In December 2017, Ooma moved beyond its VoIP and communications expertise by purchasing Butterfleye, the maker of a connected security camera by the same name. Presumably, the idea of the acquisition was to add a camera option to Ooma’s DIY home security platform and product line.
I don’t have the Ooma Home Security devices, but I have been using the Ooma Butterfleye camera. At $150 to $200, it’s a bit expensive when compared to similar smart webcams but does have some advanced features and can run on a battery. Unfortunately, most of the smart features come with a $9.99 monthly subscription plan. And even with the extra features, there are some functions, such as night vision, which are missing.
Let’s start with what you get for the price, or rather prices since there are two models. The $150 White Butterflye includes a built-in rechargeable battery, 1080p video with 120-degree field of view, integrated 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz only), Bluetooth 4.0, microphone/speaker and 16GB of internal storage.
The idea between the battery and internal storage is that even if your internet service or power goes down, the camera can still record and save clips. The Black Butterflye is essentially the same but includes double the storage — 32GB — and comes in black. Both models also have a few sensors: Passive infrared, ambient light, and an accelerometer. For no monthly fee, you get up to 7 days of cloud storage, limited to 1GB of stored footage to review. The camera output will also show up to five seconds of activity prior to movement or noise detection.
Essentially, Ooma positions the Butterfleye as more than a simple security camera. It can also detect faces and pets, listen for loud sounds — think glass breakage like Amazon’s Echo Guard — and provide two-way audio from a smartphone to the camera. But that gets me to the subscription service because facial recognition and two-way audio are for-pay features. So too is automatic on/off settings via geofencing and multi-user support. On the plus side, the subscription covers up to six Butterfleye cameras.
All of those sensors, storage, and the battery make Butterfleye larger and heavier as a result. The camera weighs a substantial 12.5 ounces and measures 3.3 x 3.8 x 1.6 inches. Here’s a comparison next to the more svelte $20 WyzeCam for example.
This isn’t a big deal; it’s not as if you’re carrying the camera around all the time. I was just surprised by the heft and density of it.
So how does it work?
Setup for me was seamless and easy. I downloaded and installed the Butterfleye app on my iPhone (there’s an Android version too), created an account, verified it, and then powered up the camera, which I had already plugged in. Note that the battery should last several weeks on a single charge but Ooma recommends initially charging the Butterfleye for at least four hours.
The app walked me through the rest of the process, which used Bluetooth to connect my phone to the camera. I selected my Wi-Fi network, entered the wireless password and the camera was up and running. All told, the process took me less than five minutes. Once up and running, I was able to see a live camera view and later, a timeline of captured video in the app.
Image quality is reasonably good, although I think my Nest camera is a smidge better. The 120-degree field of view (FOV) on the Butterfleye is also less than the Nest’s 130-degree FOV as well. And here’s a big difference that I pointed out earlier. Unlike the Nest cameras, there’s no true night vision in the Butterfleye. Instead, the camera uses auto-adaptive white balance, and in a near- or completely dark room, the Butterfleye doesn’t show anything except a black screen. Essentially, you need some light — the more the better — for this camera to see its surroundings. It’s nothing like you would find in a night vision scope for a rifle, the operation of which is detailed in this Outdoor Empire guide.
That’s essentially a non-starter for me. I currently use both Nest and Canary products for home security cameras. All night long, they can see what’s going on, and of course, I can review that footage. Maybe this isn’t an issue for you because you just want a camera for mainly daylight hours.
Don’t expect real-time streaming at any hour of the day or night though. Latency was typically five seconds from the time I would, for example, wave at the Butterfleye and then see that action in my phone app. A 5GHz Wi-Fi chip would be better suited in the device.
In fact, the camera lost its Wi-Fi connection several times on me when I moved it throughout my home. I don’t have a big home and I do have two Google Wi-Fi units set up as a mesh network.
Regardless, I did test some of the interesting features such as noise and motion detection or an alert if the camera is moved. Push notifications for those scenarios were quick to appear on my phone. But — and I hate to sound like a broken record — if you want to schedule times for the push notifications to be on or off, that’s in the $9.99 monthly plan. To me, notification times are such a basic and essential feature that they shouldn’t cost the consumer.
All in all, there’s some interesting technology in the Butterfleye camera. There are some great features too, and I get that many security products — even the Nest and Canary ones I use — typically have a subscription fee involved. There just seems to be some basic features for the Butterfleye that could be moved into the free tier in my opinion.
It’s difficult to recommend anyone buy a connected webcam that doesn’t have strong Wi-Fi capabilities or see well in the dark. The Ooma Butterfleye may find a home in some houses, for but the same amount of money or less, I’d steer towards other smart cameras.