Review: Revogi Smart Lightbulb, Smart Lightstrip, Smart Candle + Smart Meter Plug
Although HomeKit continues to gain traction, not all home automation developers have bought into Apple's new home automation platform, preferring to develop their own proprietary solutions and apps. While it's hard to imagine iPhone and iPad users having much interest in non-HomeKit accessories at this point, some of these companies are selling their solutions for lower prices that might make them more appealing to the budget conscious consumer. And of course, users also gain cross-compatibility with platforms such as Android that naturally do not support HomeKit. Revogi's new lineup of lighting and outlet products seem clearly designed to appeal to this category of user, with its new Delite 2 Smart LED Lightbulb ($35), Smart Color Lightstrip ($60), Smart Color Lightstrip (USB Version) ($50), Smart Candle Light ($20), and Smart Meter Plug ($30) all coming in at lower prices than their HomeKit alternatives. The question, of course, is whether the cheaper price of admission justifies the tradeoff of losing HomeKit compatibility — an important consideration as almost everything in the Apple ecosystem is moving toward HomeKit with the promise of multi-vendor interoperable solutions.
We’re bundling together all five of these Revogi products into a single review as the four lighting products are extremely similar in execution and all use the same app, and the fifth product — the Smart Meter Plug — doesn’t necessarily warrant a review of its own, either. Each of the products are relatively straightforward and represent what we’ve come to expect from home automation solutions. It’s worth mentioning that Revogi packages its products quite attractively, even including spools for the light strips. However, you’ll find virtually no documentation included other than what’s written on the boxes themselves, which essentially just provide specifications and direct you to download the companion iOS app, providing a QR code to do so.
While the lighting products all pointed us to Revogi’s Delite app, such that we could search the App store for it ourselves, the Smart Meter Plug was a little more inscrutable. It didn’t name a specific app, requiring us to download a QR code reader and scan the QR code before we were directed to the correct app. It’s also worth noting that Revogi has two other apps, “Revogi Home” and “Revogi,” that appear to be unrelated to any of these accessories. Prior to scanning the QR code, we were led to believe from its description that “Revogi Home” was the appropriate app for the smart plug, and in fact the “Revogi Home” app lists support for several other plugs and even recognizes the bar code from the Smart Meter Plug box and goes through the setup process, but fails to recognize the Smart Meter Plug. Better descriptive text and documentation and less reliance on QR codes would probably have alleviated much of the confusion here, particularly since — unlike Android users — most iOS users are unlikely to have a QR code scanner handy.
All of these Revogi accessories use a Bluetooth LE connection, and once you’ve located and installed the correct apps, the setup process is pretty straightforward. The light bulb screws into any standard light fixture, and it’s the same size as a standard light bulb, so it should fit in any fixture. We received two versions of the light strip: a three-meter version that connects to AC power, and a two-meter version that connects to any USB power source. The Smart Candle Light is operated by four AA batteries that you’ll need to supply yourself — unlike a lot of other accessories we’ve reviewed, this is a “batteries not included” accessory. The Smart Meter Plug, of course, simply plugs directly into your wall outlet, like any other smart plug.
Once powered, the appropriate Revogi app should be able to scan for and detect the accessories. You’ll need to use Delite for the four lighting products, while the Smart Meter Plug uses the SmartMeter app. We found it slightly disappointing that two completely distinct apps were needed to control the different devices, leading the Revogi solution to feel less tightly integrated, even within the company’s own proprietary ecosystem.
That said, the detection process is simple enough, and the apps present a radar view showing the types of devices detected, although this is for cosmetic effect only — the icons for the found devices don’t in any way represent the position or proximity of the devices relative to your iPhone. There’s no other “pairing” process beyond this, however; once the devices are detected, they become available for use in the device listing.
