Manything review: How to transform old devices into a home security system (hands-on)

The free app promises to recycle your old mobile devices into a top-notch security system. How does Manything measure up?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The Manything app transforms your old Apple devices, whether an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, into a customizable home security system. Manything is now also beginning to exit its beta Android stage, opening up the app to users other than iOS and Apple fans.

The application harnesses the power of your device's microphone and camera setup in order to monitor your home, and can be used for security's sake, to monitor children when they arrive home, or perhaps even to keep tabs on your pets.

The app opens the way for do-it-yourself smart home security, and while not as sophisticated as dedicated products on the market, is an uncomplicated way to keep tabs on your home while you are away.

Pros: Easy setup | Device recycling | Multiple device support | Cloud storage & backup |

Cons: Expensive subscription costs | Live stream delays | Limited Beta Android support |


To start utilizing Manything, you first need access to some old devices. Until the Android version is released -- this year if the company's timeline stays on track -- they must be Apple iOS-based.

You then need to download the Manything app on to your old iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad as well as your active device. Once installed, users must sign up to the service, either through Facebook or by submitting an email address and password for a basic, free account. No matter what type of device you are using with Manything, you must remember to enable and connect to a Wi-Fi network for footage to be recorded and stored.


When you've accessed the app, you are greeted with a welcome screen complete with links to tutorials, FAQs, contact details, terms of use and 'My Plan,' which is where you can choose to upgrade and subscribe to Manything as a paying customer if you wish.

While Manything is free, you are limited to rigging up one camera-equipped device as a home monitoring system. The free option does, however, include cloud video recording (CVR) in the same manner as paid options, albeit in a more limited fashion. CVR stores footage recorded by your devices, deleting old video automatically so you don't need to worry about running out of space.

If you stick to the free option, you can record and store up to four hours of footage.


Subscribers are less limited. With one rigged device, you can choose to store 48 hours (£1.99/month), 7 days (£2.99/month) or 30 days (£4.99/month). If you want to set up more devices within your smart security web, with two cameras, you can store 48 hours at £3.99/month, 7 days at £5.99/month or 30 days at £8.99/month. Finally, if you want to connect up to five cameras, you can expected to pay £7.99/month for 48 hours' stored footage, £9.99/month for 7 days or £17.99/month for 30 days of footage. In addition, there are enterprise plans available for businesses.

In order to connect multiple devices to your Manything network, you need to use the same login details across each app -- whether you are connecting via Facebook or through an email address. If you are using an old iPhone, the mobile needs to be unlocked or using a SIM card locked to the right carrier to reactivate. Once activated, you can remove the SIM and stick to Wi-Fi instead.


There are two buttons on the home screen, labeled "Viewer" and "Camera." The camera function can be pressed in order to start live streaming while Viewer allows you to see 'events,' which are snippets of footage recorded if the device picks up motion or sound. Each event comes with duration, time recorded and a "motion score" tab, which measures how strong a detected motion is based on a score of 1 - 10 and your old device's sensitivity.

During testing, stands came in handy to position the devices and point cameras towards entrance areas.


I found the video quality to be slightly better than the D-Link smart home security system I current have set up in my house. It isn't the best currently available, but due to Apple's camera, you can consider it adequate.


There is also a "stills" option if you would prefer to take photos rather than continual video.

When it comes to audio, recorded sound was clear enough unless you have a multitude of sounds on record -- such as the drone of a television -- in which case footage sound blurs considerably. There is also a substantial time lag if viewing a live stream on another mobile device.

If you choose to log into the Manything web domain instead, you are able to view a dashboard filled with additional options and a more accurately timed live stream of your devices.

The online platform includes a list of all your connected devices, a live feed, access to your stored recordings and a sound monitor. If you wish to make alterations to your devices remotely, options including turning cameras on and off, muting audio, adjusting video quality, turning on flashlights and switching between back and front camera systems. Additionally, you can create, edit, save and share footage clips, as well as create timelapse videos.



In order to keep up in the Internet of Things (IoT) game, apps have a lot to prove. Manything has attempted to do so with the addition of support for IFTTT (if this, then that), a web service which creates "recipes" for your connected devices and applications. Manything provides a number of ready-made recipes for users to extend the capabilities of their Manything network, including the option to enable the app automatically when you leave the house or turning your lights on if the app detects movement.

To take advantage of IFTTT, you need to have other connected home products on hand, such as the Philips Hue smart lighting system, Nest Protect or the Belkin WeMo home automation system.


As you can imagine, your old devices are likely to get rather hot when recording continuous footage. Deliberately leaving the device away from a power source, it wasn't too long before my iOS devices became warm to the touch -- and after some time cut out through battery death.

The last thing you want is for your iPhone to cut out and stop monitoring your home, so to keep it running as long as possible, make sure the device is connected to a power source and kept out of direct sunlight.

It also wouldn't hurt if you keep devices shaded or in cool spots with airflow to stop overheating and applications shutting down.

If you are recycling old iOS devices through ManyThing, strip down application use to the bare minimum, and turn down your brightness by turning automatic adjustments off. This will not only reduce power consumption and battery power but will keep devices cooler for longer.

Check out the video below for a DIY stand to keep your devices upright and as cool -- and operational -- as possible.


I like the idea of repurposing old devices for a good reason rather than letting them die a slow death in a drawer somewhere. Manything is a great example of how these devices can be given new life, and if you are willing to download the app and spend a few moments setting things up, you can have a fair-quality camera system installed and ready within minutes.

Manything is far from perfect, considering the bandwidth usage, audio quality and current restriction to iOS, but there are a number of changes on the way to improve the experience.

A number of revamps are planned in the next Manything update, which is due to be rolled out in October. Manything told ZDNet that while the current version of the app has a 20 - 30 second delay when you view live streamed footage on another device, this long lapse will soon be compressed to to under three seconds.

A number of user requests have also been considered, and as a result, a full Android version is due for release, extra sharing capabilities are due to be added, and two-way audio is "likely" to be added before the end of 2015.

In addition, while Manything currently streams and records video continuously to the cloud, the next version of the app will not have to chew up bandwidth in this way. Instead, there will be an optional setting to only stream when the camera is being watched and movement is detected.

Should I buy the Manything application?

There will always be a free version of the app available, albeit with limitations. If you're interested in rigging up your own connected home security system and have some old devices collecting dust on the shelf -- without spending hundreds of pounds in the process -- the app is well worth a download.

It's up to you, however, as to whether you'd rather sign up for a subscription than buy dedicated security products.

Interested? Download Manything for iOS here | Android Beta

Read on: Flic: The wireless button which brings the connected world into your home (hands-on)

Editorial standards