The Nest Hello is officially up for grabs, and as someone who never managed to get their hands on any of the Ring Doorbells, I totally want one. I already have a Nest Cam IQ sitting on a bookshelf in my living room, and I love the way Nest products can interact with Google Assistant.
But the biggest reason I want a smart doorbell — regardless of brand — is because, as the title of this article says, they're significantly less invasive to the user than a camera watching their every move.
My Nest Cam IQ is positioned with a perfect viewpoint of both my living room and my front door, meaning that if anyone tries to break in, I'll be able to see their face as soon as they open the door and follow along with what they're doing. Of course, I can also use my camera as an intercom through the app, and warn them that they're being watched so they (hopefully) leave without taking anything.
I can even set dead zones in the camera's field of view so that if it detects motion from, say, my TV or the tree behind my kitchen casting shadows into the living room, it won't send me false notifications. That's all great (at least in theory; I still get false notifications all the time), but it's also a little creepy to have a camera always watching, even if it's one you set up and control.
Sure, you can set your camera to automatically turn on when you leave and back off when you come home, but that doesn't always work perfectly in my experience, especially if you have more than one resident with this feature set up on their phone. I'm not particularly worried about anyone hacking into my Nest Cam, and even if they did, they'd mostly just see hours of footage of my fiancée and I working on our laptops or playing Spelunky on the Xbox, but it's just nice to have a certain level of privacy in your home.
That's where smart doorbells come in. At the root level, they serve the same purpose as smart cameras in the home: notifying the owner of unwanted intrusions and capturing footage. But the biggest difference is that these doorbells obviously sit outside of your front door — leaving you to yourself inside.
I love the idea of smart doorbells. Just like with smart cameras, you'll be notified of any unusual activity, and with the Nest Hello you can even set up a Google Home to alert you when someone's at the door. This can be great when you're out at work and expecting a package — as soon as the delivery driver comes to your door, you can use your doorbell to tell them to leave the package on your porch.
A smart doorbell could also potentially help you cover more entryways, depending on the layout of your living space. The window to my spare bedroom/office is directly to the left of the front door, and at the moment there's nothing keeping watch on that room (don't get any ideas now). With a Nest Hello or Ring Doorbell, I could keep watch on both entryways, and even get a decent view of the parking lot ahead.
Of course, smart doorbells aren't perfect. If you live in an apartment like I do, your landlord might not let you install one — not a problem with smart cameras, which don't require any installation and simply run off of a power outlet. There's also the matter of not being able to see intruders once they're inside. Once again, that comes back to having a smart camera in the house and deciding if a daily perceived lack of privacy is worth potentially catching a home invader.
I think in the end, the best solution is to have both a smart doorbell and a smart camera to cover the most ground and balance out each device's setbacks. But if I had to choose just one, I think I'd go for the smart doorbell. Break-ins are always a possibility, but I feel safe in my neighborhood, and the practical applications of a doorbell for catching delivery drivers or telling friends to let themselves in seem far more useful to me than a surveillance camera watching my every move.
Do you have any smart home tech? And what would/did you choose between a smart doorbell and a camera? Let us know in the comments below!
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.