original review I referenced a backup battery. Apparently this isn't an actual feature and is only used to regulate power (huh?), so if your power is out, so is Skybell. Additionally, there is no motion detection and no ability to view the Skybell when someone isn't at the door. These are features that the vendor promised would be working when it shipped. Really disappointed in this. To make matters worse, the night vision feature they claim is also absolutely non-existent. I'm happy to post a screenshot, but in the dark, you literally will see nothing of the person at the door.
5) Last but not least, video quality, etc. The video quality of the Skybell is pretty good, as is the frame rate on a good connection. You're able to clearly see the field of view of the camera in daylight (see my note about IR / night vision above) and can tell who is at the door. Unfortunately, Skybell has not accounted for the height of a typical doorbell, even with the camera at the highest position. I'm 6'0" and I would need to duck in order for my face to be seen by the Skybell unit. This is a critical design flaw. When most people press a doorbell it is at arm level, and currently the camera does not adjust enough in order to provide an angle for viewing once someone has pressed it who is over a certain height.
If you're an early adopter and really anxious, go ahead and purchase. Otherwise, wait till they fix the hardware bugs and release an updated app that does what they promised originally. I'll continue to post updates as I use it over the next few months.
Update: I've posted pics via twitter of the resolution etc that you see in three different cases. I would have posted them here, but Skybell doesn't allow customer images, or Amazon doesn't allow them - either way:
pic.twitter.com/almkeTzzBP - Daytime
pic.twitter.com/hBIUOBavn9 - Nightime with porch light
pic.twitter.com/7TjhGLGKHF - Nightime with no porch light
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2014
First off, I was a little dissappointed that half the features simply do not exist yet. They have been advertising most of the features for the product, and before implied the product was feature complete. This is far from the case as only basic functionality currently exists.
- 1 Star removed for lack of features at launch.
- 1 Star removed for the horrible "special tool" debacle.
- 1 Star removed for the unmovable camera.
- Only basic functionality exists currently
- Special Tool is a very tiny hex which is flimsy and difficult to work with.
- Camera does not move via the pinhole at all. You must take the unit off and adjust it from the inside where you can get something stronger with more leverage.
- Do Not Disturb did not function for me. I assume this is the "Silent Mode" listed under their roadmap so it simply isn't implemented yet if that is the case.
- Case is soft plastic (I assume for weather proofing).
- Setup was fairly easy once skybell was installed.
- Great for responding to guests when away
- Doorbell still works.
- Camera works reasonably well. Slight delay in streaming, similar to what was seen in the video's.
- Mic/Speaker to communicate with door work well.
I must say, this does generally work, and my network setup was quick and easy. So I wouldn't necessarily recommend staying away from this product, but be aware of the issues mentioned above as the advertising for the product at this point is somewhat misleading. You can see in the link above what their roadmap is for completing the features they have promised. It may be worth waiting until the product is more complete, but the basics do currently function, it's the extra features that have a lot of problems.
I would also like to suggest to skybell that they seriously rethink their special tooling and locking mechanism as that was the worst part of the whole experience. I think there are better options that could be considered that would be significantly more user friendly. My special tool is now all bent and tweaked (though still functional) because it is just way too weak for how they suggest it be used.
One more issue I have is that my doorbell is maybe a foot from the edge of the door (further away than normal, but nothing ridiculous). I found in my testing that the camera has a hard time reaching over to view people properly at the door. I haven't officially had someone use it yet so I'm not sure how much of the person it will catch, but if your doorbell is located away from the door frame at all be prepared to maybe only get partial views or at the very least you will likely need to fully adjust the camera angle to try and capture visitors.
69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
Here are a few notes on my experience with the different aspects of this product so far, with yet another mini-update on June 5th, 2014. I started out the review with 2 stars. After running into several issues and my experience with their very ineffective customer support, I was tempted to drop it down to one star. But my patience has paid off a little now, and there has been several desperately needed fixes and improvements, so I added a star for that. Is the product perfect now? Nope, but it's getting better, just very very slowly.
