When choosing the number of cams, do you just want one or two, or possibly several for a given property/area. When choosing the latter, I would consider the CuddeBack/CuddeLink cams. They're are also dual signal, so they will connect to the strongest tower and you only need one plan for the cams within range of one another in a given area; however, they don't have a way of locking the cam to a tree without buying their security box. Most cams on the market do have a groove/slot for securing a Python cable, so if theft is a concern, look at models that offer it - SpyPoints and the Stealth Fusion do have this capability.
Cell reception is another thing to consider and doesn't need to match your phones carrier. If it states Verizon or AT&T, that's pretty simple, but if it says Nationwide or Global, then it gets a bit more difficult and you may need to do a bit of research on the manufacturers website. Essentially, Nationwide is all other carriers, excluding Verizon, that typically share the same tower (AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint..). Stealth Fusion has Verizon, AT&T or Global. I'm not sure what Global means exactly, maybe it'll connect to the strongest tower, whatever the carrier. Also, the cell cams reception may or may not match your handheld device and you may want to look at models that offer a signal booster, like SpyPoint - I haven't needed one yet, even though I have on Cell-Link that will occasionally check in at 25%, but then it's back to 50-90% the next time.
Location is also critical. Anyone who's had trail cams knows about clearing any brush that could set it off repeatedly throughout the day, as well as facing East or West where you may get overexposed photos. But you'll also need to take into consideration if you want it on a trail, scrape or field edge. All these will dictate how many pictures you need to consider for your plan, as well as battery life. Distance is another factor, cell cams are better suited for replacing the one(s) further away. This is why I chose the SP Micro Link Solar cams - with Cabela's special during August, they were on sale, $20 off, plus I got an additional $30 off with the trade-in.
I believe most of the manufacturers are pretty competitive with their plans; however, there are some differences. When I bought a few of the Wildgame cell cams, they didn't offer a free plan for the first month, but I was able to connect and activate it via WiFi and Bluetooth. By the time I went through the setup, the battery level had dropped to 80% - it only took 6 AAs, which seemed very limited, so I returned them. What I like about SpyPoint, you get the first month free of unlimited photos, but now I see during hunting season, it's one week free. But, after that expires, it gets put on another free plan with 100 photos - this is great when keeping the cam out in the off-season or early season when you're just running cams like normal, since the pics still get saved to the card. You can either choose a monthly plan, essentially $5 (250), $10 (1000) or $15 (unlimited), or a couple/few dollars off a month if you choose an annual plan.
If price is a factor and you already have a plethora of cams, then a SP Cell-Link could be considered. These also of the capability of being locked with a Python cable. Having three of these now, one connected to SpyPoint Solar Dark and two Primos Truth cams, they've been running great; however, the signal (Nationwide) has a tendency to drop sometimes, when my other Micro Link (Nationwide) hasn't. But, they haven't failed to send photos when the signal returns. You do need to be conscientious of where your SD card slot is, and if there's either an external port you can route the SD card/cable through, or if the door will pinch the cable. My Truth cams have a gasket around the outer edge and I was able to lift it up and use a Dremmel to make a groove. You do not want to pinch the cable where it'll expose the wires, essentially cutting them because they're so fine. There's plenty of cable length to route the cable inside the cam if you need to. Also, these may not be compatible with some cams, according to reviews. But they worked with my Wildgame and Truth cams, but there was no easy way of routing the cable with my WGs.
You'll want to decide how frequent the cam sends photos to your app, since this will also affect battery life. If you decide to go solar, it shouldn't be a problem, or if you decide to hookup an external battery - so far I'm really liking my solar cams. What's neat about cell cams is being able to change settings via the app.
