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Smart home company about to start charging you monthly fee

Digital services for the gadgets you own are rarely “free” in the literal sense. Typically, when you buy an expensive product like an iPhone or Microsoft Surface, the premium you pay grants you access to all the features and services their software contains.

But even then, there are still some premium features you have to subscribe to. Items like Apple Music, Microsoft Office, and iCloud all require monthly fees on top of the money you already spent on the product itself. Tap or click here to see which subscription services are worth keeping.

In spite of this, it’s rare for companies to start off charging nothing for service and pivoting to a paid model. But that’s just what a smart-home gadget maker is doing to its base of users. If they don’t pay the subscription fee, they’ll lose access to all their device services. Are thousands of smart homes about to become dumb?

Wink winked when it said the services were ‘free’

Starting Wednesday, May 13, smart home platform Wink will require users to subscribe to a monthly fee of $4.99 or lose access to their once-free device services. Originally, these services were included as a bonus to owning the products itself, but the company appears to have changed its stance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing financial pressures in a bulletin posted to the company’s website, Wink claims the fee is designed to be as “modest as possible” while the company attempts to stay afloat amidst the economic hardships caused by COVID-19.

Wink is designed to turn your smartphone into a sort of “universal remote” for your smart home and is compatible as a central hub with products from manufacturers like Ring, Nest, Phillips, and Honeywell. If users do not subscribe to the service, automation and voice controls will no longer function — defeating their purpose entirely.

RELATED: Smart home starter guide — What should you buy first?

On the other hand, the company does state that the monthly fees will not only help recoup costs but spur the development of new features. What these are and when they’ll be available are not specified.

I own Wink products. Should I even bother subscribing?

As a universal hub for multiple brands of products, we understand the appeal Wink would have for owners of smart home devices. At the same time, this news almost makes Wink feel like a bait-and-switch operation.

Still, we can understand the pain COVID-19 is inflicting on startups and businesses. The staggering unemployment rate at the moment makes it obvious enough to anyone paying attention. Tap or click here to see which companies are still hiring.

On the other hand, this statement on subscription plans isn’t the first signal of financial troubles at Wink, either. Back in 2019, it was reported that Wink had not paid staffers for at least seven weeks at the time.

Ultimately, the choice should be based on what works best for your smart home arrangement. Having all your devices working seamlessly through one device is an attractive prospect, and the utility can’t be ignored.

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