The Canary home security camera is a motion-activated, Wi-Fi-connected security camera that you can use to monitor your home remotely. Although Canary doesn’t offer professional monitoring, smartphone notifications allow you to keep an eye on the activity inside your home while you’re away. The Canary home security camera isn’t a replacement for a more powerful system, but it’s a nice option for someone like a student who wants to monitor a dorm or small apartment.
How Canary works
At its heart, Canary is a security camera. The base unit includes a camera with a built-in siren and motion, temperature, and humidity sensors. This system keeps an eye on your home and notifies you via text message of any events. Its 147-degree wide-angle lens is decently wide, but it doesn’t pan or tilt, so you only get a static view.
The camera provides you with a high-definition (1080p) view into your home while you’re away. If the camera detects motion, it begins to record and sends a brief video clip and a notification to your phone. After receiving the notification, you can ignore it, trigger a 90-decibel siren, or notify authorities.
Canary stores all of its recorded footage and uses it to create a sort of timeline. Canary even uses its own hashtag for the feature: #CaughtByCanary. Mostly, pet owners use the hashtag to laugh at the antics their animals get into while they’re out of the house, but you can also hand the footage over to police to aid the capture of a thief.
While Canary is designed for smaller spaces, multiple units sync up seamlessly. From the app, you can switch between camera feeds by swiping to the left or the right, making it easy to monitor activity in multiple spaces. Canary integrates with iOS, Android, and Apple Watch, providing you with multiple ways to access your camera. The major downside to this is the cost—at $199 per unit, adding multiple units to your home gets expensive quickly, which is why we mainly recommend Canary for smaller homes.
Canary includes free shipping, a one-year warranty, and a 60-day guarantee with each system. It also offers 24/7 customer support and has historically been quick to respond to any customer complaints.
Drawbacks to Canary
While Canary has many attractive features, there are downsides. The foremost is the lack of professional monitoring: unlike more robust security systems, Canary isn’t monitored by an offsite company. While you can program the camera to contact police at the push of a button, you have to give the command from your phone. It won’t automatically perform the action. Another major point of concern is the lack of a battery backup: if your power goes out, so does your security. If a major storm strikes your area and you are without power for several days, your home is vulnerable to looters while you’re away.
Canary Setup and installation
Canary makes it easy to install the camera and begin using it almost immediately. All it requires is a power outlet and a Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) connection. Canary is built to rest on flat surfaces, making it ideal for an end table, mantel, or bookshelf.
Once you’ve placed the unit where you want it, download the app and follow the on-screen instructions to create an account and customize your settings. No assembly or tools are required for setup and installation.
Canary is controlled entirely via the mobile app, available for iOS or Android. The app allows you to trigger the alarm, notify authorities, or disable the system. Canary uses geo-fencing to determine when you’re at home and when you’re away, and will subsequently set the system to operate in one of four modes: Away, Home, Night, and Privacy.
- Away mode: Motion sensors trigger smartphone notifications.
- Home mode: Responses can be customized based on your preferences.
- Night mode: Canary sends silent notifications and monitors for motion.
- Privacy mode: All camera and audio capabilities are disabled.
What Canary costs
The cost of Canary depends on how many devices you want to sync in your home. The Canary All-In-One system costs $199 per unit. The Canary Two-Pack is $379.
Here’s what stood out most about Canary: there are no mandatory monthly fees. None. All basic functionality is available from the outset without the purchase of a monthly plan. This is because of the lack of professional monitoring; even so, comparable systems like Scout require a $9.99 plan to access the basic features.
Canary’s optional monthly plans vary based on the length of time it stores video footage and the number of devices you include. A Canary membership also extends the warranty of a system by an additional year and provides reimbursement of up to $1,000 of renters or homeowners insurance deductibles for qualifying events.
Canary pricing table
|Product||Included service (no plan)||1 device||2-3 devices||4+ devices|
|View product||Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon|
|Monthly plan price||$0||$9.99/mo. |
|$19.99/mo. for 4 devices |
$4.99 per additional device
|Shared video history length||24 hours||30 days||30 days||30 days|
|Unlimited data and downloads|
|Insurance deductible reimbursement|
|2-year extended device warranty|
- 1080p HD camera
- 147-degree lens
- Night vision
- Motion detection
- 90 dB siren
- 3-axis accelerometer
- Ambient light detection
- Capacitive touchscreen
What others think of Canary
First-person accounts from customers who used Canary for an extended period can reveal potential problems (and benefits) that you should consider. Happy customers praise the customer service and say that Canary works well for their basic security needs. Those who were less impressed raised concerns about Canary’s reliability.
Positive Canary reviews
“I have had problems with my 3 canary cameras and have had them all resolved by the tech staff at Canary who responded to my problems very promptly.These cameras have served my security needs and I am very satisfied with them and have recommended them to my friends.” — George B., December 6, 2015 (Amazon)
“Geofencing works well Nice all around device, controlled with basic software. I had trouble setting up using bluetooth, but having the 3.5mm cable as a backup was a lifesaver. Odd how you need to contact the vendor just to remove a location. I wish there was 2-way audio. 12 hours of storage is nice for the free plan. I’d consider paying for more storage if plans were slightly cheaper. Nearly perfect.” —Robert Archey, August 15, 2016 (Google Play Store)
Negative Canary reviews
“This has potential, but doesn’t live up to the promise. The live feed kept dropping (a couple times a minute or more) despite a strong wifi signal (yes, I ran speed tests). When I called customer service, a rep told me that this was normal and that the canary doesn’t actually provide uninterrupted, live streaming. What?? I recently bought a nest cam as replacement and it works perfectly. Worth the extra $50 by far.” — Demicrown, May 15, 2016 (Amazon)
“Notifies me of event, nothing on timeline. Frustrated that the app is basically broken for me. I can watch live, but it has zero timeline events even 10 minutes after the event. What use is it at this stage? Please get this fixed.” —James Moore, August 10, 2016 (Google Play Store)
The final verdict
Despite the concerns voiced by some customers, the good far outweighs the bad. Functionality issues are an ever-present problem with software, but Canary responded to many of the negative reviews with troubleshooting suggestions and invitations to contact customer service for further assistance. This gives us faith that even if problems arise, the company will work to correct them.
All in all, Canary is a solid purchase. It’s a great choice for a rental property or a student dorm, particularly one with an open-door policy. However, it’s not quite as robust as other security systems—and remember, it doesn’t offer professional monitoring.
So if you get a Canary system, and you still want the security of professional monitoring, we’d recommend using it in conjunction with other systems or devices. If you’re still interested in other options, check out our review of Sentri’s home monitoring system.