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The rise and (possible) fall of the subscription based smart home: Can you truly be subscription free?

Updated: May 17


How to be smart home subscription free


As the cost of living crisis continues to hit hard, subscription services seem to be popping up everywhere. From monthly gin clubs to themed mystery boxes, the idea that we can access specialised products and services for a small monthly fee has gripped the nation. 


We can all justify a few pounds here or there, but it’s easy for subscriptions to suddenly mount up. For many, the growing cost is becoming an unmanageable burden, but are there alternatives for your smart home? 


Why have a smart home subscription at all?



The growth of smart home subscriptions 2016-2022


For smart home products, subscription services were born out of a need to save and access video from cloud storage anywhere in the world. Between 2016 and 2022, worldwide subscriptions rose from 58.9 million, to 289.7 million according to Statista. A relatively small monthly cost was introduced during the rise of services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, so customers understood the potential being offered. Companies then seized the opportunity to offer additional services and this small monthly amount was increased in the hope that customers would barely notice. 


By being able to access automations, smart alerts and video online at any time, the aim was to provide customers a service that gave them flexibility and control. Over time, inevitably prices had to rise and recently, some users have seen increases up to 43% in one hit! So, to keep us all hooked, manufacturers often lock up special features behind a subscription only plan. 


As smart homes have evolved though, some manufacturers have started offering alternatives that provide these benefits without the ongoing cost, making us question if we need to pay a monthly fee at all. 


Are the alternatives any good? 



Subscription free smart camera


The reality is, cloud storage is really useful and gives us a reliable backup option for all of our important data. Pictures, video, phone backups, automations, can all be saved on the cloud and are protected remotely. If your hardware was to have problems, you could rest assured that everything could be recovered once you resolved your issues. 


It depends on how cautious you are, but some kind of backup can be useful. You can however, now choose smart home products with storage options built in, so you don’t need to rely on the cloud. The newest products even allow you to access your internal storage from anywhere in the world as easily as you would with a subscription. 


On top of this, the additional features you normally have to pay for are starting to filter back into products you can just buy (like the good old days). Doorbells and cameras can now record directly to built in storage that you can access when you’re away from home. AI can provide better motion detection and even prevent unnecessary alerts coming through to you, which is something previously reserved for subscription only customers. 


If you opt for network attached storage, you can even save pictures, videos, phone backups, files and more, while still being able to access it from anywhere. 


Will I notice much difference?


The reality is that it depends on what you plan to do with your smart home. If you want to have lots of automations, keeping them stored locally will mean that they trigger much faster and more reliably. 


Alternatively, if you want to access videos and large files remotely on a regular basis, having a local storage option means that you are subject to the limitations of your own network setup and could mean slower results. 


Smart home is moving towards more efficient and localised control with new protocols and standards such as Thread and Matter (the smart home industry’s hope for a better future). With less reliance on the cloud, we should all notice improvements in speed and reliability. 


What are the cost implications?


Like you might imagine, the initial cost to avoid subscriptions will be higher than buying subscription based products. If however, you lock yourself into a subscription based ecosystem, you’re at their mercy and they can always increase the price. 


On the plus side, you can build a smart home that is built to last, reducing the need for frequent upgrades and replacements due to devices and software focused on longevity and compatibility. 


So over time, it should cost you far less to go subscription free, but it does require more investment up front. Understandably, this won’t work for everybody, but at least we’re starting to have more options than we ever did before. 


Which path to choose?


Well, both subscription and non-subscription have their benefits. If you pay regularly for something, you hope that it will always be updated to the latest and best option. Subscription free however gives you the freedom to keep your data local, accessible and without any additional cost so you always know where you stand. 


Manufacturers are now under more pressure than ever to deliver outstanding services for subscribers, or risk losing them all to subscription free devices. This should hopefully mean that we’ll continue to see innovation and simplicity to keep customers happy to keep paying regularly. Without a crystal ball, we’ll have to see on that one. It’s not worth buying a product with the hope that it will get better, but at least it’s something to look out for.


It really comes down to the type of person you are and what you want to get out of your smart home. There are at least more options than ever before and you now have the choice to be free to control your smart home the way you like.


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