Switchmate: Are Easy-To-Install Smart Home Devices Right For You?By - 04/18/2018
Building a smart home is fun, but most of the time, it requires you to swap out perfectly good devices for their smarter (and usually more expensive) counterparts. You want a smart lighting system? Okay, but you’ll need to replace those bulbs with smart bulbs, or worse, hardwire a new switch to your wall. You want a smart thermostat? Great! But first, rip out your existing thermostat and replace it with a $200 smart thermostat. That’s simply how smart home companies operate, or at least most of them.
Switchmate, a startup funded on Indiegogo, offers easy-to-install smart home products that don’t require you to replace your existing devices. Their first product was a smart switch that installs over your existing switches with no additional wiring required. They’ve since improved it by adding more functionality and slimming down the design. At CES 2018, they also launched the SimplySmart Home Cube camera with doorbell functionalities that can work with your existing doorbell. Finally, they announced an upcoming easy-to-install security system.
Smart switches are great, but most of them are painful to install. You need to pop out your existing switch cover, remove the switch, analyze which wires are which, and then install the new switch. It’s a job that requires patience and a little bit of electrical knowledge.
Switchmate is different because you can install it in just a few seconds. It mounts over any switch cover and attaches magnetically to the screws holding the cover plate. Inside, it uses a mechanism to flip your existing switch on and off. It comes in two versions: one for toggle switches and another for rocker-type switches.
You can control Switchmate via your phone using the Switchmate companion app. You can turn the lights on or off manually, set schedules, or even make the lights automatically turn on when you’re within Bluetooth range. You can also use Swithmate to turn your lights on and off the old fashion way.
The original Switchmate has a couple of downsides. First, it’s battery-powered. It comes with two AA batteries that should last for around eight months. But take note, it can’t connect to Wi-Fi because using Wi-Fi would reduce the battery life to days. Instead, it uses Bluetooth Low Energy to connect to your phone. That said, you can only control your lights if your phone is within Bluetooth range. The second flaw is in the design. Switchmate is 2.5 inches wide, which means you can’t mount two Switchmates side-by-side on a multi-gang switch.
Switchmate sells on Amazon for $34.99.
Switchmate’s second product is the Switchmate Slim (also sometimes known as Switchmate Bright), which is a greatly improved version of their first smart switch. The installation process remains the same, but Switchmate Slim’s thinner form factor—it’s now only 1.8 inches wide—allows you to install two Switchmate Slims side-by-side.
Furthermore, Switchmate Slim launched with new features that make it better than the original. First, it features a touch-sensitive button where the original version featured a hard-press button. Second, it has a motion sensor. You can program Switchmate Slim to turn on whenever it senses a person in the room. Third, it has a Dusk & Dawn feature, which turns your lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Finally, voice control. You can issue voice commands to Switchmate Slim using the Switchmate app so long as you’re within Bluetooth range.
They also kind of solved the Wi-Fi issue. Switchmate still doesn’t connect directly to Wi-Fi, and it no longer connects to Wink, but there is Switchmate Zip. Zip is a direct-to-plug hub that bridges Bluetooth to Wi-Fi connections. It’s compatible with both the older Switchmate version and the Switchmate Slim. In addition, Switchmate also has a Google Assistant action that allows you to control your lights with your voice. The Google Assistant Action works best if you have a Switchmate Zip, but you can also use it without the bridge. However, when doing so, your phone will act as a bridge, so it must be within Bluetooth range of the switch you’re trying to control.
The problem with Switchmate Slim is no longer in the design but in its performance. The original Switchmate was well-received by customers despite its lack of features. On the other hand, Swithmate Slim only holds a 2.5-star rating on Amazon, with almost 30% of reviews giving it a 1-star rating.
Its low rating can also be attributed to the company’s product information that borders on false advertising. They used terms such as “built-in voice control” which isn’t accurate because the voice control feature isn’t built into the device but resides within the app.
Switchmate Slim sells on Amazon for $49.99
Their next product is Switchmate Power, which is a smart outlet. Like their switches, Switchmate Power is easy to install. Just plug it into your existing outlet. Switchmate Power features two outlets itself which you can control individually and two USB charging ports. Unlike the Switchmate switches, Switchmate Power is Wi-Fi enabled. That said, you can control it from anywhere. You can also set timers and schedules.
In addition, Switchmate Power is compatible with Alexa. If you own an Amazon Echo or any Alexa-enabled device, you can ask Alexa to turn on appliances connected to Switchmate Power. It’s also compatible with Google Assistant. You can also use the Switchmate app to voice-control Switchmate Power just like with Switchmate Slim.
Like with Switchmate Slim, the problem with Switchmate Power is in its performance. Actually, it’s even worse. Switchmate Power holds a 3-star rating on Amazon, but 45% of its reviews are 1-star.
Switchmate Power sells for $49.99 on Amazon.
SimplySmart Home Cube
From lights and power outlets, Switchmate has since branched out to home security with their SimplySmart Home line of products. Their first security product is the Cube camera, which debuted at CES 2018.
Like their other products, Cube is easy to install. It’s a battery-powered camera that works both indoors and outdoors. It claims to have a battery-life of up to 1 year. To set it up, insert the included AA batteries, turn it on, connect it to Wi-Fi using the app, and then stick it on your wall using the included industrial strength adhesives.
Cube’s features are what you would expect from a security camera. It has a 1080p resolution, IR night vision, two-way talk, and motion detection. When it detects motion, it records a short clip and sends it to the cloud where it stays for seven days, no monthly fee required. Its only stand out feature is its ability to work with existing standard doorbells. Cube comes with an accessory called the Key which is a sound sensor that listens specifically for doorbell chimes. It’s designed to be placed near your existing doorbell. If triggered, the Key will send an alert to Cube, which will then notify you that someone’s at your door. From there, you can use two-way talk to speak with your guests.
Cube is a simple security camera designed for technology novices. It’s obviously not the best one there is, but it has an easy-to-install design, and it can work as a video doorbell without replacing your existing doorbell.
SimplySmart Home Security System
Finally, Switchmate introduced the SimplySmart Home Security System, which currently consists of a wide-angle ceiling camera, a door/window sensor, and a siren. Switchmate estimates that the entire system can be set up within three minutes, which is in line with their vision of smart home devices that are easy to install.
The star of the security system is the wide-angle ceiling camera. It works alongside the Cube camera, but it has extra features such as a wide-angle 155° lens. Like Cube, it offers motion detection, seven days of free cloud storage, night vision, two-way talk, and a 1080p/720p resolution.
The SimplySmart Home Security System is a DIY self-monitored security system, meaning you’ll get alerts via the app and you’re the one responsible for taking action. However, according to Switchmate, it can also be professionally monitored, although they haven’t announced how much professional monitoring costs yet. That said, SimplySmart Home Security System rivals Nest, abode, and Ring Alarm in terms of what it offers.
According to Switchmate, SimplySmart Home Security Systems will ship to retailers within the first quarter of this year.
Switchmate was one of the companies that joined the surge of startups in the smart home world a few years ago. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Ring marked the end of that era. Unfortunately for Switchmate, they failed to make any significant traction. In fact, if anything, they might have moved backwards. Their first product, Switchmate, somehow became a hit, but their subsequent products failed to wow customers. In addition, a lot of customers complain about Switchmate’s poor customer service, confusing products and features, and as mentioned earlier, borderline false advertising.
If you’re looking for a smart home system to invest in, I don’t recommend Switchmate. Besides, Switchmate products work well with each other but not with third-party brands. You can head over here to learn more about device compatibility among major smart home platforms such as Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, and IFTTT.