Keep an Eye on Your Pet With CES Best of Show Winner Petcube

At January's CES, the iPhone Life team was impressed with the Petcube ($199). So much in fact that we gave it one of our Best of Show awards. The Petcube lets you check in on your dog or cat (or other pet) remotely. Recently, I had the opportunity to try the Petcube in my home, with my own puppy and I can say the award was well-deserved. In fact, the PetCube is on sale now for $169, making it an even better deal than when we first awarded them that honor.

I liked that the Petcube is well designed and well built with aluminum sides, glossy black front, and grippy rubber on the bottom. There's also a tripod mount on the bottom so you have a lot of flexibility in placement. The Petcube could have been designed by Jonny Ive's team in Cupertino (although it works with Android devices too!) What sets the Petcube apart from other home cameras is the clever use of a laser. Using their free Petcube app, you can move the laser around and have your pet respond! You can also listen and speak to your pet thanks to the built-in speaker and microphone. A nice update would be if I could prerecord a message, using the app, and have it play at the touch of a button. That way, if I'm at work I can subtly send a voice greeting without looking like a crazy person.

The app is easy to use, once the cube is setup, and there are sharing options so I was able to give family and friends access to our Petcube. This will come in handy when my family travels out of the country next month. I'll still be here but they can check on the puppy (and me) from anywhere they have an Internet connection!

Petcube

The camera view was surprisingly high quality with a 138-degree 720p HD wide-angle view, so even a large room can be in focus. There was a little bit of lag, but I was testing it from the same network, so I was uploading and downloading the videostream on the same Wi-Fi network. When I disabled Wi-Fi on my iPhone, and connected via cellular, it wasn't so bad.

laser PetCube

My only concern is that I think the laser should turn off when not actively being controlled. At CES, I think that was the configuration, but it might have changed. PetCube claims the laser is safe, but it does come with a warning about not staring into it. Since a pet can't read the warning label, I would feel safer if the laser turned off when a user's finger left the app's screen, like a dead-man's switch. Right now, the laser stays on indefinitely unless the user swipes right to bring up the menu and toggles off the laser. I could see users forgetting to do that and leaving it on. Fortunately, software can be updated easily and this could be addressed.

PetCube app

You can take a snapshot of the PetCube view just by tapping the screen. PetCube offers their own social network where other owners open up their video feeds to the public or just to friends and family. I can also use my Apple Watch to get still images of my PetCube's view! Perhaps when Apple opens up the watch for native apps, we could get a video stream or at least sequential images, like an animated GIF.

PetCube Apple Watch app

Pros

  • Well designed and well built
  • Clever use of laser
  • Easy to use app
  • Camera view is high quality
  • Nice social sharing features
  • Apple Watch integration

Cons

  • Laser should turn off when not actively being controlled
  • Would like to send prerecorded audio to the speaker

Final Verdict

If you are looking to keep an eye on your four-legged friends while you are at work or on a more extended outing, PetCube is a great way to do so. You also get a form of home surveillance as well, and a neat way to interact with your pets, by voice and laser. With the $30 savings offered now, it's an even better deal.

iPhone Life Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 
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Author Details

Todd Bernhard's picture

Author Details

Todd Bernhard

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.