We moved into a rental house a couple months ago and I decided to finally explore my interest in smart-home automation. Picked up an Ikea Tradfri gateway, remote and bulb, a Wink 2 hub with some Cree bulbs, and some random china-cheapo bulbs from Amazon.
Ikea’s offering was cheap and cheerful, and only the Ikea stuff would talk to their gateway, so you’re going to need a hub unless you’re only going to buy Ikea stuff. The little remote is nice, though. I turned the Ikea hub back off and went ahead with Wink.
The Wink 2 hub is a nice looking piece of hardware for this sort of thing, the box, packing and manual all impressed. It was able to talk to all the non-hue devices I bought, with the exception of the Ikea remote. That’s a shame because it’s a nice little remote but I’m not running a gateway just for a remote, so that’s out of play.
Generally, I was very pleased with the hub.
I made a couple of dumb mistakes during my setup and got stuck, but the Wink 2 Community is vibrantly full of tinkerers with quick answers.
It did strike me as odd, though, that the majority of the replies to things involved “send this command” with a bit of REST or JSON.
The hub has a pleasing design, and the engineer/tinker in me had a warm fuzzy about the ease with which people were throwing around these low-level quick fixes.
Adding my next set of lights, the honeymoon quickly ended.
In a nutshell, the Wink 2 App is not just a shitty piece of software, it’s out into fucking nasty – pardon my language.
I’m going to forego the usual in-depth technical analysis and leave it to the shrew reader to prickle at the implications of what I experienced:
While adding one of my second batch of bulbs, the client missed an ack from the cloud service; the only options in the client are ‘try again’ and ‘get help’ (no cancel), and ‘try again’ made things really, really, bad because they employ someone who really, really needs to be fired.
As a fairly seasoned programmer, the behavior of the app once this impossible scenario happens is like a spatter pattern to a CSI. I can almost see inside the cubicle or figure what episode of Walking Dead they’d just watched the night before when the engineer decided to be uselessly defensive here, been so aggressive they introduced a bug in that place and decide “if the data is bad, we’re already screwed, so whatever” there.
I eventually managed to rename one instance of the bulb and proceed. All the help I’d read on this situation either said “send this rest-command” (which I wasn’t interested in doing) or “talk to support”.
So, I talked to support.
“Send us a tweet”, they said.
Unfortunately, Wink’s software is really confused by this scenario, and it helpfully forwards this bad data to anything that talks to it. It contaminated my Amazon smart device list, and it confused my Philips hub (which wanted to reject the data but didn’t because doing so would cause certain errant devices not to be compatible with it, it didn’t like this bad data tho).
I ran afoul of problems removing and re-adding devices; there were devices that it would have nothing to do with for hours and then would suddenly recognize later when I was trying to add something else. Later on, talking directly to the hub, all of this came down to the piece of shit that they call an app and not the hub itself.
The final straw for me was when they rolled out some big software update while I was trying to deal with some of this.
This was a visually huge change to the app, and my first response was excitement that just as I was running into this they were fixing it.
Not only was the implementation of the roll-out abysmal, causing all kinds of intermittent transitionary issues, the new version didn’t solve any of the issues (at best it transformed them, such that before “if you press X the hub catches fire”, now there’s a different sequence of inputs to set the hub on fire) it introduced a bunch of new ones, and the hub was now more confused than before about the bad data the app was generating.
I scrubbed the devices on my account (aside from the ones that nobody can delete), reset and unplugged all of my devices, uninstalled the mobile app, cleared out it’s cache and data directories, factory reset the hub, reinstalled the update on it, reinstalled the app, asked it to add a device (with nothing plugged in yet), waited for it to fail,
and made the mistake of tapping “try again”.
The Wink 2 hub … is good for someone who’s going to be working at a low-level with their home automation and won’t be using no stinking mobile apps to set stuff up.
For anyone else, I implore you to find several pieces of wood, break them into sharp, splintery pieces, and throw yourself at them repeatedly for 2-3 days, before you consider wasting your money on Wink.