ring’s-product-line-is-expanding.-here’s-what-you-need-to-know

Ring’s product line is expanding. Here’s what you need to know

Science

(CNN) —  

After an appearance on “Shark Tank” in 2013, Jamie Siminoff went from shipping video doorbells from a garage to brokering a deal with Amazon. Now, Siminoff’s company, Ring, is one of the most well-known names in smart home gadgets.

With the backing of a known brand, the company expanded its portfolio. Ring’s product family in 2021 is large: seven doorbells, a bevy of smart lights, cameras, an alarm system and a forthcoming drone that will fly around your house. On February 2, Ring also announced a partnership with Lennar Communities to build neighborhoods in which all homes will be outfitted with at least a doorbell and devices that work with the ecosystem.

As the company’s product lineup continues to grow, we spoke with Siminoff, along with Nate Hardison, chief product officer and co-founder at Eero, about how Ring products fit into the increasing smartening of homes — and break down which of its myriad devices best meet your needs.

Let’s start with the device that put Ring on the map: the video doorbell. As Siminoff puts it, “Ring comes from the position of making neighborhoods safer, making your home sort of a better place to live in and really connecting you, whether you’re home or away. We started with a very single-purpose model and we’ve kind of expanded from there.” The doorbell started as a way to see what’s going on at main entry and exit points for your home or apartment. And when you’re contemplating starting a smart home, it seems like the most reasonable first step.

And in this year alone with the pandemic, it has become a way to ensure no-contact or contactless deliveries, something we’ve all been keeping an eye on. While the original doorbell is a bit dated, it’s still found in the product line as $99.99 second-generation Video Doorbell. It’s also joined by an option at nearly every price point. Here’s how the company’s seven doorbells compare.

Ring Video Doorbell Wired ($59.99; amazon.com)

The latest addition to the Ring family is the Video Doorbell Wired. It’s dramatically smaller than the Video Doorbell. As the name suggests, there’s no battery pack option for power; it needs to be hardwired into your home’s power. Besides that, though, it’s basically on par with the Video Doorbell and Doorbell 3 Plus.

It has a 1080p HD lens for a clear view of our front yard and features motion zones. With the latter, you can mark out (via a live view of what the camera is seeing) what areas you’d like to receive alerts for. This way, if the street is in view, you can block out that portion to avoid an alert every time a car passes by.

By opting for a Ring Protect plan (starting at $3 per month), you can get rich notifications and Pre-Roll. With the former, notifications to your Android or iOS device will have footage from the camera built in; this way, you don’t need to open the app. Pre-Roll is available on the 3 Plus and the Pro, which are both higher-end options. But essentially, the Video Doorbell Wired will record three to five seconds before motion is picked up to give you the full story in an alert. It’s pretty handy, and having all these features available through a subscription makes the Video Doorbell Wired competitive — not just against other doorbells but also other Ring models.

Ring Video Doorbell ($99.99; amazon.com)

While the Video Doorbell Wired is the new entry point for the Ring lineup, it’s only a solution if you have the ability to hardwire it in. That can be costly if you don’t already have a non-smart but still powered doorbell in place. At $99.99, the Video Doorbell is the cheapest solution with a battery pack. It’s a great fit for homes without the proper wiring or if you want to add one to a backdoor or maybe even outside of a garage.

This update to the original Video Doorbell keeps the now iconic rectangular design, which leaves the physical ringer button on the bottom and camera along with sensors on the top. It delivers a full 1080p HD resolution, which is a boost from the original’s 720p HD. It’s now just the normal resolution that Ring offers. This model doesn’t support Pre-Roll, but it does deliver the same motion zone controls, which is a big plus. You’ll get those rich notifications filled with videos or photo frames without the need for a plan. Lastly, it only features 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, which, depending on your network setup, can lead to slower access to a live view.

Ring Peephole Cam ($129.99; amazon.com)

It might be an awkward name, but the Peephole Cam is the most innovative out of any of the Ring Doorbells. This video doorbell replaces the physical peephole in your door, and that makes it perfect for apartments. The front portion houses the ringer and the physical camera lens, and a replacement eyehole for you to see. This slides through the door and connects with the backside. As you might expect, it runs via a battery pack and meets the quality standard that Ring has set.

It has a 1080p HD lens, supports rich motion alerts and allows you to customize the motion zones. This is crucial in an apartment so you don’t end up with a notification every time a person passes by. What’s really cool, though, is that along with a physical ring button, it can detect knocks through the microphones and sensors. You can turn this on or off, but it may come in handy for certain users. It’s our favorite doorbell in the Ring family.

Ring Video Doorbell 3 and 3 Plus (starting at $199.99; amazon.com)

We were pretty impressed by the Video Doorbell 3 and 3 Plus when we reviewed it last year. And while it didn’t radically change the offering from the previous year, it introduced more stability and reliability across the line. You still get a choice of how to power the unit — via a battery pack or hardwired connection — and it looks like the Video Doorbell 2. It’s slightly thicker over the $99 Video Doorbell. The top portion houses a 1080p HD lens with HDR support for dealing with harsh sun rays, and night vision for a clear view at night. Both the 3 and 3 Plus keep the same customizable motion zone controls you’ve come to expect as well.

The 3 Plus boosts the experience with Pre-Roll, though. Essentially, there’s a second lens and sensor that record in black and white before a true motion alert or event is recorded. Given the nature of Pre-Roll, it’s running 24/7 using the local memory of the device, and it never leaves the device unless you decide to save the recorded event. In our testing, we found that it lets you see the full story on what triggered that motion alert. For example, rather than just seeing the food you ordered appear on your doorstep, Pre-Roll will catch the driver placing it down. It’s not a truly revolutionary feature, but luckily it didn’t impact battery life heavily when using the battery pack.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro ($249.99; amazon.com)

Near the top of the Ring hierarchy is the Video Doorbell Pro, which is a hardwired-only equivalent of the Video Doorbell 3 Plus. Between the flatter design and four face plates included in the box, you can dress it up. In terms of imaging quality it’s basically the same as the Video Doorbell 3 Plus with a 1080p HD lens that adds in infrared night vision. This delivers a clearer and more detailed view at night over standard night vision in the other doorbells. Expectedly, it keeps the customizable motion zones and rich notifications as well.

Ring Video Doorbell Elite ($349.99; amazon.com)

The Video Doorbell Elite is Ring’s most expensive offering and the hardest to install. Unlike the other doorbells, which mount on top of the exterior wall of your home, the Elite is a flush mount, meaning it will be flush with the wall it’s installed on. It also has the most strict power requirements: PoE, or power over Ethernet, in that the Ethernet cord can provide it connectivity and with power to run the operation. Weirdly enough, it’s a step below the Video Doorbell Pro in regards to imaging, with no infrared night vision. It features the standard 1080p HD lens like on the Doorbell 3 with all the matching features.

With a wide-ranging lineup of doorbells, Ring wants there to be an entry point for everyone and anyone, but the one commonality is the Ring app. It’s available for Android and iOS. In it, you’ll set up your device, monitor it and even customize the motion zones. We’re big fans of how Ring lets you physically draw the area you want to detect for motion so that you’re not constantly getting buzzed with notifications in your pocket. That’s also standard across all the doorbells.

While Ring’s product line started off with a view from outside your home, the company now offers cameras for both outside and inside. The current family of products aims to offer an option for everyone, with several indoor cameras and outdoor ones that combine a lens with a strong light.

And you might have heard about Ring’s forthcoming “Always Home Cam,” aka a drone. The idea behind it is that with a camera on board it can fly around your home while you’re gone, protecting it. We of course had to ask Siminoff about it, and he happily provided us with some information.

“I do have one at the house [and] to be able to work on a drone is like the coolest thing ever, so trust me I giggle when I play with or even see it,” says Siminoff. “If you want to see something at your house, you press a button on the app and you’re now seeing it.” It’s really about the affordances the Always Home Camera delivers. For instance, if you get a noise alert in your kitchen, you can fly there and get a live view of it. Or, if you hear your dog barking, you can fly to that area. Yes, the drone and propellers help it get there, but the view it provides is what makes the product worth it.

Interestingly enough, Siminoff notes that it will come in at an accessible price point for what it is and positions it as “many cameras in one.” Approaching it this way, the Always Home Cam is set to deliver value and could help to clean up the lineup. We’re still very eager to go hands-on with it later this year.

Ring Indoor Cam ($59.99; amazon.com)

This camera’s pint-size design — 3 inches, to be exact — lets it fit into almost any space in your home while not sacrificing on the video quality. And let’s be honest: At just $59.99, it’s really affordable for what it delivers. And that’s a can-do-anything indoor-only camera. Like all of the Ring Doorbells and the rest of the cameras, this has a 1080p HD lens. It’s paired with a large speaker and microphones for two-way talk functionality.

In our testing, it delivered a less grainy view over the Blink Mini, and we really enjoyed the customizable motion zones. It’s the same drag-and-drop setup as on the doorbells as well. One qualm: If your space is short on outlets, this needs power via a standard plug. There’s no battery inside the Indoor Cam.

Ring Stick-Up Cam (starting at $99.99; amazon.com)

For a bit more at $99.99, the Stick-Up Cam is a bit larger and can handle the elements. Yes, it’s an indoor or outdoor camera with a 1080p HD lens with night vision support. This way, at night, you’ll be able to make out people and animals alike. There are also three ways to power the Stick-Up Cam: a power cord, battery pack and solar panel, the last of which can be really handy for setting up outdoors year round.

Ring Spotlight Cam (starting at $199.99; amazon.com)

If you want a camera that’s destined for the side of your home, the Spotlight Cam is just that. It has a built-in mount, and Ring suggests putting it above a door or alongside a building. And it’s fairly heavy-duty, as it’s outdoor rated and meant to withstand the elements. Like the previous cameras, it contains a 1080p HD lens, it supports motion zones and it even has some LEDs for small illumination.

Ring Floodlight Cam (starting at $249.99; amazon.com)

If you want an all-in-one security solution, the Floodlight Cam pairs the Spotlight Cam above with two large floodlights to the left and right. And these get seriously bright, adding in the ability to light up the scene when motion is detected. It’s very handy for security.

Cameras indoors aren’t for everyone, though, for personal and privacy reasons. (We’ll touch on the latter below.) However, with all of these cameras, there’s an indicator light to know when it’s recording or when the stream being watched.

Recently, Ring has been working to expand the number of devices that can work within its ecosystem. That’s where the Works With Ring program comes into play — gadgets like door locks, thermostats and water sensors can all get their start in the Ring app.

“We’re not trying to say we’re the largest connectivity provider of devices in the world that you can put into one app,” says Siminoff. “In some way, it enables the home to be better for you. Being able to lock or unlock a door lock when you arm your system.”

In other words: Ring isn’t throwing the kitchen sink at you, but the company is offering a nuanced approach to broaden its services.

Ring currently supports a relatively small list of smart home gadgets: Flo by Moen water sensors, Level door locks and Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, among others. And the big reason to do this is that you don’t need multiple apps to monitor all of these. You can find them all within the Ring app and can integrate them with your system. For instance, if your Spotlight Cam sees you pulling down the driveway and you’re within the radius of your home, it can open the garage door. It’s all really quite handy. Here’s how they fit into the Ring ecosystem:

Flo by Moen ($49.99; amazon.com)

Any home or apartment can likely make good use of a water sensor, and Moen’s latest take on this adds smart connectivity. If you have a sensor near a water heater, below a sink or even near your washer, you can get an alert wherever that liquid has been detected.

Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener ($29.98, originally $39.98; amazon.com)

The MyQ garage door opener is really a neat gadget that combines an array of sensors, such as infrared, to add smart connectivity to your existing garage door. And yes, that means being able to open or close it from your smartphone. Ring’s approach here is that it can provide insight for you; depending on the mode of your system, it can alert you if the door was left open or even know to close it when you’re away.

