Every company needs to make money somehow, that's not up for debate. But going about it in a sneaky and disingenuous way is not the best practice to keep your customers and reputation. That's the case of Canary, the smart cam monitoring company that has now officially earned my wrath.

Out of the blue, Canary emailed its free users on October 3 (sorry we're late on this, but we were making sure our info was correct) and brought them the happy news that their smart cam is now nothing but a glorified live-streamer. No pre-warning, no grandfathering of the features for existing users, not even a "we're sorry but we need to make ends meet."

Here's the breakdown of the changes:

  • Canary Membership subscribers: nothing has changed. (For now, yay you!)
  • Canary free members can't use Night Mode anymore: no more recording clips when motion is detected during periods of the night if Canary knows you're home. Night thieves are going to love this.
  • Canary free members can't record videos or get motion alerts while at home anymore: if you're home, the whole system stays in Private Mode and you can't change that.
  • Canary free members don't get full video recordings anymore: instead, here are 10sec preview clips of when the motion started and nothing else. Enjoy, you guys!
  • Canary free members don't get free downloads and shares anymore: you have unlimited bookmarks, but those downloads and shares that you've been enjoying, welp, gone.
  • The two minor improvements: 1) Free users get 24hrs of video previews on every Canary cam now, instead of the 24hrs being divided between your multiple cams. 2) You can Watch Live in Home mode, which you couldn't before without manually switching to Away or Night. They had to add this, otherwise Home Mode would be completely useless without live streaming or motion recording.

Every time you try to do something you used to be able to do => Activate Membership.

So you know all those features that you thought you got when you bought your cam? Say b-bye to them. You now have to pay to get them, ain't that grand? Instead of Canary innovating on features to incentivize users to get the paid Membership, they decided that taking away existing features from free users is a much easier way. It's made even worse by the lack of prior notice, lack of explanation, and lack of appreciation for existing users. And did I mention the company took away its 24-hr phone support?

I've loved and recommended Canary despite its shortcomings for years, but they just lost me. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Canary is essentially now like a Nest cam, good only for live viewing. But at least Nest doesn't bait-and-switch you or take things away from you, it adds more and more features to the paid plan to get you to sign up. I guess I'm moving to some other brand soon. Arlo, Logi, Netatmo, Ring, Nest, they all have great alternatives.

Here's an official statement from Canary:

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.

It's an explanation, but it doesn't justify the disingenuous way these changes were announced and implemented.