Even though nearly every hunter across North America has been toting a cellular phone around for nearly a decade, surprisingly there is still a sense of confusion or at least lack of knowledge around how cellular devices work when cell cams are thrown into the mix. In fact, throughout the 2019-2022 trade show seasons the most common questions we got from new potential customers was “Do you have one of those cameras that sends pictures to your phone” and "I have AT&T with my cell phone, will it work with that"? Yes and yes. But before we get too far along, let us explain 3 very basic concepts of cellular trail cameras.
Do cell cams need signal?
Just like a cell phone, a cellular trail camera needs signal for it to work. Cellular trail cameras need network coverage compatible with their individual hardware design to send data, regardless of where that data is going. A Verizon certified product needs Verizon coverage, an AT&T certified product needs AT&T coverage and so on. The better the signal strength, the better the performance. Despite what many think, as long as you have a data plan for the cellular trail camera it can send data to any phone that is active, regardless of the cell phone provider. In other words, it doesn’t matter who you use as a cell phone provider. Best case scenario, the cellular camera you chose to buy operates with a mobile cloud based software so if you can download an App to your phone, tablet, or other mobile device. The cellular trail camera will send the data there or even a web portal. A simple example would be the Exodus Render, a Verizon certified device, has to have Verizon signal for it to transmit data and the Render will send that data to any mobile device regardless of the network provider.
CELL CAMS NEED DATA PLANS
Cellular trail cameras need to have some type of data plan to be active. To clarify any confusion here, there is a very big difference in a wireless Wi-Fi enable camera compared to a wireless cellular trail camera. While the concepts are similar, performance and how the devices transmit data vary greatly. Cellular trail cameras transmit data through cellular networks maintained by carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, US Cellular etc. Wireless Wi-Fi cameras transmit data through Wi-Fi networks where no data plans are needed for the wireless trail camera. These types of cameras are prevalent in the security marketplace where power and Wi-Fi signal is readily available, not so much in the outdoors where power and Wi-Fi are non existent. There are advantages to each which we will break down in a later blog.
CELL CAMS SHOULD BE RAN WITH EXTERNAL POWER SOURCES
Cellular trail cameras are hard on batteries. There’s really no way around it, by the nature of how cellular trail cameras operate they have a much higher power consumption rate compared to standard SD card cameras. Again, the better the signal strength the better the performance. The best way for cellular trail camera users to minimize the cost of running cellular cameras while also maximizing the operational efficiency is to utilize external power sources couple with a solar charging device. In our opinion, if you’re not using an external power source you are defeating the purpose of using cell cams.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and a general baseline for understanding cellular trail cameras. Be sure to stay engaged with Exodus throughout our content platforms. We will be releasing more cellular trail camera tips, techniques, and info on our blog, YouTube channel, and of course our podcast Trail Cam Radio.