My wife and The kids were puzzled at my excitement as I gathered them by the window to unveil a mysterious new gadget. With my eyes riveted on the curtains, I typed a command on my phone. The play was heavy with anticipation. After an agonizing 10 second delay, the left curtain burst open. Seconds later, the right curtain tried to join in but moved less than an inch and gave a very unpleasant, high-pitched moan that lasted for about 30 seconds.
Everyone burst out laughing.
Why would you need a robot that automatically opens your curtains anyway, they asked. “Need” is a bit strong, but the temptation of SwitchBot is automation. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up with the sunlight hitting your face instead of an alarm (or, in our house, a crying cat for breakfast)?
This is the premise of this charming little gadget. It can be easily adapted to most curtains types in minutes. Costing $ 99, or $ 189 for two (and you’ll need two for most curtains), it makes your old, tired curtains smart. You can open and close them remotely from your phone using the SwitchBot app, or schedule them to open and close at set times.
But as you can guess from my first attempt, the SwitchBot has a lot of flaws that might make you want to rip your curtains completely.
After the first pathetic attempt to open my curtains, I tried to reassemble the SwitchBot. I placed one on the right curtain and one on the left. There is a kind of ratchet arm that goes over the curtain rod, with little wheels inside, and you attach it to the rod between the first and second curtain rings. (You can also get SwitchBots that work with U Rail and I Rail curtains.)
I have lightweight ring curtains with a uniform rod, so there is no reason for the SwitchBot to have issues. Alas, after having fiddled a lot, I still haven’t had any luck. I contacted the company and received some new models to test, and I am happy to say that they are performing much better.
Yet even the new batch is far from perfect. For example, SwitchBots don’t always open the curtains as wide as I would by hand. They also tend to leave a space between the curtains when they close. And I can’t imagine them doing well with heavy curtains after seeing them struggle to fully open my little bedroom set.
You pair the robots with an app on your phone via Bluetooth and calibrate the open and closed positions. It’s a quick and easy process. Then you can press an app button to open or close the curtains, although the app will take a few seconds to load and then a few more seconds for the SwitchBot to start moving. It’s not too long, but it’s quicker to get up and do it by hand.
The best method is to automatically schedule your curtains to open and close at the times you want. There is also a light sense mode to trigger auto-open when it identifies a certain level of light, but this feature is still in beta and hasn’t worked well for me.
You can use voice commands to control the curtains with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, but you need to purchase and set up a SwitchBot Hub Mini ($ 39). I tested it with Alexa and Google Assistant, and the Hub did the job, but had to ask it to open or close each curtain separately.