Ring Mailbox Sensor Review

Ring sells a “Mailbox Sensor” ($29) which tells you when somebody opens your mailbox. (i.e. it notifies you when the mail is delivered, or picked up.)

Really, it’s just one of their ring outdoor light motion sensor modules with an extra external antenna jack. (The small round object near the white square in the photo below.) It is powered by 3 AAA batteries, and lasts about 2.5 months under “normal” usage (e.g. opening the mailbox twice a day six days a week) using generic AAA batteries. Continue reading

Ring app on Android (3.40.0) suddenly became a background data hog

In the month of May, the ring app cost me $40 (I pay $10 a GB for cellular data).

Having the ability to see what is going on around the house when I am away is worth spending some mobile data on…in March it cost me 54MB, and in April it cost me 318 MB (54 cents and $3.18 cents respectively). However, that is FOREGROUND data, that is actively used when I am streaming data in the app. Sometime after May 5th, the ring app started to download a LOT of background data. In fact, for the May5-June 4th month, I used 91 MB of foreground data, and the ring app used 3.95 GB of background data (that’s $39.50 it cost me).

[Soon after taking these screenshots, I disabled “Background data” for the ring app, which prevented it from using more excessive amounts of (cellular) data and costing me money.
Ring app using 4 GB of background data in a month

My current version of the ring app is 3.40.0, running on Android 11 on a Pixel 4A phone.
After I got the $40 larger than I was expecting bill in June, I quickly checked to see what was using all of that data, and found that the Ring app had used 1.27 GB of data in only a few days. To put that in perspective, it was using more data than Pokemon GO, which is usually my highest data using application.

 

The problem is not limited to cellular data, the ring app has become a massive data hog when on wifi as well (but at least since my wifi connection is not metered, it doesn’t cost me anything). Every so often when I am at home I will use the ring app to watch the video feed from a camera if I get a motion alert and don’t want to get up to look out the window. In March and April this usage amounted to around 1 GB and 1.7 GB of wifi data respectively.   But, in May, the ring app used 61 GB of wifi data!
I did not stream more video in May than in previous months, so this is primarily background data usage by the app.
Ring using 61 GB of wifi data

If I had to guess, I suspect that the ring app on android has started automatically downloading videos of motion that occur, EVEN IF THE USER DOES NOT WATCH IT! Perhaps this a feature designed to make the app more responsive if the user selects the notification to view the video stream, but when I talked with technical support, they could not offer any explanation for why this was happening or how to disable the high data usage.

Update – Ring app 3.41.0 appears to have fixed the issue

After the Ring app upgraded to version 3.41.0 on Android, I re-enabled background data and kept a close eye on it for a few days. Including a few times I was away from wifi on cellular data, the data usage was much more reasonable, so it appears that the ring developers have fixed whatever the issue was.

2.47 mb of data used over a few days

 

Ring Motion sensor (Gen 1) falling offline intermittently? Try a battery change.

Gen 1 Ring Motion Sensor
I have a Ring alarm motion sensor that is located far away from the alarm base station. So I installed the Ring z-wave extender about halfway between the motion sensor and the the base station, and everything worked for about 2 years.  However, within the last year (3rd year of operation) the motion sensor would intermittently fall offline.  Sometimes simply triggering it would bring it online, other times it would come back online on its own, and other times I had to unplug and re-plug the z-wave extender box to get it to come back online.

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Upgrading Ring Video Doorbell (gen1) to Ring Video Doorbell (Gen2)

Back in 2015 I bought a 1st gen Ring Video Doorbell. In 2018 Ring replaced it under warranty after it stopped responding. Two years later, I started having issues with the internal battery not staying charged, even though I had it hard wired with power from an AC doorbell transformer. This resulted in me having to take it off the wall to recharge via the USB plug periodically.  Ring offered to give me a 35% off code to replace it, making the Gen2 ring video doorbell a 65$ purchase, so I decided to upgrade. [Moving my Gen1 video doorbell elsewhere where it will activate less frequently and hopefully not need manual recharging as much.]

Ring’s Website currently has a nice description of the difference between the Gen1 and Gen2 Video Doorbell units.

The big gain is in image quality. The Gen2 camera is noticeably better, both with a higher resolution and with better low light performance. The field of view in the Gen2 unit is reduced (155 horizontal and 90 vertical, vs 180 horizontal and 140 vertical for the Gen 1 unit) and while I can tell the difference in visible area, I don’t feel like I’m losing any useful coverage. The difference between the 1080P (Gen2) and 720P (Gen1) is a clear and welcome improvement. In addition to the higher resolution, I feel that the lens is better and produces a sharper image. (Click on the images below to get full sized views as shown in the phone app.)

Gen2 – Day

Gen1 – Day

The improvement at night is even more striking.

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Mounting Ring Floodlight Cam under an eave

I’ve been happy with my Ring Doorbell camera, and when one of our motion lights stopped working, I decided I wanted to use the Ring motion detecting Floodlight Camera to replace it. The only problem is that the Ring Floodlight Camera is designed to be wall mounted (about 8′ high) and Ring specifically says it can’t be mounted under an eave. Challenge accepted.

As It turns out, you CAN mount a ring floodlight cam under an eave, but unless your eve is flat the camera part doesn’t have quite enough play in the provided ball joint.  (My eve follows the upward slope of my roof.) To fix this, you need to loosen the retaining screw, pop the camera unit out of the ball joint, and then grind a notch that will allow it to swivel upwards (formerly downwards) just a bit more.

The end result looks like this:

Here you can see the notch I ground out of the ball joint:


I used an angle grinder with a grinding wheel, but the plastic is soft, so you could do it with a rotary tool or even with a file by hand if you had a lot of extra time. Note the masking tape to make sure the camera cable stayed well out of the way of the grinding wheel.

There is an internal square tab inside the ball joint, which also has to be filed down (I used a hand file for this one):

After this small modification to the ball joint, there was plenty of flexibility to aim the camera exactly where I wanted it and have the bottom of the motion sensing pod level with the ground. Of course, you will need to rotate the lights so they are not “upside down”, so the “rain shields” are correctly on the top.  [Note that the camera part is shipped “upside down” in the box, and normally you would need to flip it over when wall mounting, so you can omit that step.]

I am lucky, in that I have a low roof, so that the angle of the camera is still right around where it should be for capturing good images of faces. If you had a two story house, mounting a camera under the eave wouldn’t give you a very good angle.

Does this modification void the warranty? Possibly. If the device fails due to this modification, it would certainly void the warranty. [For example, if the camera unit falls out and breaks after I modify the ball joint designed to hold it.]  However, if the camera unit were to fail due due to an electronic or software problem completely unrelated to the modified ball joint, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act could give me legal standing to insist that Ring replace/repair the camera unit because its failure was unrelated to my modification.  [I’m hoping the situation doesn’t come up….I made sure to test the floodlight camera before I broke out my angle grinder to make sure everything was working right before I started hacking on the ball joint.]