Why we don’t trust Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video — and you shouldn’t either

Smart home enthusiasts are often drawn to Apple’s HomeKit platform for its relative simplicity and strong security measures. Likewise, Apple HomeKit Secure Video (HSV) for security cameras looks absolutely great on paper. The simplified video cloud service is secured with end-to-end encryption, the gold standard for protecting your data on smart devices. (It also ensures that no one can access your content, not even Apple or law enforcement, without your permission.) HSV adds smart features, such as face and object recognition, including people, animals, vehicles and packages. It even lets you mix and match camera brands and integrate them with other smart devices. All of these features are included with your subscription to Apple’s iCloud service, which automatically backs up all your iOS, macOS, and iCloud for Windows devices.

Yet we continue to see that HomeKit Secure Video has problems, big problems. Since the service launched in 2019, we’ve tested just about every indoor camera, outdoor camera, and video doorbell that works with the service, and we’ve continually encountered issues that cause us to advise against relying on HSV for uses of home security and against investing in a security camera that relies on that particular cloud plan (although we recommend getting some sort of plan). Here are the crucial areas where HomeKit Secure Video has proven faulty or unreliable.

HSV often forgets to register

We’ve continuously tested HSV-enabled cameras since the service launched, and we’ve yet to find a single one that doesn’t frequently miss motion triggers, including major events, like people walking in plain sight. the camera, which should definitely trigger a recording.

Unless you knew something was crossing your camera’s path and then looked for the footage, you would never know if your camera missed it. As part of our regular camera tests, we walk past each camera to assess its detection sensitivity, recording time, and how long it takes to reset and start a new clip. It was through these tests that we became aware of the problem of HSV-compatible cameras, which regularly missed the actions that other cameras captured successfully. To confirm our results, we ran some tests in which we configured the EufyCam 2 Pro to record to both HSV and the Eufy cloud service; we also tried recording to HSV and to the camera’s local storage. We went on to run the same tests with the Eufy Solo IndoorCam C24, as well as tests using HSV and local storage simultaneously on the Aqara Camera Hub G3. Next, we tried placing non-HSV cameras that recorded to cloud and local storage side-by-side with HSV cameras, which gave the same results. In our testing, all of the HSV cameras we tried were prone to missing motion triggers. (We contacted Apple and the company declined to comment.)

We’re not the only ones with this problem: we’ve seen rumors on the Apple Support Community forums and Reddit about similar issues. We could probably end this article here, because really, if a security camera fails to record the one time you really need it, what’s the point? But there is more.

This limits compatibility

While we welcome HSV’s rigorous security standards, there is a downside. By adopting HSV, you inevitably lose the possibility of using Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands with your cameras. Similarly, HSV isn’t compatible with any smart displays, so you can’t view your camera’s footage or manage its settings on your Echo or Google Nest smart display.

This reduces the video quality

So far, HSV only supports 1080p resolution video. So, even if you have a camera that supports 2K resolution video, once you set it up as an HSV device, you can’t view recordings in higher resolution than 1080p. Although video resolution is only one factor in determining the potential quality of video recordings, a 2K resolution generally provides sharper video with more image detail and allows you to zoom in further without rendering the blurry or pixelated image.

You can’t fine-tune its motion detection

You may also lose features available in the native camera app. For example, the Eufy Security app includes the ability to adjust motion detection sensitivity, which is a crucial setting as it allows you to limit nuisance alerts. Using HSV disables this important feature. Instead, you need to create and configure Activity Zones, which are on-screen areas of your camera’s field of view that you designate as trigger zones. In our tests, using these tweaks did not reliably resolve the issue.

This may limit the functionality of your application

Similarly, in the case of Eufy cameras, when you enable HSV, you lose the ability to have two-way audio, a standard feature of DIY security cameras. When we tested the Eufy Solo IndoorCam C24 (our top indoor camera pick), we realized that the camera could capture audio, but we couldn’t communicate with subjects in front of the camera when using Apple’s Home app (if you want this capability, you need to use the Eufy app). We also noticed when testing the Aqara Camera Hub G3 with HSV that we couldn’t pan or tilt the camera. We don’t recommend using a pan and tilt camera to capture motion events, but the feature is a nice option to have if you want to scan a room remotely through the app.

HSV is plagued with wireless range issues

We’ve tested countless dozens of Wi-Fi security cameras over the past six years, and for reasons still unclear, the HSV-specific cameras we tested suffered from poor wireless range compared to cameras non-HSV placed in the same place. . The result is that HSV-enabled cameras often lose connection to the internet, which means you can’t access a live view of the camera and motion events aren’t recorded, unlike cameras that store recordings. on a memory card, those compatible with HSV. stream the video to the cloud via the internet. (And as noted above, we also sometimes find that the camera is actually online, but still fails to record motion events). We generally recommend using a wireless mesh network, which can prevent internet dark spots in a home, but in our testing we used high-end mesh setups from Eero and Asus, in addition of a non-mesh network. , over a broadband FIOS connection, and while we had no problems streaming content through an Apple TV, we consistently ran into connectivity issues and missed recordings with HSV cameras.

It requires a hub to operate (sold separately)

To view live feeds from your cameras or recorded video when you’re away from home, you need a HomeKit device that acts as an internet hub or gateway. The requirement for a hub is not exceptional, as several other cameras we have reviewed require the same, but these cameras usually come with the necessary hub, so someone buying an HSV camera may be surprised to learn that he will also need to install a HomePod mini, an Apple TV 4K, an Apple TV HD or an iPad that stays at home and is always on. (Apple says an iPad will continue to function as a hub after this fall’s software update, but its capabilities may be limited in that regard.) We think you get more from a HomeKit hub compared to hubs for most other cameras, since you can also use it to stream music or video, but that extra purchase means you’re paying at least $100 more than the cost of the camera.

Apple plans to update its mobile operating system to iOS 16 this fall. Currently, the company has made no announcement regarding HomeKit Secure Video. We’ll continue to test the service as we receive cameras to review, and we’ll update this article as needed.

This article was edited by Jon Chase and Grant Clauser.

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