The camera was difficult to adjust, and I had to use a screwdriver and put quite a bit of force into it to make it move (I did this prior to installation). Even with it pointing as high as it can, the camera is essentially useless since it doesn't really show anything other than the person's right arm given the position of the doorbell (I have one of those normal lower-than-eye-level to-the-side doorbells). I personally think this is a very big design flaw. I'm quite surprised they didn't think of this when designing the thing, since that was actually the first thought that popped into my head when I first saw the promo video for SkyBell, and figured they must have made the camera adjustable enough to work around that. Not that it would have mattered, since you can't make out any details in the camera anyway since the camera doesn't show much of anything aside from a shadowy rendering of the person at the door (or rather, their arm) during daytime because sunlight would be coming in from behind the person, which would apply to most doors I think. Their website says they will work on improving this in the future. But that is probably going to be months down the road. (June 5th edit: To be honest, I'm not sure if they've improved this, since things pretty much still look the same on my Skybell, and they still haven't released the angle adapters they said they were making months before.)
The tiny securing screw thing and the tiny tiny "special" tool were ridiculously difficult to work with, and after finally securing it, there's a small gap at the top between the body of the bell and the frame part that is secured to the wall (because, duh, only the bottom of this is secured to the frame, with a tiny little screw no less, so there is nothing to really hold it to the frame/wall except that), that means there's risk of weather damage to the circuit board and other components that lay open and exposed inside the false sense of protection provided by the not-sealed, cup-like plastic outer shell.
I personally didn't have any difficulties with syncing it to my WiFi. I have both iOS and Android devices, and I used the iOS app to do the setup, not sure if that helped or not (if you are having trouble syncing and can get a hold of an iPhone/iPad, perhaps you can give that a try?). There was some connectivity issue where the SkyBell showed a solid red ring (disconnected from wifi) a couple days after I successfully setup the device, and I had to pull the circuit breaker to reset the bell. I don't think it ever happened again after that. (SkyBell said they have released a firmware update that has fixed this.) But then again, I can't tell if it ever temporarily disconnected during this time, since there is no status indication in the apps. Performance with the iOS app has been fairly stable so far. But, I experienced trouble answering SkyBell with my Android devices after their Feb Android app updates (which was fixed after their May update). More on that below.
June 5th edit: Both the iOS and Android apps are still basically bare-bone apps, even after all these updates. The apps are getting improved, but mostly on the iOS. The iOS app is always a step ahead of the Android one, and their Android app just generally feels buggy and awkward. The current version of the iOS app now has on-demand video access, finally, after 6 months of delay. But it still feels very rudimentary, because it takes a rather long time (around 10-15 seconds?) to connect on-demand. Android users have to wait a bit longer. They now also have an iPad version of the iOS app as well.
I experienced some problems with the Android app that is now resolved: Both my iOS and Android devices were working with SkyBell, but after one of their Android app updates, the Android app stopped working correctly on both of my Android devices (when I press the Skybell notification to answer a doorbell press, it just disappears without bringing up the app). I tried everything possible to troubleshoot it but nothing worked, and nothing has changed on those Android devices aside from updating the SkyBell app. Customer service was less than helpful with it. If anything, they added to the frustration (see details in the next section below). This problem was resolved once they updated their Android app (sometime in May I believe), so try updating if you are having similar issues.
