Alexa turns invisible in new iDevices light switch

08/05/2021

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The iDevices Instinct Switch, first seen back in January of 2018.

Chris Monroe/CNET

iDevices is a Connecticut-based smart home company best known for making Wi-Fi-connected light switches. The newest of these, the iDevices Instinct, features an invisible, built-in Alexa speaker, complete with a tiny microphone array that lets you ask anything of Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant right from your wall.

Available starting today — nineteen months after the initial product announcement at CES 2018 — the Instinct costs $100 a piece.

That’s about twice as much as competing smart switches from names that include GE and WeMo. With the market for smart lighting continuing to trend towards less expensive options like those, the window to sell a smart switch at such a steep premium is probably as narrow as it’s ever been.  

That makes the Instinct something of a high-stakes gamble for iDevices as the company’s first major product release since it was acquired by the multi-billion dollar lighting manufacturer Hubbell in 2017.

Flipping the switch

iDevices is banking on the built-in Alexa speaker to serve as the difference maker.

iDevices founder and can ho vung tau president Christopher Allen notes that the $100 price tag reflects the cost of the combined benefits of a smart switch and smart speaker, along with the convenience of decluttering your countertop or nightstand by eliminating the need for small smart speakers.

“There are things that will be enabled through voice that we are only just beginning to understand,” adds Meghan Petchel, dat nen ba ria an iDevices spokesperson.

“We’re lucky that we do have that backing with Hubbell and the manufacturing expertise, that we can ho vung tau aria make those kind of things happen.”

But then there’s Ecobee, a smart thermostat manufacturer that’s had an Alexa smart switch of its own on the market for over a year. With its own built-in speaker and sensors for motion, temperature and ambient light, it’s similar to the Instinct, and you can already find it discounted to less than $50 at multiple retailers.

When asked about Ecobee, Allen was quick to puff up his chest against a potential rival.

“This is our focus,” Allen says.

“Ecobee is really a thermostat company that got into switches. Switches are what we own.”

As for recent, budget-oriented smart home startups like Wyze, which sells a well-reviewed $8 smart bulb, Allen is dismissive, and predicts that many of them won’t make it in the long run.

“I have no desire to chase anybody to the bottom, down the toilet bowl,” he tells me. “Making a dollar a unit and then trying to support that unit for the next eight to 10 years that it sits in someone’s house is a very expensive proposition.”

Allen’s free-speaking style actually forced iDevices to change its plans at the eleventh hour and launch the Instinct three days earlier than expected.

A consumer named Grant Ritzwoller, interested in outfitting his home with Instincts, began reaching out directly to Allen over the summer to inquire about the product’s availability. This week, Allen sent Ritzwoller the following email:

“Instinct launches Monday and you will be able to purchase it Monday!