Your manual to the budget smart home startup

As we recently declared, expensive gadgets have reason to watch their backs, thanks to an uprising of more wallet-friendly smart home tech. Wyze Labs is one company leading this charge – and one of our “names to watch” in 2019.

Built by four ex-Amazon employees, Wyze has been making a name for itself as an inexpensive alternative for smart cameras, bulbs, plugs and more. Wyze’s products do lack some of the bells and whistles of rivals, but they’re cheap. Really cheap.

The interview: Wyze is coming for your smart home

Wyze’s ecosystem is pretty big these days, so we’ve broken it all down in this missing manual. We’ll get to the individual products in a moment, but first, a little on how the platform works.

How is it so cheap? What’s the catch?

Yes, it’s a good question. Wyze Labs says it’s entirely profitable, but it also admits to not spending money on marketing or endorsements, instead relying on word of mouth, high volume and wafer-thin margins.

For example, its Wyze Cam, which we awarded four stars to, sells for just $20. That’s almost laughably cheap, yet the company claims to have never sold it at a loss. And it’s not making a buck off your data either. Wyze says it doesn’t sell data to anyone, although you will have to sign up to an app to use its products.

Wyze missing manual: Your guide to the budget-friendly ecosystem

Wyze: How does it work?

Wyze has tried to make its app a central hub where you can control all of its products. You can group cameras, create automations (like having your cameras switch on when you leave the house), watch recorded “events” and check the status of your various sensors.

With the camera, you’ll get 14 days of free rolling cloud storage and up to 32GB of continuous microSD recording, but you’ll need to provide your own memory card. With so many smart security cameras charging users for cloud storage, Wyze earns yet more plaudits here.

Wyze integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant, but only with its camera. If you have a smart speaker with a display, you can have it show the feed from your Wyze cam, but our experience with this has been pretty poor. Laggy. No two-way audio. Generally quite meh.

If you use IFTTT, you can create some interesting Applets with your Wyze cameras and sensors. These include turning on motion detection when you leave the house, getting a text when motion is detected, or turning on the lights instead.

Wyze: The products

Wyze is growing in 2019 and has moved beyond cameras to plugs, bulbs and more. Below, we’ve highlighted the key products in the range.

Wyze missing manual: Your guide to the budget-friendly ecosystem

Wyze Cam

Buy now: Amazon | $19.99

We’ll start with our favorite of the bunch. The Wyze Cam is a dirt-cheap camera with big ambitions – and for the most part it achieves them, with a spec sheet worthy of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Nest: Full HD 1080p video, 110 degree viewing angle, 8x digital zoom, motion tracking, person alerts, night vision and two-way audio. Even more impressive, the Wyze Cam can detect smoke and CO alarms.

As we mentioned earlier, you get 14 days of free rolling cloud storage, and clips can be recorded for up to 12 seconds at a time. You can even create a time lapse video, but this requires a microSD card. There’s no HDR or automatic zoom, but there is video livestreaming to the app, and the ability to rotate the image 180 degrees.

Wyze missing manual: Your guide to the budget-friendly ecosystem

Wyze Sense

Buy now: Amazon | $19.99

When we reviewed the Wyze Cam we tested it alongside Wyze’s smart home sensors, but everything can be bought individually – although you will need the camera to act as a bridge for the sensors. The sensors come in a starter kit for $20 and can also be bought individually, with prices starting at $5.99 a piece.

The other type of sensor Wyze sells is a contact sensor, which can be placed on windows, doors or anywhere you please, really, and will let you know when it’s been opened, giving you a live status in the app. The motion sensor uses passive infrared to detect movement in a 120-degree field of view.

Wyze missing manual: Your guide to the budget-friendly ecosystem

Wyze Cam Pan

Buy now: Amazon | $29.99

The Cam Pan is still affordable, but for the extra $10 you get a smart camera with a mechanical pan and tilt. It’s got 1080p HD video recording, a 110-degree per-second rotation speed, a 360-degree horizontal view and 93-degree vertical view.

You also get the same features found in the Wyze Cam including night vision, two-way audio, motion and sound alerts and 14 days of free continuous cloud recording. Smoke and CO alarm detection is included too.

Wyze ultimate guide: Your manual to the budget smart home startup

Wyze Bulb

Buy now: Amazon | $7.99

Wyze’s 800 tunable white LED bulb costs a mere $7.99 and connected directly to your Wi-Fi (so long as it’s 2.4GHz) and doesn’t need a hub.

It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant, plus Wyze’s schedules. It also works with Wyze’s sensors, so when movement is detected or a door is opened, the bulb comes on. The temperature range is 2,700k-6,500k, and you can pick the bulb up in a four-pack for $29.99.

So, cheap and functional, but right now it only comes in white. Thankfully, Wyze tells us there are color options in the works.

Wyze ultimate guide: Your manual to the budget smart home startup

Wyze Plug

Buy now: | $14.99

The Wyze Plug is the company’s latest offering. It costs just $15 for a pack of two, making it $7.50 a piece, and the cheapest smart plug we’ve tested to date.

Designed small enough to not cover up your other outlets, the Wyze plug has the basic features you’d expect including timers, Alexa/Google Assistant integration and even a vacation mode. You can track power consumption by time, but not energy usage, and there’s no HomeKit here.

If you have other Wyze products, you can automate the Wyze Plug so that – for example – it turns on when the motion sensor detects movement, or when the Wyze Cam detects a person in the frame. We just wish these automations worked a bit more reliably.

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