Wemo Smart Plug review: The little plug that could
The life of a smart plug isn't very glamorous. There are a few moments of appreciation when the box is first opened, some quality time spent getting to know each other and setting things up, then a lifetime of being kept out of sight, out of mind, and just being used. That doesn't sound like much fun if your the plug, and if you're the user you really only care about one thing: dependability.
Dependability means that everything works as it should, with the things you have now and the things you buy in the future. Wemo understands this part of the relationship: the company has long been a manufacturer of smart plugs, smart switches, and other small smart home products. And the compatibility end is covered well, too. You'll find the Wemo brand is right at home talking to and working with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Nest, IFTTT and even Apple HomeKit. Not many smart devices under $30 can make such grand claims.
- Compatibility with smart assistants
- An atrocious app
- Difficult to set up
Wemo Smart Plug What's great
I have a house filled with Wemo's smart outlets and switches, so I'm very familiar with the brand. You probably don't have a Wemo-made product in the rooms you spend time in, but that doesn't make a difference — the Wemo Smart plug is still going to work with just about every gadget that you do own.
Supporting Google, Amazon, and Apple (as well as the cross-platform machinery at IFTTT) means you'll be able to control and integrate the Wemo Smart plug easily into your everyday life. If you use Alexa or Google Assistant, it's controlled as a native device. That means all you'll need to do is set it up on your home network through the Wemo app then connect your Wemo account to your assistant and you'll have full functionality. With HomeKit, Wemo is taking advantage of Apple's Homekit Software Authentication program and works without needing any bridge attached to your network.
On the feature side, it can really only do one thing: be turned on and off remotely and programmatically. You tell Assistant to turn off the Kitchen Plug, and off it goes. But once combined with native features of the various smart platforms, the Wemo Smart plug can be built into any routine where turning on or off automatically is beneficial. You can turn off the Christmas tree lights (an area where smart plugs are a godsend) at 11 pm for example. Or turn on the electric kettle for a hot cup of tea with breakfast.
If you need to provide power to anything with a plug without plugging it in, a smart plug is your best friend. Wemo not only works every time, but its cross-compatibility nature makes it one of the best smart plugs available.
Wemo Smart Plug The unpleasant side
To get things off and running, you'll need to connect the Wemo Smart plug to your home network's Wi-Fi. You do this, unfortunately, with Wemo's Android app.
For as good as the hardware and features of the Wemo Smart plug are, the app is equivalently bad. The setup is typical of a small smart accessory: provide power, connect to the device through its own short-range Wi-Fi hotspot and provide your network name and password. After some microcontroller magic, the credentials for your network are written to the device firmware and you're now connected. Ideally, your next step would be to check out the app's remote features where you can control your Wemo devices through the app on your phone from anywhere then connect to your smart assistant of choice.
In reality, unless you're very lucky, you'll be frustratingly resetting and trying over and over to get the app to recognize the plug or to get your phone to reliably connect to the device's own wireless network.
This is especially frustrating with the Android app, as it seems to be less reliable than the almost-as-horrid iOS version. But make no mistake, neither is a very good experience. Most frustrating of all, once you're finished there's a good chance it "didn't take" and the device won't be visible through the Wemo app — which also means it's not visible through your Wemo account and can't be connected to any other service.
Thankfully, the fix is easy: persistence. You'll just need to keep trying and, eventually, it will work. Then you'll never need to open the Wemo app again and can use your phone's assistant feature to control it.
This can be a frustrating experience for someone who is constantly adding and removing smart devices from their home to make their living, but it's a potential show-stopper for anyone less familiar with the process. I know more than a few people who would love to have a gadget like the Wemo Smart plug but would be put off by the setup procedure. I can't recommend this product to them, though I wish I could as once setup it's a joy to use.
Should you buy the Wemo Smart Plug?
You're not going to find another smart plug that works with every platform, is this reliable, and costs under $30. The Wemo Smart Plug is one of those rare devices that does exactly what it says on the tin and exactly what we expect it should.
4 out of 5
Unfortunately, there are plenty of folks who won't or can't make their way through the apps unpredictable and unforgivable setup routine. This makes the Wemo a hard sell for a lot of people. If you're somewhat technically inclined or willing to persist through a process that doesn't work as described, you'll be able to get things going. If you're not, spend a few more dollars and give up some of the cross-platform usefulness and buy another brand.
Otherwise, this would be a true five-star product that I would heartily recommend to everyone.
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Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.