With the introduction of the smart plug, came a new convenience that has even further enhanced the functionality of today’s smart home. Smart plugs have been a game-changer for those who want to integrate their ‘dumb’, or average fixtures (i.e. lamps and air conditioners), into their smart homes. One of the best selling smart plug’s is Amazon’s Smart Plug.
Many people use these smart plugs in their own homes – but what about if you’re on the go? Perhaps you’re staying at a friend or family member’s house, or you just want to be able to control your Amazon Smart Plugs without using the Alexa app or an Echo – and want to know if that’s even possible. The short answer is…
Being that the Amazon Smart Plug was designed by Amazon specifically to work with Alexa and Echo devices, there are limited options when it comes to controlling it any other way. But all is not lost – a few options do exist.
Let’s first explore a bit about what the Amazon Smart Plug is, how it’s usually controlled, then get into the other options available to control it.
What Is The Amazon Smart Plug?
The Amazon Smart Plug is a smart home device that turns many typical ‘dumb’, or average fixtures, into smart devices. You can use the smart plug to control fixtures and appliances such as lights, coffee machines, air conditioners, humidifiers – and just about anything that can be plugged into an outlet.
Set up and operation of a smart plug is simple. First, you plug the smart plug into your three-prong, grounded outlet. You then open the Alexa app, go to ‘Devices’, and select the option to add a new device. Voice prompts from within the Alexa app guide you the rest of the way:
After the quick set up is complete, you simply plug the fixture or appliance you want to use, into the smart plug.
These smart plugs are fitted with three prongs, making sure they’re grounded as these plugs have to be ready to handle devices with high voltages, such as air conditioners for example.
Once plugged in and set up, the smart plug will deliver – or cut power to your device when you specify.
These smart plugs typically work along with Alexa, often in combination with the Echo. Within the Alexa app, you have the ability to name the device according to your preference, as well as create routines as to when the smart plugs turn on and off.
It’s to be noted that these smart plugs must be connected to the 2.4 GHz band of Wi-Fi. As is the case with many smart home devices, they don’t work with the 5 GHz band of Wi-Fi. Very few smart plugs work with 5 GHz Wi-Fi.
How Is The Amazon Smart Plug Controlled?
Manufactured by Amazon, these smart plugs are designed for use with Alexa. Amazon even makes it clear in their advertisements that it works exclusively with Alexa.
After receiving the Amazon Smart Plug, people typically set it up in the Alexa app. If you’re using it with an Echo, you will be given the option to rename your plug as well, helping you identify where it is, and what it controls.
Once it’s set up, you can perform such functions as adding it to any new or pre-existing routines within the Alexa app, so that it comes on – and off, at specified intervals.
Let’s say you have a Morning routine set. When you say “Alexa, Good Morning”, your morning routine activates with your assigned functions – such as turning on smart lights, or giving a weather report. If you have the Amazon smart plug connected to your Keurig brewer, you can add it as another one of the smart home actions Alexa takes when you activate your Morning routine.
When using it with an Echo, the Amazon Smart Plug is voice-activated, so you can simply say, “Alexa, turn off the Keurig”, and that particular smart plug will be turned off.
Alternatives to Controlling The Amazon Smart Plug
Although the Amazon Smart Plug is designed to be used with Alexa, there are a few alternatives available should you not be able to – or don’t want to use the Alexa app.
Being that the smart plug has a physical on/off button, you can alternatively press this button to turn your plug on and off:
However, at that point having a smart plug would almost seem pointless, as you would just as easily be able to just turn on the actual device such as the light or coffee maker. So while this option isn’t really one of the best, it is still an option if you need to use it in this manner for some other reason.
If you have set a schedule for your smart plug, this will determine how it operates.
For example, if you have a living room lamp, and you have a schedule where it’s set to come on at 6pm, then turn off at the end of the evening, around 10pm. In this case, no manipulation of any kind is needed, as the smart plug will automatically operate on this 6pm – 10pm schedule.
If you want to change this schedule in the future, however, you will need to do so in the Alexa app.
Even though the Amazon Smart Plug is designed to be used both with Alexa and the Echo, there is a way it can be controlled without the Alexa app.
Suppose you’re traveling with your smart plug, and you’re staying at a friend’s house. You don’t have, nor can you get, the Alexa app on your smartphone, but their home does have an Echo. In this scenario, you can use voice commands in order to set up and control your Amazon Smart Plug.
Plug your Smart Plug into the desired location, then make sure it’s turned on. The lights on the smart plug will begin flashing, indicating it’s ready to be set up. At this point you can speak to the Echo, by saying something such as “Alexa, set up smart plug” or “Alexa, discover my smart plug“. The Echo, via its built-in Alexa, will pick up on the smart plug, and begin the set-up process. You’ll even get to name the smart plug (i.e. lamp, or fan) to make it easy to identify.
