After a lengthy beta testing period, Insteon has finally released its new mobile app for iOS and Android. The app, previously reviewed and discussed here, is a huge step forward in terms of the user experience it delivers. It features a modern design that looks more appropriate for 2020 than what we’ll now refer to as the legacy apps.
The legacy apps are not going away though—we’ll talk about why in a bit. But because of that, you’ll need to go and explicitly get the new Insteon app if you want it. It’s not an automatic upgrade. It is available for iOS in the App Store and for Android phones and tablets in the Play Store. Before you jump into it, though, there are some things you should know about what the new app can and can’t do.
Lots of New Stuff
In addition to a whole new design (and new technology at nearly every level), the new app introduces a bunch of valuable, new features. Schedules appear in one, consolidated view, and you can now schedule multiple events to occur at the same time. You can adjust your Sunrise and Sunset times with offsets of up to 4 hours. You can manage multiple homes or hubs from one account on both iOS and Android. There’s a caveat to that, and we’ll address that shortly. Most importantly, you’ll notice that the new app is much more responsive than the old one. It’s faster to log in, faster to navigate, and faster to create and manage scenes.
Less of the Old Stuff
While the new Insteon mobile app is indeed the successor to the legacy Insteon for Hub app, you may still need your legacy app for some functions. This will depend on what devices you have in your Insteon setup. The new Insteon app supports all the core Insteon lighting & electrical control products [there’s that phrase again]. This includes dimmers, switches, keypads, outlets, plug-in modules, in-wall products, the fan controller, DIN-rail modules, sensors, etc. It does not, however, fully support some older Insteon and ICON devices, discontinued devices, or any third-party devices.
Insteon’s beta test pages present several long-scrolling tables and lists to identify what is and isn’t supported. We’re going to try to summarize and clarify the support exclusions here.
Third-party devices. This is the easiest one. Third-party devices won’t show up in the new Insteon app. Insteon has—we think wisely—made the decision to eliminate support for third-party devices as part of its new mobile experience. This includes Nest thermostats, Venstar thermostats, Sonos speakers, and X10 products.
Supporting another vendor’s products is always a challenge. It’s a moving target that can add unpredictable expense to a company’s development efforts. Other platforms offer Insteon support, including Alexa, Google Home, Logitech Harmony, Yonomi, and more. Those platforms are designed to manage devices across ecosystems. You can, however, continue to control third-party devices through your legacy app. Some were only supported in iOS, anyway. It’s worth noting that the new app can control scenes containing third-party devices.
Discontinued Insteon devices. Over the years, Insteon has introduced and discontinued a number of devices for various reasons. Many never received much traction with customers (e.g., security devices). Others have been superseded by more popular and less expensive market alternatives (e.g., cameras). As such, the new app does not support Insteon’s Morninglinc Lock Controller, Smoke Bridge, Alert Module, Siren Module,
240v Load Controllers, Range Extender, or Cameras. Again, you can still use the legacy app to control and manage any of these devices, and you can trigger scenes containing these devices in the new app. It’s also worth noting that the new app requires the current-generation (square-shaped) Hub sometimes referred to as the “Hub 2.” It does not support the 1st-generation Insteon Hub or the Insteon Hub Pro.
Very old Insteon devices. The new app partially supports some very old Insteon devices, including the short-lived ICON-branded budget products. Typically, this only applies to devices manufactured before 2010. These devices will appear in the app, and you can control them from the app. However, you may not be able to add them to your home, add them to scenes, or edit device settings or scenes containing these older devices. As with all the other exclusions, you’ll still be able to manage these from the legacy app.
Incomplete support. For some specific Insteon products, the new app offers control and scene support without the ability to fully configure some device settings. For example, you cannot set the button configuration or button behavior on Keypads. You cannot select whether an in-wall Micro Adaptor is installed in a latched or unlatched circuit. And you cannot change the occupancy mode of Motion Sensors. Again, you can turn to the legacy app to make those changes.
