Backing up can be one of the most dangerous parts of driving – especially in a crowded parking lot or a very tight parallel parking space. Many newer cars come with factory-installed backup cameras, which make the process much safer. But if your car doesn’t have a backup camera, could you add one aftermarket? Yes. Could you install one that is wireless? You can now do that too! We reviewed one of the first wireless backup cameras on the market – Nonda ZUS.
What is it?
This is one of the first truly wireless backup cameras that requires no wiring and is easy to install. It works via Bluetooth and WiFi to transfer video from the backup camera to your phone via the ZUS app.
Does it work?
Yes, but a few things could be improved for user friendliness.
This waterproof wireless backup camera is truly wireless, requiring only a screwdriver and the supplied driver to install onto most vehicles. The unit has a rechargeable battery that utilizes a common micro-USB plug. It recharges and pairs up to your phone so that you can see what’s behind you. Once connected, the image is clear, sharp and the night vision allows use of the camera even in darkness.
The connection time from the camera to the display on your phone needs to be improved for a better user experience. In order to have a quick connection, you will need to have the Nonda app open as well as have your WiFi, Bluetooth and location enabled before needing the camera. Otherwise, it will take 5-15 seconds before the camera makes a successful connection to the phone, rendering it far less useful.
This is definitely a piece of tech that is aimed at early adopters who don’t have backup cameras in their cars, but would benefit from them. It is easy to install and the camera works well. But you have to be patient with the connection time. Therefore, if you do not want to deal with aftermarket wiring but want a backup camera, and can remind yourself to have your WiFi, Bluetooth and location enabled on your smartphone, this would be a great product for you.
Aftermarket backup cameras have come a long way since their inception. The initial units required complicated wiring that had the consumer either tearing their vehicle apart to install or paying experts a large sum for their labor. Today, most of the competitive technology employs a wireless transmitter that requires relatively simple wiring and transmits the video to a monitor or an attachment over the rearview mirror. However, we do not believe there was a truly usable wireless camera until Nonda released their ZUS wireless backup camera.
Per usual with Nonda products, the product comes very nicely packaged with all necessary hardware for installation. We followed the installation instructions and saw that the product can be installed in around 10 minutes. Be aware though! Read the instructions thoroughly, because it asks the users to fully charge the unit before the first use – we understand that you may be very eager to try this out right away, but we always recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions!
On our test vehicle, the installation was as easy as it indicated on the back of the package. Although we would make an amendment to the package instructions:
- Open box and charge the camera unit.
- Remove the license plate and attach the included mounting kit to the plate.
- Reinstall the license plate and DO NOT attach the camera yet.
- Download the ZUS app to your phone.
- Pair the camera to the app (requires holding a button on the back of the camera for 3 seconds) and after it is successful, then use the included 6-star pattern screwdriver to install the camera.
We had a little bit of an issue with our first backup camera from Nonda. The WiFi strength of the unit was extremely weak – to the point where the signal would drop as soon as moved more than 2 feet away from the unit. Our test vehicle (a Subaru wagon) is not an abnormally long vehicle by any stretch, so we contacted Nonda and their extremely helpful customer service representative sent us another unit to test out. The replacement unit proved that our first unit was likely defective as the replacement was significantly stronger and did not have issues with dropped signal.
When you open the ZUS app, clicking on the camera icon will provide step-by-step instructions on how to pair the camera to the phone. This requires holding a button on the back of the camera unit (hence why we suggest not to install it yet) and enabling WiFi on your phone. Once that is complete, you should be able to see video through your phone!
Clarity & Lag:
The camera unit provided very clear and sharp video to both phones (Android and iOS).
After many weeks of use, we have encountered several times where the video had a little bit of a lag. While that is a little concerning, the lag issue resolved itself after several seconds. Therefore, be aware that this may occur and be on the lookout for this issue (the lag is evident as soon as it occurs).
A very nice feature included on this camera is the night vision capability. With this feature, it makes it much easier to park in very dark situations.
Areas for Improvement:
There are several areas for improvement for this product. The first and one that deserves the most attention is the speed at which the camera connects with the phone. Unless you were to have the ZUS app, Bluetooth and WiFi on at all times while driving, it takes too long for the camera to connect to the phone (sometimes it is about 5 seconds and we have experienced as high as 15s). A scenario where this becomes a problem is when you are driving on a city street looking for parking and you finally find one, but it requires parallel parking. Trying to wrestle with the app and waiting for the camera to pair will irritate drivers that are waiting for you to move out of their way. Therefore, we would really want to see the next iteration of the camera or an update to the app that will reduce the amount of time necessary for the phone and camera to communicate.
Another area that could be improved is the battery life. Nonda states that under normal usage, the battery should last about 3 months. However, our experience indicates that it is likely to be less than that. Using it twice a week for three weeks has reduced the battery life from full to approximately 30-40%, meaning that the unit will likely need to be charged sooner. However, we are waiting to see whether low batter has any impact on the WiFi range and/or contributes to any additional video lag – so stay tuned!
We think that this is a good product, especially given that it is one of the first truly wireless backup cameras. With the simple installation, sharp video image, night vision and rechargeable battery, it sets the bar for others to beat. If Nonda can address the lag time between connecting the camera to the phone and improve the battery life, this product can be ready for mainstream use.