Smart home platform Wink will require a monthly subscription starting next week

Image: Wink

Smart home platform Wink will require customers to pay a $4.99 per month subscription fee starting May 13th, the company announced today. That gives Wink users just seven days to decide if they want to pay a monthly fee for a service that was previously offered for free as part of owning a Wink product.

If you opt not to sign up for Wink’s subscription, “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 on May 13,” according to Wink’s announcement blog. That seems to mean that you’ll lose the ability to use non-Wink-made smart home products connected to a Wink-managed setup. Though if you decide to subscribe later, your device connections, settings, and automations can be reactivated.

Wink’s “long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business,” the company said. “This fee is designed to be as modest as possible,” Wink continued later in the blog. “Your support will enable us to continue providing you with the functionality that you’ve come to rely on, and focus on accelerating new integrations and app features.”

Wink has not responded to a request for comment from The Verge about the announcement. The sudden shift to a subscription service isn’t the first indication that Wink may be experiencing troubles. A report published by The Verge in October 2019 described how Wink, which is owned by will.i.am’s technology company i.am+, hadn’t at the time paid staffers in seven weeks.

Comments

Your support will enable us to continue providing you with the functionality that you’ve come to rely on

You mean the functionality they already paid for?

I’m sorry for their employees but this smells like an impending bankruptcy with a side of lawsuit. This is why we need standards. The bricking of devices because a company sells them at a price point they could never realistically support is ridiculous.

For once, a class action I would happily join. They don’t have any money, but I’ll do it anyway.

This is really big. I considered buying Wink back in the day but end up going the Home Assistant + Smart things route instead. This is insane. You buy a device only to have it bricked remotely.
We need laws to defend consumers against this. If some companies are allowed to do this what is keeping companies from remotely bricking devices like your TV, your home cinema? At least give an offline option or the software to run the system yourself.
Wink is going bankrupt for sure as no one will buy new devices with stunts like this. And existing consumers will just start to look for alternatives.

I’m guessing there is something tucked into their EULA that supposedly allows this, and could prove and interesting point if a court battle ensues.

Ultimately though, this reeks of bait-and-switch which is definitely illegal in the US.

We need to get rid of the "cloud connected" smarthome. Control units should ALWAYS be housed within premises, with optional internet connection (preferably through a secure provider).

Currently, I have a handful of smart sockets, that use their own app (and the internet!) for control. So, if I want to turn some lights on and off, I have to ask Google, who in turn asks the manufacturer of the sockets, who in turn send down a push notification to the devices. This round trip, given the manufacturer is Chinese and the servers are hosted in China, take up to 5-6 seconds. Unacceptable.

Meanwhile, localised, working solutions exist as open source platforms. I’ve moved all these sockets over to ESPHome, which provides only a local API of the device via WiFi. Then I connected it to my HomeAssistant instance (again, running locally), set up Google Assistant accessibility, and bam, lights turn on and off practically instantly when I ask my Google Home devices to do so. With the added cherry on top of the cake of not having 8-10-12 devices, whose only purpose is to turn a relay on and off, communicate my every fart and burp to a Chinese server.

I don’t see why manufacturers couldn’t implement such a solution with even further automation over standardised protocols. Most (open source) smart home stuff already uses MQTT over a REST API, and adding some extra wireless functionality (ZigBee, Z-Wave, LoRaWAN) to their hubs, most devices could easily be supported. Then the manufacturer just needs to add the protocol definition to the hub manufacturers (or publish it, in a sort of Docker Hub way).

As for hubs like Wink… Literally all they need is to have the actual service (scaled down to a single home) running on the hub, then proxy the connection (if a local one cannot be established) through their web services. Interestingly, Synology can do this for free for their users, and it involves much more data going through their servers than a few smarthome entity state requests and commands.

$5 a month… For that money, I can have a DigitalOcean instance running DNS resolver, VPN, and a bunch of other smarthome related things, within my own purview. I don’t see how them "providing" this "service" would cost $5 a month per customer, if another company can do a whole virtual machine for my own use for this price. Not to mention their laughably marked up prices – their "Lookout" kit is basically a pair of $5-10 door sensors, a $5 motion sensor, and a maybe $10 siren, all for the low, low price of an extra $100 on top of the $99 hub. $65 in profit just on these units, if they bought it from a Chinese ODM as one-off purchases (you can find pretty much the same sensors and sirens on AliExpress for the listed prices). If they were to buy it at 10-20k units at a time… That brings their costs down to maybe $15 out of the $100. So where is that money going, if they need an extra $60 a year per customer?

Uh, yeah – This company has been on life support for a loooooong time – It goes out a lot – and barely works – And now they want money? I disabled mine a few months ago because all the problems. I’d rather take my five bucks per month and buy new devices that don’t work with Wink.

"Wink has not responded to a request for comment from The Verge about the announcement."

