This story was originally published and last updated .
Earlier this May, Wink announced out of the blue that it would charge customers $4.99 a month to continue using its services, or else their hardware would stop working. Following understandable customer backlash, the company first extended the cut-off deadline by a week, and has now indefinitely back-paddled, saying that it'll look for a new start date of the subscription.
In an email to customers, the company writes that "We feel we can extend Wink's free service for the time being, confident that we can set a new start date for the subscription service to begin, giving you all more time to use Wink (subscription-free) whether you signed up or not." Thus, the subscription is still not off the table, but at least Wink will give customers more time to research alternatives if they don't agree with the new business model. Let's hope the company considers changing its stance altogether, but given that it couldn't pay some of its employees last year, Wink might perish altogether if it doesn't drastically change its approach to revenue.
The latest email to customers regarding the business model change.
In the original blog post on the change, Wink explains that "long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business" and that the new "fee is designed to be as modest as possible." The company warns that "should you choose not to sign up for a subscription you will no longer be able to access your Wink devices from the app, with voice control or through the API, and your automations will be disabled." At least it's possible to reactivate everything if you do decide to pay later on.
While it's understandable that any company needs to be profitable if it wants to keep the lights on, this switch to a subscription is poorly executed. Customers have only been notified a week prior to the change, and if they're not ready to pay, they'll lose access to their complete smart home, including devices from other companies connected to a Wink hub. If they don't want to purchase a hub from another manufacturer, reconnect all of their devices, and set up their routines once more, they'll have to pay the monthly fee, essentially holding their smart home hostage. Compare that with Enpass which recently switched to a subscription service, too. The password manager didn't charge existing customers who previously paid one-time fees, only new users were affected.
This situation just goes to show that maybe local solutions that don't rely on external servers might be the way to go for smart homes. It looks like competitor Google is starting to recognize that, as the company is working on creating local, internet-free control options in cooperation with other manufacturers like Hue, TP-Link, and more.
We've updated the article to reflect the indefinite extension of Wink's free service for the time being.