Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion review: The nIFTTTy Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion reviewed

What's really cool here is that IFTTT allows you to set the WeMo as either the "this" or the "that," thereby linking it up with each and every service with which IFTTT boasts compatibility. Imagine the possibilities. Instead of simply having the motion detector trigger the WeMo switch to turn a light on, you could have the motion detector trigger IFTTT to send you a text alert -- a useful way of letting you know when the kids are home from school every day. Or, if you're compulsive about sharing, you could have IFTTT automatically tweet "Good morning!" on your behalf as soon as the motion detector sees you step out of bed. Or maybe you want the WeMo to flash the lights when your favorite football team kicks off each week. Almost whatever you can think up, from the practical to the preposterous, WeMo and IFTTT can make possible if it involves some kind of online notification.

Thanks to the WeMo app, linking your WeMo devices to IFTTT is quick and painless, although IFTTT will require you to register a new account if you don't have one already. Once you do, it's easy to search through popular WeMo-based recipes, or to create your own, either on the IFTTT site or through its own handy app. My only gripe with this process is that you can't modify or even view these IFTTT-based WeMo recipes through the WeMo app itself. The chances are good that you'll probably end up using both WeMo rules and IFTTT recipes -- which means you'll need to use both the WeMo app and the IFTTT app to manage your devices. This also means that you'll never have a complete list of your rules and recipes in one place.

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Performance
The WeMo Switch + Motion did a satisfactory job in my tests, reliably doing what I wanted, whenever I wanted. Flipping the WeMo's switch using the smartphone app will yield a virtually instantaneous result over a Wi-Fi connection. If you're on 3G, it might take an extra second or two for your lamp to turn on. The app itself is typically fast and easy to use; it does, however, get a bit sluggish at 3G speeds.

Every rule that I tested on the WeMo worked perfectly well. It never gave me any sense of uncertainty about what to expect from it. If you set a light to turn on when you walk into the room, you can feel confident that it's going to turn on when you walk into the room. If it doesn't, the chances are that you've done something wrong, not the WeMo. Rest assured, though, the WeMo goes out of its way to make screwing something up a real challenge. It's not idiot proof, but it's close.

Integration with IFTTT is, for the most part, smooth. All of the recipes that I tested with the WeMo worked well -- with one exception. I created an IFTTT recipe to turn a lamp plugged into the WeMo Switch on and then off once every hour (you can do this through the WeMo app alone, but I wanted to test IFTTT, too.) This recipe worked as planned each and every hour -- the WeMo always turned the lamp on, then off. However, I also created a recipe to send a text message whenever the WeMo Switch turned on, even if it was turning itself on automatically.

These messages only showed up about three quarters of the time over a three-day period. The other 25 percent of the time, the lamp would turn on and off as scheduled, but IFTTT would fail to send a text. If that notification had been for something important -- say, an intruder entering your home -- a 75 percent success rate would hardly be acceptable.

Ry Crist/CNET

As for the motion detector, it performed about as well as I could have hoped. Like the WeMo Switch, I had it up and running in no time, and throughout all of my testing, the only difficulty I really had was finding a flaw with the thing. The angular surface on top made the detector easy to aim, and the blue LED lights that shine whenever it's activated were informative without being irritating. There was never a time when it failed to detect motion that I wanted it to detect. If you ever find that it's detecting motion too easily, you can tweak the sensitivity level using the WeMo app. The app also lets you customize when the motion detector will actually activate the WeMo Switch. You can set it to only trigger a rule when it detects motion following a custom-defined period of stillness, for instance -- a handy feature if you want the lights to turn on when you come in after a long day of work and not when you come in from stepping out to check the mail.

Maintenance
The WeMo is only intended for use in dry, indoor settings, so if you're planning on automating a device outside of your home, you'll want to find another product. Aside from keeping it dry, maintenance is something of a nonfactor, but in the event of technical issues, you may need to hold the Restore button down for a quick reboot. Belkin will also issue occasional firmware updates for the device, and carrying them out is about as easy as it gets; you'll receive a notice in the WeMo app, tap "OK," then wait about a minute.

Service and support
WeMo users with questions about the device can turn to Belkin's Web site for answers to frequently asked questions, as well as information about the WeMo's limited one-year warranty. In addition, Belkin offers WeMo purchasers 90 days of complimentary 24-7 phone assistance. After 90 days, you'll need to stick to the Web site or e-mail your questions in. You also have the option of purchasing an additional phone support plan, with one year of unlimited service calls costing around $120. You can also pay for service calls one at a time, but I wouldn't recommend it -- each one will set you back about $40.

Ry Crist / CNET

Conclusion
The WeMo Switch promises to automate anything you plug into it, and on this promise, it delivers. With its remarkably simple plug-and-play installation and its intuitive, user-friendly app, the WeMo is a home automation option that even the most tech-averse consumers will enjoy using. Best of all is the price - at just $49 a switch, you won't have to break the bank to give it a shot. Throw in a motion detector for $30 more, and you've got a very attractive entry-level home automation package.

It's also easy to think up ways to put the WeMo to use - especially considering that it utilizes the full potential of IFTTT - but how many of these functions are really all that useful on an everyday basis? Some consumers might already have specific uses for the WeMo in mind that more than justify making the purchase, but for others, functions like turning a lamp on and off with your phone or setting up a Google Document that tracks every time someone walks into a room probably seem like little more than a novelty.

Chances are that you fall somewhere in between those two positions. If that's the case, I recommend that you tinker around with IFTTT a bit. If you enjoy crafting recipes and putting them to use in your everyday life, then it's a fair bet that you'll enjoy putting the WeMo to use, too.

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