Many smart home device makers rely on subscriptions to keep a steady stream of money coming in, but Wink is learning how that strategy can easily go wrong. The company has announced plans to move to a $5 per month subscription on May 13th (yes, just one week from now), and it’s mandatory. Decline to sign up and you’ll lose access to devices in the app as well as all automations. “Long term costs and recent economic events” (read: COVID-19) prompted the move, according to Wink, and the company didn’t want to sell user data to offset the costs of running services for free.
If you think that both the short notice and the threat of a hard cutoff will anger customers... well, you’re correct. Reddit users and others are incensed. They’re being asked to pay $5 per month to keep using the devices they already have in their homes, and one week gives them very little time to either weigh the merits of a subscription or find alternatives. “Pay the ransom or they kill our smart homes,” one user said.
We’ve asked Wink for comment. However it responds, the decision highlights the risks of basing your smart home system around free services without some kind of core offline functionality. While that kind of system can be very alluring so long as it lasts, you’re also trusting that the company can keep those free services running indefinitely. If it can’t, your connected household might be rendered useless with little warning.