5 min read

My Arlo Security Experience

Let's start at the beginning, as all good tales do. Approximately 11 months ago, I purchased my first Arlo product. I needed to get security cameras to put around my property. Previously, I only had an Eufy video doorbell, which was fine. I got the Arlo Pro 4 Wireless Camera 4 pack. I chose Arlo because it was advertised to have HomeKit support and that was a big feature to me to have the video feeds encrypted over my local network.

Initial setup was straightforward, which is why it's surprising that issues emerged nearly a year later. However, I soon encountered a hurdle: some cameras were frequently unavailable. When they were available, the latency was significant—up to minutes behind real-time, in the worst cases.

Instead of blaming the cameras, I blamed my home router. It was just a single node serving many devices. So I upgraded to a mesh router with nodes around the house. Unlike a single router that struggles to serve multiple devices over an extended area, a mesh system optimises the network by intelligently routing data. It's akin to having multiple mini-routers that work in harmony, reducing latency and virtually eliminating dead zones. This architectural shift was crucial for accommodating Arlo's finicky connectivity requirements. I could connect to any camera when I wanted to, albeit the latency wasn’t always great but much improved.

I was annoyed to find out that to enable HomeKit functionality I had to purchase a separate Smart Hub! Which I didn’t do as I couldn’t justify the additional cost at the time. The idea was appealing, especially because it offered local storage and would eliminate the need to pay for Arlo Plus just to access my own footage.

Fast-forward a few months: I'm content, despite these issues and a new one arose—my Eufy doorbell's lens cover fell off! I tried to fix it, but the lens got clouded like a cataracts eye. Naturally, it made sense to replace with an Arlo doorbell to integrate with the rest of the cameras and use 1 app. The doorbell connected fine and all was well.

More recently, my ISP forced a factory reset on my home router, that’s another story, so I needed to reconnect all my devices including my Arlo devices. I set up my routers and connected them to HomeKit before I attempted to connect my cameras. This is an important detail because I then spent days not being able to connect the cameras because I didn’t have a separate 2.4GHz connection. This took far too long to figure out, and it's idiotic from Arlo. We’re talking wifi frequency here—2.4GHz offers greater range but at a slower speed, while 5GHz provides faster speed but at a shorter range. Arlo cameras are frustratingly specific, insisting on a 2.4GHz connection even when other devices manage perfectly fine on a merged 2.4+5GHz network. Alas, I had to disable HomeKit on my routers to then separate the connections to then connect the cameras.

This is when I decided to get the Smart Hub. I had to reconnect up the cameras anyway so it made sense. I’d gain HomeKit support, local storage, can stop paying for Arlo Plus, and I naively thought that the setup would be smoother too. The Smart Hub should've been a godsend, serving as the nerve centre of the Arlo ecosystem. It's designed to manage traffic and facilitate faster connections between the cameras. In theory, this should have streamlined the setup and enhanced the reliability of the entire system.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The setup was just as annoying with the Smart Hub as without. I tried connecting to HomeKit via the included code and I got the error message “This accessory cannot be used with HomeKit”. I tried over and over and was presented with “This accessory cannot be used with HomeKit”. To me, this message is saying that this device is not supported, this is a direct conflict with Arlo’s claims. Do I really think Arlo lied about HomeKit? No. I think they no longer meet Apple’s requirements after the recent OS updates, and Arlo have failed to provide a firmware update to address this or release any communication about it.

After this disappointing discovery, I attempted to contact Arlo support via the app and website… why is this so difficult? I ended up posting to their support forum. Waste of time. I couldn’t leave my cameras disconnected any longer, so I connected them all up with the Smart Hub, and wow is this a downgrade! The connectivity is awful. Regularly, when I open the app, at least one of the cameras is unavailable now. This, of course, defeats the purpose of a surveillance system if it’s not surveilling! The local storage in the app is super slow too, it should not be that much slower than the cloud. It definitely feels like Arlo is pushing users to subscribe to Arlo Plus over local solutions because of that sweet sweet MRR.

Overall, this experience has left a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe I could ignore the annoyances and inconveniences if everything else worked smoothly, but sadly, it doesn’t. I’m going to be returning the Smart Hub as it’s a waste of money, and I’ll revert to the system I had pre-reset. Well, it works, it’s far from my ideal setup. Finances willing, I will be considering overhauling all the cameras from a different manufacturer in the not too distance future. Security shouldn't be taken lightly; its role in ensuring safety and peace of mind is paramount—qualities that have been notably absent in my experience with Arlo.

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2023

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