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Shortcut Labs FlicSingle Smart Button review: The best smart light switch might be a button

The FlicLights Smart Button is a $20 gadget to optimize your smart LEDs.

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David Priest
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David Priest

Editor

David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who covers home security for CNET. When he isn't waving his hands wildly in front of motion sensors or making faces at video doorbells, he spends his time playing board games and video games with his wife and family.

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4 min read

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, 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.

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Shortcut Labs FlicSingle Smart Button

The Good

The FlicLights Smart Button is affordable, well-designed and has a lot of power packed into a small body.

The Bad

The button is tied to your phone, so the app always needs to be running and the phone always needs to be nearby.

The Bottom Line

For the price of $20, the FlicLights Smart Button is a great entry point for users wanting an easier way to control their smart LEDs.

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.

Flic has a whole new family of smart buttons

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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.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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, but at less than half the price.

For anyone looking to optimize their smart LED usage, FlicLights is a solid option.

So what about the other FlicSingles?

None of the other FlicSingles attain the success of the FlicLights Button.

The FlicFind button has only one simple function: it sets off an alarm on your phone when you're having trouble finding it. This button went too simple, and it suffers from a dependence on the Flic app always running -- something you can't guarantee if you're already looking for a missing phone.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The FlicLocation button essentially acts as a beacon for friends or family in case of emergency. Sure, it works, but only if the app is running in the background. And instead of tracking your location and sending updates, it simply sends a set of coordinates once. If I were looking for a device to make me feel safer, FlicLocation wouldn't be my first pick -- but it might be a backup.

The FlicMusic button is one of the more flexible FlicSingles. You can control your music via Apple Music, Spotify, or Sonos devices -- assigning any commands for those platforms to the Flic's press, double-press, or long hold toggles. For the casual listener, the FlicMusic is definitely worth considering, but only among other products.

FlicSelfie is the worst FlicSingle Smart Button released. Users can take a picture with their phone by pressing the smart button, but the app has to be running and the camera has to be up. Thus, a lot of the creative uses for the FlicSelfie are wasted. Sure, your Uncle Chris won't have to set the camera timer and race across the room to make it into family photos, but that leaves you with a device that's useful, at best, on rare occasions.

FlicSingles are a cool concept, offering a great entry point into smart-home experimentation for new users. Although not all of the current devices impress, I'm excited to see how the concept grows and whether new FlicSingles join the roster.

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Shortcut Labs FlicSingle Smart Button

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 8Performance 9
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