C by GE Smart Plug review: This smart home gadget disappoints

Adding one to your Wi-Fi network is easy enough, but GE falls short of delivering on its promise of easy integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

C by GE Smart Plug
GE
At a Glance

While GE promises ease-of-use enhancements with its new, Wi-Fi-enabled C by GE Smart Plug, few pleasant surprises await the user who selects this device.

From a hardware perspective, there’s nothing unusual here: The typical, white brick-shaped device spans the width of your outlet’s face plate, occupying just one receptacle and providing a single three-prong smart outlet. A small switch on the right side of the plug lets you manually turn the plug on or off, and a tiny LED adjacent to the outlet shines white when power is supplied.

While GE’s marketing promises that you can “simply plug into a standard wall socket and you’re ready to go,” that’s not entirely the case. You’ll first need to install the C by GE app, which is used to control all C by GE devices. Setup through this app is familiar and easy. The C by GE app automatically locates the plug, and then connects it to your Wi-Fi network. After that, you can control it directly through your mobile device. This worked smoothly in my testing.

Once set up, however, the C by GE app isn’t the best. While it’s simple to turn the plug on or off through the bare-bones, primary interface, the scheduling system isn’t intuitive, requiring you to use the Automation tab to set up schedules based on your Scene or Room settings. There’s no way to simply add a schedule for the plug directly through its own individual interface. Instead, the app is limited to manually turning the plug on and off.

C by GE Smart Plug app Christopher Null / IDG

Setting up simple things such as a schedule to turn the C by GE Smart Plug on and off is a chore.

The biggest sell GE makes with this product, however, is that it is designed to connect to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa services without a hub (Apple HomeKit support is “coming soon”). In 2016 that might have been a big deal, but with the rise of Wi-Fi connected devices, all manner of products can now connect to these smart speakers without a hub.

In my testing, I had severe trouble getting the C by GE Smart Plug to connect to either Google Home or Alexa. During setup, the C by GE app prompted me to work through the Google Home app to complete configuration, but the Google Home app never found the plug after repeated attempts. I had a similar problem with Alexa, which initially couldn’t locate the plug either.

Multiple calls with tech support over several days—and to its credit, GE spent a significant amount of time working with me on this—were partially successful in resolving the issue. In Google Home, the solution was to use the standard setup routine for third-party devices, bypassing the “Made for Google” option and manually configuring my C by GE account information in the Google Home app. (GE later informed me that “Made for Google” is not yet fully functional on the plug.) Even after getting the plug to show up in the Google Home app, it was never actually controllable, invariably giving me a “Something went wrong” error when I tried to switch it on or off.

I had even less luck with Alexa. I eventually got the Amazon system to at least connect to the plug; but again, the digital assistant was unable to control it, invariably saying the plug was offline or throwing out a cryptic “There was a problem” error. GE said it could not repeat the error and blamed it on Alexa; the company said it was working with Amazon to troubleshoot the issue, though no solution was found as of this writing.

Our current top pick in this category—Leviton’s Decora DW15P—costs about $10 more than GE’s offering, but it’s a much more polished product (though it doesn’t offer HomeKit compatibility). Our runner-up—the Currant WiFi Smart Outlet—had a sale price at press time that’s just $5 higher than GE’s device, but it delivers two smart outlets for that price. You’ll find several other well-reviewed competitors in our coverage selling for less than $20.

The difficulties I encountered with the C by GE Smart Plug, its immature app, integrating it with the two most common digital assistants, and the absence of any extra features (such as energy monitoring) tell me it’s just not ready for prime time.

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At a Glance
  • The C by GE Smart Plug failed to live up to its ease-of-use promises, and it doesn’t offer any advanced features to justify its price tag.

    Pros

    • Good enough hardware design
    • Promised support for Apple HomeKit

    Cons

    • Touted easy connections to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa didn’t pan out
    • Arcane scheduling system
    • Too expensive for what’s delivered
  
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