13
Nov
wemo

Home automation is a pretty cool thing, and it's becoming more popular and encompassing every day. The ability to turn off a light from the other side of the house (or world) is a pretty cool feeling, but it also provides peace of mind – the days of wondering if you shut everything off before leaving are quickly coming to an end.

Belkin has been working to make this sort of automation simpler and more accessible to everyone with its WeMo line – a small group of devices that connect to Wi-Fi and make easy work of automating simple tasks and provide remote access to whatever unit they're attached to. I've spent the last several months with the WeMo Switch, a plug-type switch that makes it easy to toggle power to things like lamps, TVs, and more; WeMo Light Switch, a light switch replacement that offers automation and remote access; and WeMo Motion, and motion-based sensor that can communicate with Light Switch and Switch units to enable/disable things based on motion.

While the overall idea of these devices is awesome, the execution could use some work.

Pros

Cons

  • Easy setup
  • Convenient (for the most part)
  • Less-than-tech savvy visitors think it's super cool
  • The app sometimes can't see the device
  • The Switch plugs are huge
  • It's sometimes easier to just get up and hit the button
How much do they cost?
  • WeMo Switch: $50
  • WeMo Light Switch: $50
  • WeMo Motion: $80 (comes with Switch), $60 (standalone)

There's also WeMo Baby ($70) and WeMo Insight Switch ($60), though I haven't had a chance to test those so they're not part of this review.

How do they look?

wm_IMG_3932 wm_IMG_3933 wm_IMG_3935

Left to right: Light Switch, Switch, Motion

I want to keep this section short and sweet, so here's the basic rundown: All the WeMo units I tested are pretty simple looking. Solid white, kind of clunky (aside from the Light Switch, anyway), and understated. They don't really look like some super futuristic piece of technology. They're just kind of... there. Not sure I'd call them ugly, either. Just uninspired and kind of meh looking. But a product like this isn't made to look pretty, as it's really just made to get out of the way (literally). I'm kind of under the impression that Belkin wants WeMo to be one of those things that you sort of forget about once it's plugged in, as it just becomes second nature to use the app. Unfortunately, that's not really how it works, at least not in my testing.

How well do they work?

Screenshot_2013-11-12-14-58-40 Screenshot_2013-11-12-14-58-52

Note the times – I had to refresh once to get the Light Switch to show up.

In short, not very. I mean, when they do work, they work. But that's the problem – when. I'd say about 60 percent of the time, the app doesn't see at least one of the devices (and it's generally the one I need to toggle). Maybe 20 percent of the time it doesn't show anything at all. It's really frustrating. Sometimes disconnecting my phone from Wi-Fi and reconnecting helps, but that's not always a guarantee. Oh, and I couldn't get the Motion to work at all. The app could never see it, so I couldn't configure it. After messing with it for a few hours (spread out over a few days), I finally just gave up.

Screenshot_2013-11-13-11-31-14

Get used to seeing this screen. A lot.

I guess it's fair to say this could be my home network at fault, but I don't have issues with any of my other gadgets, so I find that unlikely, but not completely impossible.

But let's talk about when they do work. When that actually happens, it's like some sort of wicked voodoo magic. It's cool.

The app is pretty straightforward once the devices are set up (which is a pretty simple process – just connect to the device over Wi-Fi, input your network's SSID and encryption info and poof, you're good). Fire it up, and hit the power button logo to toggle whichever switch you want. Done and done.

Screenshot_2013-11-12-14-52-38 November 12, 2013 25741 PM CST

But there's more to it than that. You can also automate things; for example, let's say you want to turn the "Office Light" (which is a lamp connected to a Switch, by the way) on at 6:00AM every day, and back off at 10:00PM. You can set a rule that tells the WeMo to toggle power at those specific times – you can also set specific days for the event to happen – and it'll take care of the rest. I found this feature to work flawlessly, even when the app couldn't see the device. So that's a good thing.

It goes deeper than that, too – it also has IFTTT integration. Basically, you can connect the WeMo app to your IFTTT account, which really opens up the possibly automation options. Here are a few examples of popular recipes, found on IFTTT. Some of those things can be done without using IFTTT, but some of the more advanced toggles are definitely cool.

image

Conclusion

It's probably already clear to you that I like WeMo when I can get it to work. But that's the problem – I shouldn't have to say "when." I want to like WeMo, but I found myself more frustrated with it than happy while using it. So instead of making my life easier, it actually just pissed me off. That seems kind of counter-productive to me.

