HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework. 

If you’re investing in smart home technology and want to stay in the HomeKit ecosystem, there are currently four home security cameras on the market that work with the Home app. This week we’ll look at what options are on the market, how the hardware and supporting services differ, and how you can improve the HomeKit security camera experience.

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Update 12/5: This post has been updated with information about Arlo Baby Camera features in HomeKit.


Why HomeKit?

Home security cameras that work with HomeKit can sometimes cost more than competitors, so why pay a premium for the HomeKit experience? For me, the benefit is having access to all smart home devices in one app regardless of manufacturer.

In the case of HomeKit cameras, you can view every video feed in the same way inside the Home app with the same user interface — even if every camera is a different model from a different brand. HomeKit cameras are assigned to rooms so they appear in their designated room in the Home app alongside lights, locks, and other accessories.

Favoriting a HomeKit camera also shows the video feed on the overview screen in the Home app so you can quickly access video feeds from different rooms on one screen. Favorited cameras have their own section on the overview screen below all other favorited accessories.

Cameras can’t be accessed from Control Center like other favorited accessories, but favorited cameras can be viewed from the Apple Watch. This is a big perk to HomeKit cameras since a lot of other home security cameras don’t have dedicated (and maintained) Apple Watch apps that support viewing live feeds and sending audio back and forth.

HomeKit camera tiles show a snapshot of the last captured view, usually updated within seconds of refreshing, and tapping a specific tile will open a video stream right in the Home app. You can control speaker output to hear audio captured by the camera and optionally control sound input if the camera has its own speaker. This lets you speak into the Home app through the HomeKit camera.

And because HomeKit is a framework that developers can build apps around, there are third-party apps in addition to Apple’s Home app that let you do interesting things with HomeKit cameras that aren’t possible from non-HomeKit cameras. More on that in a bit.

HomeKit Cameras

Okay, so you’re ready to buy a HomeKit camera. What are your options? The market is small but growing. Luckily there are four very different choices (three of which can be bought from Apple).

D-Link Omna 180 HD (reg. $129.95) was the first HomeKit camera to hit the market. Its price has dropped since it first debuted, and some users find it to be the most reliable at doing its job and delivering a video feed with no interruptions.

The big benefit to Omna is its micro SD card slot on the bottom. This lets you automatically record video and sound when motion is detected using local storage and not a monthly subscription to a cloud service. Captured video can’t be viewed in the Home app yet, but you can use the D-Link Omna iOS app to view it on iOS (or transfer the footage to a Mac or PC since it’s saved to a micro SD card).

Omna’s price and support for up to 128GB micro SD cards (sold separately) makes it a great budget pick. Omna tends to run very warm which doesn’t affect performance but does make me concerned about long-term usage, and its cylindrical form factor makes it less flexible to deploy than other options.

Logitech Circle 2 (reg. $179.95, currently $40 off from Amazon) is my go-to choice for HomeKit cameras. It’s rated for both indoor and outdoor use thanks to built-in weatherproofing, includes a flexible base with optional attachments like window mounts and plug mounts, and a 10-foot power cable for easily deploying away from wall outlets.

Although there is no built-in storage option, Logitech does capture video and audio based on motion and saves up to 24 hours of footage for review in their app at no charge. Logitech’s app even includes a really neat time-lapse video based on captured motion over the past 24 hours.

If you need access to more than 24 hours of video review, Logitech has two subscription plan options. A basic plan costs $3.99/month and includes up to 14 days of video storage for a single camera. An upgrade to a home plan that works with up to five cameras is available for $6.99/month or $69/year.

A premium plan costs $9.99/month and includes up to 31 days of video storage for one camera. An upgrade to the home plan for up to five cameras costs $17.99/month or $179/year. The premium plan also includes features like person detection and motion zones; all three plans including the free tier include basic motion alerts.

Note that there is a version of Circle 2 that works wirelessly with a rechargeable battery, but HomeKit only supports wired cameras for now. If you have an Amazon Echo Spot or Echo Show, you can also view the Circle 2 feed on the Echo display.

Arlo Baby (reg. $189.95) is a bit of a specialized HomeKit camera with unique features. Like other HomeKit cameras, you can view the video feed in the Home app and send and receive audio between the Home app and the HomeKit camera. Form-factor wise, Arlo Baby is like a cross between Omna and Circle.

Arlo Baby is also a fully featured baby monitor. Arlo’s app can receive alerts triggered by audio when your baby is crying, the camera hardware features a built-in air quality sensor that also measures temperature and humidity (although this data isn’t shared with HomeKit), and the built-in speaker can play lullabies, nature sounds, or white noise to soothe your baby.

Arlo Baby also has a built-in LED light to serve as a night light, or you can set the LED to shift colors and perform a light show. Like the air quality data and music, this feature isn’t exposed to HomeKit. As a dad and HomeKit enthusiast, though, I really like having the baby monitor video feed in the same app as my other home security cameras.

You can also outfit Arlo Baby with adorable animal feet and ears (or use it without for a neutral look).

[Update 12/5/2018: Arlo Baby Camera also now shows Air Quality, Humidity, Motion, Nightlight (brightness and color), and Temperature through HomeKit.]

Netatmo Presence (reg. $299, currently $34.99 off at Amazon) is the fourth and final option for now. While the other three options are primarily targeted for indoor use, Presence is fully intended to be used outside. It’s both a HomeKit video camera and a HomeKit outdoor spotlight.

Presence actually replaces your existing outdoor lighting and is designed to be permanently mounted outdoors. It uses the same power connector as standard outdoor lights (not the same as indoor power outlets).

Netatmo also supports micro SD (8GB included, up to 32GB supported) video capture, Dropbox cloud storage, or even FTP server storage — no monthly subscription fee required.

Six more HomeKit cameras including indoor and outdoor options from Kidde, Netatmo, and Somfy have been announced but not updated for Apple’s Home app so far. Fortunately the four available options span the range of features and services.

Enhance!

If you have one or more HomeKit cameras, Apple’s Home app is great for viewing video feeds on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and Mac (starting with macOS Mojave), but there’s no Home app for Apple TV yet.

For tvOS, HomeCam by Aaron Pearce is a must-have app that lets you view one or multiple HomeKit cameras on your TV. You can even auto-cycle between multiple camera feeds for monitoring activity between cameras.

Apple’s Home app also only allows you to view a single livestream of video at a time. Snapshots update to give you multiple glances of still frames from more than one camera, but you can’t get a birds-eye view of multiple video feeds simultaneously — even on iPad.

HomeCam doesn’t just close the Apple TV gap. It also supports viewing multiple live video feeds simultaneously. HomeCam is essential if you have more than one HomeKit camera. HomeCam is a universal app and a one-time $4.99 purchase on the App Store.

Catch up on earlier HomeKit Weekly entries below:


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