It’s not just sensors and tiny robots. SwitchBot is rapidly expanding its offer with well-thought-out products. Previously teased in their sensor posters, SwitchBot Indoor Cam is now available for consumers. They were kind enough to hook me up with it, so I can talk about it more. If you are after an indoor camera, then this review of SwitchBot Indoor Cam is for you.
SwitchBot Indoor Cam
It looks like SwitchBot has adapted the design from their SwitchBot Motion Sensor, as both products share a similar look. Even the mounting system remains unaltered. It’s not a bad thing, as the stand is well thought through, attaches in 2 mount points (at the bottom and at the back) and it comes with a magnet so you can snap it to anything that responds to magnets.
What’s less impressive, is the switch back to a micro USB connector (what’s wrong with USB-C?) instead of the more modern, USB-C present on their Curtain Bots. Despite its small size, the camera packs a microphone for 2-way audio, a back-facing speaker and a sensor capable of 1080p at 20 FPS looking at you through an f2.0, 2.8mm lens. Unfortunately, the camera connects to the 2.4GHz band only. Thanks to IR you will be able to see things in the dark, and microSD storage up to 128GB will keep your footage safe -cloud-free.
It’s an indoor camera as the SwitchBot Indoor Cam name suggests, so you will be keeping it inside. It comes with wall fittings, 2m cable and 1A power supply to keep it operational. As the IP camera connects to WiFi, you won’t need a SwitchBot hub to monitor whatever the camera is pointing at/
SwitchBot nailed the pairing process with other devices, and adding SwitchBot Indoor Cam to my current ecosystem was a breeze. It takes a moment to set it up and everything worked well the first time around (which is not always the case with home automation gadgets).
To proceed with state-of-the-art surveillance you have two options – recording motion events or continuous stream. For the latter, you will need a microSD card as current Cloud plans don’t support continuous recording.
Motion detection can be used to trigger other events thanks to scenes. You can get direct notifications to your mobile phone and see the list of the motion events in the app with associated big thumbnails for easy identification. It works and SwitchBot Indoor Cam can differentiate between a motion event and human detection. Additionally, the detection area can be cropped, so if your camera is facing outdoors, it won’t activate each time there is a breeze moving the leaves!
When continuous recording is selected, you will gain the access to the scrollable timeline to see the footage at different times. It works quickly, but what’s missing are the movement detection events on the timeline. It would be nice to see them coloured so they are visible on the timeline itself.
Users will have to access the messages menu where all motion events are listed in a log and can be filtered by motion type and date. It works well thanks to big thumbnails, but having it present on the timeline would be optimal.
SwitchBot cameras have their own proprietary file format, which isn’t normally readable on a computer. A day of recording takes approximately 5GB so a 32GB card should last you about 4-5 days. The only way to extract the footage from the ecosystem is by using the app which provides you with the options to record selected footage and export it.
In case the microSD card storage isn’t enough, you can opt out of the encrypted cloud storage hosted by SwitchBot itself. There are 2 plans at the moment to pick from and I think these are reasonably priced as far as cloud storage for cameras is concerned.
- £5.60 a month (30-day event recording)
- £56 a year (30-day event recording)
There are no options for continuous recording, so without the support for RTSP, you are locked to SD cards for that. It’s clear that SwitchBot aims at the smart home market rather than trying to fill a void in the CCTV world.
Unfortunately, plans for adding RTSP had been suspended due to security concerns. This is the message given to me by the SwitchBot PR team, which roughly translates to “these cameras are very cheap, so we want to make the money out of the cloud to make up the loses”.
The video feed is nice, but the exported files are quite compressed. It’s a 1080p stream that looks good on a mobile phone in preview mode but suffers from artefacts when the video is exported via the app. In the preview mode, you are able to zoom in a little without losing too many details. The dynamic range of the sensor isn’t great, so try not to point the camera at the bright windows otherwise things can sink into darkness. It’s an indoor camera, and the sensor reflects that.
The audio could use some work. The built-in speaker is pretty decent, and the voice is loud and clear on the camera end. I’d say it’s surprisingly good for the speaker this side. Microphone however tells another story. The recorded audio is quiet, so if you want to have a 2-way call, the person speaking to the camera will have to speak loudly. I really hope they can address this with a patch and it’s not a hardware issue.
Thanks to IR, nighttime performance is as to be expected. SwitchBot Indoor Cam can illuminate an entire room and capture black and white video/images. The footage has good resolution and quality, as long as you don’t expect to see colours and you are fine with ghastly images of humans in infrared.
To take full advantage of the camera, you probably want to get a SwitchBot hub, but the camera works by default with speakers equipped with a screen. I have Amazon Show 8″ (review) and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the feed shows up on it. It takes about 5-8 seconds to connect to the camera. Once connected, the stream delay is about 1-2 sec at best, which is very fast compared to the Imou camera (review) I tried in the past.
You could totally use it as a door intercom via Alexa as the camera and SwitchBot skill support 2-way audio (assuming the microphone performance will improve)! If you do get the hub, you will be able to use motion events to activate other devices from the SwitchBot ecosystem.
I was surprised to see the privacy mode toggle as a trigger. I won’t say no to extra features and triggering the privacy mode could be followed by activating curtains etc. This works both ways, privacy mode could be triggered by shutting SwitchBot-enabled curtains or Alexa command. On top of these, you can also toggle recording modes, motion detection and detection area. Very handy!
Things to wish for
The only thing I find myself wishing for is the RTSP support and perhaps audio triggers. With excellent SwitchBot API, I had hoped to see this supported, but for now, that’s not the case. Time will tell if things gonna change in the future. That alongside the audio improvements would leave me a happy SwitchBot Indoor Cam owner. Overall it’s a decent compact IP camera that is not going to break your wallet.
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Priced just under $30 it’s a really attractive product. Until SwitchBot Indoor Cam appeared it was the Sonoff IP Camera that led the way in terms of budget offerings, now it looks like we have more options. Are you ready to give the SwitchBot ecosystem a go? Automating curtains is easy and relatively inexpensive thanks to them, so check that post out and see what else you might like from the company that makes tiny robots. Let me know what do you think about these cameras in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.