The device that best captures the spirit of the smart home might just be the smart button. It's affordable, simple, and makes all your digital silos cooperate. One of the best smart buttons on the market is the $34 Shortcut Labs Flic ($35 at Amazon), which works magic with over 40 devices and platforms -- from controlling Philips Hue LEDs to IFTTT recipes. The big appeal of a device like Flic is the combination of its flexibility and affordability.
But Shortcut Labs is experimenting with a new smart button -- one that cuts the original Flic's price to $20, and cuts the flexibility out almost entirely. The FlicSingle series of buttons includes five products: FlicMusic, FlicLights, FlicSelfie, FlicFind, and FlicLocation. These gadgets use the same basic mechanisms to perform actions -- triggering the IFTTT-like Flic app on your phone via Bluetooth using button taps. Unlike the original Flic, however, these buttons are made to perform only one function or set of functions.
The best FlicSingle so far is easily FlicLights. It keeps just enough customization in place to make the button feel smart, but its focused purpose and reliable performance lend it an elegant simplicity.
The FlicLights button is basically an affordable connected light switch for your home. I like that the FlicLights button hasn't abandoned all flexibility: you get to map three personalized commands to the three separate button press patterns (press, double-press, long hold). That means you're not restricted to the on/off capabilities of a typical switch, but can also customize a third setting. This variety of commands works well with colored bulbs or preset scenes from the lighting apps.
Two problems impede an otherwise impressive device. First, you have to already own connected LEDs. Unlike hard-wired smart light switches, FlicLights won't turn your dumb lights smart. Second, because it relies on the Bluetooth connection with your phone, you have to always have the app running and the phone nearby. This is a minor drawback for the most part -- except if you have multiple people in the same house planning to use the button. It can only pair with one phone at a time.
But such imperfections aren't surprising with a device that costs $20. In fact, what makes FlicSingles cool is their lower price of entry. They let you try out a new smart-home gadget without breaking the bank, which is rare in the industry. Plus, they add simple labels to the face of the buttons so you know which ones perform which actions.
The FlicLights button fuses the simplicity of a conventional light switch with the smarts of app-connected LEDs, leaving users with a device much like the Philips Hue Tap ($74 at Amazon), but at less than half the price.