Wink, the smarthome company, are fucked.

Wink, the smarthome company, are fucked.

Wink sell some lightbulbs, switches, and other smarthome stuff, and bundled with a hub so that you can control it from your phone. They just introduced a plan that says, ‘every user who’s been using it for free now needs to pay $4.99 US dollars to keep using it.’ Which is deadly stupid. But they have a series of terrible choices that have led them to this.

I saw this late last night as I was tweeting with the developer Wil Shipley.

And it really is true, they now want to charge you to use the things you already bought and were using.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/i2vwU8SsaQfsrlYcrBFxkURLPgXkgZUTnm9OFJluStZHqas1LmRl3VOxeDKBq3iF5VyD72GJtKJTEF1UCT16dkgbtzACILPTZcQ-13v6qrhlsZcfzQhwNphthpHR0sRAk1fuIaKJzKFkkIR7vnb8y8WE0U9L3AZaMDQ

Why are they doing this?

The company made the announcement in a blog post, Introducing Wink Subscription. Hi-larious.

Since 2014, Wink has grown to support more than 4 million connected devices. During this time, Wink has relied solely on the one-time fee derived from hardware sales to cover ongoing cloud costs, development, and customer support. Providing users with local and remote access to their devices will always come at a cost for Wink, and over the years we have made great progress toward reducing these costs so that we can maintain that feature.

Wink has taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub?s blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business.

Right, they have a lot of costs, and need money. The hardware sales didn’t cover the costs.

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 on May 13. Your device connections, settings and automations can be reactivated if you decide to subscribe at a later date.

One week to decide to sign up or not be able to control your smarthome? Bullshit. That kind of timeline smells like desperation. Wink are circling the drain and want to get paid before they go under. Nevermind that this gun-to-the-head-pay-me-$4.99 plan is suicidal, too.

Companies rarely go out of business with honor. Desperation makes CEOs do weird things.

The honorable move would be to say, “All our Wink devices are based on the Z-Wave or Zigbee standard. Here are the hubs that will likely have compatibility to replace ours so you can keep using our bulbs and switches. We can’t provide support for that, but here’s what competing hubs should work if you want to take the chance. We thank you for having brought us into your homes, and are sorry we can’t go on. Maybe one day we’ll make a new company and hope you’ll join us for that experience, too.”

It would be difficult for Wink to do this, but there are actual examples of honor in this situation: Best Buy discontinued the Insignia Connect smarthome products, and issued Best Buy store credit based on how many you’d bought. I had enough to buy an iPad.

What should you do if you have Wink? Well, good question.

  1. Decide how much independence you want from a cloud provider for your smarthome.
  2. figure out which major platform you use for interacting with it – iPhone, Android, Amazon Alexa

Put like this: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible devices are affordable, easier than ever to set up, but rely on an internet connection and Amazon/Google not letting you down.

Amazon is tempering this a little by using Zigbee in their new Echo Show and Echo Plus. Because the GE lightbulbs that Wink uses are Zigbee compatible, it -should- be possible to use the lightbulbs you have without Wink hub and a new Echo Plus. But you still need an internet connection for your voice to hit Amazon’s cloud and come back down to turn on the light.

Apple HomeKit doesn’t use the internet unless you happen to be outside your home. If you had a Philips Hue Hub, you could probably get your Wink-compatible bulbs working on HomeKit, although Philips has never been really happy about third party bulbs.

You might have better luck with the IKEA Tradfri gateway, whose bulbs also use Zigbee as the standard. Tradfri uses Apple HomeKit. IKEA says they only support their bulbs, but if you hold the button on the hub some users report they add like regular tradfri bulbs.

IKEA TR?DFRI Gateway kit
Tradfri starter kit

I’ve been very interested in RavenSystem‘s Home Accessory Architect Firmware which uses Sonoff devices with custom firmware and JSON configuration to make affordable Sonoff devices into Apple HomeKit devices.

But whatever path you go with, paying $4.99 a month to do it with a 1 week timeline to commit isn’t it. Goodbye, Wink. Helluva way to go out.

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