If you've already bought in with WeMo's line of smart plugs and switches, this $40 accessory can connect them with Apple HomeKit -- and with Siri.
EDITORS' NOTE, 7/19/18: WeMo has begun to implement Apple HomeKit's new software authentication, which lets WeMo devices connect to Apple HomeKit on their own without needing the WeMo Bridge at all. So far, the only WeMo gadget to get the upgrade is the WeMo Mini smart switch, though WeMo tells us that the WeMo Dimmer light switch should also take advantage by the end of 2018. It isn't clear yet if other Wemo gadgets will follow suit or not -- for now, you'll still need the WeMo Bridge to connect them with HomeKit. Our original review of the WeMo Bridge follows below:
After eight months of waiting, Belkin's bridge to Apple HomeKit is finally available for WeMo users. Plug it in and plug its Ethernet cable into your router, and it'll act as middleman between your WeMo gadgets and Apple HomeKit's iOS-and-Siri-based smart home controls. The cost? $40.
That's honestly less than I expected Belkin would sell it for, and it works with more WeMo gadgets than I thought it would, too. Along with current-gen devices like the WeMo Mini and WeMo Dimmer, Belkin's first-gen WeMo Switches (the big, bulky ones) get to come along for the ride as well, as does Belkin's WeMo Motion Detector (though full motion support is still in the works -- more on that in a bit). Neither of those are even sold anymore, so good on Belkin for not leaving them -- and the customers who still use them -- behind.
The addition of Siri controls completes the voice trifecta for WeMo, as its gadgets already work with Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. You don't need an extra bridge accessory to connect with either of those voice assistants, though you will need a compatible voice device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speakers, pictured above. With HomeKit, you'll just talk to Siri through your iPhone or iPad, and you'll be also able to give commands through the Apple HomePod smart speaker once that product arrives in the coming weeks.
To use WeMo's HomeKit Bridge, you'll plug it into a power outlet using the included Micro-USB cable, then plug it into your router using the attached LAN cable. One quibble: I'd like it a little better if there were an option for connecting with your router wirelessly -- especially since that attached LAN cable is only 9 inches long.
Still, the WeMo Bridge is small -- roughly the size of an individually wrapped Reese's Cup -- so don't expect it to take up too much space as it sits on the shelf beside your router. It weighs just under an ounce and a half, so feel free to leave it dangling off the back, too.
Before you do that, though, I'd recommend snapping a picture of the 8-digit HomeKit code on the back of the device. You'll need that code to pair the Bridge with Apple's Home app during setup (a security feature designed to keep hackers from taking control of the device from outside of your home). Apple lets you enter that code simply by pointing your phone's camera at it, but that might be a challenge with the bridge connected to your router. Fortunately, you can also just type the code in manually, which is where that reference pic will come in handy.
Once the Home app has that code, you'll be all set. Any WeMo devices on your home's Wi-Fi network will automatically route their signals through the Bridge -- it acts like a bouncer, checking their IDs and letting them inside the HomeKit club. You don't need to add those individual lights and switches into the Home app, because the Bridge automatically imports them for you. The same is even true for new WeMo devices added to your setup after setting up the Bridge. It's hard to imagine Belkin making it much simpler than that.
Still, WeMo's integration with HomeKit isn't totally seamless. While the WeMo Motion Detector is technically supported and will show up in the Home app after installing the WeMo Bridge, I wasn't able to get HomeKit to recognize it as a motion detector and not a switch, which rendered it useless. Meanwhile, niche offshoot products like the WeMo Coffeemaker, the WeMo Crock-Pot and the discontinued WeMo LEDs aren't supported at all.
My only other real disappointment with this product is that it won't double as a HomeKit relay that lets you use those HomeKit controls from outside of your home network. To be clear, you can control your WeMo devices from anywhere using the WeMo app, but if you're away from home and you try controlling them using Apple's Home app or using a Siri command, it'll only work if you have a third-gen-or-better Apple TV, a dedicated, always-on iPad or an Apple HomePod under your roof.
The reason for that is that Apple is very careful to authenticate any request for access coming from outside of the house using its own hardware -- another security-minded element of the HomeKit design. That seems sensible to me, but I wonder if it's time to start letting the partners pull some of that weight, if only for their own devices.
Some WeMo users will be undoubtedly bummed about needing to dish out an extra $40 in order to sync with Siri. That's fair to a point -- after all, you didn't need to buy anything extra in order to sync up with Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Except you did. Specifically, you needed to buy Alexa and Google Assistant devices for your WeMo gear to connect with. The least expensive of those -- the Dots, the Home Minis and the off-brand knockoffs -- run about $40 or $50 a piece. To me, that makes the WeMo Bridge a pretty fair offering at its $40 asking price -- at least for people who've already purchased WeMo devices. If you're coming in fresh, you'll also want to consider the switches and plugs of brands like iHome and iDevices -- switch for switch, they tend to cost a bit more than WeMo's gadgets, but they also don't need a bridge to connect with HomeKit.
Still, Belkin's Bridge is easy to use, and it works as promised. Bonus points for the fact that it supports first-gen WeMo Switches, too. The WeMo Bridge got here a little later than some users would have liked, but it's still a good device selling at the right price, and a worthwhile upgrade for WeMo's iOS faithful.