However much you may try and stick with a single brand for all your connected gadgets, you probably haven’t succeeded. Whether it’s Amazon, Nest, Philips or Ikea, the average tech lover has a mixed bag of connectivity and controlling it all is painful, with each brand often needing its own app.
The Homey is a solution to this – available from Amazon for £69, this is a single “bridge” device that can connect to a huge range of smart home devices and control them from a single location. But how useful is it?
Homey Bridge: Unboxing
The Homey comes in an attractive black box, with a glossy image of the hub on the top. Lift off the top half and you’re presented with a slim quick-start guide and the Homey itself. Lift the hub out and you’ll find a USB cable and mains adapter.
The USB cable is USB-A to Micro-USB (yes, Homey is still using Micro-USB), which is used for power. That will plug into the provided UK mains adapter, which is one of the smallest I’ve seen. The Homey only has a 1A input, so it’s no wonder that such a small plug is possible.
All of this sits snugly inside a plastic blister, with the Homey covered top and bottom in plastic (why there’s even a need to protect the bottom, which is just a soft, foam base, I have no idea). Both a plastic cable tie and shrink wrap on the cable add to the unnecessary plastic here.
Homey Bridge: The hub
The Homey is 125mm wide and 34mm high – much bigger than I expected from the images that I’d seen. The company recommends keeping it away from other items, and not standing anything on top, which means this needs a good bit of space. There are no options to mount it, otherwise you could imagine it fitting snugly underneath a shelf.
It has a silver-effect side and a glossy black lid, all made of plastic. The bottom is a slim, foam pad, ensuring it doesn’t cause any damage on surfaces. During my testing, it didn’t appear to get warm, so I think it’s safe to be placed on most furniture. That glossy top is going to attract dust, though.
Connect the USB power and you get a multi-coloured ring of light around the bottom. I have no idea if this is supposed to signify anything and I didn’t see any evidence of that – it’s the kind of flashy, RGB effect that gaming devices often have, which seems an odd fit here. There’s no option to dim the bright light, only to turn it off. As there is no other light on the device, that leaves you without any indication of power.
Device status is also transmitted via the app – you’ll get notifications if the Homey goes offline, for example, which is useful.
Homey Bridge: The app
The only way to interface with the Homey Bridge is via the free mobile app, which is available on Android and iOS. This enables you to add and configure your bridge along with any of the home devices that you wish to connect to it. Once a device is added you can quickly toggle its power by clicking on it, but a long press will show any further configuration.
You can create automations using a “flow”. Essentially you create rules with actions – e.g. closing a blind if the temperature goes above a certain value. These can be made more complex by the premium options (see the next section of the review), which adds extended logic, including user defined variables.
Indeed, I mentioned the Homey’s LED ring earlier and, because it’s seen as a device (see screenshot above), you can perform actions on this too. In this case, I set up a Flow so that at, night, the LED turned off and then back on in the morning.
Another tab in the app is named “Energy” and allows you to see the energy consumption of your connected devices. Homey says, in my case, that these are just approximates and, even then, I was only seeing values from my Hue lights, with everything else giving no value at all. I’m not sure if other devices give me more specific energy information, but I certainly expect this is going be down to individual devices and whether they provide this to third-party connections.
Homey Bridge: Premium options
Out-of-the-box Homey only supports five devices. For a monthly subscription you get the following additional options:
- Unlimited devices
- Logic abilities for the flows
- Access to the sensor data that your devices have (such as temperature, power usage, humidity, etc.)
Frankly, the Premium option is almost a requirement. If you have five or fewer devices to add to Homey, you’re unlikely to have needed one in the first place.
You can get a month of premium for free from the app but, a short while after registering with Homey, I received an email offering three months for free. You will need to hand over your card details first, though.
And how much does it cost? Well, there’s some confusion as the website tells you it’s £2.99 per month, but when I try and subscribe through the iOS app, it tells me it’s £2.49 per month. I’m assuming the cheaper price is correct but it’s a concerning lack of clarity.
So, aside from unlimited devices, what does the premium option give you? Logic and variables are really useful and extend the Flows considerably. Homey Insights refers to providing “beautiful charts” which are accessed via a browser, rather than in the app. Oddly, the mobile interface is much more basic than the desktop version. Some screenshots here can help you compare. The first two are the mobile menu and resulting graph for my thermostat data, and the one after is the desktop interface:
For some reason, most of the premium features are hidden away in one of the app menus, even after you subscribe to them.
Homey Bridge: In use
That’s enough about how it works and what it looks like – what is the device like in use?
My home consists of devices from several providers: Apple, Google Nest, Govee, Eve, Philips Hue, Roku, acerpure, amongst others. Unfortunately, only my Philips Hue (bulbs and switches) and Google Nest devices are compatible and the feature-set for each is variable – my Nest Hub doesn’t appear and my Nest cameras, although shown, have no functionality. Only my thermostat, of all the Nest devices, had controls available. Which means I’m left with my Nest Thermostat and Philips Hue devices (bulbs and switches).
I did find apps for my Stream Deck and for my Starling Bridge, but these are only compatible with Homey Pro (a £399 model). But my use case is not ideal and is probably a warning to anybody considering buying one – do your research first! Check the list of compatible devices and what features they give you.
Homey can also be connected to your virtual assistants: Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri. And I say Siri rather than Apple Home because, sorry, it won’t add them there. You can control Homey devices using Siri voice but that’s it for Apple fans. Nevertheless, if all you want to ask Siri to adjust your Nest Thermostat, something that you can’t ordinarily do, then even this is a great addition. I tried it with Google Assistant too and it worked just fine, providing access to all the devices the Homey bridge knew about.
My lack of compatible devices aside, everything just worked. Devices were added without hassle and having everything in one place was great, with the layout being simple and clear. I also like the fact that the Homey doesn’t rely on status lights on a device that 99% of the time you’ll be nowhere near, but instead sends notifications directly to your phone.
Homey Bridge review
Great at bringing together all of your disparate connected devices, through one hub, into one powerful application. With the ability to create logic-based actions and add extra features, it’s more like a fully connected IFTTT then your bog-standard bridge device.
- A great way to bring together smart home devices and control them from a central place
- The flows, particularly when paired with the premium logic features, lets you create powerful automation rules
- Subscription is near mandatory and bites hard. Don’t consider the Homey unless you’ve factored in this ongoing cost
- Bright multi-coloured LED ring is annoyingly bright, with only an option to turn it off entirely