From there, you can use voice commands to turn your plug on and off, and even set up times as to when it does so.
Many people also opt for simple smart devices, such as the SwitchBot Bot, to press buttons and automate otherwise ‘dumb’ devices. One would probably argue, then, to use the SwitchBot to turn the light (or other device) on to begin with, instead of using the Amazon Smart Plug.
However, if the device you’re trying to control isn’t operated with a simple push of a button, the SwitchBot wouldn’t work. SwitchBot Bots can only push buttons – not turn dials or anything of that nature. The Smart Plug can be turned on and off with a simple button press, making the SwitchBot a viable option to press this button, thereby giving your device power.
Another option available is Flic. Flic is a system of smart buttons that allows you to control almost anything with the simple push of a button.
In terms of the Amazon Smart Plug, you can use a Flic button to turn it on and off. You would simply download the Flic app, connect it to its hub, and assign one of the buttons to control your Amazon Smart Plug.
These buttons are portable and can be mounted anywhere, giving you the option to mount the button to control your smart plug in a location that’s convenient.
While the aforementioned options do provide some alternatives to using Alexa and the Echo, there are some limitations.
For starters, you won’t be able to unlock the Amazon Smart Plug’s full potential without using the Alexa app and the Echo. This includes not being able to give each Smart Plug a unique name, as well as not being able to set routines with your Smart Plug directly. Depending on the situation, however, these may be minor sacrifices if using Alexa and/or the Echo is not an option.
Alternatives to the Amazon Smart Plug
While the Smart Plug from Amazon is a useful tool in the smart home, some people may desire to try alternatives that don’t have such a heavy reliance on Alexa or the Echo. To that end, there are a few options worth taking a look at.
If you have chosen to use the Amazon Smart Plug to turn a lamp or other light fixture on and off, another option that might be a good choice is using a smart bulb. There are a variety of options out there such as those than run on Zigbee like Philips Hue and Innr, as well as Wi-Fi bulbs like LIFX:
These bulbs have their respective apps, so you don’t have to rely on Alexa or the Echo in order to control these bulbs – and depending on which one you choose, you’ll have a variety of color or functionality options available to you.
These simple yet intuitive devices perform a lot of simple functions like opening and closing curtains, and pushing buttons. These little Bots can be set to schedules, and since they connect to Wi-Fi via the SwitchBot app, they can be operated away from home.
They’re a good alternative if you’re operating something like an air conditioner that you simply have to push a button on. Instead of using an Amazon Smart Plug, you can use the SwitchBot Bot in order to turn on the air conditioner.
These devices, similar to the SwitchBot, can be programmed to perform a variety of functions with just the press of a button.
With Flic, after you’ve downloaded the app, you connect to the Flic hub. The hub and app will identify different buttons available, and you program them according to what you want them to do.
These portable, mountable buttons can be placed anywhere within your home, and come with stickers so that everyone knows exactly what they’re for. You simply press the button to perform your desired function (i.e. play music, or turn the lights on or off).
This can make Flic a few flexible option that a simple “on off” smart plug, although Flic does have the downside that the initial purchase price is high due to requiring a separate hub. A single Amazon Smart Plug is often much cheaper.
A final option is to buy an alternative smart plug:
Smart Plugs That Don’t Require Alexa or the Echo
If the Amazon Smart Plug has too many restrictions, there are other smart plugs that though they can be used with Alexa, aren’t reliant on it in order to use them to their full potential. They utilize other apps in order to operate.
One such is the Kasa Smart Plug. It operates the same way the Amazon Smart Plug does, but doesn’t require Alexa or the Echo – only the Kasa app. Should you want to connect it to an Echo at another time, it is compatible with Alexa and the Echo:
There is also the Belkin WeMo Smart plug. It uses the Wemo app by Belkin, and gives you the same abilities that the Amazon Smart Plug does – such as creating routines. You can use them with the Echo as well, should you choose to at another time.
If you don’t use Amazon Echo devices as a smart hub, you could instead purchase a smart plug that works with whatever smart hub you own. For example, if you use Philips Hue for your lighting system, you could buy the Hue Smart Plug and control this in a range of ways including a physical smart remote:
Amazon Smart Plugs are a convenient smart home device that helps people to further automate and facilitate the easy use of their smart homes. However, some individuals may not want to be confined to using Alexa or the Echo in order to control these devices.
In that case, though alternative options are limited, there are a few available. If the alternatives seem like more trouble than desired, there are a few alternatives to the Amazon SmartPlug as well.