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Wink's subscription plan kicks off July 27

After several delays, the smart home startup's $4.99 monthly service starts Monday.

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You now have to pay to use your Wink hub.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On Monday, smart home hub maker Wink made the switch from a free app to a $4.99 monthly subscription plan. The startup, now owned by i.am+ , the tech company founded by musician Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, was reportedly already struggling financially before it sent an email in early May, alerting users that their free account access would be moving to a paid model starting May 13. An excerpt from the email read:

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.

Hubs like the Wink Hub 2 and the SmartThings Hub were important precursors to today's Alexa- and Google Assistant-dominated smart home. The idea was simple: to unite all of your various smart home devices under a single, universal app. So instead of having to switch among Nest, Philips Hue and Wemo, everything would live in your Wink app. In reality, I found the Wink app unwieldy due to the sheer number of integrations it tried to manage. Wink's third-party version of each app interface was rarely as easy to use as the standalone apps. 

Still, a lot of smart home users rely on them to control their smart home automations, even today. Those users expressed dissatisfaction with Wink's subscription plan and the short timeline -- in some cases, users only got the email a few day's notice ahead of the original timeline; others didn't get it at all.

Wink decided to delay the launch of its subscription plan to May 20, noting in a blog post that,  "It was not an easy decision to switch to a paid service, and we know that the short timeline put a lot of pressure on all of you, but we had no other way to continue the Wink service as it is currently known." Then, it was delayed a third and final time to July 27, when the subscription plan officially went live. 

Wink says users who don't pay the $4.99 monthly fee will still be able to control some lighting devices and Z-Wave locks locally, although the functionality will be limited. (View the complete list of devices that will continue to be available for local control without paying the subscription fee.)

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