Review: Incipio CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet + Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter | iLounge

Review

Review: Incipio CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet + Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter

B+
Recommended
CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet, CommandKit Wireless Light Bulb Adapter

C+
Average
CommandKit app for iOS

Company: Incipio

Models: CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet with Metering / CommandKit Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter with Dimming

Price: $40

Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touch models running iOS 8.1 or later.

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Jesse Hollington

Originally shown in prototype form almost 14 months ago at CES 2015, Incipio has just released two of its wireless HomeKit accessories in its new CommandKit family — the CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet with Metering ($40) and the Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter with Dimming ($40). Although slightly later entries in the HomeKit accessories family, Incipio's two new CommandKit devices provide power outlet and light control via Incipio's own free CommandKit iOS app, Siri voice commands, or most other third-party HomeKit apps.

The Wireless Smart Outlet with Metering is similar to HomeKit accessories we’ve seen from a number of other companies, providing basic on and off functionality via HomeKit and Siri, as well as power consumption information through Incipio’s CommandKit app. Like most other HomeKit accessories, Smart Outlet works over a Wi-FI connection, and the CommandKit app will take you through the process of setting up and adding the Smart Outlet in the same manner as just about every other HomeKit accessory we’ve looked at. Once configured, added to a Home and a Room, and given a Siri-friendly name, Smart Outlet can then be toggled on and off using standard Siri voice commands, CommandKit, or just about any other HomeKit app. A button on the side also allows you to toggle the outlet on or off manually. The Smart Outlet’s design is also a somewhat less compact compared to other HomeKit outlets we’ve seen, extending outward to the right of the outlet; this avoids blocking the other outlet in a standard two-outlet wall arrangement, but it may be difficult to fit into some tighter spaces, and it’s also worth noting that it doesn’t rotate, so you simply won’t be able to install it in tight situations where an outlet is directly to the left of a piece of furniture.

The Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter with Dimmer is the slightly more unique of the two new products — an adapter that fits into a standard light socket, in between the bulb and the socket. This allows you to use any standard bulb you prefer, and — provided you’re using a standard incandescent bulb rather than a CFL — also offers dimming capabilities. The setup procedure is the same as for the Smart Outlet through the CommandKit app, which will take you through pairing the Smart Light Bulb Adapter with your Wi-Fi network and then adding it to HomeKit via its unique accessory code printed on the side. After you’ve got it set up, you’ll be able to toggle Smart Light Bulb Adapter on or off or set the intensity using the same HomeKit procedures. A button on one side of the adapter lets you toggle the attached bulb on and off manually — like most smart light bulbs we’ve seen, the light will also come on by default when power is applied at the switch, but you’ll need to turn it off via the app or the button if you want to still have access to it via HomeKit. 

The Smart Light Bulb Adapter is a clever idea, but it’s also by its very nature a design tradeoff — you can use your own bulb with it, but only in fixtures where you’ll have the extra space to accommodate the additional two inches of length.

Incipio ties all of this together through its own CommandKit iOS app, which we found to be something of an enigma. Perhaps paradoxically, the app does a good job of taking the user through all of the steps of setting up a new HomeKit environment, but beyond that we found it a bit awkward to navigate and use. Further, the fact that it hasn’t been optimized for the iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6s/6s Plus makes it seem even more cumbersome and visually unappealing on newer iOS devices.

The app also doesn’t seem to do as good of a job of integrating into an existing HomeKit environment — something that seems many users are more likely to do considering how late Incipio has been to the HomeKit game. With an existing Home already setup, the CommandKit app insisted on making us enter an address for our “Home” before we could proceed any further, with no real explanation as to why this was necessary — although we at first assumed it was related to the app’s somewhat unique location-based HomeKit triggers feature, we didn’t see anywhere that the “Home” address could be used when setting up a location-based event. Once we added our home address, the app also simply dropped us into a standard home screen, rather than prompting us to add a new HomeKit accessory.

Basic operation of compatible HomeKit accessories works well enough, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the CommandKit app’s accessory support appears to be limited. Obviously Incipio’s own products work fine here, but the only third-party HomeKit accessories we could get to appear in the main listing within the app were other smart outlets — although Philips’ Hue bulbs were oddly controllable by accessing them through “Service Groups,” they didn’t appear anywhere in the main accessories listing, and thermostats and sensors were nowhere to be found. Further, wandering into any advanced configuration options — such as setting up scenes — will quickly start to feel overwhelming as the app doesn’t present information in a very clear manner. It’s little more than lines of large text running down the screen, and in some cases the app presents a lot more information than you really need to complete a given step.

That said, while the app definitely needs a lot of polish, it otherwise does what it’s supposed to do, and offers some useful features we haven’t seen in other vendor’s HomeKit apps, including smaller details like a time and weather display (although temperatures seem to only be available in Fahrenheit), and a swipe-based interface for navigating between a list of all accessories, rooms, and zones (although the dots at the bottom would seem to indicate a fourth page that we couldn’t find).

The most interesting and relatively unique feature of the CommandKit app, however, is support for location-based triggers. Although this is a feature offered by the HomeKit framework, CommandKit is the first app we’ve seen that actually provides the ability to trigger scenes based on geo-location. So, for example, you can have the lights turn off automatically when you leave, or turn on automatically when you come home, although the location triggers aren’t limited to just your own home — like any other kind of iOS geofencing, you can set HomeKit scenes to activate whenever you leave or arrive at any pre-determined location. Further, although the CommandKit app isn’t capable of controlling the full array of HomeKit devices, location triggers are a core HomeKit feature that Incipio has simply provided a user interface for; when setting up a location trigger, you specify a scene, and any and all devices controlled by that scene will be affected. In other words, as long as you’ve setup your scenes in other apps that do provide support for those particular HomeKit accessories, any location-based triggers configured in CommandKit will control those devices as well. In our testing, we were able to set it to automatically trigger our “Leaving” scene when about a block away from home, which adjusted our iDevices Thermostat, turned off outlets from iHome, iDevices, ConnectSense, and Elgato, and turned off all of our Hue lights.

Incipio’s new CommandKit accessories are actually a bit of a challenge to properly rate — the hardware components are solid, work well, and are very aggressively priced compared to competing solutions, but on the other hand, the CommandKit app is one of the least desirable HomeKit apps we’ve looked at. Before HomeKit came along, the hardware and software were basically inseparable, creating a situation where a given accessory could only be as good as the app used to operate it. HomeKit has changed this game, however, as any HomeKit accessory can be controlled via just about any HomeKit app, making good quality hardware accessories stand apart from their companion apps. In the case of CommandKit, you could easily purchase the Smart Outlet and Smart Light Bulb Adapter, use CommandKit to add them to your “Home” and then basically discard the app and use an alternative choice, such as Elgato’s Eve app, to control them.

With such a wide discrepancy in quality between Incipio’s hardware and app, we find ourselves in the unusual position of rating the companion app separately from the hardware. Essentially, Incipio’s Smart Outlet and Smart Light Bulb Adapter are definitely recommendable products if you’re willing to look to a third-party app to control and manage them, and if you’re planning to integrate them into an environment where you already have other HomeKit accessories, that’s not even that difficult of a choice, as you may already have another preferred app anyway. That said, the CommandKit app does offer the unique feature of setting up location based triggers, so it’s worth keeping around for that purpose alone, provided you’ve already setup your scenes and have them working from another HomeKit app.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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