The Delite app provides all of the basic features you’d expect — on/off control, dimming, and color selection for each lighting device, as well as color temperature for the light bulb. However, the app also adds a few nice additional features that are fun and a bit unique, such as various lighting effects, proximity on/off, incoming call/SMS alerts, and “anti-burglar mode.” The effects include a music visualizer that uses your device’s microphone to pulse the light with your music, a kaleidoscope, a user-recorded color-changing light show, strobe effect, candle flicker (particularly relevant for the Smart Candle Light, but available for all lighting devices), and a “shake” mode where the light will pulsate in response to your iPhone’s accelerometer as you shake it. The light bulb also includes a “daylight aware” mode, but this only follows a sunrise/sunset schedule, rather than actually detecting daylight. Timers and schedules can also be set in the app for all of the lighting devices except for the Smart Candle, which only supports the timer feature. Devices can also be grouped into scenes for enabling quick-access presets. The “anti-burglar mode” (also not available for the Smart Candle) allows you to set a time range during which lights will randomly turn on and off to make it look like somebody is home.
Schedules and timers work as you’d expect, and do not require the app to be running or even in proximity once configured — they’ll be saved on the devices so that they will execute the appropriate actions at the appropriately scheduled times. It’s worth mentioning, however, that even though you can control several lights as a group, schedules must be set for each device individually, and the app is a bit cumbersome in this regard as it doesn’t provide a central schedule screen. You’ll have to visit each bulb control screen individually, bring up the options menu, and tap on schedules. In fact, this limitation is just one example of our overall impression of the design of the Delite app — it’s functional, but not what we’d consider elegant, and it somehow hasn’t even been optimized for the larger screens on the iPhone 6 and beyond, which sadly makes it feel even more dated and clunky. Ironically, however, Revogi does provide a watchOS version of the app, which provides access to basic control functions, as well as effects and scenes.
While the light bulb and light strips have no direct manual controls — you either turn off the accompanying light switch or unplug the light strips — the Smart Candle does have a switch inside and offers the ability to turn it off (or on) by blowing into it like a real candle, which we have to admit is kind of neat.
As we noted earlier, Revogi’s Smart Meter Plug uses a separate app from the lights, meaning you’ll be switching back and forth if you want to control plug-in lights or other devices. There’s no way to include the Smart Plug and lights together in scenes or timers, although the SmartMeter app does provide its own timer and scheduling interface. The discovery process for Smart Meter Plug is the same as in Delite, and controls within this app are limited to switching the outlet on and off, monitoring power consumption of whatever is connected to the plug, and setting schedules and timers. You can also chart your power consumption over a period of time in either raw kilowatt-hours or actual monetary cost. It’s a straightforward enough app and gets the job done, although it suffers from the same perplexing design paradox as Delite — using a pre-iPhone-6 user interface while providing an Apple Watch app. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Smart Meter Plug is the smallest smart plug we’ve yet seen, although not really in the dimension that matters for most users; the distance it protrudes from the wall is about the same as any other smart plug.
Obviously without any kind of HomeKit support, you’re limited entirely to controlling Revogi’s accessories using the company’s own apps, and are therefore somewhat locked into their ecosystem. If you invest in Revogi lights, then adding any non-Revogi light in the future will have you juggling apps and not benefiting from any kind of integration. In fact, we were disappointed that even Revogi’s Smart Meter Plug is partitioned off from its lighting solutions as a function of using two different apps. The lack of HomeKit functionality also means of course there’s no Siri support, no remote control of Revogi devices when you’re away from home (or out of Bluetooth LE range), and no integration with other devices like switches and motion sensors. In short, buy into Revogi’s accessories, and you’re pretty much stuck with having them work with whatever options Revogi offers now and in the future. While some of the effects in Revogi’s Delite app are kind of cool, they also strike us more as fun novelty features that will likely be less important to users looking for a serious home lighting solution.
In our opinion, the only thing that makes Revogi’s solutions worth any consideration is if you’re looking to put in something very small and basic without spending a lot of money, willing to live with its limitations, and have no plans to expand in the future; Revogi’s lighting solutions don’t require any kind of hub and still come in at about half the price of a comparable Philips Hue set up, although we fully expect “hub-free” HomeKit-compatible light bulb solutions to be coming later this year. However, you get what you pay for, and in our opinion the power and flexibility of HomeKit is well worth it; despite the lower cost of Revogi’s accessories, we can’t in good consicence recommend anybody going with a muddled, proprietary home automation solution like this in an era where HomeKit is only expanding in its role of tying everything together.