With a couple of months of use behind me, my feelings about the Belkin WeMo switches are just as conflicted now as they were when I unpacked these. On paper, the idea of a switch that you can plug anything in to make it smart is fantastic. In reality, I struggled to find many, if any honestly, devices I wanted to use the WeMo with. But that's not even the meat of my issue with WeMo's switches. Their connectivity has been iffy at best, the app is laughably old, and integration with other smart home devices is hit and miss, mostly because of the aforementioned connectivity issues.
But to be correct, your mileage will vary. Some users report no issues whatsoever with many WeMo switches in their home's setup, while others like me struggle with just one or two. It's this inconsistency in the experience that makes it hard to recommend Belkin's solution.
As it stands now, I find it tough to justify using the WeMo switches with anything after I take down the Christmas trees at home and work. As I have mentioned earlier, making the tree smart is one of the best uses of switches with Google Home and it's easy to put up with the issues for a few weeks when you can just say, "It's Christmas time!" and have your tree magically light up... when my Home sees it as available that is. But beyond that, the frustrations have been enough that I'll probably pack the WeMo up until next Christmas.
|Hardware||The WeMo switches are well built and there are ones compatible with different plug types like US, EU, UK, AU. There's also a physical button to turn on or off the plug, if you don't want to use the app.|
|Makes things smart||Plug anything in a WeMo switch and you can turn it on/off remotely, whether it's your coffee machine or your TV.|
|Smart home integrations||Belkin WeMo works natively with Google Home, and it also supports Alexa, IFTTT, and SmartThings (labs app).|
|Insight power consumption||The Insight Switch can calculate power consumption and issue a report with usage and estimated cost.|
|No account||You don't create an account at any point with WeMo, so no username and password to remember.|
|Size||The EU versions of the switches that I'm reviewing are huge. The US got a new Mini Smart Plug, which only takes up one plug's place, but the EU, UK, AU only have gargantuan plugs as an option.|
|Setup||On Android, it's hit and miss and it took a couple of tries to get through the entire process for one switch.|
|Disconnections||The WeMo switches appeared as unavailable in the app sometimes, and even when they were, Google Home and SmartThings failed to see them from time to time.|
|Android app||I can't say much about the iOS app, but the Android app is slow, clunky, with an old design, and some very rudimentary settings.|
|Utility||With smart lights, smart TVs, Chromecast speakers, and plenty of other smart home integrations, the utility of a smart switch is becoming more and more questionable.|
Hardware and setup
Since I live in Lebanon, the EU switches which are compatible with 220V and Type C are the ones I'll be looking at. But Belkin makes these also for the US (including the newer Mini smart plug), UK, Australia, as well as several European countries (example: France). The app and experience should be the same, regardless of which plug type you buy.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box is that the switches are really big. Having used the super compact Aeotec Smart Switch 6 previously, this was rather surprising. I understand that WiFi modules and built-in smarts might require more space than a Z-Wave radio that needs to do nothing but connect to a hub, but when a Galaxy Note8 or a Pixel 2 XL can be under 1cm thick, there's no excuse to having a switch that is so bulky. Forget about making the plug next to it unavailable, this can easily obstruct several wall switch modules when plugged in. And yes, I know these switches are several years old by now, but it doesn't justify that Belkin hasn't released a newer version with a smaller size.
The regular Switch is the largest of the two. It's gargantuan really at 13cm tall, 8cm wide, and 4cm thick. Good thing it slopes at the top otherwise it would even look much larger. The top also has the manual power button and the indicator light. It costs €49,99 or $39.99, but can often be found for less.
The Insight Switch, which can calculate your power consumption, is the newer and smaller of the two. It only measures 10cm tall, 7cm wide, and 4cm thick. Its MSRP is €59,99 or $49.99, but again, it can also be found for less.