I tested the units with several different phones during the review process and had the same results with each of them.

But maybe your results will be different. Maybe WeMo will like you and support your happiness and want to make life easier for you. At $50 for a Switch or Light Switch and $60 for Motion, I sure hope that's the case.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to step away from the computer to go turn my office light on.

Buy: Belkin, Amazon

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • olbp

    .
    Another CON that you DEFINITELY should have mentioned, in all CAPS, is the outlandish PRICE of the devices. Absolutely outlandish!
    .

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    I have a theory that proprietary smart light switches are pretty much the next clapper - cool for a few years, then just kind of an annoying gimmick no one will use. I can imagine smart light switches will be especially irksome as manufacturers stop supporting companion apps 5 years down the road, probably even sooner than that in Belkin's case.

    Until we get a universal home appliance control standard (proprietary or open) that communicates over your network, all these products are pretty hopeless in terms of long-term viability.

    Nest is looking like the best bet so far, but all it takes is a big player like GE getting involved to change the game. I look forward to smart light switches and other smart appliances becoming somewhat standardized as consumer products, I just think we're still a ways from that happening.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Nexus lightswitch. You just wait!

    • Eric Hoch

      The Thing System (http://thethingsystem.com/) seems like a promising prospect, as it is more of a layer of abstraction on top of existing systems rather than trying to outright replace them. For me, anything that relies on external services to function is a non-starter (Nest included).

    • Lightbow

      At least with Belkin, they have an open API. My app Lightbow was originally created for Philips Hue (and family) but some of my users also had Belkin WeMo and wanted to use the two together. (For example, you could have a crazy modern Philips LED setup, but still keep that old vintage lamp you love plugged into a WeMo switch (outlet) and be able to have any combination of lights go on or off with each preset.)

      I agree their in-house app will probably die one day, but with an open API, 3rd party apps should be able to adapt.

      *Lightbow 1.3 supports the WeMo switch (the outlet). WeMo "Light Switch" support is delayed a week or two to wait for the updated Belkin SDK they promise me "any day now"

    • varun

      I have a SmartThings, which is based on Z-Wave and Zigbee HA, both of which have broad support amongst manufacturers, though costs are still fairly high. I believe the first is an open standard, and the second is a standardized set of APIs that all Zigbee manus can choose to implement if they want.

      Some of the products currently available include smoke/CO detectors, motion sensors, switches and relays, open/close sensors, moisture sensors, electricity cut-offs, water valves, thermostats, door locks, sirens - quite a wide variety, as you can see. They're also building in support for third-party APIs as they become available - so for example, the Nest is now controllable as if it was part of the system. I don't have the Hue, but I think it can control that as well. Mobile devices can also send location data and be beacons - for example, if the phone is at home, chances are you are, and so the motion sensors will deactivate. At the launch party, they brought a drone that goes to see what set off a perimeter motion detector, as well as a remotely activated pet feeder.

      At any rate, it's working quite well. I have a set of sensors that tell
      me if I've left windows or doors open, and based on outside temperature
      can send signals to activate heating or cooling. I have replicated the Nest Protect's smoke/CO system - detecting either will shut off the furnace and sound a siren, as well as push a notification to my phone. Even though it's a small company that started life focused on iOS, they are quite good about the Android community. And everything is doable from the web.

      Worth a look, Cameron, David. It's a solid. Of course, the kicker is that it (currently) needs an internet connection to work, though a beta of local-only functionality is being tested.

    • mobilemann

      your theory is wrong in my view, imo there will be multiple standards for years to come. Whoever plays it the most innovative with their api and products will win. Belkin really isn't doing bad with ifttt intergration. You could have a home with hues bulbs, wemo plugs, and a nest, and have all the perfect automation you want.

      my ipad or my android phone (although it's a much clunkier work around for android) both trigger 3 lights in my house to turn on when i come home. through ifittt i could make any sort of trigger in tasker, i'm sorry, this is just you guys not caring enough to look into what these systems are capable of.

    • sandy222

      With Belkin's offshore support, anyone entering the area will beat them to a pulp.

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    "So instead of making my life easier, it actually just pissed me off." Great conclusion to the review :D

  • Doug Cherner

    I agree with your review completely! I have a light switch and switch and both decide when to show up in the app. When they work it's like magic but when they don't it's very frustrating. I hooked up the light switch to IFTTT and have it toggle when the Chicago Bears play with varying results. Sometimes it toggles 30-40 minutes after the game has started or not at all.

