Do you REALLY need a spy showing who’s at the door?

Increasing number of households replacing their traditional doorbell with a new ‘smart’ version due to security fears – do YOU need one?

Safety first: This high-tech gadget works like a traditional bell, but has a spy camera and a two-way speaker system

An increasing number of households are replacing their traditional doorbell with a new ‘smart’ version due to security fears. 

This high-tech gadget works like a traditional bell, but has a spy camera and a two-way speaker system that allows you via your mobile phone to see and talk to anyone standing on your doorstep. It could prove particularly useful when lockdown ends and fewer people are at home to answer their front door. 

Using wi-fi, the smart doorbell sends a text to your mobile stating someone is on your doorstep. You can then talk to the person via your phone, ignore them or, if at home, answer the door. It means never missing an unexpected visitor, being able to tell a courier where to put an important delivery, and warning off potential burglars. 

The new technology is not without its drawbacks. It typically costs about £200 and can come with additional charges for storing messages. There are also fears it could be hacked. 

Consumer group Which? has looked at the different smart doorbells that are available and believes the risk of hacking is a concern. 

Kate Bevan, editor of Which Computing, says: ‘Smart doorbells have significant risks if they are poorly made – as they do not include the necessary safety checks to ensure hackers cannot monitor them. Our advice is to only buy known and trusted brands.’ 

Among those that Which? recognises as reliable are Amazon-owned Ring Video Doorbell Pro and Nest Hello, part of Alphabet. Bevan says buyers must invariably sign up to a subscription if they want a video record kept of all visitors. For example, with Ring you must pay £2.50 a month for 30 days of video storage as part of its ‘protect basic plan’. 

With Nest you can store up to three hours of video clips for free but must pay £5 a month if you want 30 days of video storage for a Nest Aware Plus package. 

Smart doorbells that come with out a subscription fee include Eufy, made by Anker Innovations. 

There are also installation costs. If you have basic DIY skills and a screwdriver, a smart doorbell is simple to fit – and you can set up a connection with a smartphone by simply downloading an app. 

But a wired doorbell, such as Ring Video Pro and Nest Hello, must be connected to the mains. An electrician will do this for about £50. Other smart doorbells, such as the Arlo Essential Wire-Free, use a battery so are easier to fit – but batteries may need to be replaced every six months. 

Martyn James, of consumer website Resolver, says smart doorbells are attracting an increasing number of complaints as they become more popular. Resolver has received 3,160 complaints about them in the past two years. James says: ‘When considering a purchase I’d encourage people to buy from a British shop – not online from abroad. This is because UK shops are bound by The Consumer Rights Act which means you can demand a full refund if, for whatever reason, the doorbell is not deemed satisfactory.’

The majority of complaints Resolver receives are from people buying unfamiliar brands that then do not work. Among them are doorbells sold by Nocnoq – whose website is currently down. James adds: ‘Smart doorbells seem to be used as a twitching curtain by some people. A traditional doorbell costing just £20, or an old-fashioned door knocker might end up better value.’