We highly recommended the Wink hub as one of the best smart home hubs you could buy. It was cheap, easy to set up, and worked reliably. But over time, things changed and we stopped recommending the Wink Hub. Now it̵
We are not saying this lightly. Overall, Review Geek tries to take a positive stance on most products. And between Review Geek and our sister site How-To Geek, we considered the Wink Hub to be an excellent smart home hub, arguably the best you could buy. But things are changing, and for some Wink Hub holdouts, it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room – Wink is a shadow of his former self. It is no longer a cheap product. It is 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 a little over ten years old. It started in 2009 under a company called Quirky, which marketed several “quirky” products. Some of them, like the Egg Minder and the mirror that stops steam, never got off the ground. But the Wink Hub fared well, thanks to its excellent design and low cost.
The promise was simple: buy the $ 50 hub, plug in your devices and never pay again. Wink’s apps were well designed and the average person could quickly learn to set up a smart home. But charging a single fee when purchasing a hub created revenue problems. 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 the store, even on the Wink site. How can a company make money if the only product it asks for is never in stock? It stopped adding new integrations, meaning existing Wink hubs weren’t working with the latest smart home products. And the site stopped offering other Wink products as well.
At that point, we stopped recommending Wink Hubs to new users.
A subscription to survive
But if you already had a Wink hub and weren’t adding any new smart home devices, it worked fine. Why leave? Well, Wink still needs revenue to keep the lights on and the servers running, which quickly became apparent. The services are experiencing multiple outages and blamed security certificates not renewing.
To rectify the ship, Wink announced a new mandatory subscription. Despite the promise of never charging subscriptions directly to the product’s box, it changed course out of necessity. If you want cloud capabilities such as remote control when out and about or Alexa and Google integrations, you have to pay.
Then Wink changed his mind, saying so many people promised to pay for the subscription that there was no need to be charged anyway. No really. But then the weather changed course, eventually forcing anyone who wanted more than local control to pay $ 4.99 a month to keep using the 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 Wink from integrations.
Subscriptions should guarantee you time
That gets underway. Wink’s full service has been down for the past week. That includes cloud integrations, third-party integrations, even the website, and supporting email. It’s hard to imagine what single flaw in the code could cause both cloud integrations and support email to fail.
Wink occasionally provided updates, but they did not provide any real information. It promised there would be a solution in a few days, but it never arrived. Now the website is up and running and Wink says everything else will work later today.
Even worse, this isn’t the first time Wink has gone down after starting mandatory subscriptions. In September, the service was canceled for a whole weekend. That’s right; it just experienced another outage five months ago. The company apologized and granted partial refunds. It has not offered a refund for the last longer outage.
Even worse, despite Wink’s insistence that local controls still work, many Wink users have said otherwise. That’s believable, as Wink said beforehand not to unplug or log out your devices. If the connection is lost, there is no way to come back in to regain local control. That’s probably what happened to a lot of people – a blip on the internet kicked them out of the shaky connection they had.
It is not acceptable to charge for a subscription based on providing guaranteed updates and new features and then not really provide guaranteed uptime. Worse, Wink’s communication was terrible during the outage. More than once it promised that a solution was “almost here” when the problem persisted for days on end. Half of the updates were just promises that the company was investigating or implementing a solution without further details.
It’s time to remove wink
If you didn’t have better options, it might be worth turning it off with Wink. Wink’s app is one of the best smart home solutions out there; it is easy to use and easy to set up. But the truth is, the smart home world is very different from 2009. You have much better options, whether you prefer local control or cloud control.
And many of those options don’t even require a subscription. Some offer better local controls; others offer more powerful routines. They all provide better uptime. Few have the rocky history that Wink has been through. There is no good reason to trust that Wink will not experience an outage again, that it will not fail to communicate again. That it won’t break the promises anymore.
In early 2019, Wink told us it planned to release a “Wink Hub 2.5” that would fix some of the issues it is currently facing. That never happened. Rather than adding new integrations as promised, third-party companies like Chamberlain and IFTTT cut off Wink’s integrations. Wink’s latest blog post is about the September outage – you won’t find any blog posts with announced new features.
All of this clearly states that Wink probably has no future, and if you want a reliable smart home, you have to go further.
The best alternatives to Wink Hub
If you’re in the market for a new hub, we’ve got 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 large number of ZigBee or Z-Wave devices and don’t want to update to newer Wi-Fi smart home devices, then you need a hub that can handle your current setup.
If you prefer cloud control, we recommend the Samsung SmartThings Mesh router. It doubles as a Wi-Fi router, but it’s also a smart home hub suitable for Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. You get everything in one. And it does not require a subscription.
A cloud-friendly smart hub
If you prefer local operation, check out the Hubitat Hub. Everything is really local unless you integrate a cloud-dependent device such as an Alexa speaker. And the Hubitat’s routing system is more advanced than just about anything on the market. And again, you have no ongoing costs. However, it has a higher learning curve than SmartThings.
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 headed. Z-Wave and ZigBee devices are seeing 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 leap to full 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.
Whatever you choose, everything is better than Wink. Trash your Wink Hub and proceed.