Released around this time last year, the Sylvania (also known as LEDVANCE, and Osram) Smart+ HomeKit Smart Plug has seemingly flown under the radar when compared to plugs from other brands such as Belkin or Eve. While I am not quite sure why this is the case, I must admit, that when looking for a new plug a few months ago, Sylvania’s plug didn’t immediately come to mind. Even with the plug dropping price ($24) during the holiday shopping season, it for some reason wasn’t my first choice. As luck would have it, I actually received this plug as a gift over the afforementioned holiday season, and it has been in use connected to a “dumb” air purifier ever since. How does the plug compare to the other more prominent HomeKit brands? Let’s dive in.
The Sylvania Smart+ HomeKit Plug arrived in a surprisingly small package, as images of the device make it look bulky when compared to others on the market. The packaging was well designed, and features some nice touches such as a cover which attaches magnetically, and it sports an orange fabric pull tab to aid in opening the box. I usually do not write or think much about packaging, but this was a nice unboxing experience, which is neat to see on a device that can be had for a “lower end” price when on sale. Of course, inside the box was the plug itself resting in the center, and the associated manuals and pamphlet for the Smart+ line. Design-wise, the Smart+ Plug takes a different approach as it uses a vertical form factor, which certainly makes it unique, but also brings about the first downside to the device as it can potentially block an outlet on your receptacle. I say potentially, because when installed in the top receptacle on an outlet, it can be used with smaller plugs on other devices, however, it obviously blocks the top outlet when installed on the bottom receptacle. The front of the device features a circular on/off button, which houses the status LED indicator light, which is somewhat subtle, but still can be annoying in a dark room. The front of the plug “tapers” towards the edges, making it look slightly slimmer then it really is, and it of course has the Sylvania Smart+ branding in the center. The rest of the device is pretty straight-forward, with the back housing all of the regulatory information, and each side having a sticker for serial number and the HomeKit code.
For most of my reviews, I typically pair the device via the iOS Home App if possible, and then download the manufacturers app to see what additional functionality can be found. Naturally, with the Smart+ Plug being bluetooth based, I was able to start the pairing process as normal, and after adding it to the Home App, I was ready to go. Now it was on to the Sylvania Smart Home App, which is where things took an unexpected turn. For the Smart+ line of products, Sylvania has opted to take a hands-off approach if you will, where the company’s app is only intended to be used for firmware updates. After granting Home access to the app, it displays a list of all of the HomeKit devices in your home, but it does not provide any operability with them, it merely displays a list of the devices. This also rings true for the company’s own devices, where the only action that can be taken is when a firmware update is available, which makes the icon for the device white on the devices list and can be tapped on to see that an update is available. When I first got the plug there was not an update available, and just assumed that they were never going to be issued as the app had not been updated in months, so I deleted it as it was pretty much useless. When re-downloading the app for this review, I was surprised to see that an update was available, but there were no notes on what it fixed, changed, or added to the plug. The update process was pretty fast, with it taking around 2-3 minutes, but I have not seen a difference at all when it comes to speed and reliability.
As previously mentioned, the Smart+ Plug uses bluetooth for connectivity, which means that it does not require an additional hub to use out of the box. Of course, you will need an iPad, HomePod or an Apple TV to use it outside of the home, which I assume everyone that is interested in HomeKit already has. While I tend to prefer bluetooth devices due to their “local” nature, they do tend to come with some drawbacks. As one would expect, bluetooth devices do require some thought when it comes to placement in the home as they do not have the same wireless range when compared to Wi-Fi. In my case, this was not an issue at all, as my device was well within range of my home hub, which is a HomePod, and I have yet to see the device report back “No Response”, but your mileage may vary. The other drawback to bluetooth devices is their speed in which they respond to actions. The Sylvania Smart+ Plug is no exception to this limitation, as I have seen times where the plug takes upwards of 3-5 seconds to toggle on or off after a command is sent. This is in contrast with Wi-Fi plugs that I have tried, such as the iHome iSP5/6, the Vocolinc PM3, and the Belkin Wemo Mini, which all responded almost instantly. For me, this is not a deal breaker, and is pretty much the same speed that I see from my Eve Energy plug (also bluetooth), but it is something to keep in mind if speed is important.
After having the Smart+ Plug in my home for a few months now, I really do not know why it wasn’t on my list of plugs to try out earlier on. Sylvania’s device is reliable, satisfies my privacy concerns with it being bluetooth based, and can be found near the bottom of the HomeKit plug pricing spectrum as it is frequently on sale (retail price is $34.99). While the pricing does mean that things such as an actual functional app (outside of firmware updates) and communication from the company may be sparse, it still is easy to recommend as it is extremely easy to pair and to get up and running right out of the box. I look forward to trying some of the company’s other “sleeper” devices, such as their lightstrip or color light bulbs in the near future, and I hope to see the company expand their HomeKit line to match their ZigBee offerings, as they have some truly unique products.