Technology

Wink Smart Homes Are Broken Again: Why Are People Still Paying?

Josh Hendrickson

For what seems like the thousandth time, Wink smart home hubs are out of commission. The company’s servers and website went down on July 1st, and evidence suggests that Wink failed to pay its bills. So, why the hell is Wink still charging customers a monthly fee?

According to posts on the r/winkhub subreddit, the Wink servers went down on July 1st at around 1 AM GMT. Minutes later, Wink published a note on its status page stating that “the issue has been identified” and that employees are working on a fix.

The message on Wink’s status page may be automated. But the company has manually published several Twitter posts explaining that an “issue” is impacting its servers. Wink hasn’t shared any other information with customers, though it claims that local Wink Hub functionality should continue through the outage.

Why Is Wink Down?

This is a total repeat of Wink’s previous outages, including the 10-day outage that occurred on February 1st of 2021. And it seems that Wink is suffering from the same stupid problem—it failed to pay its bills.

Wink’s former parent company, called Quirky, went bankrupt in 2015 after dumping a stupid amount of money into R&D and accidentally bricking a ton of Wink Hubs. The Wink smart home brand was then acquired by Will.i.am’s company, the flatteringly-named i.am.plus. And Wink floundered. It couldn’t maintain a supply of new hubs, couldn’t bring on new investors, and began charging customers a monthly fee for cloud-based services.

The poor financial situation of Wink is a constant point of discussion for Wink users. It’s also an “open secret” among the smart home community at large. Many people believe that the 2021 outage was a result of Wink failing to pay hosting fees, and this week’s outage seems to reinforce that narrative.

Reddit user jam905 ran a basic DIG command to check the status of Wink’s servers. All of the servers’ DNS records are gone. This isn’t something that happens during an outage; it’s what happens when a hosting service hasn’t received its money.

Note that, like the 2021 incident, this week’s outage occurred on the first of the month. It’s also marked by the same lack of transparency from Will.i.am and i.am.plus, indicating that the company doesn’t really know when it can get Wink back online.

I should also mention Wink’s GlassDoor reviews, in which former employees claim that they weren’t paid for months at a time. We cannot verify whether these reviews are true, though.

Customers Are Still Paying for Wink

a pile of credit cards
Theethawat Bootmata/Shutterstock.com

It appears that Wink isn’t paying the bills. But customers are still being charged for their monthly Wink subscription, which costs $5 a month. And until Wink gets back online, you can’t do anything to cancel this service.

Once again, I’m referring to the r/winkhub subreddit. Several users in this community claim that they were charged by Wink despite this ongoing outage. Canceling Wink requires visiting the company’s website, which is currently impossible.

Those who want to cancel Wink today need to do so through their bank. Just bear in mind that most banks will replace your debit or credit card when you call in a fraudulent charge. But hey, replacing your card might be easier than badgering Wink for a refund.

In the future, I suggest using the Privacy service for subscriptions. It generates unique card numbers for subscription services, allowing you to quickly see what you’re paying for and cancel at any time.

It’s Time to Give Up on Wink

The Hubitat hub on a kitchen counter.

We’ve said this since 2019; you should ditch Wink. The company offers a valuable and effective service, but its products are outdated. And unless Wink gets acquired by a more effective owner, it may never recover from its many years of stagnation.

Now’s the time to migrate your smart home. That may mean buying a Hubitat or SmartThings hub or succumbing to the much more straightforward (but less flexible) world of Google Assistant, Alexa, and HomeKit.

Since you’re used to using Wink, I strongly suggest going with Hubitat. It’s a popular option among former Wink users, it works with your Z-Wave and ZigBee products, its subscriptions are totally optional, and it allows you to set up a private, secure, local smart home.

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