Question: Would you buy a $90 phone charger?
Most will probably say no, but what they forget to ask is, "What makes this charger so expensive?". Perhaps there's a secret feature, and perhaps this feature is compelling enough to warrant the price tag.
Enough with the mysteries. Let's jump ahead and see what makes the $90 LookOut phone charger special.
What Is The LookOut Charger?
LookOut is an IndieGoGo funded phone charger. It has one USB port built-in for the charging cable, it comes in US and EU plug versions, and it's about the same size as charging adapters for iPhones. It looks pretty normal … UNTIL YOU TAKE A CLOSER LOOK.
Look just a little higher than LookOut's USB port, and you'll find a tiny peephole. It's barely noticeable, but it's there. Behind it is LookOut's greatest asset: a camera. Yes, LookOut is a hidden camera disguised as a functional phone charger.
Image and Video Quality
Aside from the fact that it's well-hidden, there's nothing special about LookOut's camera. It records in 1080p, it has a decent wide-angle lens, and it has a microphone for recording audio.
It lacks several features, however, including night vision. I'm guessing that this is because the light in IR LEDs would give away the camera's location, and defeat the purpose of a having a hidden camera. Another missing feature is the ability to live stream from anywhere. As LookOut only records when plugged into an outlet, it would have been a great opportunity to build a Wi-Fi chip into the device and give it the ability to stream videos to your smartphone. Maybe in future LookOut versions? Maybe.
In LookOut's defense, their aim is to create a simple monitoring device. A product that doesn't require apps, an internet connection, or constant monitoring. And that's exactly what LookOut has achieved.
How LookOut Works
Using LookOut is as simple as plugging in your phone's charger, literally. Once plugged in, LookOut automatically starts recording. But where do the videos go?
The videos are stored using built-in memory. The $90 version offers 16GB of storage space. There's also a 32GB version, which sells for $140. Which one is for you? According to LookOut, the 16GB version is enough to store three to four hours of video, and the 32GB version can store six to seven hours.
What if it runs out of storage space? The thing is, it won't. LookOut is designed to loop videos. When it reaches its limit, it simply deletes the oldest clips to make way for newer ones. Still, to make sure that you don't miss anything important, you'll need to check LookOut at least once per day. You can extract recorded videos to any computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux) by simply plugging the device in via a USB to USB cable (included).
To me, having to check a camera's footage every day isn't ideal. The last thing I would want to do after a long day of work is review hours of recorded videos, uncertain whether or not there's anything important captured by the camera. In LookOut's case, software that creates TimeLapse videos and highlights events would be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, they are more focused on hardware right now.
Legal Issues Concerning Hidden Cameras
If you're interested in LookOut, you can now pre-order one now. But before you do, you should first review the legalities of using hidden cameras in your city or state.
One thing that puts LookOut on the line, especially in the U.S., is its audio recording feature. There's a federal law famously known as the wiretap law. It makes it illegal to record conversations if none of the parties involved are aware that they are being recorded. For instance, if LookOut recorded a conversation between you and a friend, it's legal because you (one of the parties involved) are aware. But if a conversation between two of your friends is recorded, you could be in hot water.
You should also note that there are two-party consent states. These states have laws requiring the consent of both parties involved. These states include California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. If you live in one of these states, LookOut probably isn't for you.
Another thing is, and I think this goes without saying, LookOut isn't a gadget for peeping Toms. Using it for perverted purposes not only makes you an a-hole, it can also land you in jail.
A Quick Summary
Just to recap:
- LookOut is a hidden camera disguised as a functional phone charger.
- It offers FHD 1080p resolution.
- It records audio.
- It comes in a 16GB and 32GB version, each is available in US and EU plug styles.
- It can transfer videos to any computer via a USB cable.
Do I give LookOut my stamp of approval? Yes and no. As a hidden camera, it's an excellent choice. It should blend well and offers FHD video. However, it doesn't enhance your home's security. It lacks sensors, it doesn't stream videos, and it doesn't work with other security devices. If you're looking for a security camera that can significantly improve home security, look elsewhere.
You can pre-order LookOut here. Be sure to select the right plug style before checking out.
Photo Credit: LookOut