Security Camera Versus Smartphone Cost

I'm curious what the industry has to say about smartphones with some very high end technology built into them, costing what they do versus a dedicated security camera with far less capability.

For example let's take a Hikvision DS-2CD2185 which is an 8MP (4K) IR dome in their Value Plus series. My cost on it is roughly $365 CAD from ADI. It is capable of 20 FPS at 4K resolution and has a fixed lens. ALL it does is watch and transmit video.

For comparison let's examine the Google Pixel 2 smartphone which is $850 CAD to buy outright from the Google Play store. It's equipped with two cameras - a 12.2MP back capable of shooting 4K 30 FPS, has digital and optical image stabilization, and laser focus, while the front camera is 8MP and can shoot 1080p 30 FPS.

Now bear in mind that the Pixel also has AC Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, LTE, GPS, 4GB RAM, 64GB built in storage, microphones and speakers, light sensors, a barometer, magnetometer, accelerometer, a fingerprint scanner, and a 5 inch AMOLED display. FAR more technology than a dome camera and an equally great amount of engineering to make it all work together.

Consider that both objects are typically on 24/7/365 (at least my smartphone is). The phone isn't running the camera constantly of course, but nothing suggests that it couldn't. With live streams now so prevalent the phone is more than capable of uploading its video wirelessly given that the network infrastructure is in place. Low light performance of these smartphone cameras is also improving greatly.

So if you take the cost of the Hikvision camera and plot its capabilities versus cost, and then do the same for the smartphone, obviously the smartphone wins. Clearly they are intended for different roles but my point is that an electronic device that incorporates such advanced technology is not that much more expensive than one which is FAR simpler. With the right app you can even plug in an older used smartphone and use it as a wifi security camera. I can get a used Nexus smartphone off my local Kijiji for about $250 CAD and it'll do 4K 30 FPS...

What I'd like to know is if smartphone manufacturers can offer such a far-and-away more advanced device for just a little over twice the cost of a fixed dome camera, how do camera manufacturers justify the high cost of such simple devices? Is it sales volumes? Is it because they have diverse lines that they need to build multiple tooling and molds for? Or is it because of specialized-market economics (we charge so much because we can)?


Google's not in the smartphone business. They are in the advertising business and sell smartphones and give away Android software and give away Chrome software, etc. to sell advertising.

Similar thing for Amazon. How can they sell Alexa for so low? Well, because they are not interested in making money off their gadgets, they make money off of re-selling other products.

Hikvision, like almost all security camera manufacturers, have no RMR streams, they have no upsells once you buy their products etc.

Consider how many models of phones Apple makes (~5). Consider how many models of security cameras Hikvision makes (500, more). It's far more costly to design, manufacturer, and support such a vast number of models.

Also, when is the last time you talked to someone at Google or Amazon? Now consider how often Hikvision salespeople visit customers, take them out to dinner, give them champagne and flowers, etc. The security camera business is much higher touch.

Those are just a handful of things.

Google's not in the smartphone business. They are in the advertising business and sell smartphones and give away Android software and give away Chrome software, etc. to sell advertising.

Actually John, Google IS in the smartphone business as they now directly design and engineer their Pixel series. To be proper, Google is in the information business but if there wasn't profit in smartphones they wouldn't be doing them. They didn't get to where they are today by being altruistic or selling loss leaders.

Similar thing for Amazon. How can they sell Alexa for so low? Well, because they are not interested in making money off their gadgets, they make money off of re-selling other products.

I'm not sure what information you have to make that kind of statement but my Google-fu appears to suggest otherwise. I'm puzzled that you would suggest these tech giants are investing millions or billions into R&D just to sell products that allegedly don't make them any money and they're "not interested in".

Hikvision, like almost all security camera manufacturers, have no RMR streams, they have no upsells once you buy their products etc.

Neither do most smartphone manufacturers.

Consider how many models of phones Apple makes (~5). Consider how many models of security cameras Hikvision makes (500, more). It's far more costly to design, manufacturer, and support such a vast number of models.

Now this makes more sense. Interestingly however it didn't stop Hikvision in 2016 from taking in in $4.6 billion in revenue with an increase in their profit margin up to 41.58%. Now that kind of margin is about right for a manufacturer but consider that an iPhone 8 costs Apple an estimated $288 to manufacture, and consider how much more technologically advanced it is versus a dome camera.

Don't forget that many products a camera manufacturer will produce are variants of the same line. The same molds and parts go into Hikvision's DS-2CD2125 versus the 2185; only the sensor package and maybe some of the electronics are different. Same housing, same dome, same screws, same cable whip. Then the same sensor package gets used in multiple different housings. This gives you the illusion of a huge product line but the reality is it's a much smaller number with a wide variety of options.

Also, when is the last time you talked to someone at Google or Amazon?

Just the other week. I can call Google or Amazon toll free 24 hours a day for customer service. Hikvision? Regular business hours on weekdays only.

Now consider how often Hikvision salespeople visit customers, take them out to dinner, give them champagne and flowers, etc. The security camera business is much higher touch.

LOL, not around here it ain't! I'm admittedly too low on the food chain to ever warrant that kind of attention but I'd be shocked to see anyone in my region get flowers and champagne, from any vendor. I haven't even met my regional rep.

