Gaia x GTFO = Discounted GPS!

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Arlo Cameras, a constant, frustrating disappointment

Part of upgrading and customizing our house was installing a security camera at the front door.  After much researching, I chose Arlo due to the generally good reviews of their cameras, NetGear's stronger data-privacy policies, and the fact that they made a nice baby monitor camera too.  The ability to use custom activity zones for recording activity sounded great as well.  Wireless was important because I had no desire to run a wired system through the house.

We started off with the Arlo Ultra camera powered by the Arlo solar panel.  The Ultra is their top-of-the-line wireless camera with 4k recording.  The solar panel just made sense due to being in Phoenix and having an over-abundance of sunshine.


Installation was pretty easy--just three screws into the wall outside and the camera base was on, same for the solar panel.  Set up was also fairly easy, just following the prompts.  But quickly there were problems communicating between the camera and base station and/or app, leading me to redo the process, which introduced more problems.  Finally after a few days of tinkering, things worked pretty well.

Jumping to the summer a new set of problems arose.  Now that the plants had foliage, they were triggering motion alerts and video.  This led to HUNDREDS of videos a day of plants waving in the breeze.  I thought that if I just reconfigured the activity zones it would take care of things, but it turns out that the activity zones are meaningless unless the camera is plugged directly into a power source--which doesn't include a solar panel.  If you have a subscription, activity zones are supposed to work--but only in the sense that the camera would record a video no matter where activity was detected, but only notify you of the video if it was within an activity zone.  Sometimes the smart notifications would stop working correctly and we'd be overwhelmed with constant motion notifications.

The other possible fix was to turn down motion sensitivity, but to avoid videos of plants the sensitivity had to be reduced so much that a person could be at the front door before a video triggered.

Arlo had no solution for this problem.  In response to my forum post, someone from Arlo promised an update was being pushed out to fix the problem--this seems to be their common answer to unresolvable problems, promise a fix and hope the customer forgets while waiting for the fix that either never comes or doesn't work.

In the end, the only thing I could do was cut down my plants that were triggering motion alerts.  I was not at all happy with that, but the Ultra Camera was well past its return period so I had no other real choice.

Other than the infinite videos of plants, the Arlo Ultra worked well enough that I decided to add the Arlo Baby to our system.  As I mentioned, the availability of a baby camera in the Arlo environment was one of the original draws to the brand.

Recently we've had an opportunity to put Arlo Baby into action and the results have left much to be desired.  As with the Ultra, there were initially multiple rounds of not being able to set it up correctly.  Finally that got fixed and the camera was added to my account long before it was going to actually be used.

When we started using the camera regularly we found that it would periodically just fail to record video or detect motion.  When checking it on the app, there would be many times where it took 10-15 seconds just to connect to the camera.  Not what you are paying for when buying a live-streaming baby monitor.  I still don't know what caused those initial failures to record, and some fun moments were missed due to the mistaken assumption that the baby camera would detect and record the interactions.  Even worse, today I noticed that the camera simply stopped recording at all.  Not even manual videos would record.  It also wasn't detecting motion.  So I checked all the settings for what must be the 15th time in 4 days and couldn't find any explanation.  I turned the camera off and on again, still nothing.  For some reason the app blocked the option to restart the camera.  It occurred to me to check whether the system was armed or not--since I hadn't changed anything I assumed it would be, but somehow the Baby camera had been disarmed.

Another appealing aspect of the camera was integration with Google Home.  So that we wouldn't have to constantly check our phones to see what's going on, I bought a Google Nest Hub to live-stream the camera feed.  Only, live stream meant a 20-30 second delay.  Enough that you can be in the camera's view in the other room, leave, walk to the Google Hub, and then watch the whole interaction in tape delay.  Again, not what you want in a live-streaming Baby Camera.  Thinking perhaps that it was a setup or equipment issue, I took to the Arlo forums and found that this has actually been an issue since 2018.  The resolution then was, you guessed it, an update being pushed out to solve the problem.

And that's if the video will even stream in the first place.  About 50% of the time I try to watch the camera on the Home Hub (or Home app) the stream loads.  And then about 50% of the time it does load, it randomly crashes out after a short period.

Again, Customer Service was no help.  It seemed like they just read over the same forum posts and after lengthy absences to consult with others would come back with suggestions like restart the camera or remove and re-add to Google Home...all of which were solutions, among others, that I tried before and while waiting on hold for over an hour just to speak with them in the first place.

Even after getting fed up with the Nest Hub and trying to just use the app to see what's going on, that doesn't always work because of the frequency of connection problems and lags.  It's been a very frustrating first few days of live use for the Arlo Baby, which has failed its mission to be a resource for parents and instead has been a hinderance.

Even worse, today there were two occassions where the Arlo Baby inexplicably turned monitoring off completely.  Not just notifications were turned off, but the entire monitoring system of notifications, recording, environmental sensors, etc., were turned off.  I have no idea why...I haven't messed with that setting and there aren't any commands available with Google Assistant to disarm the device.  This is frustrating, potentially dangerous, and the antithesis of what you want in a baby monitor.

Arlo doesn't appear to have any meaningful way to contact the company directly, other than their outsourced tech support (which is fine, except they clearly don't know the products) and the live chat which is the same thing as calling only with the glacial pace of AOL instant messaging overlaid.

I will say, in a chat session I was able to get a new suggestion, which was to change the Arlo Baby to the 2.4ghz wi-fi frequency instead of 5ghz because running the camera and device you're viewing it with on the same frequency can apparently cause issues.  So I changed the network, which obviously didn't take the first time, but continue to have the same issues.

At this point I have serious doubts about keeping the Arlo Baby.  Luckily that was purchased at Costco so returns won't be a problem.  I don't relish the idea of having multiple security/baby camera providers--I'd rather everything be all in one place, but because the Ultra was purchased through Amazon it's well past its return period so it looks like we're stuck with at least one Arlo product.

Overall, Arlo products sounded extremely promising, but the reality has been nothing but half filled promises (like they have activity zones, but only with a subscription and power source) and devices that would have been cutting edge in 2006 but have not kept up any pace with the ubiquity of connected devices and smart homes to deliver the seamless, reliable experience that is expected nowdays.

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Gaia x GTFO = Discounted GPS!

gaiagps

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