- Customer Service:
I find their customer service to be... friendly but clueless, and not helpful at all. When I had the problem with the Android app stopped being able to answer bell rings on my Android devices even though the iOS app still worked fine (see the note in the Apps section above), I emailed them with detailed notes on what the issue was, all of the steps short of re-syncing the device that I've tried to troubleshoot it (there was no customer service phone number, just an email address). They responded quickly, told me they are working on a new firmware and asked me to wait and see if that helps. It then went downhill from there. A different CS rep checked back with me a week later, asking me to try and see if it was working now since they released a new firmware. When I tested and told them it's still not working. A yet another CS rep sent me a useless generic email with links to their troubleshooting pages, regardless of the information I had already provided them previously showing that those troubleshooting steps did not apply to my situation. I had to reply and re-explain my situation and reiterate that I've already tried all applicable troubleshooting steps. Their answer was basically, "then it must be something wrong with your Android device" and that was that, even though I mentioned it worked fine before their last couple updates so something must have changed on their side that somehow cause the functionality to break on not one but both of my Android devices. The CS rep also insisted that a new Android app was released a week ago before (this was on March 24th), when the last update in the Play Store at the time was from over a month ago and a post on SkyBell's Facebook page, March 21st, said the Android app update is still in final testing, and would be released soon. Can't they at least get their own status facts straight? *sighs* I basically had to give up trying to get them to help with figuring out and resolving this Android-only issue I'm experiencing. It seems their default solution is to lay the blame completely on the customer's mobile devices for their poorly programmed Android app not working properly. And as I predicted, once they updated their app a month or so later, the issue was "magically" resolved. So much for claiming it to be a problem with my phone.
In conclusion. Is it worth it? At this stage, I would have to say it depends. They are improving, albeit very slowly. The product is still far from being "complete" even half a year after launch. And if you need help troubleshooting issues, don't expect much help from their customer support. But if you need a product like this right now, you can give it a go now that at least the majority of the features promised at launch are finally available (for iOS at least). If you can wait, I would recommend waiting a bit longer until they refine their product some more.
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
I waited two months to receive this item. I immediately, tried to install it. The installation seemed easy enough. After one week and two contractors with more hours then I care to count. I quit. I am so frustrated with trying to sync this device. I have followed every suggestion made. Including new wiring and new transformer and trying to sync over and over again. The only thing I get is a slow blinking red light. Now, I find out because I tried to use this item I can not return it. If I just sent it back unopened, I would have lost thirty dollars for re-stocking. This is simple usury. How would one know if product will work, if you do not try it. If this item was tested and Skybell believed in it, they would stand behind it. It is not fair for others to pay the price for their incompetent pre-launch preparations. I am disappointed in Amazon for carrying a product that can not be returned. I waited two months to get it and now I am stuck with something that I can even use as a paper weight. This is the first review I have ever written. I am doing it for others. I would like to save them the time, money and frustration. I should have know a company with no phone number is a red flag. Customer support is non existing
CAVEAT EMPTOR (buyer beware)
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2014
I was so excited after discovering this product. Waited almost a year to receive the product. It arrived and we installed. First off the transformer to doorbell buzzed so we changed to a new one and it solved the buzzing. Now we can't get the Skybell to sync to my wifi or my iPhone 5s. After reading all of the disappointing reviews on their website I am almost ready to return the damn thing. Don't waste you money. I've wasted so much time and effort on this thing, I've had it.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2014
Here is an honest review of the Skybell:
The installation process was pretty quick and simple. I had almost no issues connecting it to my wifi network or my home.
-camera angle is terrible. I was able to adjust the angle of the camera, but it still fails to cover the area in front of my door. For the record my doorbell is located approx: 12" from the door.
-camera quality is bad. It's dark when there is any bright ambient light behind the person. You are set if someone comes around 5pm or when you turn on your porch light.
-I also have audio noise in the background that makes it hard to communicate with the person at the front door. I don't live in a terribly noisy area it just seems to be the sound of poor quality.
-when I purchased the device it indicated that it offered nightvision, motion sensing, and that you can watch a live video feed anytime. Even the box reflects these same features! NONE of those features are available now! The company now lists a "Roadmap" for the future, which includes these features at a later date! Since when can you list product features that don't currently exist? I find this to be deceptive.
It seems like this device should have not been released before they had all of the bugs worked out. I truly don't appreciate being a "beta tester."
For this reason, "I'm Out." If you are truly interested in this product, I recommend that you read the company's reviews and customer posts on Facebook. Seems like lots of issues with Skybell.
