Alfred App Review – Viable option or Just a Gimmick?

For decades, the only way to monitor your home or work was through security cameras and security camera systems. Initially, it was Closed Circuit Television Systems, Recently, the option to use your homes local network expanded buying options for consumers.

Now, there is a new player in the home security market, and his name is Alfred. Alfred’s goal is to take old smartphones and turn them into home security cameras. 

In this blog post, I am going to provide a complete review of the Alfred security system (it’s weird to call it a system). I am going to download the app to my iPhone, discuss the pros and cons. Finally, I will compare this system to my current cameras (Ring Spotlight camera – batter, Ring Doorbell).

I was surprised at the price I paid for the Ring Spotlight Camera on Amazon

Before starting a review, I am going to briefly provide some background into “Alfred.” Alfred, at the number one CCTV IP camera app for iPhone, has over 8 thousand reviews with an average of 4.7 out of 5. According to their website, the app has been downloaded over 10 million times.

Alfred setup on iPhone 7 Plus and iPad 2

Alfred’s features

Consumers are attracted to Alfred for the following reasons:

  • No wiring
  • No contracts
  • Free download
  • Motion detection
  • Two-way audio
  • Low-light Filter
  • Free 7 day cloud recording (free version)

Installation

For the purposes of this review, I will be installing Alfred on the iPhone 7 plus. Currently, this model is two generations behind the current model. 

To download the app, simply type in “Alfred security camera.” The name “Alfred Home Security Camera” should appear with a butler to the left. This may change with later updates.

When I select the app, it gives me the option to purchase the free version or upgrade to the Alfred Premium or Alfred Premium 12-months. For now, I am going to stay with the free version.

After downloading and installing the app, Alfred asks if he can send push notifications. This is a must, or you will not be alerted when motion is detected. After going through a basic introduction, the app asks if I’m going to set this phone up as a viewer or camera.

At this point, you either need a second camera or a desktop application for this to work. I grabbed an iPad 2 and downloaded the app again. The next step is to log both the iPhone and iPad into the same Google account. The only way to use this security camera is to use a Google account.

Security camera overview

You have three configuration options on the security camera (my iPhone). First, you have two arrows pointing in opposite directions. This icon allows you the ability to switch viewer and camera. 

The second icon, a target, allows you to turn motion detection on and off. If there is a link through target it means the motion is off. If no line then the motion is on. Also, if the camera is moving (you’re walking with it) the motion will be deactivated until the movement stops.

The third icon is a lock and it turns the camera screen on and off. If you press the lock, the screen goes dark. In order to turn the screen on, you have to press and hold the screen until a counter reaches 100. 

In addition to the three icons, the camera portion of the app has a red notification letting the user know that the camera is connected.

Finally, you have a drop-down menu in which you can configure the viewer, motion detection, camera settings, and the account. Within the camera settings, you can change the camera between front and back. Also, you have an option to turn the audio on and off. 

Viewer overview

The viewer home screen features camera information, an ad, and Alfred tips. The camera information includes the camera type (iPhone 7 Plus), battery life, and the configured features. If I press the gear in the top left I can enable notifications, motion detection, and low light filter. 

To the left of the previously mentioned icons is a play icon. If I press this icon, it allows me to view recorded clips. If I click on the recording, I can review the recording in a larger screen. Alfred didn’t mention free cloud recording until I selected the recording options. That is a competitive advantage they should highlight. 

When I select my camera, I am taken to a smaller screen with a live view of my camera. At the top of the view are more ads, while at the bottom, you have a view icons you can select.

The first icon controls the two-way audio. The two-way audio is turned on by default, you have to press it once to turn it off. Next to the microphone icon is the icon to record the camera. You simply press the icon and the camera will begin recording. 

Next to the recording icon is an arrow that slides to more icons. The first icon auto switches from back camera to the front. The second icon rotates the camera 90-degrees. The third camera turns on a flashlight on the camera, and the fourth light turns on the low light filter.

Next to the network status you can see the following stats:

  • Frames per second
  • Bytes sent per second
  • Frame size
  • Camera audio (on or off)
  • Server (on or off)

I was surprised at the price I paid for the Ring Spotlight Camera on Amazon

Initial thoughts

After using the application for 48 hours, here are my initial thoughts on the system.

Pros

Fast install and set up

In addition to setting up this security system, I have set up wired PoE systems, and wireless IP cameras, this the easiest to set up and configure. This system was easy to set up because there is no need to connect Alfred to the Wi-Fi. Alfred simply relies on the connection that has already been configured.

