Amazon has four new, very cheap smart switches
A new line of Amazon Basics Smart Switches has landed on Amazon.com, bringing the Amazon-branded smart home gadgets count up to seven, including the new smart thermostat and smart indoor air quality monitor. That’s a big leap from the one, lonely Amazon smart plug the company had left after discontinuing its indoor smart security camera last year.
Spotted by Dan Wroclawski of Consumer Reports, the four smart switches launched on November 11th and include a single-pole switch ($17.99) and a single-pole dimmer ($19.99) both for controlling one lighting circuit, and a three-way switch ($18.99) and a three-way dimmer ($20.99), which can control one circuit from two locations.
A smart switch turns existing hardwired lighting into smart lighting, adding app and voice control. It’s a good alternative to smart bulbs when you want to automate lighting in a room with lots of lightbulbs or decorative fixtures.
One advantage of Amazon’s own smart home devices is that they work with Amazon’s Frustration Free Setup and Certified for Humans programs, which means they should be simple to set up, especially if you already have an Echo smart speaker in your home. The downside is that these switches will not work with any other smart home system or voice assistant; they are only Alexa-compatible.
You also have to install them. These smart switches need to be hardwired into your home’s wiring and require a neutral wire. If you have an older home with no neutral, then Lutron Caseta or GE Lighting Cync’s neutral-wire free options will be a better fit. But if you have the right wiring, these are a good value for a smart switch, prices for which generally range from around $25 to upwards of $60.
The new Amazon switches do not require a smart home hub to connect to the internet for automation and will work with Alexa for voice and app control. Once installed, they can be used as a traditional light switch, with the added smarts that come from being able to ask the voice assistant to turn them on and off with an Echo speaker, add them into Alexa Routines in the Alexa app, and create schedules for them. The two switches with dimming capability can also adjust the brightness with voice or app control.
As is the theme with Amazon Basics devices, these are simply designed. The single-pole switches look just like a regular paddle switch and have a small status light LED at the bottom. The dimmer options have a plus or minus button above the paddle to adjust the brightness and a row of green LEDs up top for a visual indicator of brightness level.
It’s surprising, however, to see Amazon stating on the product page that these smart switches are for exclusive use with Alexa and will not support other voice assistants or smart hubs, especially considering the company recently reaffirmed its support of Matter, the open smart home standard coming in 2022.
I asked Amazon this question and Chris DeCenzo, Principal Software Development Engineer at Amazon Lab126, told me: “Matter was just an idea when these devices were being developed so we designed the product to work over WiFi without the need for a hub to make it accessible to the broadest number of customers.” When the Matter SDK is released and Amazon has a clearer idea of the range technical details, DeCenzo said it will have more to share.