Ring Mailbox Sensor review: A simple premise with a clunky app

The Ring Mailbox Sensor seems like a steal at $30 — and in some ways, it is. It’s a plastic sensor you attach to the inside of your mailbox door. Follow the steps in the Ring app to set it up and receive alerts on your phone whenever the mailbox door opens.

The real-time alerts part worked as expected. After I opened the door, my phone sent the near-immediate alert — “Front yard Mailbox detected motion.” But the Mailbox Sensor has design and usability problems that get in the way of its intended simplicity. You also have to buy a Ring Smart Lighting Bridge for your Mailbox Sensor to work, either bundled with the Mailbox Sensor (currently on sale for $50, but usually costs $80) — or separately (currently on sale for $20, but typically costs $50). 

I recommend the Mailbox Sensor if you’re sold on the Ring platform and want a functional way to monitor your mailbox, but it could be easier to configure and use in the app. Ring should also rebrand the name of the mandatory Smart Lighting Bridge to something less misleading, since, you know, the Ring Mailbox Sensor has nothing to do with lighting. Note: The Ring Smart Lighting Bridge got its name because it works with Ring’s lighting products, but the bridge has since expanded beyond Ring’s assorted lights and light fixtures.

The Ring Mailbox Sensor is available now for purchase.

Like

  • Sends quick, real-time alerts when the mailbox opens

Don’t Like

  • Confusing setup
  • It requires a Ring Smart Lighting Bridge to work
  • Not compatible with Google Assistant or Siri
  • Clunky design

Testing out Ring’s Mailbox Sensor

Ring’s Mailbox Sensor measures 2.56 inches tall by 2.44 inches wide, with a depth of 1.47 inches. It’s available in a black or white plastic finish and comes with adhesive backing and mounting hardware, depending on your type of mailbox and how you want to install it. You’ll also need three AAA batteries to power the sensor that are not included with your purchase. 

The Mailbox Sensor has the same look as pretty much any standard motion sensor you’d use with a DIY home security system, although Ring says this one is weather-resistant enough to survive some rain getting into the mailbox and, in theory, extreme temperature shifts and other weather changes throughout any given year.

So far, my Mailbox Sensor has survived periods of light and heavy rain, as well as fall temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the high 50s, but I’ll update this review if anything changes.

Ring sent me a white Sensor to test, and my first thought was that it was kinda big — not too big to fit on a mailbox door, but big enough to get in the mail carrier’s way if we have a lot of mail mixed with small packages one day. The adhesive backing that Ring includes isn’t nearly strong enough, either — at least it wasn’t strong enough to hold onto our plastic mailbox door. It simply fell off the adhesive and into the mailbox, after one attempt to open and close the door. 

Fortunately, I had a stronger Velcro adhesive on hand at home to try instead. If you’re also planning to use some sort of adhesive, I strongly suggest getting a Velcro one that’s more likely to hold up long term. After dozens of tests opening and closing our mailbox with the sensor attached to the inside of the door, the Velcro adhesive is still holding it in place without issue. 

The sensor itself performed very well — I got alerts on my phone one or two seconds after the mailbox door opened. Keep in mind that connectivity and lag time will vary based on how far your router and Ring Smart Lighting Bridge are from your mailbox. Ours is roughly 30 feet away and I didn’t have any problems. View a history log in the Ring app to see when the sensor detected motion, and when it stopped detecting motion. 

I used an Amazon Echo Show 8 smart display to test out the Mailbox Sensor’s Alexa compatibility. After enabling the Ring skill in the Alexa app with your Ring login credentials, create a custom “Routine” in the Alexa app. The one I created says, “You’ve got mail” from the Echo Show 8 every time the mailbox door opens, a particularly useful option if you don’t have your phone around. 

ringmailboxsensor4

Setting up the Alexa integration and receiving an alert on my phone.


Screenshots by CNET

Now for the wonky part 

Beyond the issue of the slightly oversized Mailbox Sensor and its slightly underpowered adhesive tape, I found the setup for this device — and using it afterwards in the Ring app — less intuitive than usual. 

