In the ever-growing sector of smart home products arises yet another contender – the SwitchBot.
Released in 2016 on Kickstarter, then in 2017 to the general retail market, these simple, affordable, yet intuitive smart devices are practically in a class of their own.
They complete a variety of functions – from opening and closing curtains, to turning switches on and off, to even monitoring the temperature and humidity in your home. Their line of products even includes humidifiers, solar panels, and a remote for simple operation of one SwitchBot device.
SwitchBot also sell SwitchBot Hubs which start at $39 – which begs the obvious question: do you need a hub to use your SwitchBot devices? In short…
No, the SwitchBot Hubs are not an essential purchase. You can control your SwitchBot devices without a hub via the SwitchBot phone app or physical remote, although smart home integrations (for example via Alexa) are only possible with the Hub.
What Is SwitchBot?
Designed to be easy-to-use for the average consumer, these devices are hassle-free and the installation of smart bots such as the SwitchBot Curtain takes less than a minute.
Their site highlights the ease of retrofitting their devices so that they can fit in with your lifestyle with minimal effort. SwitchBot devices also use IR (Infrared) signals to communicate with other devices, making it possible to control non-Switchbot devices such as IR-compatible air conditioners and heaters. Some of their most popular products include:
The SwitchBot Bot
This item is awesome. Because smart plugs are flawed due to devices having electric switches, SwitchBot produced a Bot which turns any ‘dumb’ switch into a smart switch in no time. It works with almost any rocker switch, or appliance buttons that can be pushed – it does not work with traditional ‘flip’ switches though. This bot can even press buttons to activate other smart home devices, such as the buttons on a Philips Hue remote.
This means that if you have a coffee or espresso machine that requires an on-board button to be pressed before it’ll make a brew, you can buy the SwitchBot Bot, stick it onto your coffee machine and set it to turn on when you wake up (or any time of day) – nice.
However without a hub, you can’t integrate this with the rest of your smart home. For example, you can’t set the Bot to turn on when you come home. With the hub, however, you could have an Alexa routine that says “when I come home” (based on a smart motion sensor or smart door lock, for example), the SwitchBot Bot should activate.
Another useful SwitchBot device is the SwitchBot Meter. This smart device measures temperature and the level of humidity in the specified area that it’s located. Because it operates on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), its range is limited to only typical Bluetooth range – which is approximately 30 feet (or 10 meters).
However, when you use a hub as well, it greatly improves the range of operability. Using the app without the hub, you can only access about 36 days of previous data – which is pretty impressive on its own. But by adding a SwitchBot hub, all data received from the Meter is automatically uploaded and backed up into SwitchBot’s cloud service, giving you access to all of the data the Meter stores.
So just from looking at two of SwitchBot’s products, it’s clear that the hub is optional – but useful…
What Are The SwitchBot Hubs?
These smart hubs are designed to connect all of your SwitchBot devices, and allow you to easily control them all – whether you’re at home or on the go. While you can still connect to all of your devices via the SwitchBot app, adding a hub greatly expands your operability options, especially when it comes to certain SwitchBot smart devices.
Other Benefits of the SwitchBot Hub
Connecting your SwitchBot devices to the hub allows your devices to transmit the data of any SwitchBot devices via Wi-Fi, giving you the option to operate and check on your devices, such as the SwitchBot Meter, even when you’re well out of Bluetooth range.
Only SwitchBot smart devices can connect to the SwitchBot hubs. The SwitchBot hubs then enable your devices to connect with a variety of other smart home hubs, enabling you to connect other smart devices in your home seamlessly. They’re compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri – just to name a few.
It’s to be noted that Alexa and Google Assistant will not connect to the hubs directly, as they aren’t recognized as devices in themselves. However, the fact that the hub is connected to WiFi enables the different SwitchBot devices that are connected to the hub, to be discovered and controlled.
For example, let’s say you’re using Alexa, and you want to connect to your SwitchBot curtain. You would go through the steps in Alexa to add a SwitchBot device. But instead of trying to locate the hub, you would instead connect to the SwitchBot curtain. The Hub provides the ‘bridge’ in the form of WiFi, so that you’re able to locate and set up the SwitchBot curtain, or any other SwitchBot smart device you want to control.
There are two SwitchBot Hubs currently available – the Mini and the Plus – although the latter is often out of stock and SwitchBot seem to prefer the Hub Mini right now.
