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Amazon recently made headlines again when it announced a new service called Amazon Key. The service uses Amazon's Cloud Cam, a compatible smart lock, and lets Amazon delivery drivers into your home when delivering a package.
Many people are uneasy about the thought of a random delivery person having access to the inside of a home, and I can't blame them. I'm still not sold on the idea.
Skimmed over in the announcement by many was Amazon's Cloud Camera. It's a sure competitor to Nest's camera lineup, but at a more affordable price of $120 with competitive monthly subscription packages.
For the past month, I've had the Cloud Cam monitoring those coming and going from my home. I've also been tinkering with settings in the app, and even watching a live feed of the camera on a Fire TV in my office.
It looks like, well, a camera
There's nothing fancy or unique in the way the Cloud Cam looks. A circular white plastic housing is offset by a black front, where the camera, microphone, speaker, and eight infrared LEDs for night vision are housed.
A lengthy 10-foot cable is included in the box, along with necessary mounting hardware should you decide to permanently mount the Cloud Cam.
It's designed for indoor use, but I suspect you could use it outdoors so long as it's placed in an area where rain or snow won't be an issue.
Mounting the camera will require a drill and confidence in the placement since it requires a couple of holes. I would have preferred to have a metal plate that attaches to the wall with some 3M-type material and magnets in the bottom of the Cloud Cam's stand, just in case it needs to be moved.
Instead, I've placed the camera on a table near my front door for now.
The Cloud Cam records in 1080p FHD at 30 frames per second and offers a 120-degree field of view.
Alerts, streaming, and settings
Initial setup was a breeze. Connect the Cloud Cam to power, download the iOS or Android app and follow a few prompts. Be sure to have your Amazon account info and Wi-Fi password handy.
Through the Cloud Cam app, you can view a live stream, use the two-way audio feature to scare the babysitter or talk to your pets.
A feed just below your camera's live stream populates with motion detection and people detection clips. Yes, the camera can differentiate between a person (for an extra fee, more on that below) and a pet or even a passing car. A toggle in the app will let you decide if you should receive alerts for all motion, or just when a person is detected in the camera's field of view.
Disabling notifications doesn't prevent the camera from still capturing a clip of the motion, which is a nice touch. Options to refine how sensitive the camera is to motion, as well as triggering alerts only when you've left your home via a geofence are also available and incredibly useful. Who wants an alert each time you walk by the camera when you're home? Not me.
Amazon recently updated the app to add iPad support, the option to disable the infrared LEDs for night vision, change camera orientation, and refined audio controls -- each of which are welcomed additions.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Cloud Cam is the ability to bark a command at a nearby Echo and a few seconds later and I have a live stream of the camera on my TV. Granted, you'll need a Fire TV and an Alexa remote or an Echo device to make it all work.
Cloud Cam isn't the only camera product that works with Alexa in this way. I can also summon my Ring cameras with a simple voice command.
Granted, picking up your smartphone and viewing the live stream is still possible, but there's something about having a constant live stream on the TV or using your voice to accomplish the task when you're busy that makes the Cloud Cam's Alexa integration appealing.
Let's talk about plans
Each Cloud Cam comes with a 30 day trial of Amazon's Cloud Cam. There are a total of four subscription plans, ranging from free to $199 a year for the Pro plan that supports up to 10 cameras and offers 30 days of storage.
Unless you've equipped every room in your home with a Cloud Cam, or really want to have access to 30 days worth of footage, the $69 per year Basic and $99 per year Extended plans are likely the best fit.
The Basic plan includes seven days of storage, up to three cameras, and also enables Person detection, the ability to mark zones the camera shouldn't monitor for motion, along with the sharing of clips. Extended doubles cloud storage and ups the number of cameras included to five.
The free plan includes 24 hours of storage, three cameras, and general motion alerts.
These plans are generally in line with the likes of Nest, but with the advantage of including multiple cameras. Nest Aware, for example, is $100 per year for a single camera, with additional cameras adding another $50 per year.
Competitive and capable
For someone who is not already entrenched in the Nest ecosystem of thermostats, smoke detectors, and cameras, the Cloud Cam is a worthy alternative. Not only are the cameras less expensive, but the subscriptions are far more affordable.
The Cloud Cam captures crisp 1080p video, allows for two-way communication regardless of where you are, Alexa integration, and enhanced motion detection makes it, at least for me, an easy choice.