Ring customers aren't happy. At the end of March 2023, the Amazon-owned brand will be making some big changes to existing cameras' features, and putting some of them behind a paid subscription for Ring Video Doorbell and Ring Security System customers.
The biggest of the changes is the removal of Home and Away modes for non-subscribers. Home Mode is the feature that turns off your interior sensors so the alarm won't go off when you pad to the kitchen and your camera won't film you while you grab some sneaky biscuits. Away Mode is the full-fat security setting that monitors everything everywhere all at once. The modes aren't being taken away. but they are being paywalled in the app and Alexa.
These are pretty basic features that customers have become used to using, and moving them to a paid tier only seems a bit mean. Customers certainly think so, turning to Twitter and Reddit to complain.
The changes will affect the Ring app and Alexa skill, so while the details so far have only been published by Ring in the US it seems likely that they'll happen in the UK too.
What else is Ring removing?
In addition to the Home and Away mode moves, Ring is also changing the Ring Alarm Security System: at the end of March its in-app features will all become paywalled. Those features include app-based arming and disarming of sensors, digital notifications, home security automations and so on.
The good news this time is that those changes will only apply to new customers, at least for now: provided you activate your system before 29 March, you won't have to pay for any of those features if you don't want to take out a sub.
This is a good example of something I've been uneasy about for a while: buying hardware that's tied to a subscription can be risky if the hardware owner decides to stop supporting your kit or start charging for features you've previously had for free. It does feel a little like the manufacturer saying "nice smart home you've got there. Shame if something were to happen to it".
This isn't limited to Amazon. Just a few weeks ago, Arlo backtracked on its plans to stop supporting the Arlo Pro 2 and Arlo Gen 3. It has now moved its end-of-life dates back to 2025, but it still means the clock is ticking.
I know we're used to support being switched off for devices such as phones, but when it comes to things like home security I don't think it's unreasonable to expect your devices to work for more than a couple of years. If you're in the market for smart home security systems, it's a very good idea to look at the manufacturer's support promises and plans before you spend what can be quite a lot of money.