Although Apple’s HomeKit home automation framework is supposed to make it easier for people to control their homes from an iOS device with a tap of a button or a chat with Siri, the reality is that it can still be difficult for many people to use. Fibaro’s The Button ($59.99) is a HomeKit enabled multi-controller that is simply a big (1.81 inches / 4.6 cm diameter) button that can perform home automation functions when pushed.
UPDATE: Apple is now selling The Button online and in Apple Stores. Click here to see the details.
The design of The Button is brilliant — form definitely follows function. Even infants know how to push buttons and realize that something will happen as a result. The Button comes in red, white and black (the Z-Wave version comes in many more colors), and is battery powered so there are no cables running to it.
The Button can be placed anywhere, or if you would rather have it stay in one place it comes with a self-adhesive ring that can be used to stick it to a surface.
Setting up The Button is easy; there’s an iPhone app (yes, yet another iPhone app for HomeKit…) that’s required to set up the device. To activate the 3.6V 1/2 AA battery that’s inside The Button, you simply push down on the top of the unit and twist it counterclockwise, then remove a paper strip. Closing the device is done by placing the top back on and twisting it clockwise.
Like most other HomeKit accessories, The Button is added to a home through a simple process of scanning a bar code, then assigned to a room. It can be assigned a name like “Tree light button” or just take the standard name “the button”.
The device actually has two services — “Stateless programmable switch” and “Battery Service”. The first is used to do something when The Button is pushed, the second can be used to query the device for its battery level.
Next, The Button is set up with functions. For a simple pushbutton, The Button can be set up to respond to a single click, a double click, or a press and hold.
The automation that takes place with the push can be quite complex, responding to what conditions are in place — these include the time of day, the presence of users, and the state of devices and sensors. I chose to just use The Button for a simple test — turning a set of lights connected to a smart outlet on with a single click, turning them off with a double click.
One thing I found is that The Button seems to be a bit picky about how long a button push is — you really need to make it a quick push or it thinks you’re doing a “push and hold”. The automation works as advertised, and I can see how more complex automations could be put together to run with a simple click.
The Button can also be set up from Apple’s Home app, and for most people that may be the best solution. The logic used in setup from the Fibaro app might be a bit too complex for many people.
The Button is a useful HomeKit accessory that makes it possible to run complex HomeKit scenes with a single click or two of the physical button. It’s a bit pricy — $60 is really quite high for something that’s just replacing a tap on the iPhone or a quick chat with Siri. Make it more like $25 to $30 in price and I think it would be a more worthwhile HomeKit product.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★
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