Review: The SwitchBot Curtain – a robot with applications far outside sheer laziness
Free your arms… I guess.
I remember my patronizing snort when Kevin asked me to review a robot that opens your curtains for you. In my head, I branded the idea idiotic. At best, this was a device that could turn me into an even lazier version of my already fairly relaxed self. Right?
Well, mainly, yes. It would have turned me into an even lazier form of my already fairly relaxed self. I say would have, because the $100 SwitchBot Curtain didn’t do exactly what it says on the tin. As a result, I have spent some time wrangling with how not to be a complete bastard and throw shade (LOL!) all over SwitchBot’s efforts. Especially after my Yeedi vacuum review.
So, I’ve finally found my angle. Here’s what I think about a robot that is supposed to do the most basic job imaginable.
At last, my arms know freedom
I have to admit, opening and closing the curtains as many as one times per day had really started straining my shoulders and upper arms. So it was with much glee (mixed with the fear of ascending a ladder following an excruciating back injury) that I unpacked the SwitchBot Curtain review units that the company had sent me.
READ MORE: SwitchBot now sells a $15 HomeKit-enabled smart plug
The UPS driver had also shoved a bunch of other SwitchBot ecosystem stuff in my face. This included two SwitchBot Solar Panels (one to power each Curtain Robot), a SwitchBot Hub Mini, a SwitchBot Thermometer and Hygrometer, and a SwitchBot Remote. It designs this stuff to turn your home into a smart home.
So, basically, SwitchBot had inserted itself deep into my home and I had no way of escaping, considering I had already parted my curtains and SwitchBots were clawing wantonly at me from the table. After zapping the devices with electricity and tying them up with the associated app, it was time to put the SwitchBot Curtain into action.
A massive (anti) climax
OK, so I’ll rewind a little now that I’ve made you feel all objectum-sexual. SwitchBot supposedly designed the SwitchBot Curtain to work with any type of curtains (is that the right term for fabric? I dunno). My curtains are what you call grommet curtains. The reason being that they have a ring (the grommet) sewn into the fabric, through which you insert your pole… OK stop it now, that was the previous section… curtain pole, and the curtains open that way. There’s an illustrative image above, in case you’re unsure what I’m going on about.
Anyway, the thing about grommet curtains is you need to give them a bit of a pull, sometimes. This is because, as the curtain opens out and the pleats flatten, the grommets do too. As a result, the grommets can brace against your curtain pole, causing resistance when you pull your curtains… Seriously, how do people write about curtains, poles, and friction, without it becoming a swingers party?!
Now, if you use something strong to open your curtain like, say, I dunno… just pluck something out of thin air here.. an arm, then those pesky resistential grommets don’t cause you any issues. Opening your curtains is nice and convenient. Completed in a swift swoosh of the hands to welcome in the sunshine and summer breeze.
Step in the SwitchBot Curtain. I’ll keep this short and spare you the parody. It doesn’t like grommet curtains. Sure, it might like ring curtains (which hang down off the ring instead) or track curtains. But it didn’t like my curtains. And my curtains are grommet curtains.
For transparency, the SwitchBot Curtain listing on the SwitchBot site and manual recommends a Grommet Kit. But I couldn’t find one for sale on there, nor was I sent one to use during testing. Also, looking at the manual, it seems like a total pain in the ass to fit.
A limp effort
So what went wrong? Well, the curtains didn’t open. I could hear the SwitchBot straining as it reached the “halfway closed/halfway open” point and then… it stopped. I looked at the app. “Curtain Left: Fully Closed” read the SwitchBot Curtain’s in-app status. I looked back at the window, blinded by the shafts of brilliant sunlight now searing my retinas.
It would seem that the SwitchBot Curtain had fallen foul of the grommets and couldn’t offer the level of strength needed to pull the grommets that were braced against the curtains. The website cleverly states that the SwitchBot can push 8kg of curtain. It omits what the SwitchBot can pull. Don’t forget, those curtains need to be closed before you can open them.
Opening again is absolutely fine and works a charm. I’ll give them that. Yeah, you show those grommets what for in the morning, SwitchBot Curtain. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
But closing curtains? Nah. Didn’t want to know. At least not my curtains, anyway. Got halfway and lied about it on the app. Bad SwitchBot curtain. At no point did I expect to help a robot open curtains, which SwitchBot designed to… open curtains. This was actually less convenient for me.
Despite spending 700 words being horrible, I think the SwitchBot Curtain would work, just with curtains you hang differently. I couldn’t verify this. I only have grommet curtains and if you think I’m asking my neighbors to risk spreading COVID so I can test a device for the laziest of assholes, then sorry but no.
The rest of the ecosystem SwitchBot sent works perfectly well. The Solar Panels do a good job of charging the robots so you need never take them down. The Thermometer and Hygrometer measure the temperature and water vapour as you would expect (we have little water vapour here in the UK though, aside from the persistent torrential downpour that is our miserable existence on this horrible little shit of an island).
The SwitchBot Remote, you guessed it, opens and closes the curtains. As well as the app, or tugging a curtain slightly to trigger the Curtain bot. The Hub connects everything together and does a fine job of that, too. But the SwitchBot Curtain just didn’t quite make the grade for me.
Time for round two
Now… redemption. OK, so the SwitchBot Curtain didn’t open my curtains. And I’ve spent a lot of time telling you that without actually getting to my angle. So here it is.
The SwitchBot may not be great for me. And, to be honest, do you really need a device like this if you can open the curtains yourself? It will probably save you about ten minutes of your entire life. However, what if you can’t open the curtains yourself?
This struck me when I was speaking to my Nan. She isn’t in the best of health and can no longer lift her arms without agony coursing through her limbs. It is awful to watch her try to drink a cup of tea or just to complete basic movements. In this sense, the SwitchBot would be a real boon.
I can imagine how something like the SwitchBot Curtain would be incredibly useful for someone with limited or no mobility. The entire ecosystem connects to Alexa, so you can command that SwitchBot opens your curtains using your voice. If you can’t use your voice, you can program SwitchBot Curtain to open at scheduled times. It even reacts to sunlight so can open that way.
Curiously, the website makes very little of the accessibility aspect of the robot. It mentions the word “accessible” once, when the device clearly has accessible applications. I feel like SwitchBot has missed a major selling point of its own product, here.
The website even says:
One night when reading before sleeping on his bed, our CEO realized that he couldn’t turn off the light and close the curtain on the bed. One thought of having a robot butler popped up to his head.
Piss off! How about how SwitchBot could help make a very difficult life that little bit easier? Not about how the fully mobile CEO of SwitchBot was too lazy to get out of bed. Fucking hell.
Should You Buy the SwitchBot Curtain?
Ugh. I dunno. I mean, really, why? You genuinely don’t need this if you can open the curtains yourself. It literally wouldn’t enhance your life in any way, nor would its absence leave you feeling bereft as you lie in bed willing all the curtains in the house to open automatically.
However, if you have reduced mobility, or you know someone who does, then this could be an excellent product, as it takes away one task that someone might find difficult or impossible. This is why I scored the SwitchBot Curtain a six and not lower. Just make sure you don’t couple the device with grommet curtains (unless you have the mysterious Grommet Kit).
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