As we mentioned in our recent writeup of the Bosch exhibition at the Royal Bath and West Show, we’ve recently been trialling Bosch’s 360° Indoor Camera, part of the German firm’s smart home range.
It’s not the cheapest at £219, but as you’ll see from our review, it offers a lot for that price tag.
Getting set up
The camera comes in an eye-catching red and white two-part box — not what you might expect from Bosch, who are best known for power tools. Declaring “I am smart,” the box opens up to reveal the lighthouse-esque camera, with power adapter and instructions underneath.
The box is blessedly free of any disparate bits to put together or figure out. It’s just a case of plugging in the power lead and installing the app. It also doesn’t require any kind of smart home hub, it can work by itself.
When you first turn the camera on, the top part rises up out of its white housing, ready to record. It’s a cool little feature, but also means you can feel completely confident that when you want the camera off, it’s definitely off — you can put it back down. As someone who habitually puts covers on laptop cameras, phone cameras and webcams, this is a welcome feature. (We’ll talk more about that shortly — see the section titled ‘A little privacy’).
Spying on my pets
You view the Bosch camera through its dedicated app, which is again blessedly simple and easy-to-use (we’ve seen some shockers over the years of testing webcams). Sadly, though, you currently can’t watch in your browser, which is something I like to do when I’m at work.
There’s a little video window in the app that you tap on to see the live feed, which you can expand to fullscreen if you want to, and from there you can also turn the camera around to make use of the full 360-degree field of vision. It’s really easy: you just drag the video left or right depending on which way you want to go, and the camera complies immediately.
You can give the feed a name to differentiate it from others if you have more than one camera (you can network up to ten), and the app also very helpfully saves videos of any motion it detects. So when I’m away and checking on my cats, I can see all the times they got up and walked around the living room, which means even if they’re not in the field of view of the camera when I happen to check it, I can still see what they’ve been up to.
(Gadgette Zack likes to take advantage of this by putting his entire face up to the camera so I get a video of his big mush every now and then).
Unlike some camera manufacturers, Bosch doesn’t charge you or try to make you take out a subscription to see these videos, they just sit in the app. If you’re getting too many, you can turn the sensitivity down. You can also turn on (or off) motion notifications, which is more useful when you’re using the camera as a security device: I had to turn this off immediately when I put the camera in my bird room, because it was going off constantly!
Using the default settings, the camera will automatically rotate itself to face any motion. This can be unnerving (which might be what you want, if you’re using it for security) or disruptive if you’re using it to observe babies or animals (it’s a little mechanically noisy), so it’s easy to toggle off in the camera settings. On the other hand, if you turn it off and there’s action where the camera isn’t currently facing, you won’t see it. That 360-degree field is a result of the camera moving all the way round Exorcist-style — it can’t see the whole lot at once.
It’s worth knowing that you can only view recorded videos from your camera when it’s switched on. This is a bit of a drawback, because if a burglar noticed the camera (it’s not the most subtle-looking) and unplugged or smashed it, your app wouldn’t show you any of the recordings. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future update — it’s not a dealbreaker for me because I just use it to check my home hasn’t burnt down and the birds haven’t started a turf war with the cats, but for home security it’s definitely a downside.
A little privacy
It’s a faff to have to turn a camera on and off manually when you don’t want to be watched. The Bosch 360-degree indoor camera fixes this with ‘Privacy Mode,’ wherein the whole camera automagically retreats back into its housing (with a merry little jingle) so you know 100% you can’t be seen.
In the app, you activate this by pressing the button shaped like a power key. It pops up a timer, so you can choose how long to turn the camera off for — including ‘Indefinitely’. (On the website, this feature is described in the most adorably Bosch way ever: “your watchful assistant politely averts its gaze.” Aww).
When you’re ready, turn it back on the same way and it comes jingling out of its hideaway, ready to roll. You can turn the jingle off in the settings if you prefer a silent start, but as with the Roomba 980, I’ve come to quite enjoy it.
Night vision and cat-scaring
One of the ways cheaper cameras show their price is when the lights go down. The night vision on the Bosch camera is AMAZING. It’s better than my own night vision with my actual eyes.
Using two IR sensors that you can see on either side of the camera lens, the camera gives an incredibly bright and detailed view of even a completely dark room.
It’s black and white of course, but we experimented by turning off every light source in our living room one-by-one and still the camera showed everything in the room. It’s seriously impressive. (In the picture on the right we have one lamp and a TV on, but it wasn’t much different even without those).
The picture quality in normal light is also excellent: full 1080p HD with plenty of colour.
As with many security cams, the Bosch 360 Indoor camera also has a microphone option in the app. Hold the mic button down and you can talk instantly out of the camera. This is brilliant for scaring the pants off pets and partners — or calling your confused kitty over to the camera so you can remind yourself how beautiful she is (answer: very).
I love this camera and will be sad to see it go back to Bosch. For checking on my house and seeing how my pets are, it’s absolutely ideal, and the 360-degree field of vision means I don’t have to have two cameras to cover my whole living room.
I love how easy it is to control where the camera’s looking (a previous webcam took an absolute age to respond to “turn left” requests), the quality of the video (especially at night) and the ability to pop the top back down for privacy. I like that you can network multiple cameras, and that you can add the Bosch outdoor camera easily too.
I like the simplicity of the app but would have appreciated a browser option too, especially as it has you create a Bosch account. I’d also like the ability to watch my recorded videos when the camera isn’t online, because in a home invasion situation that could make the camera pointless. However, this may be due to Bosch’s very strict stance on local storage and privacy (see this article for more).
The 360-degree Indoor camera works with Amazon Alexa, but not currently Google Assistant. That’d be nice to see in future too, but again Bosch’s data policies might prevent collaboration (they have strict data standards and if a potential partner doesn’t meet them, they’re out. For this reason Bosch products are less compatible with other ecosystems than some, which may be a benefit or a drawback depending on your viewpoint).
It’s not perfect and it is pricey, but for my needs, the Bosch 360 Indoor camera is a brilliant piece of kit.
This post was sponsored by Bosch, but written entirely by me with no oversight, and represents my real opinions. I can’t be bought, yo.
Main image & some others by the amazing Jade Hicks