Smart Doorbell for Mom – the Ring Pro
If you have been following our blog from the beginning you probably already know we have a SkyBell smart doorbell. We bought the first version and eagerly awaited its arrival from Amazon. Roughly a year later, SkyBell came out with their 2.0 version and were kind enough to offer early users like us a reduced price upgrade. The 2.0 version has certainly been more stable and has a much nicer camera than our original version, but lately we have noticed it’s been slower and sometimes doesn’t work at all, and the picture is still mediocre at best. The current version, the HD version, looks nice and now has a lot of other integrations with Nest and others, but since it seems kind of crazy to upgrade our doorbell every year, we have held back.
In the meantime, our mother (in-law) expressed interest in getting a connected doorbell of her own. She sometimes doesn’t hear people ringing and there had been a rash of break-ins in the area that had her concerned. Even if she didn’t really use a connected doorbell, she thought she would feel safer with one there, since the camera should deter potential criminals. It was around the same time as the Ring Pro release, and since it was a newer release than the SkyBell HD, and we were able to actually purchase it in person, from Best Buy, we decided to give the Ring Pro a try.
Having procured the bell (and our mom’s first ever iPad so she could use it), we installed it while at her house one weekend. At first everything seemed fine, we installed it, replacing the original 30+year old doorbell button, and connected it to the iPad. However, the next morning, it was dead.
After some reading and calls to technical support, we figured out that the original transformer was not strong enough to power the Ring (it was only 10 volts and it needed to be 16 or more). Ring support was able to remotely measure the voltage and tell us that we needed to get a new one. We recommended that they should offer this data to customers as part of the install procedure so we could have figured this out on our own. After a quick trip to home depot to buy the new transformer and also a new doorbell chime for inside (it wasn’t required but it looked a lot nicer), the Ring was back online and working great. We went home and mom was happy.
Fast forward a few weeks and mom was having her house painted. The Ring Pro captured the video of the painter painstakingly covering up the bell to protect it from the paint.
Then the bell died again and we couldn’t figure out how to get it back. She lived without any bell until we were able to return to check it out. It turns out the doorbell was again losing power, but this time, it was because of a really old wire that was cracked and had stopped conducting. After stripping it, reconnecting it and again talking to tech support, we got it up and running once again.
When the Ring Pro is working, it is fantastic. It has motion detection that can be adjusted for sensitivity, the ringer itself is clear and loud, and the HD camera is stunning. When someone rings the bell the notification comes up on the phone or iPad without delay so you can actually have a conversation with the person at the door. It has optional cloud recording ($3 a month or $30 a year) so that you can see 30 days of video online from your doorbell – from rings and motion. The Ring Pro is a much more sleek and compact design than the original Ring – the bulkiness of the original was one of the reasons we went with our SkyBell instead. The only thing we don’t like about the design is the lack of recess for the wiring- there is not enough room to cram the wires in and the Ring Pro is not flush against the wall. We also have the Ring app installed on one of our phones, so if necessary we can check on mom’s doorbell from afar, and we can customize it so it doesn’t notify us when her bell rings. It’s a little pricey ($249) but so far all of us are really happy with the product itself.
Another great addition to the Ring Pro is the Ring Chime, a $49 add on that lets you add chimes to multiple locations in the house, especially handy if you have a really large house or trouble hearing. The Chime rings whenever the Ring does, so you will definitely hear the bell no matter where you are. Our challenge has been keeping the Chimes working at mom’s house – we aren’t sure why they stop working, and Ring Support hasn’t been able to figure it out either. We think it might be the cable-company provided wifi router. Looks like another troubleshooting trip!
We have learned a lot from this experience – the difficulties of installing smart home devices in an older house, the challenges of installing and “servicing” the device from far away, and how difficult it is for people not used to technology to troubleshoot these products on their own. This is the third smart home device our mom has (last Christmas we bought her a Nest, and recently we replaced her smoke detectors with Nest Protects). She is happy to use these devices when they offer clear value, but when they go wrong, it’s hard for her to even know where to start. More proof that while smart home devices are fine for nerds like us, they still have room to improve to really become mainstream.
We still haven’t decided if we will get our own Ring Pro. For now, our SkyBell is still doing the job, and even if it feels ancient, it is still less than two years old.