How a Cellular Trail Camera Works

Are you looking to upgrade your traditional trail camera for a new cellular trail camera? The thought can seem daunting, as learning new technology can be an overwhelming experience. Sim cards, cellular transmission, setting up a wireless service, downloading photos and installing apps to track all of these features, are all intricate aspects of how a cellular trail camera works. If technology is not your forte, don’t worry, I will walk you through each step and have you up and running in no time.

How a cellular trail camera works is simply combining the technology of cellular phones, with a trail camera. Once a trail camera takes a photo, using cellular transmission from a wireless provider, will send you the thumbnails to your cell phone, allowing you to view and download it directly to your device.

Trail Camera’s Cellular Transmission

Cellular trail cameras are a two way cellular communication device that requires both an inbound signal and an out bound signal. These signals are predicated on having signal strength, which is a combination of proximity to the nearest cell tower and the impediments between those towers and the camera.

The same way your cell phone works, cellular trail cameras use radio waves to communicate with cell towers. These radio waves are used to transmit data using electromagnetic fields. Those airwaves carry your information from your camera to a cellular tower, and then transfer that information using the same process to your phone or computer.

Cellular trail cameras require having both an inbound and outbound signal in order to transmit photos, but do not require having cellular signal to work. Without signal, a cellular camera works and functions the same way a traditional trail camera would; taking pictures and video and saving them to an SD card.

SIM Cards In Your Trail Camera

In today’s market all cellular trail cameras use Global system for mobile (GSM). With GSM devices, in order to carry out transmissions from the device to the cell tower, they require what is known as a subscriber identity module (SIM card).

A SIM card is just a small electronic card that is inserted into your camera, that holds data such as user identity, stored data, and location, and is used to authorize the use of a wireless providers network. All cellular trail cameras come with the SIM card already loaded into the device, but you will have to activate the card with the wireless provider before you are able to use it.

Wireless Service For Trail Cameras

New cellular trail camera users often become confused when it comes to setting up a wireless service. For most of us it is another hassle of going through the process of activating a SIM card and choosing a wireless service. Most of the mainstream service providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, offer a service for trail cameras, and you can contact them individually to get their plans.

However, if you are looking for an easier route of setting up your plan, many trail camera manufacturers are now teaming up with wireless providers, and offering a simple and easy setup directly on their websites. Spypoint, Spartan and Bushnell, arguably the leaders in cellular trail cameras, both offer this service to you.

You can check out all the costs of each cellular service here in one convenient location.

Spypoint, has possibly the least confusing, and economically viable plans. They offer two plans, a 3 month plan and a 12 month plan, both plans have unlimited photos. They offer AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile, Sprint and US Cellular service plans. The drawback of Spypoint is that you will likely pay more up front with the purchase of their trail cameras. They are exceptional cameras, that produce high quality photos, but have a higher price point than most cellular trail cameras.

To activate your Spypoint camera simply go to their website, and type in your SIM card number, and the cellular phone number you would like the photos sent to. Fill out the necessary payment options, and your camera is live and ready to go.

Bushnell offers coverage from both AT&T and Verizon. Their plans, in the end, tend to be a bit more confusing. They offer plans based on the quantity of photos you want to receive per month. These photos are strictly thumbnails that are sent to your phone, and to download the actual full image photo, will cost you roughly a $1 a photo. Their cellular cameras on the other hand will save you up front, being considerably less expensive than others.

The activation process of a Bushnell camera is similar to Spypoint. You need to activate the SIM card with the appropriate wireless provider, choose the plan you desire, and add your payment information.

When choosing your wireless provider, it is important to note that you must have cellular service from that provider in the area you wish to use the camera, but it does not have to be the same cellular provider you use for your phone. Similar to sending texts and making phone calls to your friends, the provider you and your friends have doesn’t have to be the same

Uploading Photos From Your Trail Camera

Once your trail camera takes a picture, it will send a thumbnail of that picture to your phone. That thumbnail is not a full resolution image, and in most cases will cost you extra money to download the full image. The thumbnails essentially give you a snap shot of what is happening at your camera location.

Cellular trail cameras still work in the same fashion a standard camera does. Every photo taken is saved on the SD card, so if the extra cost of downloading a full resolution image doesn’t seem necessary at that moment, you can still get the image later on when you retrieve the SD card.

Trail Camera Specific Apps

All cellular trail camera manufacturers have created apps, to allow the retrieval of photos much easier to manage. The apps are free and simple to download through the Apple istore, or through google play. With the apps you can not only manage the incoming photos and videos, but you can change settings, keep an eye on battery levels, and even overwrite the SD card if you so choose.

Battery Life On a Cellular Trail Camera

Naturally, with the use of the cellular service, the transmission of photos, and the ability to change settings from home, the life span of batteries is much shorter than a traditional trail camera. In fact it is about 25% of what you would get from a traditional trail camera.

If you are using your camera in an area you can not easily access, or placing it out of state, it is likely you will want to supplement the battery with an external 12v battery or even a solar panel. This will give you longer life in the field, and save you the need to change batteries with any frequency.

Whether you are using trail cameras to scout for your next hunting trip, or using them as surveillance on your vacation home, cellular trail cameras are an easy and fun way to keep up with real time information. Once you get past the initial setup, the technology is simple to use, and well worth the time and investment.

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