A smart plug can give any pluggable device a brain. And in the case of the $50 iHome ISP8 SmartPlug, one of the leaders in the market, that brain connects your dumb old lamp to Siri, Alexa, Wink, SmartThings or Nest.
The iHome ISP8 is making a play in a tough market, with impressive competitors like iDevices and Belkin. And although the device is an improvement over the older ISP5 SmartPlug, connecting with new platforms and introducing energy monitoring, the ISP8 doesn't offer quite enough to surpass the industry leaders.
The iHome is a solid smart plug that left me with a bad first impression. I set up the device on two Wi-Fi networks, and both times it took at least three attempts to connect successfully. Next, I wanted to integrate the SmartPlug with our Amazon Echo -- usually a pretty simple process. Instead, the online directions instructed me to download another app -- Wink -- and set up an additional account to bridge my iHome account and the Alexa app.
When I called iHome's tech support to double check I was following the process correctly, they also walked me through the same directions. It only took an extra 5 or 10 minutes, which wasn't the end of the world, but I didn't want an extra app cluttering up my phone. Later I learned using the Wink app as a bridge was unnecessary in the first place; iHome recently added an Alexa skill to directly integrate with the Echo. The issue with this experience wasn't so much the device itself, but a combination of an annoying setup process and unclear instructions.
After moving past this speed bump, however, the iHome performed admirably. The device connects seamlessly with HomeKit and Siri as soon as you pair it with the iHome app. And setting up the included remote control takes only a few seconds.
The iHome's biggest strength is its broad platform interoperability. Between HomeKit, Echo, Wink, SmartThings and Nest, if you have any smart-home tech around the house, iHome will likely cooperate with something.
The best thing about this multiplatform approach is that you can control the plug using Siri and Alexa. Both platforms let you organize the plug among your other devices, making full home voice control really shine.
The other integrations work effectively, but a smart plug doesn't offer too much to a SmartThings, Wink or Nest ecosystem -- other than to switch on or off when a different gadget triggers it.
And that's the problem with iHome: its broad interoperability doesn't translate to depth of integration. Other than what is now pretty standard energy monitoring -- which you can't even access in any but the iHome app -- the ISP8 doesn't bring much to the table. The lack of IFTTT integration, in particular, means you won't get the same cool and creative triggering options you do with the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch.
At the end of the day, the iHome ISP8 SmartPlug is a reliable gadget, and it won't disappoint if you have a particular device you're looking to automate. But iHome doesn't do enough to distinguish the ISP8 SmartPlug in the larger market. And I can't recommend it above the industry-leading Belkin WeMo Insight Switch.
Editor's note, December 13: iHome no longer needs the Wink app to integrate with the Amazon Echo, which was a minor criticism in a previous version of this review. The review has been edited to reflect this, and the score changed from 8.0 to 8.1.