The ANNKE tagline states “Easy and Affordable Security Camera System” and looking at their new SP5 720P IP camera, they certainly accomplished that. The camera currently has a list price of $199.99 on Amazon.com but is actually selling for $52.99. The affordability of the camera does not diminish from the hardware features either. With PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) remote control, a 720P image over WiFi or Ethernet, infrared viewing, and two-way audio the SP5 camera is versatile and capable. While the hardware is great, it’s once you get to the software that you start to see some pain points.
The Smart Home Camera arrived in a simple, “frustration-free” box. While it still has some promotional material on the side, it did not seem to be a full retail package. As this came from Amazon, it was fine and not unexpected. The features of the camera are summarized on the side and top of the box and two QR codes adorn the front – one for iOS and one for Android.
Unboxing the camera, without frustration, it reveals the contents to be simple and straight forward. The camera is one object with no assembly required. The power cord and a mounting bracket with provided screws and drywall anchors are the only accessories to the package. The power cord is a two-prong style and the other end that plugs into the camera looks like a 3.5 mm headphone jack. A quick start operation guide booklet is the last thing in the box besides the packing material.
The front of the camera includes the camera lens, surrounded by IR LEDs, a light sensor to automatically switch to IR when it is dark, and a microphone. There are also blue LEDs at the bottom to indicate power to the camera.
The back contains the wireless antenna, which only works with 2.4Ghz WiFi not 5Ghz, an Ethernet jack, a speaker, the power connector, and a microSD card slot which supports up to 32GB for DVR-like playback functionality.
The mounting bracket actually stands out here as being very well done. The camera has a standard camera tripod mount screw on the bottom and the bracket allows a lot of flexibility with its hinge to support various angles. With the camera supporting PTZ, you have a lot more freedom in where you place the camera. Such as when using it as a baby monitor, you just have to place it above the crib and you can tilt down to the perfect angle with its 120-degree vertical range and 355-degree horizontal range if you want to look at something else. When using the PTZ, you swipe on the app and you will hear the motor on the camera respond accordingly.
Getting the software going to see the hardware in action was considerably less impressive. Remember the QR codes on the box for iOS and Android? Using Android, the barcode takes you to a website http://www.yoosee.co/yoosee.html which has no text at all and just prompts to download an .apk file, Android’s app package file format. That made me a bit nervous and trying to get some information about this app, I visited the root of the site at http://www.yoosee.co/ and only saw a message in Chinese and broken English explaining a recent upgrade that improved security.
Having a security camera constantly watching your front door or your child’s crib and hearing plenty of cases where cameras are broadcasting openly to the web, this did nothing to allay my concerns. I would much rather get an app through the official app store Google Play so that it can be kept up to date and I can see more information about the developers and reviews from other users.
Fortunately, with the name Yoosee, an app did come up. The reviews are not great but based on the information, I could confirm that it is from the same company. I am not sure why the QR code did not link to the Yoosee app on Google Play but I went with that option. Its permissions are a bit excessive but not blatantly wide open. I do not understand why it would need my location, camera, and phone permissions and wish it was reined in a little bit or updated to use Android Marshmallow permissions that request permission as needed.
After installing the app, I went through the ‘smart add’ process of detecting the camera on the network. I first had to switch to my 2.4Ghz network and then try to find the device. It took a few attempts of powering the camera off and back on again. I tried a manual add to provide the IP address but it was not able to proceed past the initial password, which I could not find anywhere and was not sure if I was entering it or setting it. Powering off and back on again with my Android device starting on the same 2.4 Ghz WiFi SSID, the third time was the charm. I went through the SmartAdd and it quickly detected the camera and prompted me to name and create a password for the camera. (Of course, your password should be strong with mixed case and alphanumeric characters.)
After saving the device, it now showed up in my device list. The icon of an open lock indicated the password allowed me to successfully connect. It was easy to access the live view. You can browse snapshots and alerts from the camera, such as if you configure motion detection and email notifications.
With the lights on, it provided a great 720P picture. Seen below, checking out my movie collection, the camera is able to show a lot of detail. You can swipe with the app and with a slight delay, you will hear the motor move the camera horizontally and vertically to match your swipe, and with a slightly longer delay, your video will be updated for the camera’s new feed.
You can mute or enable the audio coming from the camera. You can also hold the microphone icon to use it like an intercom. Lastly, you can take a snapshot with the camera icon or exit by tapping the power icon.
Switching off the lights, the IR lights switch on a moment later and allow you to see in the dark. The IR lights around the camera glow red when they are active. The IR allowed for a pretty good view of the room and was able to see beyond the advertised 10 feet.
The ANNKE Smart Home Camera offers a lot of higher-level functionality in an affordable package. The camera view is great and pan-tilt-zoom is usually an expensive add on. The hardware seems robust and versatile while coming as a compact package. The app for the camera was a bit of a let-down and that is where I would encourage ANNKE to devote more resources. Security cameras should not be a point of compromising your security and privacy with questionable web traffic and shady apps. From a cursory search on Google Play, I found a lot of other IP camera apps and I wonder if they might work with the ANNKE SP5 to provide the same functionality but in a better reviewed app.
A review unit of the ANNKE SP5 720P IP Camera was provided by ANNKE to 404 Tech Support for the purpose of this review.