Owners of Wink smart home hubs will have to start paying a $5 monthly subscription from May 13, or their devices will stop working.
This is the result of a sudden announcement by Wink, posted on its website just a week before the deadline, that it can no longer afford to maintain its current business model.
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If customers do not start paying, Wink says they will no longer have access to their hub from the smartphone app. Voice control with Alexa and Google Assistant will also stop working, and none of the current apps will be able to control the hub through Wink's API. Essentially, without paying $5 a month, smart homes running on a Wink Hub will cease to function.
This move has understandably caused anger among the smart home community. Reddit users who own Wink products were quick to respond to the news. One said: "I've been using the Wink Hub for years and would have gladly paid a few bucks for some premium features, but to straight up put basic functionality for ransom is straight up criminal."
Another said: "This is garbage...That's no way to treat the customers who helped build their business."
Others raised concerns over how smoke alarms connected to the Wink Hub would no longer function properly. Thankfully Home Assistant software, running on a Raspberry Pi computer, can help in some cases, but this somewhat involved workaround won't be ideal for all Wink users unwilling to pay the $5 subscription fee.
It was pointed out on Twitter how retail packaging for the Wink Hub stats: "No monthly fees or subscriptions." Several Wink customers have since suggested filing a class action lawsuit against Wink, on the basis that the company is holding user accounts to ransom.
Wink's smartphone app will also stop working without paymentWink
The company says that, because it does not sell customer data like other services, it cannot afford to keep its smart home system active. What it earns from hardware sales, the company says, is not enough. This is an issue many smart home companies are facing — how to maintain current devices, and the data smart home devices consume, without additional revenue coming in to support them. In short, some smart home companies have a data problem.
In a message to customers on its website, Wink says it has "taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub's blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business."
Although an excellent product when it launched in late-2016, the second-generation Wink Hub has been difficult to recommend more recently, as it has regularly been out of stock on Wink's website, and with other retailers like Amazon. These long-standing stock shortages — and stability issues which the company pledged to tackle in 2019 — have raised questions as to whether Wink will remain in business.
At the time of writing, Wink's website lists both the Hub and Hub 2, plus a range of kits including smart lights and the company's Lookout alarm system, but buying anything is impossible. Items cannot be added to a cart or basket.
To those customers willing to pay the monthly fee, Wink says: "We have a lot of great ideas on how to expand on Wink's capabilities and satisfy the many requests from our user base...This fee is designed to be as modest as possible. Your support will enable us to continue providing you with the functionality that you've come to rely on, and focus on accelerating new integrations and app features."
Wink WNKHUB-2US 2 Smart home hub, White