Enjoy smart home features without breaking the bank.

Even before the 2008 Iron Man movie showcased Tony Starks’ home and J.A.R.V.I.S, I imagined/longed for more control of my home. Over time, I have upgraded my thermostats to Vivint Element thermostats, many of my lights/light switches, and I have added several plug-in style smart outlets. I have become accustomed to the ability to wirelessly turn on/off my devices and I was quite excited to use the modular SWIDGET smart outlet. The SWiDGET customizable 15A outlet arrived in an attractive 3 1/2 inches wide by 5 inches tall by 2 1/2 inches thick retail package.  The company name, in bold black font, was clearly displayed along the top of the cover panel.  Beneath the SWiDGET name, you will find a high-quality image of the outlet.  More than a simple outlet, the SWiDGET provides a centralized removable/customizable insert between the two Type-B wall outlets.  I enjoyed the cover imagery and appreciated the overall packaging design.  Instead of overwhelming the consumer with verbiage, I feel that they provided a concise clear picture of their product.  The bottom edge of the cover provided an eye-catching, colorful, interlocking, U-shaped design element.  Rotating the packaging ninety-degrees counterclockwise, the red-colored side panel listed the product features (Easy to install, Uses Existing Wiring, Clutter-Free, Future Proof) and the contents of the package (SWiDGET Outlet, Blank insert, 2 wire nuts, wall plate, and instruction manual.  The opposite side panel provided a QR code that linked to the company website.  When you access the site, you can purchase Alexa supported Wi-Fi inserts, Download the Free App, Connect your SWiDGET Device, Control your smart home and Monitor your power.  The rear panel displayed a 1 7/16 inches wide by 2 7/16 inches tall image of the outlet and the features of the device: Always On, Power Monitor, Easy Install using existing wiring, Tamper-Resistant, Low Voltage Interface, Power Monitor, and On-Off Control. The bottom panel provided the typical trademark, and legalese information provided on most packages. 

Within the packaging, I found the wall outlet, two wire nuts, faceplate and instruction manual.  Prior to installing the device, I plugged a receptacle tester into the outlet, disabled the power at the circuit breaker, and then confirmed the lack of current with a Klein Dual Range Tester.  I removed the faceplate, outlet and found that the outlet box was a short box.  Since this outlet was added to a known circuit, I knew for certain that it was a single gang electrical wall box and that it was a terminal outlet.  This point proved to be important because the “smart” features of the outlet relied upon the fact that the outlet must be installed into a single branch circuit.  When you install a typical outlet, you bend the wire into a hook and tighten the wires with the screws to make contact.  The Swidget device came with pre-stripped, black/white wires.  Line up the appropriate colors, attach the wing nut, add appropriate electrical tape, and then add the ground wire.  The instruction manual recommended to start with the black, hot wire, and then to subsequently connect the neutral (white) wire, and then the ground to the green screw.  When completed, I mounted the device to the wall box with the provided screws, then attached the wall plate to the outlet.  Installation proved to be quite easy, but the outlet was a little longer than the junction box.  With installation complete, I restored power at the breaker. 

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Once I had the device installed, I navigated to the iOS App Store and downloaded the SWiDGET App and chose “Sign up” along the bottom.   I entered my first name, last name, email, password and created the account.  The subsequent screen requested that I enter my electricity rates ($ 0.119kwh) to correctly determine cost consumption. I confirmed the email and then followed the in App prompts to finish the setup process. The main panel of the App displayed the “SWiDGET Library.”  From that panel I was able to select the + icon, to plug in an insert, to link to the WiFi network of the device, and ultimately to my home WiFi network.  You will need to hold the small button along the top left of the insert until it turns blue.  You can then navigate to Settings, Wi-Fi and select the Swidget_**** name from the available WiFi networks.  Enter this information into the Swidget Application and theoretically you should be able to start using the app.  However, my iPhone 11 Pro Max would not run the App and the app would repeatedly crash back to my home screen.  I tried deleting the App, reinstalling the app, I power cycled my iPhone, and I soft reset my iPhone.  None of these options allowed me to use the App on my iPhone 11 Pro Max.  I downloaded the App onto my iPad Pro 11” and it worked okay.  I was able to set up notifications to alert me to power on/off, connection issues and over-limit consumption notification.  Since the device could be installed with the ground port facing up or down, the App allowed you to orient the plug to the way it was installed. If you purchase one of the various inserts, you can add them to your library and install them at your convenience.  This is the feature that separates this outlet from many of the others on the market.  

Each of the inserts that I received came in a quaint 3 inches long by 2 inches wide by 7/8 inches tall box. At a base price of $39.99 the base device felt a little expensive, compared to standard outlets.  However, the ability to add the 1 1/4 inches wide by 1 3/8 inches long by 5/8 inches thick inserts created the customizable experience.  Many of the inserts cost approximately $30, but some of them run greater than the price of the base unit.  Essentially, you will pay for the technology and the functionality that you desire.  This experience felt a lot like the several toy-to-life video games that have been on the market (Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions, etc).  Similar to the characters in those games, you can snap in your desired controller to add functionality to your outlet.  You can plug in the Wi-FI controller to gain wireless control over the outlet, you can add the Wi-FI Control+Power Out Light to further add an emergency light or perhaps add the USB-A output insert to gain the ability to charge one of your devices via USB power.  The system supports network integration for Amazon Alexa, and Google Home Assistant, but will not work with Apple HomeKit.  Despite the potential for customization, I was disappointed to find that only one of the two outlets gained the “smart” functionality.  Ultimately, this limited the other outlet to traditional “dumb” outlet status.  

With the variety of options available, you can specialize the experience to your unique needs.  When you open the app, you will see a list of the outlet, location and installed insert.  If you tap the “+” icon at the top right of your screen, you can add new inserts by following the prompts.  From the main “Swidget Library” screen, tap the desired outlet to navigate to a secondary screen.  From that screen, you can see both of the outlets, you can reorient the outlet position, you can recalibrate the outlet, and you can control the on/off status of the “controlled” outlet.  Through this panel, you can also learn more about the controlled outlet, create schedules, notifications, and alerts.  The ability to add new inserts provides a future-proofed option for homeowners. As our tech moves to USB-C, simply pop out the USB-A insert and add the USB-C insert back into its place.

Overall, the experience was positive but I was disappointed that the App did not work on my iPhone 11 Pro max.  The ability to change device inserts to match your needs makes the SWIDGET an invaluable asset to any smart home.  This build did require some basic knowledge of home electrical systems and had the potential for catastrophic fire and loss of life. Basically, turn off the power at the source, and make sure it is off prior to messing with the power/outlet.  I loved that one could still gain functionality, even if you were not able to use the App/wireless connectivity.  For example, the power-out light could provide an hour of light when disconnected from power.  In an emergency, this feature alone could be worth the price of the outlet.  While perusing the outlet eye at the local Lowes store, I found that It may be cheaper to replace a standard outlet with a USB-style outlet or a nightlight option. However, the ability to change the outlet insert made this option quite viable. If electrical work is not your forte, you may consider several of the plug-in style smart outlet assistants that are already on the market.  Despite reviewing several brands, I still think my favorite device is the one made by ConnectSense (interview CES and review of the Smart Outlet 2.  

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