The setup took less than 10 minutes from installing the application on the iPhone and iPad to have a picture on the viewer. It is possible that the set up would have taken less time if I remembered by Google password.

Free version

Another pro is that this system has a completely free version. Not including the cost you paid for the camera, you can has a security system for no cost. If you are looking for the cheapest way possible, you can be free.

Features

I was surprised by the number of features that came with the free version. Here is a list of what is included.

  • Motion detection
  • Two-way audio
  • Free 7 day cloud storage
  • Event recording
  • Switch between front and back camera
  • Remote flashlight
  • low light filter
  • Switch the viewer and camera remotely.
  • Live viewing

These 9 features are some of the top features you need in a security camera. Click here to see my rankings for the top 22 security camera features. The ability to switch between the front and back camera gives you two cameras in one.

Cons

While there are a number of pros, I also found some things that I would consider drawbacks to security cameras.

Only works if phone is unlocked or in app

The first thing I thought of is how easy it is to disable the security system. In general, most mobile apps only work if the phone is unlocked. The same holds true for this app. If someone wanted to get around this system, they just need to lock the phone.

When someone locks the camera (iPhone), the viewer (iPad) stops recording and attempts to reconnect. I could see how someone (nanny, teenager) would simply lock the phone before acting out

In addition, this system only works if the phone is “in-app,” which means that Alfred has to be open for this to work. It would be pretty easy for someone to “accidentally” disable this phone by pressing the home button. 

Must have Google account to use app

Another concern is currently this service only works with Google. This means I would have to create a google account if I don’t already have one. Also, this raises some privacy concerns. What data is Google collecting? How will this data be used in the future? What information is Google tracking?

I also wonder why I am unable to use another mega company like Facebook, Amazon, or Microsoft. Will Google be placing ads in the app based on my viewing history on my computer or phone? Creeper yet, will Google recommend products based on what it sees in the cameras field of view?

Ads

As I’ve mentioned, the free version includes ads, lots of frequent ads. Ads are placed at the top of the viewer screen. Ads are placed in the viewer home screen. Ads pop up and take over the entire viewer screen. 

I understand the need for ads to help keep the service free, but too many ads will result in this product losing its value. In 5 minutes on watching the viewer, I saw about 10 different ads. It made me question if the constant ad switching helped reduce the overall performance of Alfred

Poor network results in poor performance

One thing I noticed when watching this app is that if the performance is considered poor you will notice a big drop in performance. Low quality resulted in worse video quality, delays between the camera a viewer, and missed motions.

On the free version, the video quality is standard definition. If the connection is poor, the video will freeze, and you will see a grainy picture (like trying to watch an antenna during a rainstorm). 

I also noticed a longer delay between what happened on the cameras field of view and the camera viewer. The difference was around a second. This may not seem like a long time, but if something is happening in your home and you are watching it unfold, a second can feel like years.

Along with the freezing and delay, I noticed that some of the live viewing was not sent to the viewer during the poor connection. I was moving my hand across through the cameras field of view and noticed a few of the swipes didn’t appear of the viewer. This happened a few different times throughout the test.  

You will need to buy some accessories

At a minimum you will need to buy an accessory to mount your phone/ tablet. After a quick price check, I noticed that you can buy mounts for less than $10. These mounts are great if you are taking pictures or recording videos, but not great if you want to secure the camera to the wall, siding, or soffit. The next question is: how much would it cost to mount a smartphone somewhere?

Also, you will need to think about an accessory to extend battery life. Will you buy an extra long power cord and keep it plugged in? Will you buy some sort of solar power adapter so that you are not wasting electricity?

Will this work outside?

For a few different reasons, I don’t know if this will work outside. First, where are you going to install the phone so that it has access to a wall outlet? Second, will having a phone outside cause more problems than it resolves? Third, How often will you need to break out the ladder for updates, charging, etc?

Premium version includes regular features

One of my biggest drawbacks with this system is that the premium version includes features that are free on most other security cameras. All of the internet protocol (IP) cameras record video in high definition. 

In addition, none of the paid security camera systems have ads in their user interface. The only exceptions are ads that are promoting their own products. Many of the cameras that are out feature zoom capabilities. 

Later in this blog post, I will calculate a “rough” break-even point for the premium subscription vs the average price of the top 5 wireless cameras. 

Little lag between devices

Another con I noticed is there is a slight lag between the camera and the viewer. The lag occurred when my connection was considered “good,” but became worse as the signal got worse. The good signal lag was about 3 or 4 ms each time.

