Let's not mince words here: If you're in the market for some basic -- and extremely easy to use -- webcam monitoring, you need to check out Dropcam. It's been available for some time now for the iPhone (and on a desktop web browser), and now it's come for Android.
The Dropcam folks sent us one of their Dropcam Echo cameras to test out. How did it fare? We'll discuss after the break.
Youtube link for mobile viewing
The whole Dropcam experience is ridiculously easy. You purchase a webcam from Dropcam -- or two, or three. Spend about five minutes setting it up (yes, it's that fast), plug it in, and keep track of your family. Your business. Anything that's near a power outlet, so that you can plug in the camera.
We were sent the Dropcam Echo Wifi Security Camera. It runs $279, which certainly isn't cheap. And the camera's specs aren't the greatest in the world. It shoots at a 320x240 resolution, which is far less than most current smartphones. Of course, that also means it's having to transmit far less data, so it's a trade-off.
The camera is relatively small, about 3.7-inches high. But it's also pretty conspicuous. There's an LED ring around the lens that glows green when the camera has an Internet connection, red when it doesn't, and flashes between the colors when it's searching. Pretty simple stuff.
So let's talk setup. We said it takes about five minutes, and we weren't kidding. Take the camera out the box. Give it some power, and plug it into your router (it comes with a 14-foot ethernet cable), and you've now done the worst part of the setup. After that, it's just a matter of inputting the camera's unique ID on the Dropcam website, and you're up and running.
It really is that simple. I would have no problem handing the box to my less-nerdy wife or parents and tell them to go to town.
The camera also will work on Wifi -- just give it your access point's password, and it will connect. It really is that simple.
Fun thing about the camera -- you can mount it just about anywhere to suit your needs (and needs to use it as an inconspicuous spy cam), and the Echo comes with mounting hardware, too.
You have three options for service plans with dropcam. The easiest is the "Basic" plan, which is free. With it you get live viewing of your camera. That's it.
The "Plus" plan runs $8.95 a month. With it you get the live viewing as well as seven days of recording on Dropcam's secure servers. You'll also get e-mail or text alerts of the camera detects motion. (Motion events also are stored separately so you don't have to review hours of footage to find them.)
For $24.95 a month with the "Pro" plan, you get all of the above with 30 days of recording.
Let's face it, there likely are cheaper webcam solutions out there that you could rig up yourself. But with Dropcam, you get simplicity. Setup takes just a few minutes. And if you need the online recording and motion-detection feature, $9 a month isn't too high a price, and businesses likely can afford the $25 plan.