Although we’ve loved the smart home approach SwitchBot has taken, I’ve never actually used its products. The company makes some “mechanical” solutions with smarts, such as a connected light switch flipper and automated blinds that turn the old-style blind rods. I took the latter of those products for a spin, along with the SwitchBot Hub 2, which now has Matter support.
I think mainstream consumers may shy away from the smart blind product due to the installation of physical parts. However, it’s not too daunting of a process and the Matter support works great with iOS.
First things first: What are the two products I reviewed?
The $69.95 SwitchBot Hub 2 is, as its name suggests, a hub or bridge. It’s small so it doesn’t look out of place or call attention to itself. Inside are sensors for temperature, humidity, light and infrared controls. The screen is a bright LED style to show temps and humidity levels. And there are two touch buttons on the display that you can program for a scene to be on or off. Connectivity is provided by both a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. The Hub 2 comes with a USB cable and brick for power.
The same $69.95 gets you the SwitchBot BlindTilt for the type of blinds I have in my home. The company also sells a similar product for curtains that costs $99.95; I don’t have curtains so I didn’t test that.
The BlindTilt comes with an array of smart parts to fit blind rods of different thicknesses. An included measuring tape is used to determine which parts you use for your particular blinds. Also included is a motorized mechanism to turn the blind rod, a few different mounting options, and a nifty solar panel. You can charge the batteries inside the BlindTilt with a USB plug or with the solar panel. Pre-applied 3M foam tape is used for all of the product mounting.
The setup process for both was simple
I was able to complete the setup process using the SwitchBot mobile app on my iPhone in just a few minutes. Just open the app, click a button to add an accessory, and the app will find nearby products. I did configure the SwitchBot2 to use Fahrenheit for temperatures, but other than that, I didn’t have to change a thing. I immediately saw the temperature, humidity and light levels from my kitchen in the SwitchBot app.
The BlindTilt setup process was equally quick and simple following similar steps. Once connected, I completed the physical installation of the product. That can take a good 5 to 10 minutes. The SwitchBot app provides a video of the installation which helped tremendously. However, there is no sound nor can you put the video in landscape mode to view a larger version of it. I had to pause and rewind quite a few times because of this. Then again, I have terrible eyesight!
SwitchBot provides an adhesive mounting template to get you started. And you need to use it because there are moving parts that must line up. There’s a cog that goes on the blind rod as well as a mounting bracket for the entire unit. I got everything lined up right the first time but I was patient and took my time.
Upon installation, I followed the app instructions to calibrate my blinds. You simply open or close the blinds manually using the rod to the position the app asks for, i.e.: fully closed down or up, and open.
And that was it! Using the SwitchBot app, I could tap a button to open or close my blinds. I’ve also scheduled the opening in the app and it has worked without fail. The solar panel has a light sensor included so you can have your blinds automatically adjust based on light levels, which is nice.
Note that the occasional squeking noise in the above video is from my blinds, not the SwitchBot BlindTilt. These blinds are 20 years old!
Integrations with, and without, Matter
Right out of the box, you can connect your SwitchBot Hub2 with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and Siri Shortcuts. I tested all of these integrations and was able to control the blinds through every one of these services. Since the Hub2 isn’t a HomeKit device, I had to manually set up Siri Shortcuts. And as a HomeKit user, that’s not the ideal solution for me.
However, there is a beta firmware upgrade for the Hub 2 that does add Matter support. It’s iOS only for now. The company says “support across other devices will come shortly after” this first Matter update. I ran through the update process to get the Matter firmware on the Hub 2, which took about two minutes. I did have to reset the Hub 2 to complete the process, but I didn’t have to re-add it in the SwitchBot app.
After that, the app generated both a QR code and setup code for Matter integration. Using Apple Home, I added the Hub 2 as Matter accessory using the setup code. And this is the first Matter product that just worked for me out of the box.
Apple Home immediately saw the sensor data from the hub. Adding the BlindTilt in Apple Home is actually done in the SwitchBot app. You go to the Matter settings and add a “secondary device”.
This may sound confusing, but it makes sense. The Hub 2 supports Matter, while the BlindTilt doesn’t. At least not natively.
Instead, Matter commands are sent to the Hub 2, which acts as a bridge to shoot those commands to non-Matter devices like the BlindTilt product. Either way, it works. Immediately after adding the BlindTilt as a secondary device in the SwitchBot app, I asked Siri to “Open blinds”. About a second later, they opened.
Once you have the SwitchBot products integrated into whatever ecosystem you use, you can have the blinds react to a trigger event in a routine, or you can add the blinds to a scene. And if you don’t want to integrate the SwitchBot you can accomplish the same thing in the SwitchBot app. In my testing, both approaches worked.
A nice experience if you don’t mind the installation
Unlike many other smart blind products, the SwitchBot BlindTilt is a bit of an add-on. That’s different from other, more expensive smart blinds that are integrated into the product itself.
And the BlindTilt motor is a little noisy. Or at least it’s noisier than I expected since I don’t have smart blinds. They are louder than the Eve smart blind demo unit I tested last year, but I’d expect that. Again, an integrated smart blind product can be engineered for less noise.
Even so, I like the BlindTilt product. Sure, it might not look as nice as a competing option and it might be louder too. However, it works well from a connected device standpoint and offers flexibility for different types of blinds that you already have. Just don’t be intimidated by the many parts included and take your time with the installation.
As far as the SwitchBot Hub 2, I don’t have any other products to use it with, save for the $19.95 remote button. I set that up to open or close the blinds in lieu of voice control and it worked perfectly over Bluetooth LE to the Hub 2.
But there’s a wide range of SwitchBot products that work with the Hub 2. If any of them might be useful in your smart home, the Hub 2 looks like a solid, centralized solution.