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October 5, 2017

Canary Now Charging for Previously Free Security Cam Features Due to ‘Significant’ Cloud Expenses

by John_A

Home security camera company Canary has updated the features included in its free and paid subscription packages over the past few days, removing multiple camera abilities that were once free to all users and placing them behind the company’s $9.99/month paywall. Subscriptions increase to $14.99/month for 2-3 cameras, and an additional $4.99/month for each added device.

Many Canary customers have emailed and Tweeted us over the past few days pointing out the changes, and now Canary has provided a statement to The Verge regarding its motivations.

The Canary Flex and Canary cameras
Under the terms of the new “Free Service,” Canary users can no longer use Night Mode if they aren’t paying, meaning they can’t set their camera to record clips when motion is detected in the nighttime while they’re home. Canary Free Service members can no longer record videos or receive motion alerts in Home Mode, nor can they record a full clip from when motion is detected to when the motion ends. Instead, for Free Service members the Canary Cam automatically cuts off the clip ten seconds after the first motion is seen. Canary calls these “digestible video previews.”

Canary Free Service members also can’t download and share videos from the iOS app, but can bookmark an unlimited amount of video previews to their timeline. All of these are features that were previously free, and now require users to become a paid “Canary Member.” As MacRumors readers have pointed out on Twitter, this means that even if you bought a Canary device months ago under the impression of not needing a paid subscription for basic features, you will now have to pay the company to keep on using the most useful abilities of the security cameras, or attempt to return or sell them.

Despite the marketing on their box said “no monthly plan” pic.twitter.com/NUUpntxxmm

— Cyril (@cyrildorsaz) October 4, 2017

Some basic features of the cams remain intact for Free Service members, like watching a feed live while in Home Mode without needing to switch to a different “Away” mode. Canary has updated the timeline as well, so that multiple cameras in one home have 24 hours of history for each individual device, instead of those 24 hours being divided up across devices.

According to Canary’s FAQ page, the membership update comes with a change in its cloud service implementation, and the prior Free Service tier “will no longer be available.” Understandably, the frustrations of many users center around Canary’s last-minute announcement of the changes (September 28), which came less than one week ahead of the official implementation (October 3).

Can I keep my legacy plans rather than switching to the new Free Service?
No. All customers who are not on Canary Membership will shift to our new Free Service experience. This is a change in our cloud service implementation, and the prior Free Service experience will no longer be available.

Canary co-founder and chief design officer Jon Troutman issued the following statement on the situation to The Verge:

“Today we stream nearly 500 million video clips per day. Most Canary users rely on notifications, Watch Live, and their timeline images to determine what is happening in their homes or businesses, which means that hundreds of millions of recorded videos travel through our platform unwatched, making the system slower, and costing Canary a significant amount in cloud expenses. To address this, we have aligned all free users on a plan that provides Video Previews that are still maintained on a 24-hour timeline. We have also introduced a faster Watch Live experience that can now be enabled while Canary devices are set to Away or Home mode. Our goal with these changes was to maintain a highly-competitive free service option while enabling continuous innovation and new feature development for all users.”

Canary’s stance appears to consistently state that too many recorded videos were traveling through the Canary platform “unwatched,” leading to a slowdown of the service for some users, as well as “costing Canary a significant amount in cloud expenses.” As such, the company has adjusted the Free Service tier by paring down to ten second video previews, removing Night Mode, and preventing users from downloading and sharing videos within the Canary app.

Amid all of the turmoil over the new subscription plans, there’s also still no word from Canary about when HomeKit support will launch with the Canary Plus. Canary first announced the HomeKit-enabled camera in June 2016 for a release sometime that fall.

Tag: Canary
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