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Ring takes away free features and puts them behind its Ring Protect subscription wall

Here's what it means if you have a Ring security camera or video doorbell.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Emery Wright
Ring app updates
Image: Getty Images | Amazon | Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Ring has been nursing a walled garden around its in-app features, and the updated landscape hit mobile devices on March 29, 2023. The changes make features that were previously available to customers for free only available with a paid Ring Protect subscription, and may have many looking for alternatives to their home security systems.

As of yesterday, Ring security camera and video doorbell customers will only have access to setting Home and Away modes for their devices with a paid subscription. This feature, which let customers 'arm' their security cameras to record events when you're not home or leave them activated while not recording when home, was free for non-subscribing customers before the updates.

Also: The best home security cameras

The biggest changes to the Ring updated subscription affect Ring Alarm users, especially those who purchase a base station after March 29. Anyone that purchased a Ring Alarm home security system before this date was able to arm and disarm their system from either the Ring app or a Ring Keypad without a subscription, but that feature is no longer available for free. 

Ring Base Station

The timing of when you purchased your Ring base station will determine what features you can access without a subscription.


They'd also get notifications in real-time with access to Alarm Event history for up to 60 days. Users could also create automations for their home security system by linking different smart devices around their home to their Ring Alarm system to work together. This is all no longer available without a paid subscription. 

Also: The best driveway alarms

Ring security camera customers will still have access to Live View and the ability to edit their device settings without a subscription through the Ring app. 

What if you buy new Ring accessories now, after the March 29 changes?

The changes to the Ring app went into effect on March 29, 2023, and Ring Alarm customers that bought their base station before this date can still enjoy the features that were available for free without a Ring Protect plan subscription. This is also true if you buy any Ring Alarm accessories to expand your home security system, as long as your base station was purchased before March 29. 

Also: The best cheap video doorbells

Anyone that buys a Ring Alarm base station after March 29, 2023 will need a subscription to use all the Ring Alarm features.

The changes to Ring cameras apply to all existing and future Ring video doorbells and security cameras, regardless of purchase date. Old and new cameras alike will require a subscription to toggle Modes, like home and away. 

Why expand the subscription-based features?

Ring Alarm

Ring is a security camera and alarm manufacturer notorious for being one of the first to allow smart home users to DIY their own security system without having to pay an installer or a monthly fee. While there has always been an optional Ring Protect subscription plan, customers could still access enough Ring app features for free to not justify the cost. 

Also:  The best cheap home security cameras under $100 (and not all require Wi-Fi)

It's worth noting that, historically, most home security companies have charged a monthly fee to use their devices, as the DIY smart home movement has become more popular in the past two decades. With many Ring users skipping the subscription altogether and other smart home security companies moving to subscription-based services, the Amazon-owned company has opted to restrict free in-app features in an effort to gain more Ring Protect plan subscribers. 

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