We love Wink’s smarthome hub and have recommended it highly in the past. But the Wink Hub has been “temporarily unavailable” in stores for over five months now, and Wink won’t say why. What’s going on? Is Wink done for?
A Brief History of the Wink’s Many Owners
Wink has been around for years now and was formerly the product of a company named Quirky. Quirky began life as a startup company in 2009 with several, well, quirky but useful sounding ideas. They announced a mirror that eliminates shower steam fog, a set of wheels designed to turn any object into a remote-controlled car, and more. In 2014, Quirky partnered with GE to create a new company named Wink to focus on internet-connected devices.
Unfortunately, Quirky itself didn’t do well; it spent a lot on development with little return, and then Wink suffered a significant setback. Every Wink owner came home to find a hub “so secure that it is unable to connect to the Wink servers” (those were Wink’s words). The problem centered on an expired certificate, and unfortunately, solving it required a recall of many hubs. Between the cost of the recall and other financial difficulties, Quirky went bankrupt in 2015 and the Wink assets sold to Flextronics (now called Flex), which had been the leading supplier for Wink’s hardware and firmware. Flextronics, in turn, sold Wink to i.am+ in mid-2017, where the company remains to this day. If you’re not familiar with i.am+, it’s a company owned by will.i.am, with a focus on wearable technology. Quirky did come back to life but remains separate from Wink.
Wink Development Has Slowed to a Crawl
Smarthome hubs live and die by their product integrations. If a smarthome hub doesn’t work with as many smart devices as possible, then users will abandon it for a competitor that does support their gadgets. So it’s disconcerting that Wink last announced new product integrations in September 2017.
In any tech industry, let alone the smarthome sector, that’s an enormous amount of time without iteration. To illustrate that fact, the very next announcement from Wink was support for Cortana, complete with pictures of Windows Phones and mentions of the Harmon Invoke Cortana speaker. In the last four months, all of Wink’s blog post updates described firmware updates designed to fix issues. The last new feature, which realistically is an enhancement of Lookout, came over a year ago. But worse than lack of updates and features, it’s almost impossible to buy a Wink Hub now.
Wink’s Supply is Nonexistent
Wink’s online store has been entirely out of stock since at least November 2018, which isn’t a good sign. Any attempt to add a Wink product to the cart at its website led to “temporarily unavailable” errors. This is true for many of the third-party products on the Wink website as well, like lightbulbs and smart plugs. Even Amazon.com and Home Depot had little, if any, Wink products available.
We reached out to Wink about this back in November 2018. Wink said the problem was only temporary, and that it was working on restocking its online store soon: