Wink hubs lost connectivity and functionality since an outage began on July 1. As of today, July 13, it’s still a problem according to the official Wink Status page. Indeed, until yesterday, there wasn’t even a detailed status update from Wink. Now the company says it’s working to fix its connectivity issues. If you can’t wait for Wink or have decided that enough is enough for the $5 you pay monthly to Wink, you do have some options.
Regular readers may have a feeling of déjà vu since it was only last month that I wrote a similar post. That time it was due to Insteon quietly all but disappearing. So some of my approach will be similar. And the good thing here for current Wink users is that you do have options. Some are better than others in terms of re-using your existing connecting devices.
First and foremost to know is that even though Wink services are down, you still have local smart home control. That is if you don’t or haven’t restarted your Wink hub. I suspect many Wink users are already past that point of no return but if you haven’t restarted the hub, you still have some functionality.
For those that plan to migrate away from Wink, you’re in one of two very likely camps. You either use a Google Android or Apple iOS on your phone. I’ll start with the latter group because there are more choices available to you.
From Wink to Apple HomeKit
Obviously, you could switch over to Apple HomeKit although if you want a HomeKit hub, you’ll need to have or buy an Apple TV or an Apple HomePod. Technically, you can use an iPad as a HomeKit hub. However, once iOS 16 arrives this fall, you won’t gain the new functionality, which includes upcoming support for the Matter standard.
HomeKit relies on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for connected devices, along with QR codes and NFC as device pairing options. So if your Wink home is built primarily around Zigbee, Z-Wave, or some other RF standard, you’ll be replacing those connected devices on this path. Some Wink-supported devices also work with HomeKit thanks to a bridge: Think Philips Hue and Lutron, for example.
After trying just about every smart home platform on the market, I’ve ended up on HomeKit. Obviously, it helps that I use an iPhone. But the compelling reasons are because HomeKit works so well and has additional privacy features that I prefer.
A related alternative to replacing all of those non-HomeKit devices would be to consider HomeBridge. This is a free software platform that you can run on a PC, Mac, Linux machine, or Raspberry Pi. It has more than 2,000 plugins that bring non-HomeKit-supported devices to the HomeKit platform.
If you’d rather not mess around with the installation process, you can buy a pre-installed kit called HOOBS for $249. I’ve tested HOOBS and it works well. Personally, I’d simply spend the time to download the free HomeBridge software and install it myself. It’s not that difficult.
Other third-party hubs
Another similar approach would be to consider either Home Assistant or Hubitat, both of which you can use with either Android or iOS.
Home Assistant is free software that you can install on a computer or a Raspberry Pi. And like HomeBridge, it has numerous plug-ins for connected device brands and types.
Home Assistant has continuously improved its functionality and interface over time. Frankly, it’s a powerful smart home platform that gives you a high level of device control. Just know that if you want remote access to your smart home, there is a subscription fee of $6.50 per month.
Hubitat is a physical hub, so it would replace Wink in your smart home. The hardware currently costs $99.95 and it is relatively easy to configure the software.
The good news is that some Wink users have recently made the switch to Hubitat and found the process to be relatively quick and painless. That’s because of the broad device support with Hubitat’s software and the combination of radios in the hardware. Inside you get Zigbee and Z-Wave support, with wired Ethernet connectivity for your home network. Hubitat is also well known for providing robust local control.
Either of these options supports the major voice assistants and platforms, so if you have Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Samsung SmartThings devices in your home, you can reuse most, if not all of them.
Go all in with Amazon or Google
This option may be best if you already have many Amazon or Google-supported devices connected to your Wink hub already. You can simply migrate all of your supported device right over to Amazon Alexa or Google Home directly. And you can do that without even purchasing a new smart display or speaker since these are cloud-centric solutions.
Ideally, you’d want to add some Amazon Alexa or Google Home hardware to this setup. Otherwise, you’ll be relying on your phone to manage and control all of your devices. A smart display or a speaker would allow for voice control when your phone is out of reach. Plus it’s a more family-friendly solution since anyone can state voice commands.
Of course, you don’t need to do any of this. You could simply wait and see if Wink’s service reappears. And it might. But if you’ve had enough of outages, particularly when you’re paying a subscription fee, you have plenty of good options. That includes some where you may be able to reuse your existing connected devices and repurpose your smart home investments.
Lawrence K says
Most Zigbee devices on a wink will work on an Ikea Tradfri gateway and bridge to Alexa and Google. You can even switch to a SmartThings hub, any company large enough won’t need to charge a ransom for smart home access. Avoid Insteon, Wink, Home Assistant, and anything else that wants to charge a ransom to turn on your lights.
Home Assistant doesn’t charge a ransom to turn on your lights. Home Assistant has a fee if you want remote access through Nabu Casa, but you can just as easily DIY remote access for free.
JD Roberts says
I know Kevin knows this, but just for clarity:
If you have a Zigbee device, you need a hub with a zigbee radio to talk to it. It will not work directly with Homebridge (which isn’t a hub, it’s just a bridge between a number of different hubs and HomeKit). Some of your Zigbee devices might be able to talk to an echo model that has a Zigbee hub inside, but not all will, and not all echoes have this. Zigbee devices cannot connect directly to google home.
Some possibilities for Zigbee hubs that accept third-party devices are
SmartThings/Aeotec “works as a SmartThings hub”
Some Homeseer models
Some Vera/Ezlo models
Some Other Zigbee hubs will not accept third-party devices. That includes the Aqara hubs.
So as always, we come back to the first rule of home automation: “the model number matters.”
If you have a Z wave device, you will need a hub with a Z wave radio to talk to it. Again, homebridge cannot do this on its own, there has to be a Z-Wave hub involved. echo devices also cannot talk to Z wave devices directly. Alexa has to talk to a zwave hub instead.
Some possibilities for Z wave hubs that accept third-party devices
At the present time, unfortunately the smartthings Zwave implementation has some notable gaps when compared to the others, so I would put it at the bottom of the candidate list for this purpose.
As of this writing, July 14, 2022, I think the best choice for most wink users Who have existing Zigbee or Z wave devices that they want to keep will be Hubitat if they are willing to do some technical setup. It handles both zwave and Zigbee devices well, and if you want to use homebridge with it to then bring everything into HomeKit, you can. It is available for both the EU and the US. If you use android devices You may also want to add the third-party SharpTools app which is more user-friendly than the native hubitat offerings.
If you want to start all over from the beginning with new devices and you already have iOS devices, HomeKit is definitely worth looking at. It’s easy to use and setup with a nice app.
If you want to start all over from the beginning with new devices and you have an android phone and you want something less technical than hubitat, you might consider IKEA with the understanding that when the new IKEA Dirigera hub is released in October you will probably want to switch to that because that’s what will give you matter compatibility.
Both HomeKit and IKEA are more plug and play than Hubitat. Hubitat may be a better match for power users with some technical background.
And I agree that for some people Alexa routines may be all they need as long as their devices have a direct Alexa integration available. That will be true for some Zigbee Devices. Unfortunately there is no direct Alexa/zwave integration, you would have to also get a new Z wave hub.
So as always, different things will work for different people.
JD Roberts says
We should also note that if you are using Lutron switches with a wink hub and you want to keep them, they work with pretty much everything I mentioned in my previous post except that do you need to get the standalone Lutron SmartBridge Device to make the integrations work. Wink was one of the only third-party hubs that included a Lutron radio, none of the others that I listed do. They all get integration through the Lutron SmartBridge Device.
JD Roberts has some great advice. He has lots of experience and is always a very helpful person.
I think that Hubitat, Smartthings, and Home Assistant are the 3 main choices here, especially if you are heavily into Zigbee and Z-wave or a combination thereof. Lutron might be a good choice for those heavily into Caseta and Pico.
Hubitat and Home Assistant don’t rely on the cloud or other people’s servers, except for things like Alexa and Google that themselves are cloud based devices. This is their main advantage, and coming from Wink a complete opposite mindset.
Smartthings is probably the easiest of the mainstream choices, but is somewhat cloud based. Some things can run local, others do not. I was not comfortable with that, I didn’t want to ever be in the same position as I was with Wink where I had to rely on someone else’s server. They are also in a bit of a transition period and changing the way you can integrate community apps and device drivers. It probably is an OK choice for some Wink users.
Home Assistant is very powerful, but the hardest to set up, and requires a lot of fiddling with things to keep it running. It is pretty, and has a ton of integrations, but I found it frustrating to use. People say “but it is free and you have to pay for Hubitat and Smartthings”. Well yea, except you need a (currently) $150 plus Raspberry Pi4, a $50 Z-wave dongle, and a $30 Zigbee dongle. By the time you purchase all that, you could have purchased an off-the-shelf hub. Even the two radio dongles cost nearly what a Hubitat does. It gets a lot of active development to the ecosystem.
Hubitat lands right in the middle of Smartthings and Home Assistant. Relatively easy to use, not cloud based, actively developed, great community that answers questions, and more.
Finally, the Lutron Caseta system is great when you consider reliability. Probably the best of all protocols out there. But their automations are pretty much non-existent, and they have no sensors other than motion. They are a fairly closed ecosystem, so unless you integrate (see next point) you are going to end up with a very reliable but glorified remote control. I do have many of these Lutron devices, but I integrate with Hubitat to get the power of their rules engines, and to be able to use other sensors.
If you do have Lutron, or just want some really nice inexpensive and reliable Pico remotes, don’t purchase the basic Lutron Bridge. Go right for the Bridge Pro V2 despite the extra cost. That Bridge ProV2 integrates locally with Hubitat, and is very FAST. I think Home Assistant also can integrate that way. Even if you start on say Smartthings, you might want to eventually change to Hubitat, you would have to upgrade from a Bridge to Bridge Pro. I get that the Bridge Pro is more expensive, but in Hubitat, it is worth having just for the great Picos. If you factor in the cost of Pico vs other button devices, the Bridge Pro pays for itself after about 8-10 devices.
JD Roberts says
Good point: if you need Lutron to integrate with other systems, I personally would definitely spend more and get the Lutron SmartBridge Pro. It supports many more integrations than the starter model. Thanks for bringing that up!
Also, a friend of mine reminds me that at present the Ikea Tradfri System includes smart bulbs, battery powered buttons, smart plugs, smart window shades, a motion sensor, an air purifier, and music speaker. but no wired light switches or door locks. These device classes should work with the new IKEA Dirigera hub via Matter if everything works as promised, but we will have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, people like my friend who use IKEA Tradfri as their have to add smart locks and light switches via HomeKit or Amazon Alexa routines. My friend has Lutron light switches (with their SmartBridge) and a lock which works with Alexa and brings everything together that way, but it is a bit of a Frankenstein system for now. Fingers crossed that the new Ikea app due to be released with the Dirigera hub this fall Will bring everything all together.
I’m keeping Ikea on the top candidates list for now because IF they can deliver matter support as promised with the Dirigera hub this fall I think they’re going to be a very customerfriendly inexpensive wide ranging home automation system that works well with android as well as iPhone. So I think it’s going to fill an important market space at the low cost end. I know the timing for considering them as a Wink replacement is off by a few months, and that’s unfortunate. But I do think that if everything happens as promised six months from now a lot of people who would have bought Wink will then buy IKEA Dirigera. We will see.
JD Roberts says
I’ve been a SmartThings user since 2014 and am active in the community there, but I’m not recommending them to anyone new right now for several reasons. I hope that will change in about 12 months, but we will have to wait and see.
1) they are in the middle of a huge transition to a new architecture, and have already announced that there will be a new app as well. And they continue to follow their historical practice of pushing out unannounced and undocumented changes, sometimes with glitches, that we can neither deny nor delay. I just think for the next 6 to 8 months we’re going to see a lot of “this worked yesterday, why doesn’t it work today?“ frustration points.
2) from the beginning, smartthings has had the design philosophy that they would hide the underlying protocols from their users so that everything would look the same whether the device used Z wave, zigbee, or Wi-Fi. well that sounds good in theory, in practice it means that it’s much harder to do some protocol-specific things on smartthings, like zwave association, than it is on some of the competing hubs. And so far in the beta of the new architecture this problem has only gotten worse. Much worse. Some of the wave utilities have disappeared all together. And it’s no longer possible to get any routing information. I wrote a post in the smartthings forum on gaps in their Z wave implementation which details these if anyone is interested. But since the main reason to recommend smartthings is that it handles both zwave and zigbee Devices and since I no longer like the way they do Zwave,
That pushes them way down the candidate list for me.
(they also had one announcement that the new dongle‘s they are designing for their smart television will have thread and zigbee, but not the wave, so that also makes me question their future commitment to that protocol.)
3) I have concerns about the way they are going to implement matter. Hub manufacturers have two choices under the specifications. They can be a two-way matter bridge, which means that hub will bring along at least some of it connected devices into any matter compliant app. Aqara and Philips have already said they are going to do that. That means their hub can be added to Apple Home App or the Samsung SmartThings Android app and many of their child devices will show up in that app as well.
Samsung is opting for a one way integration with Matter. They will be able to bring in matter devices to their own app, but the smartthings hub is not going to be able to be added to the Apple Home app or the IKEA Dirigera app.
Obviously, that’s their choice, but I find it annoying. And again, it pushes them lower on the candidate list for me.
3) back in 2018, they broke voice navigation in their app. And in spite of many many public promises that it would be fixed, including some in the release notes, it still isn’t. There are just a lot of things you can’t do with voice in their app, and a lot of design decisions that make it clear that this was never tested for use by the visually impaired or others who use voice navigation. As a corporation, Samsung puts out great vision statements on accessibility for all, but they don’t carry through with smartthings.
4) under their new architecture, their app is still going to be cloud dependent. So you will have to have an active Internet connection to use the app with your devices. That is not true for Apple’s Home app—everything except Siri voice recognition can run without the Internet as long as you are at home on the same Wi-Fi. It’s not just that the ST design creates a reliability issue: it means more latency and more unexpected glitches.
I do like the trajectory the new architecture is on and I do feel mildly optimistic that a year from now they will move back up into the top-tier of candidates. But I just think the next year has too many frustration points, particularly for people looking for a new plug and play system.
JMO, of course, but that’s my current thinking in July 2022.
Richard P McGrail says
Quick Question on Wink to SmartThings.
If I have to “delete” the devices from Wink before connecting to the SmartThings, how do I do the deletion now while Wink in not working? Or a I overthinking this?
JD Roberts says
It’s a good question, but fortunately there’s a simple answer. The creators of Zwave understood that there might be times when the original zwave hub was unavailable. Maybe the hub itself stopped working. Maybe you bought the device used. Maybe the device had been connected to a test network at the manufacturer and the information wasn’t cleared before the device was shipped.
So they provided a method called “general exclusion” which allows ANY certified zwave hub to issue an exclude command to ANY nearby zwave device, even if they’ve never been connected before. To get the device to accept the command you have to do something to it physically, usually a specific tap pattern, which is what keeps devices from being accidentally reset.
Once the exclude command is accepted, the device clears the old network information from its memory and it is then ready to be added to a new network.
You can find more specific instructions and help with individual devices at the SmartThings user community. There’s a topic tag called “afterwink” with lots of relevant threads.
Lawrence K says
What he said. Its good to find an old Zwave handheld controller that you can break out to exclude modules. One of the drawbacks to Smart Things, is that it can not copy Zwave network data to secondary controllers. Unless JD has a trick I have not discovered.
JD Roberts says
SmartThings hubs didn’t support Zwave Controller Shift the last time I checked, so that’s not an option.
However, they can definitely issue a zwave general exclude, so you won’t need an additional device to do that. You can just issue it from the hub if all you want is to clear the old hub’s information from an end device. 🙂