Summer is to video monitors what Fisher Price is to baby swings—they are virtually synonymous with the category, having debuted the very first video baby monitors 20 years ago.
One of Summer’s first baby video monitors in the 90’s is pictured at right—it featured a ten-pound analog TV “parent unit” that streamed your baby’s nursery in all its black and white glory. Cost: $500, in today’s dollars.
Video monitors have come a long way—Summer’s flagship video monitor today (the Wide View 2.0) features a five-inch parent unit, wide-angle lens and digital zoom for $99. Like most of Summer’s monitors, the company packs these units with useful features: nightlight, sound/light display on the parent unit, digital zoom, low battery indicator and more.
The Summer Panorama ($148) is similar to the Wide View in features, but adds a point-tilt-zoom camera.
One of the more confusing aspects to Summer’s video monitor offerings is the shear number of models—and it often introduces new models at a dizzying clip. Summer lists 13 current models on its web site, but then there are older year models still for sale online. Example: a simple system with fixed camera and tiny 1.8″ screen (Sure Sight, $42). That’s right—a video baby monitor for just $42. Sure, the 1.8″ screen is so tiny that it’s ridiculous . . . but it is under $50.
Among Summer’s more interesting models is a monitor that lets you see two camera streams side-by-side (helpful for monitoring twin, for example). That’s unusual, as most dual camera baby monitors cycle between images instead of showing them side-by-side. The Side By Side ($238) comes with two PTZ cameras and is a Babies R Us exclusive as of this writing.
Seeing the popularity of online streaming baby monitors, Summer has tried to bridge the gap here with models that broadcast both to a parent unit and a smart device via WiFi. Example: BabyTouch Digital Video Monitor ($180) features a 3.5″ parent unit and a free app (Summer Link) that streams the video to a smart device.
So what do parents think of Summer’s hybrid streaming/closed baby monitors? Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. Take a look at the reviews of Summer’s app on the iTunes or Google Play. Out of nearly a thousand reviews on Google Play, 570 folks gave the app a one-star rating. Basically, the app that allows online streaming either doesn’t work, isn’t reliable, won’t load—or all of the above.
This seems to be a trend with baby gear monitor makers—they may know the hardware (camera, parent units), but when it comes to apps, software and online streaming, not so much. We’re not sure who Summer is hiring to do their app coding, but they need serious help.
What about Summer’s non-streaming monitors like the Wide View or Panorama? In recent years, reader feedback on Summer monitors has turned largely negative.
Common complaints include dropped signals between the camera and parent unit, batteries that won’t charge and poor night vision. How poor? Here’s a screen shot from a review posted to Amazon:
Perhaps our biggest gripe with Summer is their monitors’ long-term reliability. “Awesome—while it worked . . . then it died” is a common review from our readers, with parent after parent reporting units dying after several months, touch screens that stop working, out of range alerts when the monitor is close to the baby’s room, etc. We realize baby monitors get intense use (on 24 hours a day), but we expect more from Summer. As a veteran of this category, Summer should have better quality control
Bottom line: this brand only gets a C-. Summer must aggressively address quality and long-term reliability issues to right its ship in this category. Rating: C-