If you're new to home automation, a smart plug can be a good first step — a toe in the water, if you will — in building out your automated home. And for those of us who've been all-in on home automation for quite some time, a smart plug is an easy way to add smarts to our pesky dumb devices. But with so many smart plugs on the market, how do you decide which to get? We can help you answer that question!
Deciding on a smart plug
First thing's first: There's a ton of feature overlap between the various available smart plugs. Turns out when you've got a device that's meant to give you wireless ON and OFF control, you quickly run out of differentiating factors. That said, there are some considerations to make when you're deciding on the smart plug that's right for you:
- Price: How much does the darn thing cost? If you're planning on replacing a ton of dumb plugs in your home with smart plugs, you might want to look at cost effective models. If you're just smart'ing a couple lamps, fans, etc., then a more expensive, more feature packed plug might be better.
- Design: If you're choosy about what throw pillows go on your couch, you're probably going to be choosy about what your
wall wartsmart plug looks like on your wall. If you're hoping to maximize space, you'll want to be aware of the shape and size of your smart plug as well as the placement of the receptacle.
- Compatibility: If you regularly use Siri to control your home automation accessories, you're probably going to want a HomeKit-enabled plug. If you're privy to Amazon's Echo or Echo Dot, you'll want it to be compatible with Alexa.
- Unique features: Does it talk? Does it light up? Does it emit a scent? Look for unique features that might be of interest to you. If a certain brand of smart plug offers a feature that really excites you, who gives a crap about all the other considerations?
OK, let's take a look at some smart plugs currently on the market!
For the frugal: TP-Link Smart Plug
The TP-Link smart plug is a no-frills Wi-Fi-connected plug that offers all the basic features of a smart plug — nothing more and nothing less.
- Price: At just $30, the TP-Link smart plug is one of the least-expensive smart plugs I've ever come across. There are other models available from TP-Link with higher prices — price increases seem to correspond with additional features.
- Design: The white, egg-shaped design is simplistic and understated. The receptacle is positioned on the front of the device and the housing is tall, meaning you'll only be able to fit one smart plug in your wall outlet.
- Compatibility: The TP-Link smart plug works with Amazon Alexa and its own Kasa app. You can issue voice commands via your Echo or Echo Dot and control the switch both in and out of the home with the Kasa app.
- Unique features: The $30 base model doesn't offer any unique features, but other, more expensive models offer energy monitoring.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
For the minimalist: Wemo Mini Smart Plug
The Wemo Mini Smart Plug is a new addition to the smart plug market and a respectable upgrade to Wemo's non-mini smart plug.
- Price: The Wemo Mini Smart Plug will cost you $35 — just $5 more than the TP-Link plug.
- Design: This is where the Wemo Mini shines. The glossy-white, stackable rectangular plug makes it possible for you to fit two Wemo Minis on one wall outlet. The plug features a forward-facing receptacle and a power button on the front side of the device.
- Compatibility: The Wemo Mini smart plug works with Amazon Alexa, Nest, IFTTT and its own Wemo app. You can issue voice commands via your Echo or Echo Dot, automate your switches by pairing with your Nest products, set triggers with IFTTT, and control the switch both in and out of the home with the Wemo app.
- Unique features: Arguably, the stackable, miniature size of the Wemo Mini smart plug is its unique feature. Other than that, though, it's just a typical smart plug.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
For the HomeKit-enthusiast: iDevices Switch
The iDevices Switch is hands-down, without a doubt, my absolute favorite smart plug. It's the WiFi-connected plug I recommend any time someone asks me what plug they should get.
- Price: At around $40 it's certainly more expensive than the other two models we discussed, but it makes up for that jump in price with some stand-out features.
- Design: The gray and white rectangle is small enough that it — like the Wemo Mini — is stackable. The receptacle's unique placement (on the side of the housing) makes for a svelte, less-conspicous look. In other words, you don't have a cord sticking out of the front of a plug that's sticking out of a plug in your wall.
