Wyze cameras can detect people once again, but (probably) not for free

Wyze Cam Outdoor Fifteen
Wyze Cam Outdoor Fifteen (Image credit: Wyze)

What you need to know

  • Wyze is rolling out the people detection feature to its cameras once again in a new beta program.
  • The feature will be available to all Wyze camera users to opt into starting this September.
  • An optional "voluntary" subscription fee is attached to this feature.
  • Wyze cites the cost of cloud computing and other external factors as the reason for the change.

Promises in the world of tech can, sometimes, be a harrowing experience. Whether it's buying a new smartphone, a connected camera, or even a piece of software, there's just no telling when an expected experience can change. Sometimes, these changes are for the worse, while others might be a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, for Wyze Camera users who bought into the ecosystem last year with the promise of free on-device AI-based people detection, that promise may soon be broken. Probably, that is.

Why probably, you ask? Well, Wyze isn't actually forcing users to pay for the subscription just yet, as Wyze users can opt-in for a $0 cost thanks to a name-your-own-price style subscription. This new Cam Plus subscription will include the people detection feature that some users have been beta testing for the past several months. Wyze says it will be rolling out this new premium feature sometime in September when it launches app version 2.13 and will be running this as an experimental beta program for a while. Wyze says it's trying to do right by its customers and live up to the promises it made last year. The company sent out an email to 1.3 million customers who were previously promised a free on-device AI service.

But Wyze isn't the only company that this has happened to lately. Just as we saw with Wink, it looks like Wyze wasn't able to properly estimate the full cost of doing business in the cloud. Some of this isn't Wyze's fault, as the on-device AI that Wyze was originally using, Xnor.ai, was purchased by Apple earlier this year. That alone sent plans in the dumps, and the company now cites a host of other reasons for costs spiraling out of control this year:

Things are certainly very different than they were last year. With ongoing tariff costs, a horde of challenges stemming from the coronavirus, and an uncertain economy, we've been forced to change many of our plans. But this promise to our users has been weighing on us the most.

Wyze details the saga in a blog post, which can mainly be summed up like this: Cloud computing costs are substantial and recurring, and the cost isn't going down. Since Wyze had to develop its own people detection solution, the cost of development plus the cloud costs means that Wyze is going to have to start charging for this feature or else risk not offering it at all in the future. We've seen this sort of thing happen before, and it's not pretty. Wyze says it will evaluate the buoyancy of the program over a period of several months and make further announcements about the service from there.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu