The most inconvenient aspect of ordering something on the internet is having to answer the door to the postman.
It’s fine if you’re in the kitchen when the doorbell rings but not if you’re in the shower, at the end of garden or at work. If the package won’t go through the letterbox, you might find yourself having to drive to the sorting office to pick it up – a journey that rather defeats the object of not having just gone to a shop in the first place.
Video doorbells provide a partial solution to this. They can’t make you appear to be at home when you’re not, but you can conduct a conversation with the postman almost as easily.
A smart doorbell is one of the simplest home security devices you can install. It takes the place of a traditional bell on your front door and transmits a signal to your smartphone when someone presses the button. The built-in camera and microphone allows you to see and speak to your visitor from wherever you are.
You can then ask for the package to be left in the shed. If you happen to be at home, you can simply check who’s there before opening the door.
Basic models start at around £90 at Argos and John Lewis – slightly less online – and require little or no wiring. They come with infra-red sensors to see in the dark, and you can set them to alert you whenever motion is detected, even if the bell is not pressed.
But as with many other smart devices, there are sometimes hidden charges – typically two or three pounds a month to access videos triggered by the camera having detected activity. This is optional, though, and if you use it purely as a doorbell you may not need to bother.
Probably the best doorbell-cam on the market is also one of the cheapest – the Ring Smart Video Doorbell in either bronze or nickel finishes, to match your door furniture. At three or four times the size of a conventional bell, it’s more likely to stick out like a sore thumb than to blend with anything, but as a security deterrent that’s not necessarily a disadvantage.
Other than screwing it to the door, there is no need to physically connect the Ring bell, since it is powered by a rechargeable battery that should keep going for between two and 12 months between charges, depending how often you use it. There is no internal chime, though; you get alerted only through the app, which you can install on as many phones as you like. If you do want a fixed chime in the house, it’s a £25 accessory.
Ring charges £2.50 a month to access videos it has recorded and sent to the cloud. If you want to avoid this, the £100 Byron Video Doorbell will store recordings for free on Google Drive, Dropbox or on the included micro SD card. It does need mains power, though, so you’ll need to drill through the door frame if you don’t have existing wiring.
The video quality is variable, and will depend on whether it’s day or night and on how much light there is in your porch. But as you are unlikely to be watching the postman on your big-screen TV, it hardly matters. The high-ish 720p definition of the £90 Ring bell is ample, and the upgrade to 1080p offered by its successor, the Video Doorbell 2, isn’t worth the extra £50.
None of these bells will replace your existing security, but for added piece of mind, as well as the convenience of always being able to answer the door, they strike exactly the right note.