    I've also been waiting for Belkin to make widgets for each of the devices so that I don't need to open the app each time to toggle the switches. Overall I'm happy with my purchases as otherwise I'd be getting out of bed to turn on and off the light every night.

    • http://www.oneilsoft.com/ David Kerkes

      You could try setting up some Tasker shortcuts that send messages to IFTTT. Now I just have a folder on my homescreen with my light toggles.

      • Doug Cherner

        Hmm maybe I'll try that tonight. I wonder if it's more reliable talk to IFTTT then to connect to the devices myself.

  • http://www.oneilsoft.com/ David Kerkes

    I love my Wemo light switches. I found the app itself is not very good so I rely on IFTTT for managing them. Using Tasker, I set up shortcuts on my homescreen to turn my lights on and off and it's never failed. Between the ability to do that and setting up timers on IFTTT, I'm absolutely loving them.

    • Dan

      How much delay is there using IFTTT and Tasker? There's a 10 second delay with this method: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpT6QryQn2w

      Do you have a better method? I'm interested.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      While that's a good idea, I think one of the things that makes WeMo appealing is the potential simplicity. Involving Tasker and IFTTT do something like turn a light off is anything but.

      • http://www.oneilsoft.com/ David Kerkes

        I agree it's not for most people but for readers of AP, I figured I'd throw my method out there.

      • mobilemann

        more AP staff with a ridiculous comment on ifttt. tasker is both overly complex where ifttt is not, and infinitely weaker, as it only controls things (although to a much finer grain) on our lowly smartphones.

  • Eduardo Mateos

    The biggest drawback is if you have, like me, two different Wemo in two different locations. Say that you want one for your home server and another one for your work server.

    Well, you can't control them from the same app!!! This is just ridiculous.

    Also, say they light goes out. So instead of turning on again, it will just stay off until you manually turned it on. How about and option to restore the device to the same condition as before, as in any computer BIOS?

    And about IFTTT implementation, I have the work server right now off. If I try to turn it on using IFTTT it says it can't detect any Wemo. So right now, is like I have nothing connected...

    Great idea, poor implementation.

    • mobilemann

      ifttt works awesome. My lights turn on about 3 min before i arrive at home. My ip camera's are recording to it's easy to tell.

      and you could absolutely control them from one app if you setup ifttt rules. They also have an open API:D

      currently looking for a way to intergrate xposed google api into it, so i can turn on my lights with google now. This sadly, would be easier on iOS with siri proxy.

    • sandy222

      More ridiculous stuff ... see my comment.

  • Hermilla

    What about WiFi Plug (http://www.wifiplug.co.uk/)? Anyone here using these with Android?

  • David Li

    Mine work fine

  • DanSan

    i bought one of these for my dad, worst experience ever. we couldnt set it up at first, had to unhide our SSID then retry. I tried on my phone and eventually it went through. now i have all the control and he cant see any of the devices since there is no "account" and the devices are controlled by the device itself. it was a constant battle of resetting the device, trying to add it again... really not worth the hassle

    • sandy222

      Exactly ... no account ... no cloud based server ... see my comment above.
      Worst experience for me too when I lost all contact with my "ground zero".

  • Sihawk

    I've been using the wemo light switch for about 3 months now because the switch is outside my bedroom door, never had a single problem with it. Nice to be able to turn the lights on or off without getting out of bed :)

  • psychoace

    The cost vs convenience of this item is what makes me not want to buy it. $50 for the switch which only controls one lamp or one full power strip is pretty expensive. If it had more power ports I could understand but to only see one is pretty crazy.

  • Cscamp20

    Issue is the Belkin app for Android os not the hardware. How do I know that? because my wifes iPhone never had issues but on my Samsung galaxy s3, I have had the same issue as yours.

    I have windows phone 8 as well and use ifttt to turn my two Belkin wemo switches on because there is currently no app for windows 8. Ifttt is awesome. I have Nest thermostat as well which I hope will have ifttt support soon as well

  • sandy222

    The last time I saw the "Looking for devices" message I was / am out of town for ... weeks.
    I was finally told by their USELESS Phillipines tech support to uninstall / re-install the APP.

    Only to find out that if you do that, you KILLED the entire APP!

    Only fix is to go back to ground zero and re-install everything.

    FATAL FLAW! Their cameras use a cloud based app, why not the switches?

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