UPDATE 11/22/2016: A previous version of this post stated that the Arlo Pro works with Apple HomeKit. It doesn’t, but it does work with apps available for iOS, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. The post has been amended to reflect the change. We regret the error.
This year, we’ve seen a couple of true wireless home security cameras — battery-powered cameras that can stream video over a Wi-Fi connection — from Blink and Canary, but they’re playing catch-up. The Netgear Arlo came out in 2014, and since then has become a market leader by virtue of being the only wire-free option for streaming home security cameras. Now that they’ve got a little competition, Netgear is improving on the Arlo with the Arlo Pro, a more feature-rich camera with a rechargeable battery.
The original Arlo worked with a base station, which was then connected to the home Wi-Fi router. The benefit of the middleman device is that the Arlo can be placed further away from the home router — wire-free cameras are most handy for the outdoors or in areas far away from outlets, both of which could be outside the range of the home network. The Arlo Pro will work with existing base stations, and will have the same features as the original — weatherproofing, 720p video recording with a 130-degree wide-angle lens, streaming live video to a browser or app, motion detection, alerts, and night vision.
The Arlo Pro will add two-way audio to the mix. A speaker and microphone are on the camera, allowing users to hear what’s going on at home and communicate, if necessary. That could mean something as benign as telling the UPS guy to leave a package at the doorstep or as serious as yelling at a potential intruder. The Pro also uses rechargeable batteries instead of replaceable ones. Fortunately, Netgear will also have a dual-port charging station, so users can have a fresh replacement battery ready to go when the other one gets low ($60 for the charging station, $50 for the extra battery). The batteries should last about six months on one charge, but as always, that depends on how often the camera is on and recording. One really cool thing Netgear has in the works is a solar-power accessory that will continuously keep the camera charged. In theory (and if you live in the right place), that should enable the camera to run indefinitely. Netgear is targeting Q1 of next year for the release of the solar charger.
Netgear has also improved their infrared motion detector, making it a little more sensitive. The motion detector will now be quicker to alert users to a potential intruder, allowing them to call the police faster in case of a home invasion. To compensate for a possible increase in false alarms, Netgear is improving their camera software by adding object recognition later this year. Soon, the camera will be able to recognize trees, cars, people, and pets, and users will be able to filter those out for motion detection. So, if you don’t want to be alerted every time the cat walks by, you can just filter out pets and the camera won’t push out an alert. Netgear is working on refining their software and adding more objects. If the camera isn’t sure about an object, users will get a push notification with a still shot asking them to identify the object. That information will be used to improve Netgear’s software, but that’s all up to the user — you can choose to not pass that information along or to stop getting those alerts altogether.
The base station that comes with the Arlo Pro will also be an upgraded model. This base station has USB ports for use with external hard drives, giving users the option to save recorded video to local storage in addition to Netgear’s cloud servers. It’ll also have a 100 dB siren that can be manually activated or automatically activated by the motion detector when no one’s home. Despite being a new base station, there will be no compatibility issues — old Arlo cameras will work with new base stations and vice versa.
The Arlo Pro can also be used with other smart home standards. The camera and base station combo works with IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Apple TV, and the Apple Watch, with support for more smart home systems (Google Home, Apple HomeKit, and Amazon Alexa being the most conspicuous omissions) possible in the future. Otherwise, the Arlo Pro works with Netgear’s companion app, which can be used to stream the live feed or check on battery levels.
Besides the upcoming solar charger, Netgear will also sell a quadpod accessory that can be wrapped around poles and banisters, giving users a little more flexibility in camera placement. They’ll also have skins with different designs, with some including visors that cut down on dew buildup and glare.
The Netgear Arlo Pro can be preordered from Best Buy now in bundles with a base station and one, two, three, or four cameras, which cost $250, $420, $580, and $650, respectively. The Arlo Pro will ship on October 23, at which time it’ll be found in stores and on Amazon. Netgear will still offer a free monthly plan with cloud storage for footage from the last seven days, along with plans covering 30 and 60 days for $10 and $15 per month. The free plan is good for five cameras, while the monthly plans allow for 10 and 15 cameras, respectively. As Netgear adds more analytics and object recognition to their software, those features will be available for a monthly fee, as well.