August View Review: A Stylish (But Unfinished) Wireless Video Doorbell

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Although there are many wired video doorbells, there are very few wireless video doorbells. That's because it's hard to make a device with a camera and Wi-Fi that's power-efficient enough to last for several months.

August has presumably solved those issues with the $229 August View Doorbell Camera. When its button is pushed, you can see a feed of who's at your door from your smartphone or Alexa or Google Home display.

The August View also works with the company's smart locks, letting you unlock the door remotely for visitors. But this video doorbell is an unfinished work, keeping it off of our list of the best video doorbells.

Editor's Note (11/5/19): After suspending sales of the August View in April due to issued we and others have encountered with the device, August is relaunching the August View doorbell cam. We will update this review, and give it a rating, once we've had a chance to re-test the device.

Design and installation

August's second doorbell camera looks a lot better than its first, mainly because it actually looks like a doorbell. (The original August Doorbell Camera Pro was square, which not only made it awkward to install, but its unusual shape meant that many people didn't know what it was).

The August View measures 1.75 inches wide by 5.25 inches long and is about 1 inch deep. The long, rectangular shape is utilitarian, with a camera at the top and a push button at the bottom, but it works.

If you want a little more pizazz, you can swap out the View's faceplate. Plastic faceplates, which come in Red, White, or Blue, are $14.99 each, while metal faceplates (Brass, Satin Nickel, Midnight Gray and Bronze) are $29.99 each.

The bulk of the inside of the doorbell is a battery compartment; the View's battery can be removed and charged via USB, and should last up to three months with typical use, according to the company. But I wish the August View at least had the option to connect it to a power source, like the Ring Video Doorbell 2 has, so I wouldn't have to worry about recharging the battery.

Also included with the View is a plug-in chime that sounds when someone rings the bell. If you want this option with the Ring Video Doorbell 2, it's $29 extra. However, Ring's chime also acts as a Wi-Fi repeater, making it easier to install the doorbell where your home Wi-Fi signal is weaker.

Because the August View is a wireless doorbell, the only thing you need to attach to your door jamb is a small plate. The installation kit also includes a plastic wedge in case you have to angle the camera more toward your front door. Not included is a screwdriver, a nicety found with many other video doorbell kits.

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I appreciated the security measures August has in place for the setup process. There are not one, but two security codes you need to enter: one sent to your email address, and one  to your phone number.

August app

The main screen of the August app is filled with a still photo taken by the View, which is updated periodically. A large "Watch Live" button sits in the middle, so you can go to a live view very easily. Keep in mind that this will drain the View's battery.

Along the bottom of the screen are tabs for viewing event history, a guest list of people you've invited to use the doorbell, and settings.

I like that the event history shows not just when something happened, but also has a small thumbnail image of the event. However, the images were pretty unrevealing, as they didn't show any actual person in the frame.

The settings tab lets you turn on notifications for when the doorbell senses motion and when someone presses the button on the doorbell. In order to change motion sensitivity, you have to deselect Power Saving Mode, and then go to Advanced Settings. Here, you can adjust a slider for motion sensitivity, change the streaming quality (Good, Better, Best) and adjust night vision brightness (low, medium, high).

I live on a street that sees a fair amount of traffic and found that I had to adjust the motion sensitivity below 20 percent to keep from getting false alerts. Even then, I would still receive notifications when cars rolled by.

It’s good that August has the basics covered, but there are features found on other doorbell cameras that are quite useful. For example, you can program both Ring and Nest's doorbells to ignore motion in specific areas, helpful if you’re on a busy street.

Ring also has a clever Neighbors feature, which lets you see alerts from other Ring owners near you, as well as police and fire activity. And Nest's video doorbell has facial recognition.

Video performance

With a resolution of 1920 x 1440, the August View beats out the Ring's 1080p feed, and its vertical field of view is ever-so-slightly wider than that of the Ring. In practical terms, that meant I could see about a foot more of my porch. But the view still wasn't wide enough to see directly in front of my front door, which is where most packages are dropped.

However, the video quality was poor. The beginning part of almost all videos recorded by the doorbell was an overexposed field of white; only after 5-10 seconds would the exposure change to where I could actually distinguish objects.

I also had issues when trying to play back recorded videos. Many of the videos would show a few frames, then turn black and freeze.

After contacting August, the company responded that it is aware of the issues. "We're working on reducing the time it takes to stabilize the doorbell exposure, as well as ensuring video clips can be viewed without a download," a spokesperson said.

Smart home features

One of the advantages of August's wired DoorBell Cam Pro is that it's compatible with a wide range of smart-home products, including August's excellent Smart Lock Pro, Alexa, HomeKit and Google Assistant, and AirBnB, HomeAway, Honeywell, Simplisafe, Logitech, Yonomi, Wink, Xfinity, Stringify, Brilliant, Leviton, SmartThings, Nest, IFTTT and Control4.

Unfortunately, August's View Doorbell Camera isn't nearly as interoperable. Right now, you can use it only with Nest, IFTTT, and Alexa and Google Home devices, so those smart speakers can announce when someone rings the bell or the camera detects motion.

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If you have an Echo Show or a Fire TV device, you can ask Alexa to show you a feed from the DoorBell Cam Pro. However, this feature is not yet available for the View.

Subscription costs

If you don't sign up for a subscription plan, you can view videos recorded over the previous 24 hours, but you can't save them. If you want to save recorded video, a Premium Plan ($2.99/month) includes 15 days of storage, while a Premium Plus Plan ($4.99/month, or $50/year) includes 30 days of storage.

By comparison, Ring charges $3 per month (or $30 per year) for 60 days of storage, and if you have multiple Ring devices (such as the Ring floodlight camera), you can pay $10 per month, or $100 per year, to cover all of them.

Nest’s subscription plans start at $5/month (or $50/year) for a 5-day video history, live streaming, intelligent alerts, and custom activity zones.

Bottom Line

The addition of a wireless video doorbell to August's portfolio makes sense. Unfortunately, while the design of the August View is great, the company has to fix a number of flaws with its software before I can recommend it.

Although it's wider and not as attractive, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 has a few attributes that I think still give it an edge over the August View. For one, Ring's doorbell can be used as a wired or wireless device. Also, Ring's app has a few more features, such as customizable motion zones and the Neighborhood feed, that are very useful. While the August View has a wider vertical field of view, it's not enough to make a real difference in everyday use.

The other area where the View would have an edge over the Ring isn't fully baked, either. August's wired doorbell works with a host of other smart-home devices, but the View doesn't — yet.

To be fair, August did send me a beta version of its software so I could test the View ahead of its release. The View goes on sale today; we're going to reserve the final rating until we've had a chance to test the final software, but until — and unless — August fixes the issues I encountered, this is one video doorbell to avoid.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.