Hard Times for Wink
My first dip into home automation was to get a Wink Hub and a few GE Link lightbulbs (link goes to c by ge, since the bulbs were either discontinued or rebranded). That was a few years ago, and since then I haven’t got much fancier about what I’ve automated. Wink was a pretty good product while I used it. The user interface is pretty straight forward and it has a nice app for iOS, and is cloud based, so you can toggle your lights from anywhere in the world, if you need.
However, about a year ago, Wink had a series of outages, and since Wink is cloud based only, I could’t turn my lights on or off at all with the app. Since the GE bulbs, if they’re turned off and on manually come on just like regular light bulbs, it was really only a minor inconvenience, but it did make me wonder about being beholden to a service that required: Internet service to my home, the continued cooperation of a company, and, furthermore, the continued existence of said company, just to turn these lights on and of automatically.
Because of those outages, I started to shop around for a replacement for the Wink hub and landed on the Hubitat Elevation, which is slightly more expensive, has a much worse user experience (just being honest here), and more compatibility than the Wink. The user interface stuff is really fine for someone who is an enthusiast, but if you’re someone who just wants to turn some lights on and off from a phone and not have to spend half your Saturday getting it to work - the Hubitat probably isn’t for you. But the big upside is that it has a cloud/local mix to how it works, so if your Internet service provider isn’t doing their job, or Hubitat goes out of business, it’ll keep working.
I’m happy that I made that switch because I received this email this morning:
From: Wink Smart Home
Wink’s mission for the past 5+ years has been to provide users with a ‘Simpler, Smarter Home,’ while maintaining privacy for our customers. Our approach to simplicity and security has driven our design from the user experience to the technology behind the scenes.
We understand that a smart home is something that needs to be trusted and dependable, and we recognize that recent events have created some uncertainty around the reliability of the system. We apologize for these inconveniences and want to share some background information as well as the path forward.
Since 2014, Wink has grown to support more than 4 million connected devices. During this time, Wink has relied solely on the one-time fee derived from hardware sales to cover ongoing cloud costs, development and customer support. Providing users with local and remote access to their devices will always come at a cost for Wink, and over the years we have made great progress toward reducing these costs so that we can maintain that feature.
Wink has taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub’s blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business. Unlike companies that sell user data to offset costs associated with offering free services, we do not. Data privacy is one of Wink’s core values, and we believe that user data should never be sold for marketing or any purpose.
We have a lot of great ideas on how to expand on Wink’s capabilities and satisfy the many requests from our user base. In order to provide for development and continued growth, we are transitioning to a $4.99 monthly subscription, starting on May 13, 2020. This fee is designed to be as modest as possible. 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.
Should you choose not to sign up for a 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. Your device connections, settings and automations can be reactivated if you decide to subscribe at a later date.
Our user community is integral to Wink, and we want to continue to be your trusted smart home provider. Visit subscription.wink.com to subscribe.
Translation: the Hub you bought with the expectation that it’ll work as you expect forever, nope, it’ll now cost you about five bucks a month. I’ll admit that I’m not in any way privy to Wink’s operational expenditures, but the data center cost of my home’s hub would be measured in the fraction of a penny for a day of usage. The argument that the $4.99 is going to be going to further feature developments is one that is probably a lie and if I’m wrong about that it’ll work out like it did with Ulysses, which was my favorite editor for years. It switched to a subscription model with the same promises and after a year of paying for their services and seeing no major features added, regardless of if I had interest in using them or not, I decided that I had been had, and dropped them for iA.
My point in all of that isn’t that subscription models are inherently bad, but if you’re subscribing to a service that is important to you and you’re beholden to them, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, and understand you’ve put someone else in control of something important to you. Formulate an exit strategy for when all of that changes.