Smart blinds make your home feel a lot smarter, but they also cost a boatload. For motorized and app-connected shades like Somfy's or Lutron's, you're looking at prices ranging from $250 to upward of $1,000, £700 or AU$1,325 -- and that's per unit.
In response, a few startups have endeavored to design retrofit devices that smarten your blinds and shades for under 100 bucks. The FlipFlic, now open for preorder on Kickstarter, is one of those devices.
Despite the affordable price, the FlipFlic has one major limitation. It can't open or close blinds -- it only adjusts the angle of the slats to block or let in sunlight. This approach seems restrictive, but it actually makes the device compatible with more commonly used blinds than its competition. Devices like the Smart Shades require continuous beaded chains to work with a set of shades, which can be a challenge to find.
Plus, the FlipFlic makes up for its limited functionality with the hardware included in the planned $90 (about £62 and AU$118) retail package. You get the app-connected device with light and temperature sensors, and a solar panel that powers the device. I've gotten to work with a prototype for a few days, and just in terms of hardware, the FlipFlic package looks to be an impressive deal.
The early version of the FlipFlic app I used felt sharper than many refined apps from better-funded developers. The user interface is intuitive, and the features actually feel smart. Your phone isn't just a Bluetooth remote; it offers true automation. For instance, temperature and light sensors housed in the FlipFlic can automatically control your blinds as the room heats up, or as more sunlight enters the window.
The automation features will fill a need that hasn't yet been met by the smart-blinds industry -- if they work. I didn't subject the prototype to the rigors of review testing that I would if it were a final product. Of course, the basic remote control and scheduling worked, but final judgment of the automation must wait till the product ships.
The FlipFlic fits in nicely with the competition, undercutting the expensive smart shades, and competing well with other retrofit options. And although it's a Kickstarter project, the device has already gone through multiple iterations and has a pretty solid prototype.
When the FlipFlic package ships in January 2017 (assuming it makes its deadline -- not all Kickstarters do), it could be one of the best deals in the smart-blinds industry, if it works. And based on the company's efforts so far, the odds seem favorable.