The other angle is how all these devices get online. If you have a Ring Alarm, you’ll get Z-Wave connectivity, but without it you need to look for a stand-alone hub or a product that features it. The Eero 6, our pick for best mesh router, features the necessary smarts inside. And as Siminoff and Hardison put it, opting for an Eero router to pair with your Ring gets you a baseline for a connected home. And it works to a high degree, as you won’t need to fiddle around with settings. When you add a device, either from Ring or under the Works With Ring title, it all just happens in the Ring app. And you won’t even know what connectivity standard that device is using. It could be Z-Wave, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

If you just have a Ring doorbell or maybe a few cameras, the Eero can supplement your growing smart home. Those moving into a Lennar Communities area will find an Eero 6 or 6 Pro in their homes along with Ring and other smart home devices. Homeowners or renters will be able to pick and choose the smart home products they want, but they won’t be hit with a wild amount of tech lingo. It’s more so about the items you want to make living at home easier.

“If a customer knows what radio we’re on, we failed 100%,” says Siminoff. “You should walk into your house and your house should do more for you.” Ring is both hyperfocused on the customer experience, which we found to be a pretty seamless one in our testing of the Works With Ring and Ring devices. We also appreciate that you won’t need to download another app or get spread across multiple ecosystems to make your home work.

Smart Lighting is a fairly new product family under Ring and it’s comprised of connected lights for a variety of spaces. It originally launched a smart system of connected lights for the outside. The lineup includes path lights that can get staked into the ground, stand-alone floodlights that can be attached to the house and small lights that are great for steps. We did a full guide to the system after many months here, but our favorite aspect was how it can integrate with a broader system, something Siminoff hit on during our chat.

For instance, if your front path light picks up motion, it can tell your Video Doorbell 2 to start recording. It can sit as a stand-alone product for many, but if you’re already in the Ring ecosystem, it allows it all to connect together to extend the “Rings of Security,” as Siminoff phrases it.

The cameras give you a view of your home or looking out from your home. Smart lighting acts as security but can also help with safety, such as illuminating stairs in the darkness of a winter evening. “You fall when you can’t see where you’re going, so light is actually safety,” says Siminoff.

On the inside, you can further expand the Ring ecosystem if you opt for a Ring Alarm, now in its second generation with improved sensors and still offering 24/7 monitoring. But it feeds into different modes: home or away. And setting your home in a certain mode can trigger other actions. You could consider it the brain of the operation to a degree and a common piece of hardware that can tie it all together.

Ring has also stepped up its privacy game over the past year. Two-factor authentication is now required for logging in, and this is an important step for making sure someone else can’t access your device. We’d also recommend not reusing the same password and housing it in a manager. There’s also the Control Center tab in the app, which is dedicated to privacy. From this one tab, you can see authorized devices and linked accounts, and see how your video is stored and learn about encryption.

The company recently announced end-to-end encryption for video on its products.

“We don’t want to overpromise,” Siminoff says. “There might be some products that don’t have the horsepower for it. Our goal is to have it on every product, but our first tenet was that [we] had it on a core product in every line. So if you wanted to build a Ring system with full end-to-end, you can build a full system with end-to-end today.”

It’s another level of security for the user and ensures that the video stream can’t be touched from the camera to where it is stored. And to access it, you’ll still need the proper credentials to do so. We’ll be holding Ring to adding this encryption to as many products as possible.

The other concern around privacy is with the Neighbors portion of Ring. If you opt in and allow your videos to be shared, they’re viewable via the app and police have access to them. Siminoff still sees it as a core part of Ring and really a pillar under the community portion. With it enabled, you can see other shared videos and reports of crimes, among other key data points. It’s still an area of interest for many users, and in the Lennar Communities, it could prove beneficial. If you’re looking to turn it off, it can be done via the Control Center tab in the app.

Ring has a big year ahead, with several announced products coming to fruition and set to be shipped. If you push the privacy concerns aside or pay close attention during setup, it’s easy to see why the brand has become so popular. Ring delivers affordable smart home devices that are purpose-built, and the company is adding more security features — to protect your data — pretty frequently.

How should you start your smart home? Well, there’s the new Video Doorbell Wired for $59.99 if you have an existing doorbell, or you can opt for a Video Doorbell 3 at $199.99. From there, maybe tack on a few A19 Bulbs or a floodlight, then look to upgrade a third-party device that integrates.