55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2014
The SkyBell, as shipped in V 1.0, does work with the basic features as advertised. Someone rings the bell and your smart phone alerts you. You are given the option to "answer", bringing up the camera's video feed to see who it is. You can also hear audio from whoever is at your door, and you can talk back via your smartphone by pressing "push to talk" on the screen. Features promised but not active at this time are motion detector activation (alerting you that someone is at your door), on demand viewing of the camera (currently you can only turn of the camera in response to a ring), and acceptable night vision. Skybell now promises those features within 30 days via automatic update, but they have been known to miss targets dates often during pre-launch.
Installation: Very straight forward. The SkyBell attaches to a mounting ring, which is attached to your wall with 4 screws. Note that traditional doorbells often have 2 screws, so know that if you ever want to replace the SkyBell with a regular doorbell, you will have some visible screw holes to deal with. Join the SkyBell wires with your original wiring with the included crimping tubes and you're set. Slide the SkyBell onto the mount and use the included micro allen wrench to secure it with a small screw on the bottom - very much like a bathroom towel rack.
Activation: Follow the setup guide TO THE TEE. It says SkyBell does not work on a 5GHz wifi frequency; only 2.4. If you have 5GHz, your router almost surely simulcasts 2.4 as well. During setup, make sure your smartphone is ON THE 2.4GHz band. You can switch it back to 5 later. Setup and activation was easy; you will need your SkyBell's unique device code which is on the box and the user manual.
Use: As I said, it works as advertised. Surprisingly Very little video/audio lag.
Problems: My biggest issues, and one that seems to be reported by many in these reviews and SkyBell's own website, is aiming of the camera. The instructions say to use the included tool and insert into the small pinhole beneath the camera lens, and aim the ball and socket camera with your thumb. This is much easier said than done. I never could get enough pressure on the spring to release the camera for more than a second - not enough time to properly aim. The camera has a very tight fit so that not even the pressure from a thumb can move it. I spent 30 frustrating minutes trying to get the camera to move in any direction. Aiming up seems the most difficult due the the pinhole being right below the camera lens - you can't get any leverage from the bottom with a pin is being held in with force. In the end, I forced the camera up, but not precisely enough to properly aim.
Material: The casing is plastic, but does have a very shiny, brushed aluminum look. For a device mounted outside, I don't see this a very practical. A more muted bronze, subdued nickel, or darker color might hold up nicer. Time will tell, but I do know that my nice shiny finish has 2 deep scratches/gashes due to my slipping while applying the required pressure to move the camera. Very upset about these blemishes, but I made them following their directions. The small pinhole now looks like a tiny bullet widened it; no doubt due to the numerous attempts with the tool and paperclip. I would advice anyone in my situation to cover the body with a couple of layers of duct or blue painters' tape to protect from scratching while trying to move the camera.
Overall: The product almost works for me. I can't get the camera angle I need for visitors to be in frame, but the audio works quite well. The camera fit needs to be redesigned to make it easier to move without risk of damaging the finish. I'm sure future version of this product will include 5GHz, HD camera, and other finish options. Might be worth it to wait unless you really want to try one out.
I'm going to contact SkyBell about the non-movable camera and the gouges I put in the finish. I'll report back about how speedy they respond and how they propose to help me.
UPDATE #1 within 12 hours of posting this review (and contacting SkyBell customer support), I received the following generic email. I have had issues with SkyBell customer support since pre-launch when I ordered on 8/11/13. Typically, they respond with scripted generic answers. Today's was no different:
"Chris, I know the pivot is very stiff and does require a bit of muscle behind it. Please try to push hard on the tool and it should move. Thank you for contacting us. We look forward to continuing to serve you as a customer."
Notice no reference to my particular issue: the difficulty (and failure) to move the camera into position using their standard instructions, and the resulting damage to the product. They told me to do what was already in the manual. I will update again if they respond to THIS update.
UPDATE #2 (the next day). You can see SkyBell's response to this review in the comments section. It seems they realize this is an issue and are now recommending this: "The best remedy we are finding is to remove the SkyBell from the mount and use your thumb and finger on both sides of the camera ball to position as best as possible."
