from the nickel-and-dime dept
Time and time again we’ve highlighted how in the modern era you don’t really own the hardware you buy. In the broadband connected era, firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony Playstation 3. And with everything now relying on internet connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv.
And with the world shifting toward a “service as a subscription” model for everything, the products you buy can also suddenly cost you far more than the original value proposition suggested. Users who spent money to outfit their home with hardware from Wink learned this the hard way, when the company suddenly announced users would need to start paying a $5 per month subscription fee if they wanted the company’s “smart” home products to keep working.
According to a company blog post, users who don’t pay the fee will “no longer be able to access your Wink devices from the app, with voice control or through the API,” and all automations will be disabled on May 13. The blog post also attempts to explain that because the company doesn’t rampantly monetize your personal data (something it’s routinely hard for consumers to verify), the fee is necessary to keep the lights on:
“Wink has taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub?s blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business. Unlike companies that sell user data to offset costs associated with offering free services, we do not. Data privacy is one of Wink?s core values, and we believe that user data should never be sold for marketing or any purpose.”
Granted until late last week, “mo monthly fees” was part of the company’s marketing pitch:
Users who spent significant money on the Wink smart home platform under the promise of “no monthly fees” were given just seven days to decide if they wanted to pay the subscription, or deal with the headache of finding an entirely new smart home platform (during a pandemic, no less). Given they’re not seeing refunds in the face of this head fake, many aren’t particularly amused or impressed:
I assume you'll be offering full refunds to consumers who don't agree to pay this new fee? https://t.co/04jFSL8Huu
— Justin Brookman (@JustinBrookman) May 7, 2020
Reports had suggested that the company had been having trouble paying its employees since last fall. Given the added economic strain from the pandemic, it’s possible that the company might not be operational down the road, meaning users will get bilked first by added fees, then potentially lose functionality anyway should the company fall apart completely. It’s yet another shining example of how dumber technology often remains the smarter option in a world where your IOT product value equation and functionality can pivot on a dime, often for the worse.