We used to highly recommended the Wink hub as one of the best smart home hubs you could buy. It was inexpensive, easy to set up, and worked reliably. But over time, things changed, and we stopped recommending the Wink Hub. Now it’s time to acknowledge the truth—you should trash your Wink Hub and move on to something better.
We don’t say this lightly. Generally, Review Geek tries to maintain a positive stance on most products. And between Review Geek and our sister-site How-To Geek, we did consider the Wink Hub an excellent smart home hub, perhaps the best one you could buy. But things change, and for some Wink Hub holdouts, it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room—Wink is a shadow of its former self. It’s no longer an inexpensive product. It’s not reliable. And it’s time to move on to better options.
Wink’s Rocky History
Believe it or not, Wink as a product is just over ten years old. It started under a company called Quirky in 2009, which launched several “quirky” products. Some of them, like the Egg Minder and the mirror that stops steam, never took off. But the Wink Hub did well, thanks to its excellent design and low cost.
The promise was simple, buy the $50 hub, connect up your devices, and never pay anything again. Wink’s apps were well designed, and the average person could quickly learn to set up a smart home. But only charging a single fee when purchasing a hub led to revenue issues. Quirky sold Wink to Flextronics, which sold Wink to iam+, a company owned by Will.i.am.
Things didn’t go well from there; for months, you couldn’t find a Wink hub in-store on even on the Wink site. How can a company make money if the only product it charges for isn’t ever in stock? It stopped adding new integrations, which means existing Wink hubs didn’t work with the latest smart home products. And the site stopped carrying other Wink products as well.
At that point, we stopped recommending Wink Hubs to new users.
A Subscription Plan to Survive
But if you already owned a Wink hub and weren’t adding new smart home devices, it worked fine. Why leave? Well, Wink still needs revenue to keep the lights on and the servers running, which became evident quickly. The services experience multiple outages and blamed the problems on security certificates that didn’t get renewed.
To right the ship, Wink announced a new mandatory subscription plan. Despite promising never to charge subscriptions right on the product box, it changed course out of necessity. If you want cloud capabilities, like remote control when out of the house or Alexa and Google integrations, you have to pay up.
Then Wink changed its mind and said so many people promised to pay the subscription it didn’t need to charge one after all. No, really. But then it changed course again and ultimately forced anyone who wanted more than local control to pay $4.99 a month to continue using features it had offered for free. If you don’t pay, you lose all cloud access, all third party integrations, everything. It didn’t bode well for the company when IFTTT cut off Wink from integrations.
Subscriptions Should Guarantee Up Time
That brings up to speed. For the past week, Wink’s entire service has been down. That includes cloud integrations, third party integrations, even the website and support email. It’s hard to imagine what single error in code could bring down both cloud integrations and support email.
Wink occasionally provided updates, but they didn’t offer any real information. It promised a fix was coming a few days in, but it didn’t arrive. Now the website is up and running, and Wink says everything else will work later today.
Worse yet, this isn’t the first time Wink went down after starting up mandatory subscriptions. In September, the service failed for an entire weekend. That’s right; it experienced another outage just five months ago. The company apologized and granted partial refunds. It hasn’t offered any refunds for the latest longer outage.
Not working for 5 days and you charged my account during the outage? Implementing a fix for 2 days? Done. Hubitat ordered. Wink hubs going in the trash https://t.co/Zyh82SuSrI
— Sean Russell (@CAMPSRSean) January 30, 2021
Worse yet, despite Wink’s insistence that local controls still worked, plenty of Wink users have said otherwise. That’s believable because Wink said upfront not to disconnect your devices or log out. If you get disconnected, there’s no way to get back in to regain local controls. That’s probably what happened to plenty of people—a blip internet kicked them from the shaky connection they had.
It’s not acceptable to charge a subscription-based on providing guaranteed updates and new features and then not actually provide guaranteed uptime. Worse yet, Wink’s communication has been abysmal throughout the outage. More than once, it promised a fix was “almost here” when the problem continued for days on end. Half of its updates were just promises that the company was investigating or implementing a fix with no further details.
It’s Time to Trash Wink
If you didn’t have better options, it might be worth sticking it out with Wink. Wink’s app is one of the best smart home solutions out there; it’s easy to use and easy to set up. But the truth is, the smart home world is very different than 2009. You have plenty of better options, whether you prefer local control or cloud control.
And many of those options don’t even require a subscription. Some provide better local controls; others provide more powerful routines. All of them provide better uptime. Few, if any, have the rocky history Wink has experienced. There’s no good reason to trust that Wink won’t experience another outage again, that it won’t fail to communicate again. That it won’t break promises again.
In early 2019, Wink told us that it planned to release a “Wink Hub 2.5” that would fix some of the issues it currently faces. That never happened. Rather than add new integrations as promised, third party companies like Chamberlain and IFTTT cut off Wink’s integrations. Wink’s last blog post is about its outage in September—you won’t find blog posts with new features announced.
All of this states clearly that Wink likely doesn’t have a future, and if you want a reliable smart home, you should move on.
The Best Wink Hub Alternatives
If you’re looking for a new hub, we have some great suggestions for you. What you choose depends on how much you want to invest and whether you prefer cloud control or local control. If you have a host of ZigBee or Z-Wave devices and you don’t want to update to newer Wi-Fi smart home devices, you’ll need a hub that can handle your current lineup.
If you prefer cloud controls, we recommend the Samsung SmartThings Mesh router. It doubles as a Wi-Fi router, but it’s also a smart home hub that can handle Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. You get everything in one. And it doesn’t require a subscription.
A Cloud-Friendly Smart Hub
If you prefer local controls, check out the Hubitat Hub. Everything is truly local unless you integrate a cloud-dependent device like an Alexa speaker. And the Hubitat’s routing system is more advanced than just about anything on the market. And again, you don’t have ongoing fees. It does have a higher learning curve than SmartThings, however.
Finally, if you’re willing to make the jump to Wi-Fi smart home devices, you may not even need a hub. Alexa and Google Assistant speakers can act as a “hub” for most Wi-Fi smart home devices, and right now, that’s where the smart home ecosystem is going. Z-Wave and ZigBee devices see less and less time at events like CES in favor of Wi-Fi standards. Of the two, Alexa has better routines, but Google Assistant has better voice commands. We’ve made the jump to fully Wi-Fi, and it works better than you might imagine.
An Alexa-powered Solution
The Alexa Echo Dot is affordable and can control most smart home Wi-Fi devices. A better choice for routines.
No matter what you choose, anything is better than Wink. Even if it does restore service today (and that remains to be seen), you should trash your Wink Hub and move on.
This post was written by Josh Hendrickson and was first posted to www.reviewgeek.com
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