Lastly, I'll mention ease of setup. If I were to recommend to someone looking to get just one cell cam, who wants something simple and is an all around solid camera, I'd recommend the Stealth Fusion. Most cams you download the app, scan the code inside the cam to add it to the app, and go from there. My buddy's didn't require any firmware update and I was able to download the app and access his account, so we both can monitor and make settings to the cam. Although, it's placed on a field corner, facing the field, and initially there was some brush in the way, the batteries died after 2 weeks, but it took over 5,000 photos and he had it set to send photos hourly. IMO, that's pretty good battery life, but if someone decides to put a cell cam on a bait or mineral lick, where they're getting a ton of photos, then I'd recommend a SpyPoint Link Micro Solar LTE cam, unless they want to pay extra for an external battery. I mentioned the Wildgame Insite Cell, that was a bear to setup, likely because I was using WiFi/Bluetooth, but even aferwards, it wasn't saving photos to the card, on two of three cams I bought. At the time, they were just released at Cebela's, in August, prior to their actual release date of early September. They were directing people their customer support if they had issues, and most people did, but I returned mine. Apparently after setting up and doing a firmware update, some people removed the cam from the app and re-added it. Also, like I said, they only take 6 AAs, which doesn't seem sufficient to me, so I returned them; but maybe now they've gotten their crap together and are OK once they're operational. These were a challenge, even for someone like me who works in IT and is used to dealing with wonky devices and apps. They do have live view, which seemed like a great feature too, but I don't understand how that works, requiring you to be within 150 yards. When I was testing the cam, after it disconnected via WiFi/Bluetooth to my phone, I couldn't access that feature anymore and anything more that 20-30 yards is well out of BT range anyways. But, since they didn't have a free plan upon setup, I didn't test the cam while it was connected to a cell carrier.
I hope this helps. I've only had limited experience with only a handful of cell cams, and maybe there's more comparable or better ones out there. My focus was on the ones in the $100 - $200 price range, with the exception of the Cell-Links, $50 - $60. I also have no brand bias, we've owned/used various brands over the years and has typically come down to what's relatively cheap at the time, since the majority are pretty reliable. I've also submitted my reviews on Cabela's website for the Wildgame Insite Cell and the SpyPoints, Link Micro (solar) and Cell-Link.
You have provided some good info. I have tried the cell link and I found it to be awful. It didn’t work with the browning or any of the Reconyx that I tried it on. The biggest issue was the SD card location and the cable. I worked with it for a week before sending it back.
I personally will never buy another Spypoint product again. The disappointment with the cameras and the gimmick products is not worth the aggravation. I have also used Ridgetec’s Celluar and found it to be just okay. That camera definitely has a sensitively issue. Windy days would provide hundreds of blank photos. You had to find a perfect spot for that camera instead of a perfect spot for a camera.
Four months ago I purchased 2 Reconyx cell cameras and haven’t looked back. They have been flawless outside of the vanilla app but they are getting around to making it better. Both cams still showing 100% battery life and more importantly not a single blank photo even on high wind days.
I plan to add 2 more to the arsenal but I also want to try out the Spartan cameras. They have a nice video feature.
Some of these cell camera manufactures tout Nationwide coverage but it’s anyone’s guess which carrier you are actually on. They purchase a block of numbers/SIMs from the cellular company aided by volume discounts and sell it as nationwide coverage. All the big 3 companies do that. I would say if your camera says AT&T or Verizon on the box then that is an account set up directly with AT&T or Verizon by the camera manufacturer. If your camera says Nationwide coverage then the camera manufacturer probably bought a block of numbers from a reseller and cannot advertise the coverage as AT&T or Verizon but that doesn’t necessary mean you aren’t using their network. Lower cost cellular plans and cameras are more than likely using T-mobile or some version of resold service. Often times you can get Verizon or AT&T network access by request but most folks don’t know to ask.
A perfect example of this is the simple safe home alarm system. If you order their equipment they will send you a T-Mobile SIM but you can get Verizon service upon request. They don’t tell you this of course because they get better pricing from T-Mobile. Hope this helps.
Point being....I'm speculating because the antenna is internal, the thief wasn't aware his pic was being sent to my buddy. That might be a plus when it comes time to decide on a cell camera.
There is a trick to setting them up. You need to leave a small loop of the ribbon that connects the SD card to the Cell Link, inside the cam to prevent it from pulling out of the slot when you close the door. If you don't leave a loop, it can (likely) tug the SD card backward/out of the slot enough to not allow the camera to write to the SD. Sure it's tough to close the door with that ribbon in there and the camera wasn't made for it, but on all 3 cameras it works just fine with a little more effort to snap the door shut.
I have cams set on high res and multi-shot and they all seem to work.
The 100 photos each month free really makes it affordable. I have 2 running his way and one I have on the 250 photos for $5/month.