The all-new Aqara G4 video doorbell stands out from a crowded market not only because of its affordable price, but also because it is the only battery-powered model that supports HomeKit Secure Video. Aqara G4 smart video doorbell Every company is dueling to put cameras on your front door these days. Amazon-owned Ring has almost completely cornered the market, while HomeKit models are a bit far between. We favor the Belkin Wemo doorbell camera, the Logitech Circle View, the Netatmo and the Alro as our top recommendations. Now Aqara is putting up a good fight to become the top choice for Apple users.
HomeKit vs. HomeKit Secure Video
Before we get too much into the weeds, we need to break down the differences between the types of video doorbells, especially within the auspices of HomeKit. When choosing a doorbell, you can choose a doorbell that must be wired or one that can operate on an internal battery. They all have their tradeoffs. People in apartments or rental properties may not be able to install a wired doorbell, and new construction omits pre-installed wires. But a wireless doorbell means the batteries need to be replaced (or charged) every now and then, which can be a tedious job and increase the overall cost of the device. Within HomeKit, some support HomeKit, but not HomeKit Secure Video. The former can appear in the Home app, sound HomePods, appear on your Apple TV, and trigger automations, while the latter has extensive support for recording video in iCloud. HomeKit Secure Video is notoriously draining on batteries; That's why until now everyone who supports HomeKit Secure Video needs a wired power connection. The Aqara doorbell can circumvent this problem by using a separate hub. HomeKit can send requests to the hub as often as it wants because it is constantly connected to power, but it will only activate the doorbell when necessary. Unlike most others, the Aqara G4 can operate wired or wirelessly, giving users complete control based on their usage case.
Aqara does not venture much off the beaten path with the G4. The installation process is not much different from other video doorbells. Install the Aqara G4Scope at your location, mark the screw holes, pre-drill the holes and screw the base plate to the outside wall. Then you have a number of options when installing the G4 smart video doorbell. Firstly, you can run on batteries, in which case you only need six AA batteries, or you can hardwire it.
We opted for a battery-powered installation because we planned to have it on the back of our house, where we were missing a pre-wired doorbell. The doorbell slides over the mounting plate before you can secure it on the right side with a star-shaped screw. The strange screw head makes it more difficult for thieves to get away with your doorbell, but also makes it more difficult to replace the batteries.
Due to the size of the battery compartment, the Aqara G4 is slightly larger than other video doorbells. It has a large sensor on the top with an easily recognizable button on the bottom. A subtle light glows around the button, making it easy to find at night, although you can't see it during the day. With the doorbell successfully mounted, we connected the hub inside. The hub connects via USB-C and contains the MicroSD card for local video storage.
The hub is crucial to the doorbell's operation due to the strict networking requirements of Apple Home. Apple's constant check-ins with devices are killing batteries, which is why it's almost impossible for cameras to run on battery power and support Apple Home. To get around this, the wall-mounted hub communicates with your Home Hub while the doorbell camera only wakes up when someone presses the button, detects motion, or calls it from the app. Oh, and the hub also doubles as a doorbell. We mounted ours under our kitchen cabinets as it is a reliable central location.
Securing your home with HomeKit Secure Video
This doorbell supports Apple HomeKit Secure Video, meaning you can securely store your video in iCloud without needing a third-party subscription. Apple's 50GB iCloud+ plan lets you use one camera, while the 200GB plan lets you use five cameras. the 2TB plan provides users with storage space for unlimited cameras in their home. If you already have iCloud+, you don't have to spend anything extra for cloud recording.
HomeKit recording options
Multiple camera recording options can be configured independently for when you're at home or away. You can disable all access, stream video only, detect activity without camera access, or stream and allow recording. Additionally, recordings can be triggered for any movement or only for specific types of movements. Apple lets you enable and disable recording for people, animals, vehicles, and packages.
Frustratingly, Apple doesn't allow you to trigger scenes based on these motion categories. Any automation rule you create based on motion applies to every motion, not just the recording categories. It's a shortcoming that we hope Apple corrects in upcoming versions of iOS.
Create Activity Zones
With iOS 16, Apple added support for Activity Zones. These make it a little easier to reduce the number of false messages. Only movement within the marked zones activates your video doorbell. Activity zones are useful for front doorbells because you can exclude motion alerts from passing cars and limit them to only motion detected on your porch. Unfortunately, Activity Zones cannot be used in automations either.
For privacy reasons, recorded recordings of your doorbell can only be accessed via the Home app. It's another strange limitation of HomeKit, as other accessories can be viewed and controlled in other apps, but camera recording is only available through the Home app.
Recordings are marked by the type of activity captured: people, animals, etc., and you can quickly share or save the recordings. A major benefit of Apple Home support for doorbell cameras is Apple's close ecosystem integration. When someone rings the doorbell, it can ring on any HomePods you have. The warning may also appear on your Apple TV. Video alerts or doorbell sounds are also displayed on your Apple Watch, where you can watch the video and talk to the person at your door. Apple can tap your photos album to identify people visiting your home based on the name you assigned them in the Photos app, assuming you've given permission to do so.
Aqara offers more
As is often the case with Aqara accessories, it supports a wealth of native HomeKit functionality, but then offers users more unsupported features through the Aqara app. You can set recording options for the local SD card and adjust the power frequency, enable or disable lens correction, and more. Aqara is one of the few that offers a privacy occlusion mode. You can black out up to three parts of the camera image, and if you do, they will not appear on the videos you capture.
Should you buy the Aqara G4?
The Aqara G4 video doorbell is an excellent option for Apple users. It's battery-powered, has tons of advanced configuration options, and supports HomeKit Secure Video. However, there are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. First, on one of the few warm days in 2023, we had the doorbell overheat when the sun was shining directly on it. If your doorbell is…
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