Wink users revolt following its sudden shift to a subscription model

If you want to see what an online firestorm looks like, just visit the Wink subreddit.

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“Lies,” “ransom,” “class action,” and “refund” were some of the more polite words being tossed around in the Wink subreddit on Thursday, following the company’s bombshell announcement that starting next week, users would have to start paying $4.95 a month to keep their Wink hubs from going dark.

“Threw my Wink where it belongs, adios,” wrote one user on the subreddit, who posted a photo of their Wink hub sitting in a toilet. “So it was a lie,” wrote another, right next to a screenshot of Wink’s original “no required monthly fees” pledge. “Seven days to pay the ransom or they kill our smart homes,” complained yet another.

The fury on display at the Wink subreddit is easy to understand. An email from Wink on Wednesday abruptly announced that starting on May 13, the smart home platform that was originally free to use once you’d purchased the $100 Wink Hub 2, would be switching to a monthly subscription model. Users who fail to pay the subscription fee will “no longer be able to access your Wink devices from the app,” and “your automations will be disabled on May 13.”

In the email, Wink characterized the move as a bid for survival. “Long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business,” the email says. “Your support will enable us to continue providing you with the functionality that you’ve come to rely on, and focus on accelerating new integrations and app features.”

While Wink’s sudden shift to a subscription model was something of a surprise, the writing has long been on the wall for the once-promising smart home platform, which hasn’t released any notable hardware or software features since the 2017 debut of the Wink Hub 2.

The Verge reported last October that i.am+, the Will.I.am-owned company that acquired Wink in 2017, was bleeding cash and hadn’t paid its employees for more than a month.

Of course, it’s not unusual for tech companies to pivot in the face of financial adversity, and when it comes to smart home platforms, users are often left in the lunch. That said, they’re generally given more than a week’s notice. And there's often a free tier that 

Smart bulb maker Osram, for example, recently announced that it’s pulling the plug on its cloud servers, but it had the good graces to give its users more than a year to migrate to a new platform.

In stark contrast, Wink users who don’t want to fork over the subscription fee (and it’s hard to blame those who refuse) have less than a week before their Wink hubs give up the ghost.

The good news is that Wink users do have plenty of alternatives, including Samsung’s SmartThings platform, the local Hubitat platform, and the open-source Home Assistant and OpenHAB platforms. Migration how-tos for each platform have been helpfully pinned to the top of the Wink subreddit.

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