Netgear’s Arlo is considered a premium brand in smart home security, and it’s often ranked up there with Google’s Nest cameras and Amazon’s Ring in terms of reliability and features. But Arlo cameras are also some of the priciest, and its updated subscription tiers seem incredibly unfriendly toward anyone who doesn’t want to pay a monthly fee.
Arlo is severely dialing back on how much access you have to customer service if you don’t pay for a subscription. If you buy Arlo cameras and you want access to a phone number for when things go awry, you’ll have to pay a minimum of $3 a month. Customers who want to use their cameras without a subscription will only have access to customer service through community forums, a virtual assistant, and device manuals.
New Arlo customers can try out customer support the first 90 days after purchase, which includes priority agent routing and live chat support. Live chat support is only available within the first year of purchase. After that, you’re cut off—unless you subscribe.
StaceyonIoT, which flagged the pay-for-support tier, aptly described Arlo’s move to charge everyone for live support as a carrot and stick motivator. If you pay for an account, Arlo will prioritize you over its free users. And if you don’t want to pay anything after dropping upwards of $250 on a single Arlo camera, you’re relegated to automated help.
Arlo’s subscription plans don’t allow much wiggle room, either. The base Arlo Secure subscription for one camera is $3 a month, or $10 a month for an unlimited number of cameras. That includes video cloud storage and 2K recording for 30 days, plus interactive alerts and priority support. The Arlo Security Plus tier is the most robust for $15 a month, and it unlocks 24/7 emergency response and 4K video cloud storage.
Arlo’s pricing structure competes head-on with the likes of Google’s Nest Aware plan for its security camera, which is now a two-tier model: the basic Nest Aware subscription, which offers 30 days of event history for all Nest home security cameras for $6 a month, and Nest Aware Plus, which provides 60 days of event history and 24/7 recording for 10 days at a time for $12. Google lets you test drive Nest Aware for 30 days. Amazon’s Ring Protect subscription pricing is just as competitive. It includes basic video recording for one device for $2 a month or unlimited devices for $10 a month. And while you certainly get more features if you pay up, neither Google nor Amazon require you to subscribe just to speak to customer service on the phone.
It’s a strange time for Arlo to choose this sort of aggressive subscription push, considering the security camera space has only gotten more competitive in recent years. Manufacturers like TP-Link and Eufy both make affordable security cameras that don’t require a subscription to record security footage.
Arlo’s strategy is most likely related to the widespread global manufacturing delays. As StaceyonIoT notes, making hardware isn’t cheap, and pushing subscriptions could help recoup some of the costs of producing a gadget. But considering the mass of other security camera brands on the market, it’s unclear if Arlo’s reputation as one of the more reliable security cameras will be enough to convince folks to pay up just for customer service.
We reached out to Arlo for comment and will update if and when we hear back.
Update, 10/14/21 at 10:45 a.m. PT: Arlo has since responded to our request for comment with the following statement:
All users have access to Arlo’s 24/7 Support Center in the Arlo App, enabling them to conveniently troubleshoot and find solutions. Based on customer feedback, most Arlo users prefer self-help as it can be frustrating to wait for live phone support. Arlo’s recent changes have taken that input into consideration.
Arlo customers with products under warranty or those engaged in a free trial or paid Arlo Secure subscription, are typically more engaged with their Arlo systems and rely on Arlo for more proactive support. The rollout of Arlo Priority Support was designed with the user in mind, to reduce wait times and expedite troubleshooting with senior care experts. Any Arlo customer in need of warranty repairs or replacements can get quickly and easily get responses through the Support Center on Arlo App.