A Closer Look: Using the PHC-105
According to the Quick Setup Guide and user's manual bundled together with the PHC-105, the camera is meant to be remotely controlled through a mobile phone, as the device lacks a display anywhere for users to configure their personal settings. Needless to say, this opens up both a whole new world of options when it comes to using the PHC-105, along with an entire can of worms in the process.
As its full name suggests, the PROLINK 3G Video Alarm Camera requires the use of a 3G-capable SIM card in order to function. As we were not willing to rack up a hefty bill on our existing monthly access fees, we opted for a much cheaper approach, and it comes in the form of two prepaid 3G SIM cards: one for the PHC-105, and the other for the phone that will be controlling the camera.
Tools of the trade
Unfortunately for us, setting up the PROLINK PHC-105 3G camera was anything but a walk in the park. In fact, even with two instruction manuals assisting us, the prepaid 3G SIM cards used in our tests simply refused to hook up to the 3G network properly, and we had to contend with the camera rejecting all remote commands sent out from the mobile phone.
In the end, as luck will have it, we were finally able to configure the 3G SIM card properly for use in the camera after numerous attempts. And in case you are wondering, the issue has got nothing to do with configuring the APN for use with the 3G SIM cards; that was easy enough. Rather, our issue was centered around the fact that the PHC-105 was not able to utilize the correct data settings even though it has been supposedly factory preconfigured to do so.
Of course, the fact that you are actually reading this review now means that we were eventually able to get our SIM card recognized by the PHC-105. We will not go into the details of how we pulled it off, but let's just say that it involved:
- getting in touch with PROLINK's and StarHub's technical support,
- "guestimating" the right network parameters to make the card usable in the PHC-105,
- sending an SMS command to the camera with the correct configuration, and
- six hours of crying. No, really.
With that done, getting the PHC-105 to start obeying SMS commands was as easy as pie. For example, instructing the PHC-105 to capture and transmit a still image to our mobile phone was as simple as keying in the camera's passcode, along with a 'send mms' text entry, as shown in the screenshot below.
The camera will then respond with an SMS to inform the user that the command has been received and that one can expect an MMS containing the captured image to arrive in the user's inbox.
Since none of us wanted our faces to be captured on camera, we
did the next best thing: have the PHC-105 face the wall. Problem
Of course, having to send a text command to a surveilance camera every time a user wants to capture an image is not the most efficient way of finding out if your premises has been visited by unwelcome personnel. To that end, the PHC-105 also features various automated capturing modes such as an IR-body sensor mode and motion detection mode. If unexpected motion or movements set off the PHC-105's sensors, it will trigger the camera's alarm mode, in which the user can set the camera to send a notification in the form of a text message, email or MMS, of which a photograph of the intruder will also be included in the latter two options.
Last but definitely not least, the PHC-105 is capable of streaming a live video feed of its surroundings to a user: all that is needed is for the user to have a mobile phone that is capable of making video calls. For this test, we made do with another 3G phone, as our smartphone shown above did not have the capability to do so; the video below tells it all.
While we do not have definite figures for the PHC-105's battery life, we were left with 94% of the battery's initial charge after performing all our tests, which included the capturing of a handful of image stills via SMS, along with somevideo live feed tests. Of course, the motion and IE sensors were disarmed during our tests: this lends credence to the fabled 40-hour life PROLINK claims on its webpage when the PHC-105 is left on standby mode with all of its sensors disarmed.
On the other hand, PROLINK claims that battery life is expected to take a drastic hit if all the sensors on the PHC-105 are armed, and that the battery can only top out at eight hours under such circumstances.