Planned support. The team at Insteon plans to iterate and improve upon the new mobile app. These capabilities aren’t available at launch, but Insteon intends to add support for its Mini Remotes and the I/O Linc (including the related Garage Door Kit). In the meantime [say it with us:] refer to your legacy app for these. A neat trick for the I/O Linc and garage doors is to “wrap” the I/O Linc in a scene. You won’t see status in the new app, but you will be able to control it.
Abandoned. The biggest surprise here may be Insteon’s Wired Thermostat. The new app does not and will not support the thermostat. Insteon still lists—and smarthome.com still sells—the Insteon thermostat. Come to think of it, that may actually be more surprising than it being left out of the new app.
Legacy Favorites. Another big surprise in the new app is that it handles Favorites differently. In the legacy app, you “favorite” something by adding it to a pre-defined room called Favorites. That always felt kind of janky, and it doesn’t exist in the new app. Your favorite devices are front and center, but you’ll need to re-establish what you want in Favorites by selecting the Display in Favorites option or tapping the Favorite icon for each device. You cannot designate scenes as favorites anymore.
Back in the legacy app, your old favorite devices and scenes won’t change—they’ll remain independent of your favorites in the new app. So if you want them to be the same, you’ll need to maintain them separately. It’s…confusing at best and not something we’re at all happy about. There’s a logical business or technical justification for nearly every other exclusion discussed here. But not for this.
Room association. Insteon lets you assign devices and scenes to groups called Rooms. You can put any device or scene in any number of rooms (e.g., Outside, Front Yard, and Christmas). This is quite useful. The new app allows for similar room associations, but scenes can now only be added to one room and are not displayed or grouped by room in the new app. The legacy app will continue to show devices and scenes assigned to any number of rooms.
App platforms. Insteon’s new app is available for iOS and Android. The Android version scales to larger/tablet devices, but the iOS version does not have an iPad-optimized alternative. Insteon has not released a new app for Windows or Apple Watch.
A Warning for Android Users
Insteon’s new mobile app now allows customers with Android devices to add multiple homes or hubs to an account. This addresses a long-standing platform gap since the legacy Android app did not support this. Unfortunately, that problem could complicate things for Android users. Insteon is carefully and clearly warning that if Android users add a second or additional homes to an account, they will not be able to use the legacy app going forward—it cannot handle multiple homes. And this is fine…as long as you don’t need that app for one of the reasons outlined above. This may be less of a problem for you if you also have an iOS device you can use to manage legacy devices.
Why You Should Still Upgrade
This all seems like a whole lot of disclaimers. That’s because it is. And while that includes a long list of device support exclusions, the reality is that Insteon’s new app still supports literally dozens of different Insteon SKUs, including nearly every product they still sell today. Like with optical drives on laptops or headphone jacks on phones and tablets, companies need to sacrifice support for older technologies as they move forward.
Unless you fall into that category of customers who need to manage multiple homes on an account and don’t have access to an iOS device, you should upgrade. Insteon’s new app is better optimized for modern device sizes and formats. It makes basic device and scene control significantly easier and faster. It makes it much easier to understand how your devices and scenes are scheduled. And you can overcome many of the device support issues by simply setting up scenes in your legacy app to control those devices—which you should probably be doing anyway so you can also control them through third-party services, like Alexa. Just be sure to keep your legacy app installed.
Given the number of comments logged against our update from last summer about Insteon’s plans, customers have been clamoring for news about new hardware and software from Insteon. And now we have it—at least in part. The next stop on this roadmap is for new hardware. We have no additional insight at this time as to when that’s coming. And as most enthusiasts know by now, it doesn’t pay to make bets on Insteon release dates.
Disclaimer: Richard Gunther is a long-time Insteon user, pundit, and developer who occasionally provides contract support for Insteon. Insteon had no role in publishing this article.
Updated 10/8/20 to reflect a software update that added support for the Insteon 240V Load Controller.