Battery life

It seemed like the battery life was shortened a lot by using this app. This makes sense because the app has the camera open, and is streaming audio and video continuously. My battery percent decrease 10 percent in the 20 minutes I had the app opened. This was after I closed all of the other open apps. Also, my iPads’ battery life decreased about 12 percent over that same period of time. 

What’s Alfred Premium?

Alfred Premium is a monthly subscription service that includes the following features:

  • HD video
  • Longer cloud storage
  • Zero ads
  • Longer events
  • Zoom
  • Multiple cameras

Lets take a quick look at each premium feature more in-depth. 

HD video

The free version of the app sends standard definition video to the viewer. To get an idea of what that looks like, it would be similar to old CCTV systems or the giant flat-screen TVs of 20+ years ago.

The premium version of the app sends high definition video to the viewer. While I don’t know the exact resolution, high definition video is always better than standard definition. 

Longer cloud storage

The free version provides free cloud storage for 7 days. If you purchase the premium version, the free cloud storage extends to 30 days. 

Zero ads

This is a little confusing. The app states that if you upgrade to the premium version, there will be no ads. However, in the menu there is an option that says “Ad-free for life.” This appears to be a one time cost. So the question is, what ads do we no longer see if we upgrade to premium?

Longer event capture

In the free version, events are only recorded in 90-second intervals. If you upgrade to the premium version, motion events are captured in 120-second intervals. 120-second intervals are one of the longer capture periods in the industry for noncontinuous recording. 

Zoom

The premium version includes the ability to zoom 5x the original picture. This amount of zoom is good when compared to industry standards. 

Multiple cameras

The free version includes one camera, while the premium version allows for multiple cameras. I’m not sure the maximum number of cameras you can have, but it may depend on your internet connection and the number of devices you have connected.

Motion detection schedule

The motion detection schedule gives you the ability to turn motion detection on and off based on your needs. For example, you may want to schedule motion detection from the time you leave for work, until the time you return. 

Breakeven point

In this section, I am going to compare the breakeven point of the monthly fee to the average cost of the top 5 security camera systems. For this example I am going to use the following cameras:

  • Blink XT: 129.99
  • Nest Cam Outdoor: 178.99
  • YI 4pc Home Security Camera: 95.99
  • Arlo Pro 2 2 camera system: 419.99
  • Ring Doorbell: 99.99

The average price for these 5 cameras is 184.99, and the Alfred Premium monthly subscription is $3.99

As you can see the breakeven point is 47 months or almost 4 years. Do you expect a security camera to last longer than 4 years? Also, do you think your phone turned security camera will last another 4 years?

Alfred app vs Wireless IP camera

In this section, I am going to compare the Alfred app to the Ring Spotlight Cam battery. For the purposes of this comparison, I am going to compare the free version to the Ring version. I am going to compare the free version because that is the version that is the most marketed. 

I am going to compare the following items

  • Cost
  • Installation and setup
  • Picture quality
  • Features
  • Ease of use
  • App
  • Viability
  • Locations
  • Battery life

Cost

The Alfred app is free to start vs a relatively expensive Ring camera. Advantage Alfred.

Alfred: 1, Ring: 0

Installation and setup

Alfred took less than 10 minutes to set up and install. The most difficult part of this install was remembering my Google username and password.

The Ring installation and setup took less than 30 minutes. The installation requires you screwing the mounting bracket into a location, then attaching the camera. Also, it takes close to three minutes for the Ring camera to complete the self-directed setup. 

Advantage Alfred.

Alfred: 2, RIng: 0

Picture quality

The Alfred free version comes with a standard definition video quality. When compared to high definition, SD video quality is unwatchable.

The Ring cameras recording in 1080P high definition. The picture is crystal clear, and you can make out the smallest detail

Advantage Ring

Ring: 1, Alfred: 2

Features

The Ring Camera has the following features:

  • Motion activate spotlight
  • Motion alerts
  • Push notifications
  • Motion zones
  • Unlimited (but paid) subscription
  • Two-way talk
  • Emergency siren
  • Dual battery slots
  • Solar panel connectivity (additional cost)

For a complete list of features, check out my review: Ring Spotlight Cam Battery Review, 10 Months in Still the Best?

The Ring camera has all of the same features that Alfred has, plus a few more. For example, the emergency siren is a nice feature to have to scare away people lurking around your house. 

I think the Ring camera has better, and more impressive features, they went this section

Ring: 2, Alfred: 2

Ease of use

I think both cameras are pretty easy to use. The setup is fast, the icons are logical, and there isn’t a long learning curve to understand the systems strengths and weaknesses. 

