Belkin's app-enabled WeMo Light Switches have long been a relatively affordable way to smarten up the switches in your home, and the fact that they don't need a hub makes them a pretty simple smart home starting point. Still, they suffer from a glaring flaw: They can't dim your lights.
Now, at CES 2017, Belkin is finally fixing the problem. The answer is a brand new, dimmable version of the WeMo Light Switch that'll hit retail later this year.
Pricing is still to be determined, but right now, the WeMo Dimmer looks like a pretty promising step forward to me.
Here's what I like best about it:
If you like, you'll be able to trigger that Away Mode feature by long-pressing on the switch for a couple of seconds. You can customize those long presses to do other things, too -- turning all of the other WeMo-enabled lights in your home on or off, for instance.
The WeMo Dimmer borrows that long press trick from the first-gen WeMo Light Switch, and it shares the same Android and iOS app, the same basic automation features, and the same third-party integrations, too. Most notable among them: the free online automation service IFTTT, the Nest Learning Thermostat, Amazon's Alexa, and the Google Home smart speaker. You'll be able to sync the WeMo Dimmer up with all of them.
Of course, something else it shares with the original model is a lack of compatibility with Apple HomeKit, the set of connected home protocols in the software that powers iPhones and iPads. The release of new hardware would have seemed to be a great time for Belkin to add in the necessary HomeKit chipset, but a WeMo spokesperson tells me that the company was concerned about selling HomeKit-compatible WeMo gear alongside older, non-HomeKit-compatible WeMo products. So, for now at least, HomeKit is a no-go.
The new switch does look a little different than the previous model, though. For starters, the dimming controls are capacitive, which is a break from the physical switch of gen one. There's also a new multi-color indicator light at the bottom of the switch -- it'll offer contextual cues to help you keep track of your switch's automated behavior. A green light indicates that it's running one of your WeMo rules, for instance, while an aqua-colored light tells you that the light is responding to a third-party integration, like an Amazon Echo voice command. I'll be curious to see if that's more helpful or annoying in practice.
The WeMo Dimmer is expected to arrive at retail this spring. Like Belkin's other new gadget, the pint-sized WeMo Mini Smart Plug, the new dimmer switch will launch in the US and Canada only, but Belkin sells its existing WeMo products internationally, so I wouldn't rule out global availability at some point down the line.
The real question is how much will this thing cost. Current-gen WeMo Light Switches sell for about fifty bucks each, but more fully-featured competitors from names like Lutron and iDevices can sell for as much as twice that. I'm guessing the new WeMo Dimmer lands somewhere in the middle, but we'll know for sure when it arrives later this year. Expect an in-depth review from the CNET Smart Home at that time.