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The Best Baby Monitor App Isn't Just for Babies

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 17, 2012 5:00 AM PT

The Best Baby Monitor App Isn't Just for Babies

Best Baby Monitor, an iPhone and iPad app from Martin Man, is available for US$3.99 at the iOS App Store. This Friday I know right where I'll be: waiting in my home office for my iPhone 5 to show up at my door. The problem? I might not hear the delivery driver knock knock knocking on my door. The last time I ordered a big product directly from Apple -- I think it was my iPad -- I was happily working away in my office. Maybe I was on the phone. I was checking the delivery status and noticed that there was a delivery exception error. The driver had stopped by but no one answered the door. And then he left with my iPad back on the truck.

Oh, the agony!

I eventually learned that when you buy a physical product online from Apple, you need to either be ready to receive it (which means no listening to loud music or headphones) or print and sign a form that will let the delivery driver leave the package at your door. Fortunately, I live in a relatively safe suburban neighborhood with clear lines of sight and where everyone knows everyone else. So you could theoretically leave an HDTV on your front porch for days without fear of it getting stolen. Theoretically.

Of course, losing an iPhone 5 would be bad, but having to wait potentially weeks to get another one would be painful, too.

Enter Best Baby Monitor

Most iOS apps are usually used for a specific purpose -- they aren't like hammers, which can be used for more things than pounding nails, like digging a trench or smashing wood to splinters (don't ask). But some apps, with a little imagination, can become something more than their names -- like Best Baby Monitor.

Baby monitors, as you may or may not know, usually come in two radio-enabled units: a listening unit, which is basically a microphone that goes near a crib, and a receiving unit, which usually goes in the kitchen or basement or wherever the parent is wandering around. When the baby cries, the parent hears it and can act accordingly. Most monitors have a series of lights that flash as the units pick up and transmit sound, which gives the parent a visual cue, too, in case they are doing something noisy, like blending margaritas in the kitchen.

Some baby monitors also have video, with some that can even transmit live video.

Best Baby Monitor can do both.

How It Works

Best Baby Monitor requires two relatively recent iOS devices -- one to be the child watching and listening unit and the other to be the parent receiving unit. I tested the app with an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2.

The two devices connect to each other by being connected to the same WiFi signal -- or via Bluetooth if you don't have WiFi or are at some remote cabin in the woods. (And by the way, all you Hollywood horror story screenwriters out there, stay away from using Best Baby Monitor as part of your cabin in the woods horror story plots -- I thought of it first. I think.)

Best Baby Monitor
Best Baby Monitor

In addition, if you have a flaky WiFi signal, the app is smart and will try to automatically convert over to using Bluetooth if your WiFi goes down. Which, if you think about it, means you could still use these monitors if the power went out or if you were camping. If you want to avoid WiFi altogether, you can use Bluetooth exclusively.

As you might guess, your range is limited to your WiFi range and your Bluetooth range.

What's next? When you open the app, you have to choose the mode for the devices. I chose to make my iPhone 4 the child unit and the iPad the parent unit. The two devices then look for each other and then connect. On the iPad, you will suddenly be able to see the video coming from the iPhone, as well as sound. Expect to hear some frequency interference or feedback noise (I don't understand the physics here) when the two devices are within a few feet of each other. When I took the iPhone to another room, the squealing noise left.

On the iPhone end, your only real challenge is to prop the unit up so that the video will see and report what you want it to see. You can choose the rear or front camera, too, which is handy, and if you use the front camera, when your child wakes up you can initiate a FaceTime chat. Freaking crazy, I know, I know. I love technology. Can you imagine how cool that might be? Or how it might mess with a baby's perception of the world? How did daddy get so small and flat?

Meanwhile, from the parent unit, you can also tap a button to activate the LED flash and effectively peek into the dark to see what's going on. If the unit is front-facing, the screen on your iPhone, for example, will shift to all white for a more gentle nighttime peek.

Plus, there's the audio. You can hear your baby babble or cry, and you can speak to your baby from the parental unit. Or your dog. If your dog has a habit of barking at squirrels, you could FaceTime with your dog in your back yard. Or yell at the kids jumping on the trampoline. Or keep tabs on a pregnant cow while working the back forty on your ranch. Or keep a lookout for pesky teenagers who want to talk to your daughter. Or figure out what creature is eating your raspberries. I imagine you could even point the child unit at an HDTV screen and take the iPad to the garage and not miss the start of the second half of a ball game. You get the point: You don't need crying kids to put this handy little app to work.

But if you do have kids, there's more features to delight the parent in you. For instance, the app will record audio, giving you a record of when the audio appeared, as well as creating an audio file that you can listen to -- or email to your friends and family. If you're a parent, you know that while your children often cry, there's those magical moments when they go all happy chatterbox on you and wake up talking and playing in their cribs. What parent wouldn't want to capture some of that? With Best Baby Monitor, you can.

There's other features, too, like the ability to remotely start playing a few lullaby songs. And if you're using two iPhones, you can let the app start a phone call when it hears noise, like a baby waking up.

Battery Power?

My iPhone 4 battery is starting to show its age. It doesn't hold a charge for nearly as long as it used to, so I don't trust it to be the business end of a baby monitor for a long period of time without shutting down. Of course, if you plug it in, you'll be good to go for a whole night, if need be.

While you could use this app around the house any time, I'd recommend downloading it and having it ready for those impromptu moments when you travel. Heck, I've been to barbecues before where the parents couldn't see around the house to the small children playing in the yard. Technology to the rescue without the risk of burning the burgers.

Oh, what about lag? The app is surprisingly snappy. I experienced sub-second lag time, about half a second, and never more than two seconds.

I'll Be Waiting for You, FedEx Driver

Come Friday when my iPhone 5 is supposed to show up at my doorstep, I'll be waiting for the delivery driver with my iPad propped up in the front window, listening and looking. Even if I have to go to the bathroom, the sound of a flushing toilet won't mask the sound of the doorbell. I'll see him coming a driveway away.

As for babies, well, I'm sure Best Baby Monitor will be great for little ones, too.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.

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Self-driving vehicles should be banned -- one death is one too many.
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