SwitchBot Hub Mini
The compact size of the SwitchBot Mini makes it a perfect addition for even the smallest home or apartment. Just as both hubs do, it allows you to connect all of your SwitchBot devices with minimal effort and maximum convenience.
Retailing at about $30, the Mini is also an affordable and easy option if you’re looking to upgrade your home to a smart home.
It’s powered via a USB connection, giving you the flexibility to power it with a USB adapter into the wall, or a computer. This feature is particularly convenient should you, for example, experience a power outage, at which time it can even operate on a fully-charged portable power bank for a certain amount of time.
SwitchBot Hub Plus
Retailing at about $50, the slightly larger SwitchBot Plus performs functions that are similar to the SwitchBot Hub Mini. SwitchBot notes only a couple of differences between the two hubs.
One such difference is that the Hub Plus is powered by an AC adapter that’s plugged into a wall, vs USB as in the Mini. Another difference is that it can be used as an LED night light which displays as a rainbow cloud.
A rather key difference is that the Plus doubles as a universal IR remote control that can be used with other appliances, not just SwitchBot devices.
Except for the AC adapter, night light, and capabilities as a universal IR remote, there are no other differences between the two hubs. They both act as a bridge, as it were, between Bluetooth, Wi-Fi – and ultimately the rest of your smart home.
Does SwitchBot Need a Hub?
In a short answer – no. These awesome little SwitchBot smart devices don’t require a hub in order for you to use them. To complete basic functions, you simply need the SwitchBot app on your mobile device. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give consideration to the hub.
Having a hub gives you more options for monitoring and operating your SwitchBot devices. This is especially convenient if you’re often out and about, and want to keep things in line at home.
In addition to remote connectivity, the hub allows you to create schedules, and connect to the cloud to backup and sync data. It also gives you the ability to use your SwitchBot devices with hubs such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri shortcuts, and IFTTT.
For example, instead of going to the app to individually close curtains in several different rooms, you can go to the hub, and create a schedule that closes your curtains around whatever time sundown usually occurs.
The SwitchBot help pages gives an in-depth overview of what extra features you get with a SwitchBot Meter. Without the hub, you can:
- Check readings on the display and via the app – when in Bluetooth range.
- Check historical data (up to 36 days) – when in Bluetooth range.
- Set up and receive condition alerts – when in Bluetooth range.
So you can clearly control and operate the device… when in Bluetooth range! But this shows it’s a bit limited. With a hub, you also get:
- Check readings in the app – anywhere in the world.
- Check historical data – anywhere in the world.
- Set up and receive condition alerts – ditto (I’ll stop saying “anywhere in the world” now, I think you get the point!)
- Integration with Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT and Siri – which is probably the key thing you’ll want if you have other smart devices.
- Adding ‘scenes’ functionality – which are a bit like automation routines/schedules.
In other words, as mentioned earlier, the Hub really helps to unlock your SwitchBot device, allowing you to smartly control it from anywhere in the world… or even when your phone has Bluetooth disabled!
Another Benefit: A Hub Allows You to Control the SwitchBot Remotely
A final less-discussed (but still important) benefit is that having a SwitchBot Hub hooked up to your internet allows you to also remotely control your SwitchBot devices – not just check readings.
So in other words, you could start your coffee brewing via SwitchBot once you touch down at the air port – but only if you use a hub. Without a hub, you will have to rely on in-home control only.
Which Should You Buy – SwitchBot Hub Plus or Mini?
Considering both hubs perform the same functions with little to no difference in performance, retailing at approximately $20 less than its larger counterpart, the SwitchBot Mini is often the more popular option.
In addition, acquiring a SwitchBot Hub Mini appears to be easier. Many places have either sold out of the Hub Plus, or are offering it for prices significantly higher than the manufacturer has intended. It has even been sold out on SwitchBot’s site for an extended period of time – a move most manufacturers typically make shortly before discontinuing a product.
As a result, most have taken to the Mini as a viable option that not only costs less, but has more options when it comes to connecting it to a power source.
Availability appears to remove the choice between the two. However, the average money-savvy consumer would most likely choose the SwitchBot Mini regardless.
Conclusion: Giving SwitchBot Hub a second look
With its simple interface, and functionality across the board, SwitchBot is becoming more and more popular in smart homes across the country.
Their devices perform a variety of functions and are easily retrofitted so that upgrading your home to smart home costs very little in time and effort.
Though using a hub isn’t necessary, it’s highly recommended in order to take full advantage of all of the features that SwitchBot products have to offer. Automating schedules, and the ability to control your SwitchBot devices away from home make this a desirable option for many.