It too has an indicator at the top that lights up green or orange depending on the signal and connectivity. It can also be pressed, which I discovered by mistake since the black circle doesn't look like a button, but the click you hear in response is very satisfying even if it doesn't depress much. Like the regular Switch, this works as a manual on/off button.
Both switches are well built even though they're just made of white plastic, I have no complaints there. All you'll have to worry about is whether you have enough space to keep one of these plugged in behind your TV or coffee machine or under your Christmas tree.
Setting them up, however, was an entirely different story. It should be straightforward but it took a couple of tries to carry the entire process through. Your phone needs to connect to WeMo's own temporary WiFi network and then teach it the password to your WiFi. However, despite me turning off WiFi scanning on my phone as advised, the switch kept disconnecting and failing to finish the setup before it worked eventually. The app lets you save those WiFi settings though so any new plug you connect later shouldn't take just as long.
It's worth noting that at no point during the setup are you asked to create an account. Just your email is needed for crucial communication from WeMo, but not more. You might wonder how then it is possible for you to control the switches remotely: they're tied to your phone, the app just needs to be set while on the same network, then it's authorized to control your switches even when you're away.
One of the sad parts of the WeMo experience is the app. It looks old, Ice Cream Sandwich-old, and it's clunky and slow. I've often had to wait while a Froyo-style spinning circle loaded on the screen for a few seconds... sometimes even more. The interface is rudimentary, but I'll admit it's functional. You see your switch's name, a quick power on/off button, how long it's been on or off, and for the Insight Switch you also get an estimated monthly and daily usage. The state isn't quick to update in the app, so you'll need that reload button to show the correct status sometimes. That is if your switch is detected. Sometimes, even when it's plugged in, the app won't see it.
Tapping on the edit button opens up a list of all the switch options, like renaming it, adding a picture for it which could be handy if you have many switches for different devices, as well as the power consumption and cost for the Insight. You can export that data into a .csv via email and even automate the report to happen daily, weekly, or monthly.
A couple of other available options are a setting for the power threshold at which the Insight switch is considered on or off, and a cost per Kwh where you can specify how the price of electricity in your neck of the woods. This is needed for all the cost calculations.
I imagine these can be super handy if you want to cut down on cost or if you're trying to see if a specific appliance is misbehaving and using too much power. Since I only used the switches on my Christmas trees, I found little usefulness for the power monitoring. But the WeMo switches should technically handle up to 15A, which means that you can plug some big appliances there without worrying. I've read reports from people using them with washing machines, so you don't need to limit yourself to lights and small devices. And in that context, the power consumption monitoring makes a lot more sense.
The WeMo app lets you set up a few rules for your switches so you can automate some things directly. That's functional enough if you don't want to use the IFTTT integration or other smart home hubs.
If you've read my LiFX review, you'd know that one of the main things I want in my lights is a timer. So I was glad to see an auto-off timer in the WeMo app. You can activate it in certain periods of the day only, so I set the Christmas tree at home to go off automatically after 5 minutes between sunrise and sunset. At night, if it's turned on, it stays on.
There's also a schedule rule for automatically turning the switch on or off at a certain time of the day, on specific days...
... and an Away mode, which I first thought would turn off all the switches automatically when I'm not home, but turns out it just toggles some devices on and off to give the illusion that someone is home when you're not. And finally, there's a notification rule if you'd like to know when a switch is on, off, or has been on for a while.
Sadly, there's no presence mode set up, so if you want your switch to turn on or off when you're home or when you leave, you'll have to use another app to do so (IFTTT for example).
The last section of the WeMo app is for Settings. There you can enable or disable remote access for your switches, connect to IFTTT, Nest, and Alexa, and specify whether your WiFi settings will be remembered to simplify setup for future WeMo devices. That's essential, since as I said at the start, setup might take a few tries.
The Settings section is also where you'll find all of the tutorials, setup FAQs, and links to some handy support and community pages.
And for troubleshooting, this is where you'll see your device's firmware version, MAC and IP address, and your app's current connectivity status.
