Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi Plug-In Dimmer review: This Alexa-ready smart plug doesn't need a hub to dim your desk lamp
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you own a lamp. You like this lamp, but it's either on or off, with nothing in between. You can't dim it, and you wish that you could. Better yet, you wish that you could dim it with a simple Alexa voice command on your Amazon Echo smart speaker -- let's go ahead and say that you own one of those, too.
This is where the Wi-Fi-enabled Leviton Decora plug-in dimmer comes in. Plug it in and plug that lamp of yours in behind it. You'll then be able to turn it on and off or dim it up and down remotely using the My Leviton app on your Android or iOS device, or by using Alexa voice commands. The asking price? $48 per plug.
That's a little steep for my tastes, especially considering you can pick up a Belkin WeMo Mini smart switch for $35 or less. That switch won't let you dim the lights, but it boasts better third-party connections than the Decora lineup, and it also features a much, much less awkward design that doesn't block adjacent outlets or force you to plug your lamp in at an uncomfortable angle on the bottom of the device.
Still, the Decora plug has some good stuff going for it. Despite the fact that my phone timed out during my first attempt at pairing with the plug, I came away impressed with the My Leviton app. It's simple to use, yet fully featured, with good controls for organizing multiple plugs by room and programming automated lighting changes. You can also customize things like the lamp's dimmable range or the fade duration whenever you turn it on or off.
Many will also appreciate that the new Wi-Fi Decora devices speak the same language as your home network. That means you don't need to plug a hub into your router to act as translator.
Syncing up with Alexa is easy. Just enable the Leviton skill in the Alexa app and tell your Echo, Echo Dot or Tap to scan for new devices. From there, you'll be able to tell Alexa to turn the lamp on or off or dim it up and down by using whatever name you gave it in the My Leviton app. Everything worked perfectly when I tested it out in the CNET Smart Home.
There wasn't much else for me to test out, though. There's no IFTTT channel for these plugs, and no compatibility with Nest or any other notable third-party products or services. Leviton plans to sync Decora up with Apple HomeKit this May to bring Siri controls into play -- but in a dumbfounding move, that HomeKit compatibility will be part of an entirely new yet otherwise identical line of Wi-Fi Decora devices.
In other words, buy it now and you'll miss out on HomeKit later. Names such as Ecobee and August have already learned the hard way that customers don't appreciate it when you separate features out like that -- now, Leviton is stepping on the same rake.
"There's a consumer misunderstanding that HomeKit is a feature to be added," explained Greg Rhoades, Director, Marketing, Energy Management, Controls and Automation at Leviton. "In fact, it is an ecosystem and Leviton will provide a purely dedicated solution for these customers."
"If a consumer absolutely wants the simplicity and benefits of Apple HomeKit and wants to connect the growing number of devices," he went on, "then yes -- they should wait for those SKUs in April."
In almost all cases, sticking with dimmable smart bulbs is a more cost-effective way of smartening up the lamps around your home. A fully dimmable, Alexa-compatible two-bulb Philips Hue White starter kit costs $70 with additional bulbs costing just $15 each. I'd need a very good reason to go with Leviton over an option like that.
Editors' note, 24 March 2017: Updated to add comment from Leviton about Apple HomeKit compatibility.