Wemo Stage Scene Controller review: Almost a HomeKit home run

A lot of the merchandise in Belkin’s Wemo line of sensible lighting merchandise are platform agnostic. They function on your house’s Wi-Fi community and will be managed with both Android or iOS gadgets. The Wemo Stage Scene Controller will not be. It’s a robust distant management designed completely for sensible houses based mostly on Apple’s HomeKit platform. When you’re deep into Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll dig it. When you’re not, it will likely be ineffective to you.

In its current state, the Wemo Stage makes use of Bluetooth Low Power to speak with a HomePod sensible speaker, Apple TV media streamer, or an iPad configured as a house hub. As such, it might probably management any HomeKit-compatible machine individually, any HomeKit-compatible gadgets you’ve organized into teams, and any “scenes” you’ve created utilizing HomeKit-compatible gadgets. If you wish to management older Wemo gadgets, you’ll additionally want the $40 Wemo Bridge (newer Wemo merchandise are already HomeKit appropriate, though they don’t assist Thread; neither does the bridge, for that matter).

wemo stage product2 Belkin

The Wemo Stage Scene Controller will be operated like a lightweight swap when docked in its wall-mounted socket.

Belkin says the Wemo Stage is “Thread prepared,” that means a forthcoming firmware replace will allow it to function on a Thread community as a substitute, the place it would perform as a Thread endpoint. Because it stands in the present day, the distant’s dependence on Bluetooth LE presents a big vary subject that may be alleviated solely by having a number of dwelling hubs sprinkled round your house.

Why Thread assist is required

wemo state before programming Michael Brown / IDG

Every of the Wemo Stage’s three buttons can carry out two actions, one with a brief press and one with a protracted press.

I’ve a HomePod mini in my kitchen and an Apple TV HD in my dwelling theater, however these didn’t present sufficient protection to let me use the distant in each room of my 2,800-square foot dwelling. I didn’t must be inside website of 1 or the opposite machine, however having greater than a few partitions between the distant and a house hub was sufficient to dam the distant’s instructions.

The Wemo Stage has three buttons, every of which has raised dots that will help you determine which is which without having to have a look at the distant. It will possibly carry out as much as six actions, as a result of every button can distinguish between a brief press and a protracted press.

In actuality, nevertheless, you’ll doubtless program it to toggle three scenes, teams, or gadgets on and three off. The distant is programmed by the Apple Dwelling app, so there’s no different software program to put in or study.

When you wished to show one or a bunch of lights on and off, you may use a brief press on button one to show them on, and a protracted press of the identical button to show them off. You can too create extra elaborate scenes within the Dwelling app and set off them on and off the identical approach. For instance, you may create a “film time” scene that closes your blinds, dims your lights, and turns in your TV and media streamer with a brief press. An extended press might then open your shades, flip the lights to full brightness (or off), and switch your TV off. All six of the button actions will be became Siri Shortcuts, and from there, into Siri voice instructions.

scene with music Michael Brown / IDG

I shouldn’t must subscribe to Apple Music simply to create a scene involving music.

Previous habits die arduous

You’ll encounter this distant’s largest flaw should you attempt to create a scene that entails enjoying music and also you don’t subscribe Apple Music. I don’t, and after I tried to create automation that might—amongst different issues—play music on one among my AirPlay 2-compatible Sonos audio system, I used to be offered with an error message that stated “Including audio to a scene requires that you’ve got an lively Apple Music membership.” I obtained the identical message after I switched the audio machine to the HomePod mini.

This isn’t Belkin’s fault, in fact, however I can see no good cause why I would wish to subscribe to Apple Music to create an automation that entails audio playback, particularly if I wished to play music that I personal. This limitation severely undermines the Wemo Stage’s usefulness.

I quizzed Belkin about this subject and so they replied “Our group hasn’t skilled this subject within the Apple Dwelling app earlier than however we’re wanting into it.” I’m guessing that’s most likely as a result of everybody on the Wemo group has an Apple Music subscription, however I’ll replace this evaluation after I obtain further info.

The Wemo Stage is powered by a single CR2032 coin cell battery, which Belkin says ought to final about two years, relying on use. The two.6 x 1.three x .35-inch (HxWxD) distant can be utilized as a handheld machine or magnetically docked to trim plate, which you’ll mount on the wall utilizing the included adhesive pads. Or should you favor, the dock will be separated from the trim plate and mounted in a standard junction field. You’ll be able to then reattach the trim plate or use every other plate designed for paddle-style switches (this selection is especially useful if you wish to mount it in a field alongside standard switches and dimmers).

wemo stage lifestyle3 Belkih

Three buttons do the work of six by advantage of both a protracted or quick press.

I’ve develop into more and more impressed with HomeKit as I’ve dug deeper into it. It doesn’t match effectively with my Vivint sensible dwelling system, which is basically based mostly on Z-Wave gadgets, and I rely totally Now Echo sensible audio system to manage my sensible dwelling merchandise, however HomeKit presents an more and more sturdy ecosystem that places a premium on private privateness. I additionally like that many HomeKit gadgets don’t want their very own apps taking over storage on my iPhone and iPad.

This Apple Music requirement, nevertheless, is a severe sore spot for me. And the Wemo Stage itself shall be rather more helpful when it turns into Thread enabled, as a result of HomePod minis are simply too costly to sprinkle all around the home. Apple might study an enormous lesson from Amazon and Google on that entrance if it desires HomeKit to develop into ubiquitous.

A dear gadget

Talking of worth, $50 for a three-button distant management is fairly wealthy, irrespective of what number of scenes it might probably management. You should buy a whole sensible speaker for that worth, although it wouldn’t be appropriate with HomeKit. The extra excited you might be about having a HomeKit-based sensible dwelling, in fact, the much less of a barrier that price ticket will current.

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