Smart home integrations
Google Home and Assistant
Since there's no WeMo account, adding your switches to Google Home/Assistant was a new process for me. I got redirected to an oauth page where the phone had to see which WeMos were on the same network.
Upon verification, the Christmas Tree showed up in my list of Assistant devices, under Home control, and I could assign it to a room or change its nickname if I wanted.
Sadly, the Google Home/Assistant integration left me puzzled a couple of times. One time out of two, I'd ask Google Home to turn on/off the Christmas tree and it works. The other time, it would say the Christmas tree appears to be unavailable. Upon opening the WeMo app, I'd see that the switch is available. This unreliability had me up in arms several times over the past weeks. When it works, it's magical, when it doesn't, it's just frustrating.
IFTTT, SmartThings, Alexa
The SmartThings WeMo integration is still under the "Labs" section, and from my experience, it should stay there for a while.
When it worked, my Christmas Tree showed up perfectly inside the app with a log of recent actions and all the SmartApps integration I tested worked out well (timer when we're away, goodbye routine for turning everything off when we leave, and so on.)
But alas, connectivity again was an issue here. The switch showed up as unavailable a few times inside SmartThings, despite it being accessible from the WeMo app. And the state took a while to update (not even a force refresh would work) when turning the switch on or off. So I was stuck with a "turningon" message more often than I cared.
As for IFTTT, there are different services for the regular WeMo switch and the Insight switch. After connecting through the WeMo app (not through the IFTTT app), you can add the applets you want. That opens up the switches to integrate with plenty of other devices and services, but I found the response to be slow sometimes through IFTTT, and unreliable a few times.
And finally, I didn't test it but there's an Alexa skill for WeMo, which as with all things WeMo, either works wonderfully for some either has several issues for others. You may have noticed a pattern there with the switch either being undiscoverable on the network or the remote access not working from other services, regardless of which ones they were.
Utility, value, and final thoughts
If the idea of a switch that can turn anything smart appeals to you, I suggest you stop and think a little bit before you plunge in that direction. For lamps and lights, buying a smart light from LiFX or Hue could be a better option because of dimming, colors, and at least a more usable app and less connectivity issues. For coffee machines, slow cookers, and various other appliances and electronics, check if simply removing the plug from the wall socket and plugging it back turns the device on/off. If there's another button required, a smart switch won't help at all. For example, I had first thought a smart switch would be great for turning on and off my Synology DiskStation when needed, since we're away from home most of the day and barely use it remotely, but because the DiskStation has a physical power button, that entire strategy fell through. And finally, if you just want to turn on/off your TV or home entertainment center, you may find better value in a universal remote or a hub like Logitech's Harmony, which can control way more devices too.
As it stands, there are three tangible uses for a smart switch I can think: monitoring power consumption on an important appliance (washer, dryer, hair dryer or straightener), seasonal lights and decorations like Christmas or Halloween, and fans. It's winter here but during summer, turning on and off a fan with voice controls or an app does sound like an awesome idea.
With that said, there are plenty of handy uses for a smart switch. Voice controls and automated schedules are just about convenience, but remotely turning off the hair straightener if you think you left it on or toggling your lights when you're away on vacation for a few days to give the illusion of someone being home are more about security and can justify putting down a few tens of dollars for a switch or more if you need a few around the house.
But still, I can't recommend WeMo's solution. When it works and for those it works, it's average bordering on good. But for those it doesn't, the experience can be pretty frustrating, from a possibly annoying setup, to a slow and irritating app at times, to a slew of connectivity and visibility issues. Either the app won't detect the WeMo sometimes, or even when it does, that won't carry over 100% of the times to other connected services like IFTTT or Google Assistant or SmartThings. Again, this won't be the case for everyone, but the delta in experience is the main reason I have a question mark around WeMo. Maybe you can start by grabbing one and seeing how well it works and then plunging in with more if you need them.