In the early days of the smart home battles, Wink was one of the big players. Even the novice could set up a Wink Hub, automate it, and reach smart home nirvana. But over time, things changed, and the company waned. Eventually, we stopped recommending Wink hubs. Now, after months of dormancy, the company is back—to demand subscriptions from existing users.
Updated, 5/13: Late yesterday, Wink sent out an email to users and updated its blog. In the email, the company stated:
We understand that this is a sudden change during a difficult time for many and we regret if this change has caused you any inconvenience. We can appreciate that some of you may need additional time to subscribe or make alternate considerations. We listened and have extended the deadline by an additional week so you now have until May 20, 2020, to subscribe.
The new deadline effectively extends the notice by one week. Considering the company waited this long to announce the change, that effectively resets the timer and once again gives users a week to figure if they want to subscribe or lose access to their Wink hub and smart home.
The original report is left intact below.
A Quick Bit of History
You see, Wink never entirely died as a company. The better analogy would be flickering lights. Many days, everything worked as it should. But then sometimes outages would happen. At times, users would lose connection to the Wink cloud and never get it back.
Most of the downfall began when iam+ (a Will.i.am company) bought Wink. It’s been a year since the company last added new product integrations, and that was after a new two-year drought. Stock shortages are more common than not.
But, for many existing loyal users, the Wink hub did continue to work and do its job. So long as they were lucky enough not to lose the internet or connection to the cloud, everything worked as is, even if it never improved.
The Big Change in Tactics
But in a post on its blog today, Wink announced a change to the way it generates revenues. Rather than solely depend on one-time hardware sales, the company will start charging a subscription fee. Effective May 13th, Wink users will need to pay $5 a month to maintain access to their Wink-connected devices.
If you don’t pay the subscription fee, “you will no longer be able to access your Wink devices from the app, with voice control or through the API, and your automations will be disabled.”
Effectively, your Wink Hub and the Wink app will stop working until you decide to pay. Your automations won’t work, your voice controls won’t work, and your ability to turn on and off devices through your phone or tablet won’t work.
A Bitter Pill to Swallow
It’s hard to begrudge the company for switching to a subscription service. One-time hardware sales (that often aren’t even available) isn’t sustainable. But how the company chose to go about the change makes for a bitter pill to swallow.
Firstly, there’s the matter of short warning. A week isn’t a long time to decide what to do, especially in the middle of a Pandemic, when many people aren’t working currently. The company created a blog and sent out emails to users, but it’s still a change that’s easy to miss. The goal of automation is not to open your app, so even app notifications may go unseen.
But also, that your smart home will stop working after years of use isn’t a pleasant experience either. Many users paid $200 upfront to get into the Wink ecosystem and spent additional money on smart switches, lights, and more. And suddenly you’ll be faced with either paying $60 a year, switching hubs on the fly, or losing your smart home altogether.
And what does your $5 a month subscription get you currently? Exactly what you already have and nothing more. Wink didn’t announce new features, integrations, or even upcoming plans today.
You Should Consider Switching Hubs
At Review Geek, we recommend switching to a new smart home hub. Even with the new subscription fee, Wink doesn’t seem to be in a great place (at least yet) to survive the long haul. If you’re technically savvy, a local control hub like Hubitat, Homeseer, or Home Assistant. And if you need something easier to use, you could try SmartThings, although it has its issues. Insteon is another option, though you may have to rebuy some of your smart switches, lights, and so on.