This section is a tie.

Ring: 2, Alfred: 2

App

If you’ve read my review of the Ring app, then you know I was frustrated with the apps inability to view multiple cameras at the same time. Recently, Ring updated their dashboard to include this feature.

In addition, you can review the event history, share recent events with neighbors, and configure all of the settings right in the ring app. The app looks clean and sleek, and doesn’t take long to understand.

The Alfred looks very basic but in a good way. It would be very difficult to get lost or confused when using this app. This app is especially nice for people that are new to home security cameras.

I think Ring has the better app in this section. The number of configurations you can make, the ability to view multiple cameras on the dashboard, and the overall feel gave Ring the advantage.

Ring: 3, Alfred: 2

Viability

When I mention viability, I think of two things. First, how viable is this as a long-term solution? Second, could you install this camera somewhere and be satisfied with the results?

While I know that Ring has only been around a short time, I expect to be around and get better. I think as Ring grows and matures they will push the needed updates to make the usability better. In the last year alone they have made a number of improvements that have made the user experience better.

Two examples that come to mind are motion snooze and viewing multiple cameras at the same time. The motion snooze is a nice feature to have if you are cutting the grass and don’t want to receive a motion alert every time you walk in the cameras field of view.

I don’t think Alfred is a long-term solution. As currently constructed, I think it would be too easy to outsmart this system. I am concerned about the inability to mount the system, how easy you turn the system off, and Google tracking. 

Location

When I think about location, I think about all of the places I could install the camera and not be concerned with someone tampering with the system. 

The Ring camera is designed for outdoor use. While it is not weatherproof, it is designed to work in temperatures ranging for -5-degrees to 120-degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, this camera can also be placed anywhere inside the home.

It seems that this system would only be approved for indoor use. When thinking about smartphones, they have at least one opening to charge the battery. I don’t trust placing a smartphone outside, exposing it to all types of weather. For example, I’ve seen a smartphone shutdown because it sat in direct sunlight for 10 minutes. 

I think Ring wins this easily.

Ring:4, Alfred: 2

Battery life

Battery life is one of the most important aspects of a wireless security camera. Short battery life results in needing to recharge the battery and taking away from the task of providing security. 

Admittedly, the Ring camera does not have the longest life. Before I added a second battery, later a solar panel, my camera lasted around one month. Since I’ve added the solar panel (additional cost) I have not needed to recharge the battery.

Because Alfred relies on the camera battery, the battery life is not totally within their control. When testing the battery life with the iPhone 7 plus, the battery drained in less than 8 hours. 

However, I think there are things that Alfred could do to extend the battery life of the smartphone. While Alfred does have a save power mode, I think more should be done to conserve the battery.

Ring easily wins this section.

Ring: 5, Alfred: 2

Final thoughts

While I think Alfred is a cool idea to repurpose old security cameras, do I don’t think this is a viable option for someone that is serious about security cameras. There are too many concerns for Alfred to be the first choice. Below I have written some of my concerns.

  • This is not a real option for outside use
  • This security camera can be defeated too easily
  • How many smartphones can you connect to this system?
  • How often will you need to recharge your smartphone?
  • Which smartphone models will this app work with
  • What level is the security?
  • Who is managing the security?
  • Where is my data going?
  • What data is Google collecting?

I have many more questions, but the 9 bullets above are enough of a reason to not consider this a real option. Check out my recommendations for a security camera system here.

I think Alfred is a good secondary option or an option for someone that wants to build a security camera system over time. I think users that think this is a primary option, will be disappointed with the results. 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, I documented my experience with installing and configuring the leading home security application. While I think this application is a nice way to repurpose old phones you have sitting around, you may be better off selling the phone, and putting that money towards a quality security camera system.

I like that the system takes advantage of the dual cameras that are on most smartphones, the ability to turn the flashlight on remotely, and the two-way audio.

However, I am a bit concerned about how easy you can defeat this system, battery life, and its’ limited placement. Below I have written a few additional questions to consider when purchasing a camera.

Questions:

  • What temperature range will this work in?
  • Is the smartphone considered weatherproof?
  • How many cameras can be connected?
  • Are there any models that will not work?
  • Could I place the app in an SD card, put the card in a camera and run the app off the SD card?
  • What is the amount of bandwidth consumed?
  • Where does the user data go?
  • Number of phones you have vs the number of phones you will need to purchase
  • Good supplement but not a primary option

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