Don’t feel bad. They don’t answer any calls including support calls and emails. It’s not you… its them.

Wow. That’s a scammy and terrible way to do business.

Anybody have a recommendation for a hub that is compatible with Google Home, has no subscription and can do more than lights and plugs? I use mine to monitor for water getting into a room in my house that was built on a patio and thus doesn’t have great clearance in the foundation.

smartthings

Ordered. Thanks

If you’re willing to go open-source and get your hands a little dirty with code, check out openHAB or Home Assistant. I’m an openHAB user, and our community is very helpful. I don’t have experience with Home Assistant, but I’m inclined to think that they’re both good systems with different pros and cons. Others will get more competitive, but I don’t like to see things that way.

Both can be run on a Raspberry Pi, and you can integrate anything that the volunteer developers have figured out how to integrate. In my case, Belkin Wemo, TP-Link Kasa, Z-Wave, Logitech Harmony Hub, Google Assistant, Chromecast, and other WiFi devices. You can build rules that are as simple or as complex as you want them to be (there are lots of people to help you learn), integrate web services such as weather reports, sunrise/sunset, and stocks, and build custom interfaces for controlling your systems.

openHAB has a free cloud service that enables remote access through any web browser, or an Android/iOS device. If your Internet is down, it can still control any devices that it can reach on the local network, but in some cases it’s only possible to control stuff by communicating with a device’s cloud server.

As an example, I recently bought a Rowenta fan that has a small IR remote. I set it up as
a device in my Logitech Harmony Hub so that I can turn it on/off and change the speeds, and then used openHAB to make it so that I can control the fan using Google Home.

Most importantly, you don’t have to be a developer to get into it. I have very basic coding skills, and I’ve learned a lot over time. It’s daunting at first, but once you get the basics down it’s very powerful.

What I don’t get is how they came to five dollars per month. That’s an outrageously poor value in a world where Netflix is $13/month.

The only way I can wrap my mind around it is that they must have done some napkin math and figured a vanishingly small portion of their userbase was willing to pay a single penny for something they previously had for free, and they had to charge such a high fee to get any returns at all. I guess that’s plausible.

Anyway, I hope they go out of business.

Pay up or it Winks out…

Get ready for ANY appliance (including your car) that’s connected to the internet in any way to start doing this.

I am afraid they are going to pull what movie plus did, collect subscriptions then file bankruptcy. they have been out of stock for around a year. most major tech sites no longer recommended their hub. Its been rumored they are about to file bankruptcy for almost a year. They are really not even a business anymore. Most new smarthome devices no longer require hubs. and you can always switch to smartthings and hue hubs.

a few months ago, I decided to drop wink and move what I could to the hue hub. I just hope this is the sign of things to come with other services.

The hub model is honestly better.

Most the newer, cheap devices use Wifi.

That may be simple and easy, but it also causes some serious ramifications. Sure you don’t need a $50 hub anymore, but you will need to upgrade to a $300 router to support having 50 extra IP devices on your network. And keep in mind those 50 extra devices are gonna be WAY more susceptible to hacking and malware, so you’ll have to patch them aggressively (which is impossible as the vendors rarely even issue patches).

Keeping your smarthome stuff using a non internet routable protocol is actually a more solid idea, and the hub is the center of that.

Phillips hue is not cheap:-) they are also turning to wifi and bluetooth and getting away from their own hub. I also disagree about needing a 300 dollar router to support 50+ devices. Up until last november, I was doing it with a 78 dollar router I purchased six years ago and I only have around 80 devices if you count the smart home devices, tvs, smartphones, tablets, computers, streaming devices, dvd players and more.

Well. That’s stupid of them. Guess I need a replacement for my 3 whole z wave things.

I wonder if I can link these things to my Ring Alarm hub.

As a long time Wink user, I got this alert yesterday and am a little frustrated that none of the other hubs seem to have as widespread of compatibility. Zigbee z-wave, Lutron, etc.

But the Wink platform hasn’t been stable in a long time. I have a feeling the $5/month isn’t actually to provide funding and support, but rather encourage all the long time Wink users to finally turn off their devices so they no longer have to support them.

I just want a nearly universally compatible smart hub and the bulk of my devices to NOT be IP/WiFi based.

As the service/hub has limped along for a few years now, I was looking for a replacement anyway. Anyone know what hub works best with Wink-capable bulbs like the GE-Link series?

Or I can buy all new bulbs and start over if necessary. Any preferences? SmartThings, Hubitat, Sengled, etc?

As soon as they demanded money in their bait and switch ransom scheme, their system went down and has been out of service for at least 15 hours. SMH

Goodbye Wink! I just purchased a smartthings v3 hub. Cost $60. And will likely be more reliable.
I wanted something that was local network only, but those options looked like they’d require more config time than I’m willing to put in.

Winky winky goes blinky blinky

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