Executive Editor, TechHiveJul 21, 2021 6:00 am PDT
Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the smart home world will be familiar with the Insteon brand. Insteon’s parent company, Smartlabs, just launched the Nokia Smart Lighting product line that uses Insteon as its foundation.
Like Insteon, Nokia Smart Lighting devices operate on a dual mesh network that uses both your home’s electrical wiring and—to provide redundancy—a proprietary long-range wireless network (using unlicensed spectrum in the sub-gigahertz range, similar to Z-Wave). This gives the wireless network longer range.
Unlike Insteon, there initially won’t be a large and disparate collection of smart-home products in the lineup. At launch, there will be just in-wall switches, dimmers, duplex outlets, and a bridge that connects the system to your home network. Insteon products will live on as a separate line.
I discussed the Nokia Smart Lighting with lineup Smartlabs chairman and CEO Rob Lilleness in a phone briefing earlier this week, during which he emphasized the simple design aesthetic that Nokia brought to the collaboration. None of the devices have extraneous LEDs or multi-function buttons, for example. The switch is a simple paddle, the dimmer is a rotating knob, and the outlet looks just like any other duplex receptacle.
The lone exception is the keypad, which has four buttons that can be custom programmed with different brightness levels for a single light, or to control up to four other Nokia lighting controls. This last product is similar to the Leviton Decora 4-Button Controller that works with compatible Leviton Smart Wi-Fi lighting controls; except that for an extra fee, you can order your Nokia keypad with custom engraving. Each device in the Nokia Smart Lighting lineup features a matte finish, and screwless wall plates are available in 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-gang versions.
Lilleness said the Nokia products are designed to be as simple to use as possible, with little to no user learning curve. They can be operated with a simple touch, with a smartphone or tablet, or when paired with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Apple HomeKit support is in the works, but won’t be available at launch.
The simplicity of the Nokia line extends to the installation process as well, with a wizard inside the app asking the user to identify the type of load the Nokia device is connected to: incandescent, LED, halogen, fluorescent, or non-lighting fixture. The wizard also asks the user whether or not the light is dimmable; if it is, the app then helps the user determine if the dimming levels need to be adjusted to prevent flickering, as can often happern with dimmed LED bulbs.
Unlike some of the newer smart switches from GE Lighting and Jasco, the new Nokia switches require the presence of a neutral wire in the box where they’re being installed. They can operate in single-pole installations, where a connected load is controlled by a single switch, or on 3-way circuits where more than one switch controls the load.
Also, you’ll need to buy a second Nokia switch for the other location, versus a simpler and less-expensive companion device. Leviton’s Z-Wave dimmer (model DZ6HD-1BZ), for example, costs about $50 on Amazon, but the companion dimmer (model DD00R-DLZ) that you’ll need for a multi-location installation costs about half that much.
Smartlabs says its Nokia Smart Lighting Dial (dimmer switch) Paddle (on/off switch), and Outlet (dupex receptacle) will cost $54.99 each, while the four-button Keypad will go for $59.99. Custom engraving for that last item will cost $19.99. Single-gang screwless wall plates for switches and dimmers are priced at $3.99 each; 2-, 3-, and 4-gang wall plates will cost $4.99, $5.99, and $6.99 respectively.
Everything can be preordered at nokia.smartlabsinc.com. We expect to have samples that we can review in the coming weeks.
Updated shortly after publication to correct our reporting on device setup and to add information that became available after the news embargo lifted.
Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.