SwitchBot puts the inventing back into innovation. Someone else innovated smart light switches, but SwitchBot invented a method upon which a smart device could operate a normal* switch. Since the release of that device the company behind it has produced several smart devices within their ecosystem. Some are innovations, while others are original inventions as well. They are continuing to grow their list of devices, and, in doing so, are developing a smart-home ecosystem that is compatible with the different smart home systems put into place by Google, Amazon, and Apple. While we didn’t receive everything they have to offer, there is more than enough to go over the system as a whole (and several unique parts thereof). What we have to review is the “Hub Mini,” “SwitchBot Bot,” “Meter Plus,” “Color Bulb,” “SwitchBot Remote,” and the “Pan/Tilt Cam 2k**.”
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There is a nice smattering of tools and gadgets within the SwitchBot ecosystem, but the core of the system is the “Hub,” or “Hub Mini.” Make no mistake, you can utilize all of the individual components without it, but the “Hub” ties everything together. This device ties in with your existing smart-home system (Amazon, Google, iPhone, etc) to allow access to your individual SwitchBot devices. They now have a new “Hub 2” that incorporates additional components (like the thermometer/hygrometer) into it, but the hub mini is still excellent in providing control over many devices without adding even more things to our WiFi. One of the more clever things about the “hub mini” is that it does handle infrared on top of bluetooth. The “hub” simply unlocks more things for your smart home, it allows one to group devices together with a range of settings. Including many of their products that are out-of-scope for this review, like the motion sensor, smart humidifier, and blind tilt. My favorite addition to the hub is the SwitchBot Remote together with the original SwitchBot Bot.
The original “SwitchBot Bot” is one of those inventions that begs the question, “Why didn’t someone do this sooner?” To clarify, it’s just a lever that presses down on a switch. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. However, what makes this gadget genius is that connects to your phone, or other Bluetooth devices (such as the “mini hub”) to allow the physical switching to occur by command, voice or otherwise. If you have any switched items in your home or office, this $20 gadget instantly makes it a “smart” device. Neet to turn on the coffee maker at a certain time? Done. Did you forget to turn on the porch light when heading out for a date? It’s taken care of. In my case, with the “hub mini” and the “switchbot remote,” I was able to put the remote for the porch light in the car just in case I forgot my phone and forgot to turn on the light. Like I mentioned, it’s taken care of. Furthermore, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The combination of the SwitchBot Hub, Bot, and any smart home systems we now have a transformative technology that is easy to install, functional, and, most importantly, affordable. What’s more, there is a whole family of gadgets in the system, and it’s growing with more products rolling out all the time, like thermometers, smart bulbs, and more.
The “Meter Plus” is one of the several additions to the SwitchBot ecosystem that really shines when combined with a Google Nest or Amazon Alexa system. For example, if your home has a warm or cool area in it that needs to trigger your HVAC system. This will allow you to monitor that specific area without the expense of running new lines. The device is solid with a nice large display. My only caveat is that there is no backlight, so reading the temperature in a dim light is challenging. Not that you couldn’t ask Alexa – which can connect to the device via the “Hub Mini.” If you think you’re sensing a pattern here, you are correct. That “Hub” really makes the system shine. Do also note that the display units is controlled by a switch on the back of the device (C/F). I think this should also be controlled by the app, but I’m certain this will be looked into for some future update.
Some of the additional items in the ecosystem seem to be more for the purpose of rounding out our, the consumers’, ecosystem than filling in a missing device from our smart-homes. For example, the Color Bulb. Oh yeah, it can be bright, dim, any of 16 million colors, and can be voice controlled. I have zero complaints about this smart-bulb. It works great with the app, supports Bluetooth, and only pulls 10W (at maximum brightness). It has a solid feel, and is simply a good device all the way around. Yes, this can tie into the hub as well, but it works just fine without doing so. At $16 MSRP it’s really not out of line with similar products. That makes this particular smart bulb a winner if getting into the SwitchBot ecosystem anyway.
Want more? Next week, we’re posting a review on the SwitchBot Pan/Tilt Cam 2k!
Ah. The app. There is always an app. An app for everything; up to, and including, our local fast-food joint. A smart home system, however, makes sense. The app does require an account, but it also allows for “family” additions to an account. There does not seem to be a charge for an account, so there is that. The app allows for lots of configuration, and it is fairly easy to add additional devices into your personal “ecosystem.” Their app is available both from Apple and Google’s app stores. In each of a device’s included manual there is an OCR for quick access to the appropriate app store. What I really like is that each device has a display that is relevent to it. For example, the thermo/hydrogemeter has charts and a history of readings, but the “Smart Color Bulb” displays the color, brightness, and whether it is on or not. This allows for contextual organization of each device in the system. Overall, I like the app, and it is easy to use.
The ecosystem itself is the selling point. There is no question about it, and it’s easy to get into. One hub and a single “bot” is all it takes. The build quality ranges from good to excellent, and in my experience with these devices, there has been no failures. Each device is fairly solid, comes with a bevvy of connection options, and reasonable instructions. They each work together with a minimal amount of set-up, and are holding up pretty well. I’ve done a cursory look into the history of SwitchBot, and there isn’t much available outside of what is on their own “about” page. However, it looks like each device comes made in a fairly solid plastic, with any needed batteries, and, as I mentioned above, works out of the box. Considering how well each item works together, I am really impressed with the family of devices. Okay, now say it with me, “Ecosystem.”
A Final Word
If you aren’t already commited to another ecosystem for a smart home family of devices, SwitchBot offers a plethora of devices, and are an outstanding choice. If for no other reason than the ability it gives to the user to slowly convert to a smart home as budget and time allows.
* Normal “flat” switches, a style that has quickly replaced the “flip” switches. Example from the Home Depot (external link)
** The Pan/Tilt Cam will be reviewed shortly as a separate post!