Announced last May, Belkin finally delivered its WeMo Bridge eight months later. This $39.99 device does one thing and one thing only: It brings Apple HomeKit support to WeMo switches and plugs. I bought the Bridge as soon as it was available, and it works as advertised.
Since it doesn’t do much, the WeMo Bridge is fairly small. It’s roughly a two-inch square that’s about a half-inch tall. In fact, it reminds me of shrunken down Apple TV although it’s white, not black. There’s a small LED on the top but that’s only used for setup purposes and isn’t illuminated after that. You don’t have to worry about seeing that light in the middle of the night like you do for some other smart home products.
On the back are two ports: one is an Ethernet jack and the other is a micro-USB. Yes, you have to physically connect the WeMo Bridge to your network’s router or switch (if you have one) with the included Ethernet cable. The micro-USB port is used to power the WeMo Bridge.
These two ports are part of the reason that I’m personally not a fan of bridge devices. I’d rather use a wireless connection instead of needing an empty network port on my router for a device like this. In fact, my router only has one Ethernet port, so in my case, I either need to buy a switch or have another device give up that precious jack. I’m not inclined to do the latter because I like having a hardwired connection from my router to my television set top box (the Nvidia Shield TV) for maximum throughput to stream 4K content. But that’s just me: You may have a network switch to use or one more empty Ethernet jack on your router.
Once connected to a network and powered up, the WeMo Bridge is easy to set up. You simply go into the WeMo app and choose to add a new device, picking the Bridge from the various options.
Doing so will open the Home app on your iOS device and from there, you scan the unique HomeKit code on the bottom of the WeMo Bridge. Choose a room for your Bridge and that’s essentially it. The Home app will now show your Bridge as well as any other WeMo devices you already have. The whole process took me all of three minutes.
After I ran through the setup, I immediately asked Siri on my iPhone to turn on my Bedroom light, which runs on an old WeMo Insight Switch. The light turned on immediately, without any lag. That’s one very positive observation I have about HomeKit devices: They react nearly instantaneously.
But it’s disappointing — to me, anyway — that Apple didn’t nail down its HomeKit requirements relatively quickly. It’s that very reason that single-purpose devices like the WeMo Bridge even exist. When Apple announced HomeKit in 2014, it decided to include a hardware requirement that all HomeKit device partners needed to use. From my discussion with some of those partners, that requirement changed along the way, causing device makers to adjust their products on the fly. And last year, Apple announced it wouldn’t require a certified chip in all of its HomeKit products so that companies could use software for the security requirement.
All of that added up to uncertainty for companies like Belkin and others who often iterate their products once a year. From Belkin’s perspective, I think it was wise to just wait HomeKit out and keep adding new smart switches and outlets to its product line. The company knew that a single bridge could add HomeKit in the future, hence reason the WeMo Bridge was made.
If you have a bunch of WeMo products (not WeMo bulbs though, as those aren’t supported by the Bridge) as well as other HomeKit devices in your iOS household and you rely solely on Siri for your smart home, the WeMo Bridge is a great addition. It’s easy to set up, works well for its one single purpose and isn’t too expensive. Just be sure you have an extra outlet near your router, switch or access point, along with an open Ethernet port.
Of course, if you already control your WeMo devices through another hub that supports scenes and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice control, WeMo’s Bridge isn’t necessary. It all depends on if you want to give Siri the smarts to control your existing WeMo plugs and switches.