Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug review: This itty-bitty, Siri-friendly smart switch is still a best buy

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The Good At $30 (or less), the new WeMo Mini is competitively priced, and the smaller design won't block adjacent outlets. Native compatibility with IFTTT, Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Amazon's Alexa make it one of the most well-connected smart plugs you can buy.

The Bad The WeMo Mini won't track energy usage like other smart plugs will. And, though you probably won't use it very much, the WeMo app is sluggish and glitchy at times.

The Bottom Line There's plenty of new competition out there, but the WeMo Mini is still one of the easiest smart home gadgets for us to recommend.

8.0 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 7
  • Design 9
  • Performance 8

Editors' note, Oct. 26, 2018: Earlier this year, Belkin took advantage of Apple HomeKit's new software authentication to let its WeMo devices connect to Siri on their own without needing the WeMo Bridge plugged into your router. So far, the only WeMo gadget to get the upgrade is the WeMo Mini smart switch reviewed below, though WeMo tells us that the WeMo Dimmer light switch should also take advantage by the end of 2018. Our updated review, originally published in January 2017, follows below.

For a few years now, Belkin's WeMo line of smart home switches stood as a reasonably affordable home automation starting point. In 2017, Belkin figured it was time to refresh the lineup.

The main attraction: the WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug, which debuted at an asking price of $35 and can now be had for $30 or less. Just like the original WeMo Switch, it'll let you automate anything you plug into it, but like the name suggests, it's a lot smaller than before. That means it won't block off adjacent outlets like the old switches do.

The WeMo Mini offers all of the same features as the original WeMo Switch, including its integrations with platforms and services like IFTTT, Nest, Google Home and Amazon's Alexa -- and now, thanks to a software update in 2018, it'll support Apple HomeKit, too, which means you can control whatever you plug into it using Siri voice commands. It won't track energy usage, though; for that, you'll need to spend a few bucks extra on a WeMo Insight Switch.

Lack of energy tracking aside, the WeMo Mini is still a well-connected smart plug, and a sensible follow-up purchase for anyone who gets an Amazon Echo or a Google Home smart speaker for Christmas, as both will let you turn the plug on and off using voice commands. It isn't perfect -- and it has plenty of worthy new competitors that cost even less -- but at $30, the WeMo Mini is a safe, simple way to dip your toes into the connected home of tomorrow.

Ry Crist/CNET

The smart home made simple

If you want, you can fit two WeMo Minis into adjacent outlets.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Smart plugs like the WeMo Mini are some of the simplest and most straightforward connected home gadgets you can buy. Plug one in and then plug something else into it, and you'll be able to turn that thing on and off from your phone, or automate it to turn on and off at specific times.

The most obvious use cases include lamps, space heaters, desk fans, and other small appliances you might want to automate, but there's room for creativity.

For instance, you could plug your entertainment center's power strip into a smart plug, then automatically cut the juice to your AV gear late at night, when you aren't using any of it. 

There's even a smart frying pan that can sync with a WeMo Switch to automatically cook your dinner.

Connecting your smart plugs with other smart home gadgets and services opens the door to even more possibilities. WeMo does pretty well here, boasting compatibility with Nest, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, Google Home and Amazon Alexa, among others.

The new WeMo Mini is much, much smaller than before.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Switching up the design

It shouldn't be lost on anybody that the WeMo Mini looks a lot like two of its top competitors, the iHome Smart Plug and the iDevices Switch. Both of those Belkin challengers went with small designs that don't block adjacent outlets, making the bulky first-gen WeMo Switch look dated by comparison. Updating the design was a necessary concession for Belkin -- and a clear sign that it's keen on keeping the WeMo Switch competitive on retail shelves.

The WeMo Mini's design matches what we've already seen from iDevices and iHome, shown here.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It's a good move. After selling millions of units throughout 2016, Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers were both predictably hot sellers during the holiday buying season -- and that meant huge numbers of new potential customers for Belkin's Alexa-ready WeMo hardware.

WeMo was an early partner for the Google Home smart speaker, which made its debut in late 2016, as well. No wonder Belkin wanted its WeMo Switch ready for a fresh closeup.

But staying competitive just about cosmetics. Software matters, too, and that's why Belkin (belatedly) added in Apple HomeKit compatibility for the Mini during the summer of 2018. That countered the clearest advantage of competitors like iDevices and iHome, and cemented the WeMo Mini as one of the most accessible and affordable smart home starting points on the market.

Belkin's other advantage over those two is obviously the $30 price tag. It's a cheaper cost of entry than iHome or iDevices, and closer to what you'll pay for bargain-priced competitors from names like Koogeek, Eufy and TP-Link, where Belkin's brand recognition should serve it well.

Of course, the latest competitor is Amazon itself -- the online retail giant released its own Alexa-friendly smart plug late in 2018 at an asking price of just $25. It's built to pair perfectly with Alexa, but it won't connect with Siri, the Google Assistant or a number of other platforms WeMo supports. That keeps Belkin -- and that $30 price tag -- in a pretty good spot.

About the app

The WeMo Mini uses the same Android and iOS app as existing WeMo devices. I'm holding out hope that Belkin will overhaul that app sometime this year. It's a good-looking piece of software that's pretty easy to navigate, but it suffers from laggy performance -- a quibble that continued as I started testing out the new WeMo Mini.