Ooma, best known for its VoIP telephony devices, is trying its hand at the smart home space with the Butterflye. For $199.99, the Butterfly is an indoor home security camera that offers sharp daylight 1080p video, local and cloud storage options, and a handful of neat features including face recognition, geofencing, and an internal battery that allows it to do its job even when your power goes down. That said, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use some of those features, and the camera’s lack of IR LEDs means it can’t see in the dark very well. For the same price (and often available for far less), the iSmartAlarm iCamera Keep Pro offers better overall performance, mechanical pan, tilt motion tracking, and interoperability with other smart devices.
Design and Features
The Butterflye is available in two colors: a white camera costs $199 and comes with 16GB of internal storage, while a black model costs $249 and comes with 32GB of internal storage. Three-packs go for $399.99 (white) and $599.99 (black). No matter the color, the Butterflye measures 3.3 by 3.8 by 1.6 inches (HWD) and has a 3.5-megapixel CMOS sensor that captures video at 1080p. It has a 120-degree field of view and an 8X digital zoom. There’s a button on top used for setup and to power up the camera, and around back are a mini USB power port and a reset button.
Under the hood is 802.11n (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth wireless circuitry, and an internal battery that will provide power for up to four weeks depending on usage, which means the Butterflye will continue to record triggered video and store it locally even when there’s no power or internet connection. There are sensors for sound, motion, and ambient light, and there’s an accelerometer that will trigger an alert if the camera has been moved. The camera uses pre-buffering to deliver the five seconds of video captured before a triggered recording so you can see what happened just before an event.
The Butterflye uses a microphone and speaker to capture audio and provide two-way communication, but you have to subscribe to a monthly plan for the latter and to take advantage of the camera’s face recognition and geofencing capabilities. With face recognition, the camera can tell the difference between familiar and unfamiliar faces to help cut down on unnecessary alerts, and geofencing will automatically enable and disable Privacy Mode, which puts the camera to sleep when you arrive home and arms it while you’re away.
The free plan gets you seven days of cloud storage, instant alerts (motion, sound, and tamper), live streaming, and unlimited video downloads. For $9.99 per month, the Home Secure plan gives you 30 days of cloud storage, the use of the two-way audio, geofencing and face recognition, and everything from the free plan. You also get scheduled notifications and support for up to six cameras. The $29.99 per month Business Secure plan gives you everything from the Home Secure plan as well as 90 days of cloud storage, multi-site geofencing, and a Business Analytics feature that has yet to be announced.
The camera can be integrated into Ooma’s Home Security system, but it doesn’t work with third-party devices such as lights and smart switches. Nor does it support IFTTT applets that can be used to trigger other IFTTT-enabled devices.
The Butterflye app (available for Android and iOS) opens to a Feeds and Events screen with a video panel on top and a timeline of triggered events with video thumbnails and a description of the event. Tap the play arrow in the video panel to view a live stream that goes full-screen when you turn your phone sideways. There’s a microphone button for initiating two-way talk (if you subscribe to a plan), but no buttons for manually recording video or taking snapshots. To view a recorded event, tap a thumbnail in the timeline. To save, share, or delete a clip, tap the three dots next to each thumbnail.
The three-bar icon in the upper left corner opens a menu with tabs for Feeds and Events, Faces, Profile, and Add a Camera. Tap Faces to view your database of faces, where all new faces are registered as unfamiliar until you tag them, at which point they are listed as familiar faces. Use the Profile tab to change account information, passwords, and membership plan status, and the Add a Camera tab to add additional Butterflye cameras to your account.
Back at the Feed and Events screen is a gear icon that takes you to a settings screen where you can configure Wi-Fi settings, enable push notifications, turn on Privacy mode, enable Auto Privacy Mode using geofencing, and enable audio. Here you can also view camera information such as the remaining battery level, the firmware version, and the MAC address.
Installation and Performance
The Butterflye camera installs in minutes. Start by downloading the app and creating an account. Plug in the camera, bring your phone close, and press and hold the top button until it blinks green, then press Start Pairing in the app. When the app tells you it has found the camera, touch the camera with your phone. You’ll hear a chime and be prompted to select your home Wi-Fi SSID and enter your password. Choose your plan (Free, Home Secure, or Business Secure) and name your camera to complete the installation.
The Butterflye delivered sharp daytime video with excellent color representation and no noticeable distortion. However, video was quite dark in low-light conditions, and virtually unviewable when the room was completely unlit. The sound and tamper sensors worked well, immediately generating push notifications and initiating a 20-second recorded clip when triggered, but the motion and face recognition features were inconsistent. Only some motion alerts were recorded and saved in the timeline while others never appeared at all. The camera saved an image of my face and it appeared in the unfamiliar faces database, but once I tagged it and named it, the camera failed to recognize it again, either as an unfamiliar face or a familiar face, despite looking directly into the lens. It also failed to capture other family member’s faces, but correctly identified my dog as a pet.
Moreover, the camera had significant connectivity issues in testing. It constantly lost its connection to the cloud, which made it impossible to initiate a live stream or view my timeline. At one point, when the Butterflye was not capturing facial images, I logged out of the app, and when I logged back in I was unable to connect to my Wi-Fi network until I deleted the app and reinstalled it. Even then I experienced sporadic connectivity issues and lost motion recordings. Two-way audio, on the other hand, was clean and adequately loud.
With the Butterflye camera, you get sharp 1080p video with rich colors and a nice list of features, including face recognition, two-way audio, and geofencing support, but you have to pay a monthly fee to access them. It also has a battery backup and up to 32GB of internal storage, and you get seven days of free cloud storage. That said, it lacks useful night vision, an essential feature for any home security camera, and it doesn’t work with third-party smart home devices or support IFTTT applets. More importantly, the camera’s motion and face recognition features didn’t always work, and it had trouble staying connected in our testing.
If you can live without face recognition, the iSmartAlarm iCamera Keep Pro not only works with other IFTTT-enabled devices, it delivered better day and night vision video in our tests. It also offers free cloud and local storage, has mechanical pan and tilt with motion tracking, and records time-lapse video clips. As such, it remains our Editors’ Choice for home security cameras.