In the ever changing, and often confusing range of available home automation devices, in-wall switches and outlets are nothing new. Wemo WiFi switches from Belkin have existed alongside mature product lines from Insteon, Lutron, and numerous Z-Wave manufacturers for many years. Until recently though, we haven’t seen many that were compatible with voice assistants and didn’t require some sort of hub.
iDevices, now part of Hubbell Incorporated, offers exactly that. Their Wi-Fi connected [amazon_link id=”B06Y5G7XPJ” target=”_blank” ]Wall Switch[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”B06Y46XDS2″ target=”_blank” ]Wall Outlet[/amazon_link] are controllable via the iDevices app, HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. No hub is required, so like Belkin Wemo, D-Link, and TP-Link home automation devices, you connect them directly to your home router instead of a smart home hub or bridge.
iDevices switches and outlets are designed to fit in with almost any decor. Packed with extra electronics to enable long range Wi-Fi, they don’t protrude significantly or look out of place. That’s not easy to pull off with such limited space available in our North American electrical boxes. But iDevices wall switches and outlets are much deeper than those from Insteon, as an example.
To accommodate their fairly deep profile, you will want to ensure you have adequate space in your electrical box. Often times some better wire management in the box will do the trick to provide enough clearance. In some cases, it may be necessary to change to deeper electrical boxes to install these. If you’re doing that, you may want to consider installing a non-metallic box if your local building codes allow it. This helps cut down on the signal loss that can occur in a metal electrical box.
Connecting an iDevices product to your home Wi-Fi network via iOS is relatively straightforward if you’ve added HomeKit accessories before. We found it was necessary to put the wall outlet into pairing mode manually. Keep the product manual handy or follow these online instructions, otherwise HomeKit and the iDevices app won’t find it. If the iDevices app does not automatically discover your device, you may need to add the product manually. Following the somewhat tedious Add Product process in the app, we tested the connection process multiple times. With factory-reset devices, we connected the wall switch with no issues. The wall outlet on the other hand, required a retry in multiple tests.
The fun doesn’t end there. Another screen in the app appears and reports to be searching for devices again. If you don’t let the process finish, setup will be incomplete. The whole process seems overly confusing. If you’re an iOS user, we strongly recommend setting up your devices through Apple’s own Home app—it’s easier. The iDevices app still sees them, so you can still control and configure them there if you want. Note that in iOS, you must set up the devices to work with HomeKit if you want to set them up at all. We’re not sure why you wouldn’t want to have HomeKit set up in iOS, but the lack of choice seems odd. Other devices, such as Philips Hue and Ecobee, don’t require HomeKit integration.
Remote device response is very good. On the Wall Outlet, we really like the ability to control each of the two outlets separately—a feature previously only available from Insteon. Insteon’s devices also offer load sensing, toggling the outlet when someone turns on a connected lamp, for example. Some Z-Wave outlets can do this as well. It keeps a harmonious atmosphere when a family member who is, let’s say, not so into your obsession with automating everything, just wants to turn on a lamp the old fashioned way. We think that’s a great feature and hope iDevices adds something like this in the future.
We conduct product reviews in our own, real-world living environments—not in an office or a lab. This affords us an opportunity to actually live with the products over longer periods of time. While testing the Wall Switch, we’ve noted an occasional problem when using the switch itself. Sometimes, when you turn it on, the light will turn on, then turn immediately off again. It’s pronounced enough that the switch will probably get replaced now that this review is out. Hopefully this is an anomaly, and not a common problem with the actual hardware.
Day to day, we prefer the ease of controlling iDevices products from HomeKit in the iOS Control Center. But we appreciate some features the iDevices app offers. For instance, you can check the power consumption of any device powered by one of their products. Even better, using geo-location data, iDevices will automatically populate the app with your U.S. state or Canadian province average consumption rates, so you can evaluate your electric costs and get projections for a month or a year at a glance.
An additional feature, unique to iDevices, is a color LED on the light switch that you can control and change in the app and through HomeKit. It’s not an earth shattering innovation, but it is kind of nice that you can customize the light on each switch. We also think it’s a really helpful feature when you have one of those ridiculous gang plates of five to six paddle switches, where your guests end up pushing every one to find the right switch. It would be nice to be able to color code them to your liking, and then just say something like, “push the yellow one,” when they ask how to turn on your hall lights. The LED can also act as something of a night-light—not necessarily casting enough light to see by, but you can use it as a marker.
Built-in Future Compatibility
You can also pair and control these products with iDevices’ new Instant Switch, a Bluetooth wall switch you can stick up anywhere. While it doesn’t look exactly like these in-wall products, it has style that fits in with most homes and will likely pass an interior designer’s critique. And how can a Bluetooth wall switch connect to a Wi-Fi wall switch you ask? The engineers at iDevices thought ahead and included a Bluetooth radio in all of their devices, just for future product integrations like this. That’s smart and shows forethought to consider future product development without punishing early adopters of their devices.
iDevices is continuing to innovate, and we’re glad they have a home with Hubbell for the resources to keep up the crazy pace of IoT development. They announced some interesting products at CES this year, including the upcoming Instinct wall switch with Alexa on board.
OK, but here’s the rub. While iDevices products look great and do all this neat stuff, they have some software issues that really bothered us. First is that cumbersome process of discovering and pairing to Wi-Fi. Second, and more disconcerting, is that they’re an island of products! They don’t interface with anything except HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant, and with the exception of HomeKit, those are all one-way streets. They don’t even have an IFTTT channel! That’s a tough sell, given the competition. iDevices sells premium products at premium prices, so they need to open up to compete with products that can integrate with multiple systems and have a much lower cost of entry.
The good news for current and future iDevices product owners is the issues we’ve mentioned, aside from the wall switch manual operation, are all software based, so iDevices can resolve them without replacing hardware. This speaks highly to their engineering team. Other consumer IoT manufactures have made some fairly bad decisions early on, leading to many obsolete first generation products.
Thanks to iDevices for providing us with these products for review.
Do you have iDevices products? What has your experience been with them? Let us hear from you in the comments.