Editors' note, October 27, 2015: This review has been edited to reflect software updates that added energy tracking and remote access. The score and recommendation have been changed in light of these updates.
The Switch is the newest offering from iDevices, the company that made the polished and handy iGrill , and it's a solid product. The new gadget, arriving online at the iDevices store and select Lowe's locations this month, does what it's supposed to: turn on whatever is plugged into it with the swipe of a finger or a quick voice command using Siri.
And now, thanks to some major firmware updates, it compares competitively with other smart plugs and switches on the market (like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch , or if you're up for installation, the Insteon On/Off Outlet ). Despite this product's iOS exclusivity and problems with user sharing, the iDevices Switch is one of the best you can find for 60 bucks.
You can set up the iDevices Switch within five minutes. Included in each package is a Quick Start Guide, a fold-out that directs setup in four easy steps: download the iDevices app, connect your iPhone or iPad to your home's Wi-Fi, plug the Switch into a wall, and launch the app. It really is (almost) that simple. Of course, the Switch requires a few seconds to sync with your device and gain Wi-Fi access, but within minutes you can tell Siri to turn on your lamp, and she will.
I did run into a problem while setting up the Switch at the CNET Smart Home, though. It turns out only the original user of a given HomeKit registered home can install new equipment. That means, if one family member sets up one HomeKit device, they must be the one to set up others in the future. I was able to troubleshoot this issue by creating a new home for the Switch, but that meant I couldn't access any of the HomeKit technology my coworker Ry had already set up. While most HomeKit users won't run into this problem, it is a little odd that HomeKit doesn't allow more customizable permissions for user sharing.
Once your new Switch is plugged in and synced to your home network most of what it does is up to you. The iDevices app offers an extremely usable interface, letting you easily swipe between rooms, see multiple Switches or other iDevices products in each room, and toggle them individually.
Most comparable apps are tied to a physical hub, like the SmartThings Hub or Insteon Hub , but the iDevices Switch and accompanying app work through Apple HomeKit. HomeKit is Apple's iOS-based smart home technology that, among other things, lets you control multiple devices from a single app interface. It requires no central hardware hub to link up those products, but to take advantage of it, each connected device you buy has to be HomeKit-compatible. In theory this is a really cool idea, and the iDevices app certainly benefits from the simpler setup, but certain shortcomings inhibit this Switch.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the app was the simple but elegant interface. Although I was only working with three products at once (the Switch, the Thermostat, and iDevices' other plug, the Outdoor Switch), it was clear that the iDevices app is built for efficiency no matter how many smart-home devices it's integrating.
To state the obvious, the iDevices Switch is exactly that: a switch. It turns things on and off, manually via a button on the switch, or through your phone. Now it also tracks energy usage and can be set on a schedule to follow even when you're away from home. These offerings are a little spare; the one-year-old Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, for instance, tracks energy consumption in far more depth, and it also integrates with IFTTT ("if this then that") to allow for a far deeper level of personalization. While the iDevices app lets you control your Switches and set command combinations on timers, the WeMo lets you program contingencies, like turning off the lights when you leave the house or turning on the TV when your favorite team is about to take the field. But overall the iDevices Switch offers as much as the common consumer would want.
With the latest firmware updates, you can now also create schedules that run while you're off the property -- a nice touch for those who are security-conscious.
The iDevices Switch looks nice. It could be smaller, but it rarely presents problems with outlets -- blocking an adjacent plug on a four-plug outlet, or not fitting into an outlet set at a corner or under the lip of a counter. Anyone experienced with smart plugs and switches knows how bulky they can be, but the iDevices Switch is quite compact.
The aesthetic of the Switch will fit any home already outfitted with Apple products. It's a glossy white, soft-cornered switch with a linear nightlight that you can adjust to any color, saturation or brightness. Although the light isn't bright enough to light up a dark room, the color personalization is a great touch, and the ability to turn it off is a simple function that avoids the annoyance of a perpetual LED .
Although the iDevices Switch is visually appealing, the more functional design decisions stop it from breaking new ground in the smart-home industry. In terms of size, the Switch falls between the Belkin WeMo and the iHome SmartPlug, and with only one plug outlet, the basic design doesn't offer much that would make it stand out.
The iDevices Switch performs well. The response time between the app and the Switch is quick, so if you toggle a lamp, it'll turn on in less than a second. Conversely, if you press the button to manually activate the Switch, the app will accurately reflect the setting. Even when you're off your wireless network, the Switch responds quickly to commands.
The two main performance problems we saw with the iDevices app was difficulty resetting and reinstalling the Switch elsewhere, and inviting additional users to the same home network. For most users, moving the Switch between multiple houses really won't be an issue, but if the user-sharing problem isn't solved soon, it will handcuff the already limited capabilities of the iDevices Switch. iDevices is aware of this issue and is working on solutions now. If they solve the problem, the Switch will perform almost flawlessly.
Smart switches are easy way for anyone trying to raise their home's IQ, but the accompanying integration network is as important as the physical technology if you want anything beyond the most basic controls. With HomeKit still maturing, it means you need to have some faith in the Apple ecosystem, and be willing to put up with some bugs, while you wait for that faith to pay off.
The iDevices app pulls together products in one of the most attractive and efficient interfaces I've seen, and now the iDevices Switch seems like it would fit right in at a smart home. At $60, (which converts roughly to £40 and AU$85), a user-friendly app and a relatively versatile Switch are the best you can expect.
If you're just looking for an indoor smart switch, the iDevices offering is one of the best out there -- especially for more casual consumers. For HomeKit early adopters, iDevices' product will be a foundational part of your Smart Home's development.