As I mentioned above, Ring requires you to buy a Ring Smart Lighting Bridge to use along with your Ring Mailbox Sensor, but the steps involved in installing both devices aren’t clearly outlined. When you select “Set Up a Device” in the app and then “Mailbox Sensor” from the list of potential devices, it first asks for your address and then takes you to a page to scan a QR code.

Intuitively, I scanned the QR code on the Mailbox Sensor since it was the device I was trying to set up, but the app gave me an error, alerting me that I had scanned the wrong device (but didn’t tell me what device I should scan). I started over, this time scanning the QR code on the Ring Smart Lighting Bridge first and walking through the steps. The steps themselves were not complicated — plugging in the bridge, waiting for a blue status light to flash, and so on. However, at the end of the setup, the app said, “Setup is complete! Your Ring Bridge is now connected. Would you like to set up another Ring Smart Lighting Product?” 

Again, because the Ring Mailbox Sensor has nothing whatsoever to do with lighting, I found all of this unnecessarily confusing, but said “yes” anyway, since I still needed to add the Mailbox Sensor. Once again, it took me to the screen to scan my QR code, and again told me I wasn’t scanning a compatible Ring Smart Lighting Device. Instead, I had to leave the setup, select “Set Up a Device” and then “Mailbox Sensor” over again before it finally let me scan the Mailbox Sensor.

In general, there’s a lot of weird branding around the Ring Mailbox Sensor being part of the “Ring Smart Lighting” category, even though it isn’t a Ring Smart Lighting product. Yes, the Mailbox Sensor can be paired with a variety of other Ring devices, including Ring’s Smart Lighting devices, but the Ring app lumps them together in a very counterintuitive way. 

ringmailboxsensor1

Am I supposed to buy lights? It sure seems like it, and I don’t understand why.


Screenshots by CNET

For example, after your Ring Smart Lighting Bridge and Ring Mailbox Sensor are set up in the app, and you click on “Devices” in the app settings, it takes you to a screen that says “Lights,” then “Ring Bridge,” then “Front yard” (the group name I assigned to my Mailbox Sensor, when prompted), then “No Lights Assigned.” When you click on the Front yard group to view the Mailbox Sensor, you see large a light bulb icon, and even within the Mailbox Sensor’s own settings section in the app, there’s a section strangely called “Light Settings” (see the screenshots above).

And just to confirm I wasn’t missing some lighting-related aspect of the Mailbox Sensor, I even reached out to Ring and got the response, “It can trigger linked Ring Smart Lighting devices but the Mailbox Sensor itself does not have lights.”

The app also encouraged me to set up a custom scene like, “If my Mailbox Sensor detects motion, turn on my Ring Smart Lighting products.” I really can’t imagine a scenario where I’d want those two things to happen, since I could just have a theoretical Ring doorbell or security camera (they all have night vision) record what’s happening without ever needing assistance from Ring Smart Lights. 

Ultimately, it’s easy enough to ignore to all of the weird references to lights and light settings while setting up and using the Ring app, but I also just want the app interface for this to make sense, and it doesn’t. 

The takeaway

The Ring Mailbox Sensor is a simple device that works well despite its clunky setup, slightly too-big design, confusing Mailbox Sensor interface in the app and the misleading name of the required Ring Smart Lighting Bridge. 

The Mailbox Sensor successfully sent prompt alerts to my phone whenever the mailbox door opened. It also worked well with Alexa. Overall, it’s a fine product if you’re looking for a way to watch over your mailbox — and you’re sold on the Amazon platform — but it should be much more streamlined than it is currently. 

Ring told me the Mailbox Sensor and the Smart Lighting Bridge will be compatible with Amazon Sidewalk, a low-band network for connected home products, so expect updates on that following Sidewalk’s anticipated launch later this year, as well as updates on how well the sensor holds up with the Velcro tape over time.

See more: Amazon’s new Ring camera is actually a flying drone — for inside your home


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