That's all fine and good, but does reinforce that they all consider us beta testers. In 2 days I have been given 2 pieces of advice: Just push harder on the tool, and next to remove the SkyBell and try to move the camera manually. Doesn't help me with my gouges though.
UPDATE #3 (same day as update 2): Skybell has released a statement and a YouTube video addressing the camera problem:Troubleshooting Tip: Moving the Camera
"We've received feedback that the camera housing on some devices is very stiff. Below you will find a link to a youtube video that shows the 2 best ways to remedy this situation.
Click Link to Watch Video: [...]
If you have not installed your SkyBell, please watch the video before doing so. If you have installed SkyBell and would like to re-position your camera, please remove the SkyBell device with the tool.
The camera is stiff due to the weather proofing coating and as a measure to prevent children, visitors or other people from moving the camera."
Again, I am glad they are responding to this issue for future users, but for those of us who has already installed the device and BROKEN their "tools" moving the camera - the same tool used to loosen the TINY hex nut on the bottom, holding it in the frame - this doesn't do much good. On a personal note, still no response to my particular issue of a damaged casing.
UPDATE #4 (about a month later) I did receive a replacement device about 2 weeks later (due to the damage I did when trying to adjust the camera with the previous directions). So they have not fixed the camera as far as making it easier to rotate; but they have given updated instructions - to aim it BEOFRE mourning so you can more easily rotate the camera from front and back using your thumb and forefinger. The original instructions said to use the hex "tool" in a pinhole to rotate the camera from the front. I had assumed the tool would push in a spring to release the camera, but seeing the new device, this is not so. The camera had no spring, the tool was simply leverage. The camera is still very stiff, but it is much easier to rotate it before it is mounted. I was able to mock up the mounting and aim prior to affixing it permanently.
The motion detector feature, as mentioned, has been activated. However it was not was I expected. I thought I would receive a silent alert on my phone that motion was detected and then be able to see live video. This is not the case - motion simply activates the door bell - physically ringing it in the house and on my phone. This is a terrible function - I "rang" my own doorbell leaving very early for work one morning, waking my wife and our dogs. It also "rings" when the paperboy gets too close early in the morning. This feature is easily turned off with the app, but I had hoped it would be more useful. Maybe they will update the feature to not actually ring the doorbell in the future.
That being said, it does work as promised.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2014
I was very excited to see this product come to market. I've been looking for something like this for a while.
Sadly this doorbell is not ready for the real world.
The connection wires were brittle and easily broke off the circuit board. I re-soldered the wire I broke off and install the device.
-They use cheap aluminum connection wires. These cheap wires will easily snap off the circuit board.
- Image is poor. Light behind the visitor at the door turns them into a silhouette.
- Audio is poor. It's fine on the phone side, but at the door it sounds like a bad fast food drive-thru speaker - unintelligible.
- Android app weak - I could only ever get one phone working at a time. It would not ring "all" my phones.
- Still some missing features like motion detection...
Too bad - I was really hoping this would work out. If reviews improve in the next few months, I will try it again, but for now I am returning mine.
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2014
I received the Skybell after being delayed 6 weeks from the promised date. I should have cancelled the order. The mounting design is awful. From there it took most of the afternoon to get it to work with the phone. It is one way communication, and the speaker is awful. Many features promised are not available yet. Overall, I am not happy. If I had not just punched 4 holes in my house, I would have packed it up already. Do not worry about Trying to call for support, email only.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2014
Camera field of view, resolution, night vision and back light handling render the device virtually useless. The filed of view will only accommodate a position of the device that is near eye level and within a few (very few) inches of the door. Most code restriction and construction techniques will prohibit placement that allows the person at the door to be seen. Resolution is grainy/poor at best, but I understand it was intentional to limit file size. Night vision, well, none. Daylight use, if the person is even in the field of view, the daylight back light makes them a silhouette at best. If they get close enough and hold still long enough you get a grainy picture.