- Compatibility: Unlike the other plugs on the list, the iDevices Switch works with Apple HomeKit. That means you'll be able to control it in the iOS Home app and using Siri voice commands. It also works with Android, Amazon Alexa, and its own iDevices app.
- Unique features: The iDevices Switch lets you monitor your energy consumption, so you can keep an eye on your devices' energy usage. It also sports a nifty LED light strip across the front of the housing. The multi-color, multi-brightness LED strip is a great night light that also serves as an indicator light for the plug's status.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Sporting any smart plugs?
Do you have a smart plug (or nine) in your home? What made you choose it over other plugs? Send me your thoughts over on Twitter or post them in the comments below!
Micah, I can't agree with you that iDevices powerplug is that good. I have three of them and I have across the three of them about a 50 percent failure rate when using Siri to turn them on or off.
I also have 2 iHome power plugs and 1 incipio light socket adapter. I very rarely have a Siri failure with them. Probably less than half a percent across the three of them.
I worked with their quality engineer last June 2016 about the failure rate. He did some more investigation and said it was a problem with Apple in the way they left the state of the wifi.
The funny thing is the three other wifi devices I have from iHome and Incipio do not seem to be affected by this bug. So I'm not sure if this is the problem or if iDevices has a different problem and can't find it.
Or maybe iHome and Incipio knows about the problem and has worked around it.
I recontacted the quality engineer at iDevices about it again. Mainly as there has been 3 or 4 iOS updates since he said he found the problem and reported it to Apple. So maybe Apple does not think it is a problem.
He said at the time I contacted him again (Dec 6 2016) they would implement a workaround. Well its now Feb 1 2017 and nothing has been done.
I keep hearing good reviews about iDevices and have to wonder if anyone is using Siri to control the devices or just ignoring that they have a problem.
I will be using iHome and am starting to replace the iDevices switch with iHome's switch because they do work just fine.
I am just wondering if you are having the same problems with iDevices and Siri or not.
I agree with Mikah that the iDevices plug is the best of the bunch. I've been using it for the better part of a year, and it super stable. No WiFi disconnects or anything like that. However, like Jody said, the SIRI support is the weak link. I wouldn't say it fails 50% for me, but a good 10-15% failure rate is what I see. If you ask Siri to turn on/off the iDevices plug, it fails the first time and works if you try it again. Same with Amazon Alexa. Sometimes, Alexa says an iDevices product is "unresponsive", but if you ask her again, it works. I don;t see this happening with other products, so I don't know why it's happening with the iDevices products. The iDevices UI design choices are also a bit suspect. Instead if using just On/OFF labels, they use the type of sliders that are in the IOS settings app, which is really not appropriate and makes the UI hard to use sometimes. It's almost as if they don't even use their own products, on a day by day basis, to see how wrong these choices are. But in the end, I still use their products because I think it's better than most products in the Homekit arena. But there is definitely room for improvement.
I probably stated it wrong about the 50% Siri fail with iDevices. Its not 50% per device but 50% over the three iDevices I have. In other words, I use a Good Night Script. It has all three iDevices in it. At least one of them will fail. Over the course of a day I get the 50% fail with them. Thats spread out over all three. Its interesting that you say the iDevices fail the same way with Amazon Alexa. iDevices engineers say the reason it fails that way is due to a bug in iOS. If as you say that it fails the same way with Alexa also that implies to be that iDevices engineers have not been able to figure out the problem or they just or not that concerned about it. And just tell you to repeat the command again. Personally I think it should work the first time a Siri command is issued. I should not have to repeat the command. Except for that one issue I like the iDevices products. However until the problem is fixed I will not be buying any additional products from them. Which is bad because I am especially interested in the new Light Switch. I am also very happy with the iHome powerplug. It just works the way a device should, weather its via Siri or via the Home app. Thanks for the info about iDevices behaving the same way with Alexa.
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