Not sure how to start your smart home? This $30 smart switch is a great first step

Switchbot Bot being placed below a dumb switch
(Image credit: SwitchBot)

Most people can see the benefit of owning a smart home, but there’s a pretty glaring issue; they’re very complex to set up.

I’m not even talking about understanding Matter or Zigbee, nor making the plethora of applications work in tandem, or choosing which smart home ecosystem you want to use. In reality, your dream smart home probably isn’t a reality, because it’s just too much hassle to install devices.

Smart ideas

This is the first in a regular series of articles exploring smart tech that exists to make your life easier. Read them all here.

Whether you’re a renter, a homeowner on a budget, or even just not a fan of DIY, the idea of ripping out your locks, lights, and switches and smartening your home is daunting at the best of times. As a renter myself, it’s an all-too-familiar conundrum; I’m a smart home evangelist who is contractually limited as to what renovations I can make.

However, devices like the SwitchBot Bot are primed to defeat smart home woes. How? It’s simple - by making devices that are a little less smart.

If the shoe retrofits

Generally speaking, installing a smart switch involves several steps:

  1. Testing the voltage and wiring throughout your home
  2. Removing your current light switches
  3. Ensuring your new smart switches are compatible
  4. Installing and testing your smart switch
  5. Connect your switch to your internet and smart home ecosystem

The SwitchBot Bot, on the other hand, is a simple thing; a small white cube that sticks to your existing light switch - meaning you only need to complete steps four and five. 

To turn the switch on or off, the SwitchBot Bot reaches out its adorable little pokey arm and simply presses down the switch at your behest. It’s magnificently simple, effective and somehow triggers my maternal instincts, but let’s not spend too much time unpacking that.

Switchbot Bot controlling a dumb switch

(Image credit: Switchbot)

In truth, the SwitchBot Bot isn’t really a smart switch - it’s a smart button pusher. However, the fact that it allows you to retrofit your existing installations is pretty neat. 

Plus, it can be used for so much more than just light switches - everything from your coffee machine to your PC can be controlled by the SwitchBot, provided it has enough traction for its arm to outstretch. 

It's also super-cheap - you can pick up the SwitchBot Bot at Amazon US for $30 and at Amazon UK for £30.

Clunky, yet funky

Of course, there’s a non-monetary cost to these affordable switches and SwitchBot’s wider range of products; they’re not quite as sophisticated-looking as some smart home devices. 

It’s certainly something I struggled with when testing the SwitchBot Lock, which works by rotating your existing lock’s thumb turn or key to operate the door, and which uses a stick-on magnet to detect when it’s been left ajar. As fantastic as this is as a much-needed alternative to installing a complex lock - or paying someone else to do so - it’s very bulky and sticks on with adhesive pads.

Similarly, the app is nowhere near as sophisticated as those from other smart home device providers, offering a far more pared-back user experience with fewer features. It’s not the end of the world, but it certainly doesn’t give you the full smart home experience.

Still, SwitchBot’s whole range of products is pretty impressive, consisting of innovative mid-way solutions for those of us not quite ready or able to fully renovate our homes with the best smart devices

Smart home technology is certainly in its gangly teenager stage, waiting to figure out exactly what it wants to be and how it gets there. Conversations around generative AI and Matter muddy the waters somewhat, and devices are improving so rapidly that it feels almost redundant to invest in anything too permanent right now.

Until I’ve got a place of my own to refit and smart home technology finally consolidates fully, I think I’ll be sticking with my trusty SwitchBot devices. For now, at least, I’m quite content with the raw, unadulterated joy I feel every time the SwitchBot Bot’s cute little arm boops switches.

Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.