Tech Guide

With this $25 gadget, Amazon will finally get you to stop scoffing at the idea of a 'smart home'

Key Points
  • Amazon's smart plug can help you control lights and other appliances with your voice or from your phone.
  • The Amazon smart plug is very easy to set up and doesn't require a hub or complicated configurations.
  • All you need to do is plug it in and open the Alexa app.
Dave Limp, Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices, introduces the 'smart plug' during an event at the Amazon Spheres, on September 20, 2018 in Seattle Washington.
Stephen Brashear | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Earlier this year, Amazon launched a $25 smart plug that lets you control any outlet in your home by voice with an Amazon Echo. That means you can control any lamp, appliance or anything else that plugs into an outlet by speaking a phrase to Alexa like "turn on the living room lamp," without having to find a switch. It even lets you add other smarts, like a schedule so the light turns on and off at certain times.

It's a really easy way to turn a "dumb" home into a smart one that you can control with your phone or by voice. You don't need to fiddle with complicated hubs or spend too much time trying to get something to connect to your WiFi network.

If you can plug in a lamp, you can get the smart plug working. I'm going to show you how to get the most out of it.

This is the smart plug

Amazon smart plug

It's very simple. Think of it as a sort of adapter that adds the brains to anything you want to plug into an outlet. It will let you schedule an appliance to turn on and off at a certain time, enable you to turn it on or off even when you're away from home and let you activate it by speaking to Alexa.

All you need to do is take the smart plug, plug in the appliance to one end —it makes the most sense with a lamp because it's a simple on/off appliance, but you can use anything from a humidifier to a fan — and then plug it into the wall.

How to connect the Amazon smart plug to an Echo

Amazon smart plug setup

Once you've plugged it into the wall you'll see a blinking blue light the plug. That means it's time to get the smart plug to talk to your Amazon Echo. This enables all of the smart features I talked about above. Here's how to connect it:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • You should see a white box on the home screen that says "Your Smart Plug is ready to use."
  • Tap "Turn on."
  • Now you'll see a screen that shows the plug is on.
Amazon smart plug setup

If for some reason you didn't see the white box that said the plug is ready to use, you can follow the steps below. Don't worry, it won't take long either:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the devices tab in the far-right bottom corner.
  • Tap the + button on the top-right of the page.
  • Tap "Add Device."
  • Choose "Plug."
  • Select "Amazon" as the brand.
  • Follow the steps to add it. You can find the 2D barcode it asks for on the back of the pamphlet that came with the plug.

Now the plug is recognized by the Alexa app. That means you're finished with set up. I told you it was easy!

How to control the Amazon smart plug with your phone:

Amazon smart plug

There are two ways to control the Amazon smart plug. You can ask Alexa to turn the appliance on or off, or you can do it right from the Alexa app on your iPhone, Android phone or Amazon Fire tablet.

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the devices tab on the bottom-right.
  • Choose "Plugs" on the top of the page.
  • Choose the smart plug.
  • Tap the big plug icon in the middle of the page to turn it on or off.

You can do that whenever you want, even when you're not home. It will still recognize the command and control your lights, fan or whatever you have connected to the smart plug.

How to control the Amazon smart plug with your voice:

Name your Amazon smart plug
  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the devices tab on the bottom-right.
  • Choose "Plugs" on the top of the page.
  • Choose the menu button on the top-right (it looks like 3 dots stacked on top of one another.)
  • Next to the name "First Plug," tap "Edit name."
  • Name the appliance something simple, like "living room lamp."
  • Now you can say "Alexa, turn on the living room lamp" or "Alexa turn off the living room lamp."

How to schedule the Amazon smart plug to turn on or off automatically

Amazon smart plug

Now that you have the smart plug set up and can control it by voice or from your phone, it's time to learn how to do a bit more with it. Amazon has a feature called "routines" inside the Alexa app that lets you do things like schedule the outlet to turn on or off at certain times. It's good if you want the lights to automatically turn on at 6 p.m. on weekdays, for example. Here's how to do that:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the devices tab on the bottom-right of the page.
  • Choose "Plugs" on the top.
  • Choose the plug you want to control.
  • Tap "Create a routine" on the bottom of the page.
  • Tap the + button on the top-right of the page.
  • Tap the + button next to "When this happens."
  • Choose "Schedule."
  • Select the time you want to turn the plug on (or off) and then select the days of the week you want this to apply to.
  • Tap "Create."
  • Repeat the steps if you want it to automatically turn off at a certain time too.

Play around and create other routines. If you want the lights to turn on and off when you come and go from home, for example, you can go to the routines page and select the option for "arrive or leave." It uses your phone to recognize when you're home and when you're not.

That's it

Amazon smart plug

That's all there is to it. The steps above might seem daunting, but you'll pick it up easily and will be able to control your smart plug and the devices you plug into it.

I really like how simple the Amazon smart plug is, and that it doesn't require me to fiddle with a smart hub .(Though the Amazon Echo Plus has one built-in that doesn't require much setup either.) The benefit to a smart hub, however, is that you can add other things like Philips Hue lights and other appliances that require more than just an outlet to work.

But, if you want to use your voice or phone to easily on a fan, holiday lights, the coffee maker or any other simple gadget with an on/off switch, then the Amazon smart plug is a really simple way to do that, no matter where you are.

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