SkyBell has style, but a lot of bugs to work out.

SkyBell-BoxAlmost a year ago, I found out about SkyBell, a WiFi doorbell. I was very excited to hear about the product as I really enjoy home automation. At this point, I began contacting SkyBell to discuss the possibility of working with them on a review. I had communications with both the PR rep for SkyBell and the Co-Founder of SkyBell, Andrew Thomas. At the time, their SkyBell units were pre-production and they had orders to fill before sending out review units. So, I turned to Amazon.

Each time I would look at Amazon SkyBell would either be out of stock or the Amazon website would say the “item is under review,” which would not allow it to be purchased. Even though there were a lot of bad reviews on Amazon, I still wanted to give it a try. I contacted Amazon about the “item is under review” message I had seen and the rep I spoke with told me that because of all the negative comments and returns Amazon was getting, the item went under review. This can happen if Amazon thinks they might have gotten a bad shipment. I kept occasionally checking Amazon and they finally had stock and were selling it again.  I told @apthomas (Andrew Thomas) that I was planning on getting one via Amazon and he explained to me if I had any questions to let him know.

After my SkyBell arrived, I installed it immediately because I was very excited to see this awesome little device work. The SkyBell is lightweight and extremely easy to install. SkyBell has two wires and comes with two wire connecters for easy installation of your house doorbell. SkyBell comes equipped with a small tool used to set the security screw that keeps your device from being easily stolen.

SkyBell-MountOnce installed, I should have been able to sync with the SkyBell and start using it. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. I would get a “Configuration Timed Out” message. This is what I would get over and over again for two days. I contacted support and @apthomas about this issue. The support agent told me via email to try to reset the SkyBell by holding in the button for 45 seconds and Power Cycle my wireless router. I did all the steps asked of me by support and was eventually told that it was a bug with some of the Apple Time Capsules and that as they are working on the bug it might not be ready for a few more weeks so it might be in my best interest to send it back. This was at the beginning of this summer.

SkyBell-TimeOutAgain, this was extremely disappointing, but I did not want to let a bug with my Apple Time Capsule stop me from using the SkyBell and being able to write about it. I headed out to Best Buy and purchased a new wireless router to test out the SkyBell. The requirements needed for the wireless router are:

  1. 2.4 Ghz or dual-band
  2. Bandwidth = 20 Mhz
  3. B/G mode or N-router with ability to segregate
  4. WPA-Personal for security
  5. 1.5 mbps upload speeds at the doorbell (outside) – You can use the Ookla app to test.

The new router met these needs and should have fixed the connection problem. I ran through the setup again and nothing. I still had the same troubles. At this point, I should have tossed my hands in the air and been done, but I still believe in this product and was determined to see it work. I went back to the router disabled the firewall, removed the wireless security and was then able to Sync with the SkyBell. Everything in the universe was right and my excitement was overwhelming – three days of trying to get this to work and finally I got it to sync.

Even though SkyBell was now syncing, it made no sense that I had to disable wireless security making my network unsecured to have this product work. But, with it syncing I would at least be able to demo the SkyBell and see what it can do.
SkyBell-Error

After the syncing and waiting 15 minutes for the SkyBell to update it continued to give me a solid red ring. It still did not work, nor could I see what the firmware was on the device from the app as that never showed up. Back and forth with resetting and syncing with no luck. It was finally time to give up.

This is a gadget I had extremely high hopes for and still do. With home automation getting bigger and bigger, the doorbell is one of the first line of products I would love to see fully automated. I believe that Home Automation is going to be extremely big and even more so now that Apple will release HomeKit sometime soon.

One thing I want to express is that just because it didn’t work for me does not mean it won’t work for you. There are many things that could cause interference in some way and I was never able to pinpoint what mine was.

I sent out a tweet asking if anyone had gotten their SkyBell to work and got a response from @djswartz (David Swartz). He told me that he’s had his SkyBell for six months and during that time it’s worked as advertised. Mr. Swartz explains he has a 2013 Airport running on WPA2. Each time he used it on LTE connections was clean with no issues. He says probably that he’s connected to his SkyBell a dozen times away from his Wi-Fi. Mr. Swartz also told me that he has a solid Wi-Fi signal at the door so audio and video are good. On long test connections he noticed a momentary frame and audio drop.

SkyBell-RedMr. Swartz told me he wished they would decouple motion from ringing doorbell. He would like just a notification for motion because the doorbell rings every time he opens the door. Mr. Swartz says otherwise it has worked as expected until now. For the last three days Mr. Swartz’s SkyBell had stopped working and he was receiving the solid red light. He was able to get his working once again by holding the SkyBell’s button in for the 45 second reset and resetting his Airport before doing a new sync attempt. Mr. Swartz purchased his SkyBell during the original campaign several months before production started.

SkyBell is made from plastic with an aluminum color coating. It has no monthly fee and it can work with iOS or Android. It can operate from -40 to 150 degrees fahrenheit. SkyBell works with wireless B/G networks, but not Wireless n even though SkyBell.com says it works with b/g/n. It must be a 2.4 GHz band.

Without getting to fully use the SkyBell it becomes very hard to write this review. I can only detail my experience and the information from Mr. Swartz who had wonderful luck with his SkyBell. It’s possible I had a defective unit. I believe in the idea of a doorbell that connects to your smart phone allowing you to see and hear the person on the other side without being at home. I have an 81 year-old Grandmother I take care of and home automation is something that can make life for her and everyone else simpler. Knowing if I’m not at home I can answer the door while I’m away so she does not have to has become extremely important to me. Because of that I still want to see the SkyBell make it. I’d also like to note that I’m very technically inclined and from my time spent trying to get the SkyBell to work was not a pleasant experience. Because of the issues I had, I can’t give it higher then a 2-star rating. What can I say good about the Skybell? It’s design is quite nice. It’s very lightweight and the price is understandable as it’s the same as the competition in this market.

I hope once SkyBell comes out with a new model or fixes whatever software bugs that’s causing it not to work correctly with Apple Time Capsules, and other routers I’d love to give it a second chance and review the device again.

Dave Swartz had good luck with the SkyBell and so have others. When reading comments on Amazon, I see lots of bad reviews and because of that and my week with the SkyBell, I don’t recommend it at this time.

If you want more information visit Skybell.com Or buy SkyBell from Amazon.

SkyBell

SkyBell

SkyBell

SkyBell