To be proper, Google is in the information business but if there wasn't profit in smartphones they wouldn't be doing them. They didn't get to where they are today by being altruistic or selling loss leaders.

Of course Google is "selling loss leaders." Among many other things, that is what the Chrome browser is. They give Chrome away for free in the hope that you will use Google's advertising in their other services where they make money. Don't take it from me, simply Google "How does google make money from chrome?"

but I'd be shocked to see anyone in my region get flowers and champagne, from any vendor.

You need to look around:) Hikvision does ongoing roadshows / lunches / marketing events across the country. They have open bars and unlimited drinks at ISC West and ASIS. They have 100 or more field salespeople in North America, which is a far greater percentage / ratio than what Google or Amazon have.

Oh, also, you mention ADI and that Hikvision model at ADI for ~$365. Of that, Hikvision gets ~$300, the other ~$65 goes to ADI.

By contrast, Google sells from the Google store, Amazon sells their gadgets from Amazon.com, Apple sells from their website and their legion of physical stores, so there are just higher general distribution costs for security cameras than there are for companies that control the entire sales chain.

Agreed. Where did you come up with the split on the cost though, is that close to actual or are you just throwing it out there?

Where did you come up with the split

That's industry average - somewhere in the 20% range, confirmed by various distribution salespeople we know.

What is the durability and lifespan of the smartphone running the camera 24x7?

How easy is it to unplug the power cable? Can you run the power cable hundreds of feet?

Does your phone have IR or optical zoom, or analytics, or any industry standard to stream the video?

How about low light capabilities or an actual glass lens with a decent aperture.

Yes on the surface they are both cameras, but one is a consumer toy that is disposable vs. a purpose built professional device designed for continuous operation, with a variety of models and accessories to design a solution.

Also, there are tons of low cost professional cameras that are much less than a high end smartphone.

I believe at times we are charged so much simply because they can, (meaning suppliers/manufacturers . Take for example the cost efficient cam from W Box Technologies, (ADI)

4.0MP 2.8M OUT IN DM 12 POE WDR
Model #: 40DF28WDR

Price: $89.99

opposed to Hikvision's,

4MP 2.8-12MZ V.DM WDR IP66 DME

Model #: DS-2CD2742FWD-IZS

Price: $278.99

What's the major difference ? simple, a just because i am hikvision Price.

The ADI model you cite is fixed focal, the Hikvision is varifocal. That's a material difference.

a just because i am hikvision Price

You just made me defend Hikvision, are you happy? :)

No John sorry i put in the Hikvision courtside.. :) here goes a UNIVIEW Varifocal, check the difference in price.

model IPC3234SR3-DVZ 28
UNIVIEW Network vari-focal vandal-proof IR dome camera, 1/3" 4 Megapixel progressive scan CMOS, max 20fps@4.0M(2688x1520), 2.8-10mm motorized lens, IR Array LEDs (up to 98 feet, configurable Smart IR feaTrue), 120dB Optical WDR, support Corridor View, support Micro SD card up to 128GB, support Audio Input/Output, support Alarm Input/Output, DC 12V, PoE (up to 7.2W), IK10, IP66.
$159.00

(oh and not to mention that Uniview customer service is spectacular, that's another subject totally).

To be clear you are now comparing a Hikvision camera sold at ADI to a Uniview camera not sold at ADI, yes? I am trying to point out that there are more factors going on the more variables you add.

For one, Uniview has near zero local US presence while Hikvision has literally legions of staff. That is a cost Hikvision has to cover. There are tradeoffs to it - Hikvision has to cover its large local operation's cost but on the plus side, they are far better known and engaging with far more integrators than Uniview.

engaging !!? engaging w/ who, certainly not with it's client base, my company became so called partners with Hikvision a few years ago and for us to get any kind of support from the so called tech support division we had to literally wait days, if not more then a week, what good is to have a "legion of staff" when it comes to needing some sort of response/assistance or support and you simply can't get it in a timely fashion?? and more yet the mere fact that we gotta pay the price because a variable that must be considered at the moment of laying down cash when buying is so call legion of staff they have which doesn't do clients any good? I for one have seen more then once, tech's get on the phone call for support to Uniview and see how technical support reps from Uniview take my people through a step by step procedure on solving X o Y issue, then they send documentation on what was done. Now that's a big plus. I am gonna stop through punches at Hikvision so you won't have to keep on defending them. :)

That's interesting feedback about the lack of Hikvision support. We've heard more of that recently.

While it's definitely true Hikvision spend a lot of money (a ton more than Uniview) for things like advertising, events, shows, etc., it might be that they have stretched themselves too thin when it comes to dealer support. Recall earlier this year Hikvision Hiring 50, Direct Out of College, Sales People, which we see as recognition of the need to lower their cost structure.

To the extent that your experience is becoming more common that is not a good sign for Hikvision.

"We'll give you the phone if you just use it and pay your monthly bill."

That was the truth in the early days of cell phones. Now they pay $750+ monthly fees.

It may become Cloud Camera Sales 101. I find this whole comparison 'threadbare.'

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