Home / Smartphones / Android / Brightswitch review: This light switch plus Android smartphone adds up to a mess – TechHive

Brightswitch review: This light switch plus Android smartphone adds up to a mess – TechHive

Manufacturers are insistent that light switches and smartphones should converge, and who can blame them? Star Trek-like touchscreens in every room could turn the humble switch into a do-everything vision of the future.

Alas, like the Wink Relay before it, Brightswitch is not the product that will get us there.

The concept is straightforward. A base unit, an oversized device much like any modern dimmer switch, connects to your existing switch wiring. This base then connects through a custom connector on the front to a low-end Android device, clad entirely in white plastic, that sits on top of it. Once attached, it has the distinct appearance of a chunky smart phone that’s been glued to the wall.

Brightswitch internal and external Brightswitch

There’s a lot of Brightswitch that needs to fit inside the junction box. 

Getting to that point isn’t easy. The Brightswitch requires wall power (white wires), a ground, and connection to your load and line wiring (black wires). In a rare turn, the Brightswitch actually works with three-pole configurations, but that means even more wiring is necessary. That’s problematic because, assuming you have typical house wiring, the industrially-styled Brightswitch is designed to connect via push-in backstabs, which must be tightened down with a screw on the side.

There are two backstabs per screw (for a total of eight on the back of the base), and if your electrical box has three white wires, say, you’ll need to do some extra work; in my case, that meant trimming and stripping a piece of scrap wire and attaching it to the other three white wires with a wire nut. As is typical with most switches, a separate ground wire is also required, but this connects through an external screw. I spent a solid 10 minutes trying to wedge my ground wire into the recessed channel in which that screw is located, and another 10 getting all the other wires properly seated. My best advice: Rely heavily on needle-nose pliers.

Brightswitch’s daunting installation manual notes that you can, in theory, use the screw terminals to connect wires instead of the backstabs. I attempted this by loosening one of those screws, only to have that screw fall out into my hand. The problem: The nut to which that screw connected also fell out, but inside the sealed base mechanism. Without a nut on the other side, there was no longer anything for the screw to attach to, and no way to attach wires using either the screws or the backstabs, effectively bricking the base altogether.

Brightswitch alarm Christopher Null

Brightswitch’s security alerts leave something to be desired.

Fortunately, I had two switches to work with, and I avoided that mistake with the second one, finally wedging all this extra wiring plus the Brightswitch base back into the junction box. I was almost amazed when it powered up after turning the circuit breaker back on following a solid half hour of effort.

And then what?


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