For over a year, I’ve used Belkin WeMo Lights, a wall switch, and a plug switch. The physical WeMo products have been great, as I’ve had no qualms with the build quality or their appearance. (Even the WeMo packaging is quite nice.) The problem I was having was reliability of these devices maintaining a connection, as well as the downright terrible Android app.
In this review, I’ll just cover the WeMo Lights and Hub since they are a direct comparison to the Philips Hue brand. At this time, Philips doesn’t have a light switch (one that actually goes into your wall and controls the power to lighting) or a plug switch.
The light bulbs from both Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo are LED, and very nice in appearance. In fact, the ones I’ve owned look very similar to each other.
Philips says their lights should last 15,000 hours or 15 years, while Belkin claims around 25,000 hours. In either case, you should go well beyond their warranty period.
WeMo lights are only white in colour, and you can only purchase a standard A19 bulb. They can dim though via the app. Philips offers either white bulbs, or ones that change colours. They can dim, and have a variety of bulb types including A19, E23, BR30, GU10, and PAR16.
The WeMo hub is a small, simple unit that plugs into a wall outlet. To connect to it to your WiFi network, you do the following;
- Install the Android (or iOS) WeMo app
- Connect to the WeMo WiFi network provided by the WeMo hub
- Open the WeMo app
- Follow the steps where you connect the WeMo hub to your home WiFi
- You should be done, and now you tell the app to look for any WeMo bulbs
The task is a fair bit of effort, especially if it doesn’t go as planned the first or second time. I’ve had some issues getting it setup, and had better luck using the iOS version by using my wife’s iPhone. (More on the app itself later.)
The Philips Hue Bridge is another small, square device, but this device connects to your router via a network (CAT5) cable, not via WiFi. It also comes with a power cable. While this limits the placement of the Bridge in your home, it certainly makes setup much easier. Once the Bridge is plugged in, you install and open the Philips Hue app, and press the one and only button found on the Bridge itself. Boom. You’re done.
Over the year I’ve had the WeMo lights, I’ve lost WiFi connection to my WeMo hub too many times. For the few weeks I’ve owned the Hue lights, I’ve experienced no loss of connection. Being physically connected to the router sure makes a difference!
The Android App
I’m warning you now, I’m about to get a little bit mean. The WeMo app for Android sucks worse than the 2016 American election candidates.
I still own the WeMo Light Switch and Insight Plug Switch, so my experience has been with those included. I’ve also used my wife’s iPhone to use all the WeMo devices too, and from using the iOS version of the app, I could Android was a second thought. Until recently, on Android, I could not add photos to associate them with each WeMo light or switch, but on the iPhone, I could. I once attempted five times to setup my Insight Switch with my Android device, gave up, picked up my wife’s iPhone, and completed the task within minutes.
The WeMo app is very basic, and doesn’t follow material design whatsoever.
That all said, what is actually good about the app is that once you’re setup and running, it is straight forward enough to know where your WeMo devices are, and to access settings per device – such as brightness, on/off, and turning off after a set amount of minutes. Setting up rules within the app isn’t too bad either. If you want some lights to turn on every day at sunset, or even 15 minutes prior to sunset, you can do that. The ability to add some widgets to your home screen was added a couple months ago, so now you can tap a widget to turn on or off a device.
The Philips Hue app on Android is dramatically better. Now it isn’t fully material design either, but it does have more of an Android feel than the WeMo app. Buttons and settings are quite large and easy to press. There is no option to turn off a light after a set amount of time, but you do have Scenes to play around with. Scenes are presets which will turn your Hue lights various brightness and colours, and each scene is actually based off the colours within an image. It’s quite fun and useful, and certainly worth exploring.
The Hue app also provides other similar options like WeMo, such automatic settings to turn lights on or off at sunrise/sunset, or even when you come and go from your home. The Android Hue app provides some widgets for your home screen too just like WeMo.
One thing that is nice about these home automation products is many brands will play nice with others. Both WeMo and Hue work with IFTTT for example. Philips Hue’s Bridge 2.0 (which I own) is compatible with Apple’s Home Kit, making it possible for my wife to ask Siri, “Can you set my Living Room lights to magenta?” and within a second or two, the living room is glowing magenta. FYI, is you own a Google Pixel, you can do this same thing with Google Assistant.
Removing the use of IFTTT, the Philips Hue line appears to be compatible with more brands than WeMo.
When it comes to accessories, there isn’t much of a comparison at all. With Belkin’s WeMo lights, you get the Hub and WeMo bulbs. That’s it.
With Philips Hue, you can add light bulbs, both colour or just white, LED light strips, lamps (I happen to own a Hue Go), and various controllers so you’re not restricted to just using your phone or tablet.
You may be wondering, if Philips Hue has such a better product than Belkin’s WeMo lights, are the Hue lights more expensive? The answer is yes, and quite a bit.
If you wanted to enter home automation and start with some WeMo bulbs for your lamps, you can pick up a kit with the WeMo Hub and two (white only) bulbs between $50 and $99 CAD. Best Buy used to carry them, but now they only sell the Light Switch and Insight Switch. Each WeMo bulb used to cost me $20 CAD per bulb at Best Buy when on sale.
For Philips Hue, you have a wide variety of combos and options, making it more difficult to price for you. Just know that each colour bulb will run you about $50. The kit I have which is the Bridge 2.0 and 3 colour bulbs is around $200 CAD. That is about 3 times more than WeMo, but I’d say it is well worth it considering the options and quality you get for your money.