PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

The evolution of the smart home doesn’t always mean a new network for devices to connect or a brand-new smart speaker with a new microphone array. Sometimes evolutions come in the form of affordability and smaller designs.

That’s the case with Wemo’s Wi-Fi Smart Plug, announced back at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show and finally available for $24.99. And you might be thinking, “Doesn’t Wemo already make a smart plug?” You’re right — that’s the Wemo Mini Smart Plug, which is ironically larger and more expensive than this one. It’s not being sunsetted, but it’s safe to say the attention is now on the core smart plug.

We’ve spent about a week with the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug, specifically a three-pack version, and we’re walking away happy. Let’s talk about why, and there’s no better place to start than with what you first see.

So much smaller

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

In comparison to the Mini Smart Plug, the Wi-Fi Smart Plug is about a third of the size. It’s a lot shorter and a bit thicker, but at least now it won’t block the sides of the outlet panel. Wemo opted for a white plastic build as well. The top, bottom, left side and right side get a matte finish, while the front has a shiny white. There’s also a Wemo logo on the bottom-right corner. The standard outlet is front and center.

It’s simple and easy enough to plug into an outlet. The best news is that with this compact design, it only takes up the outlet you want it to. Smart plugs haven’t always been known for good design. Many of them are bulky, like the original Wemo, and ultimately end up sacrificing more than one outlet for the ability to control one. It doesn’t always add up to being worth it. Luckily with this latest design, it takes up just the one spot. On a standard wall outlet, you can comfortably plug the latest Wemo into the top or bottom and still have room for another power plug, even on the bulkier end of the spectrum.

The only real control on the outside of the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a circular power button and LED indicator on the right-hand side. This is handy if you want to cut off power or physically turn it back on. To make a setup with Apple HomeKit easy, the scannable code is found on the left-hand side as a sticker. Feel free to rip it off as well, as identical stickers are found in the packaging — a nice touch if you want a clean aesthetic.

The real smarts of the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug are found inside. It takes the form of a Wi-Fi chip that supports 801.11n 2.4GHz, and most (if not all routers) will be able to support this. If you want to integrate it with just your Apple ecosystem, it’s as simple as scanning the code on the side. Otherwise, you will need the companion app for Android and iOS. Rest assured it’s easy and allows you to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. The app itself allows for the control and scheduling of the outlet. It’s a place all of your Wemo products can call home.

The sheer size and compactness of the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug make it a clear winner.

It works with Apple, Amazon and Google

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

A common fact of smart homes in 2020 is the segmentation. There are different ecosystems, and not all of them are compatible with one another. Luckily, Wemo isn’t just playing in one of the ecosystems. The Wi-Fi Smart Plug supports Apple HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. You also don’t need an expensive hub or an additional device to handle these connections. It’s all done through the Wi-Fi chip inside the plug and the Wemo companion app, all baked into the $24.99 price.

With HomeKit setup, it’s as easy as inserting the plug into an outlet and opening the Home app on your iOS device. Tap the “+” in the top right and hit “Add an accessory.” You’ll see a camera window open up, and you’ll scan the sticker on the left side of the smart plug. The Home app will recognize and automatically add it to your Wi-Fi network. We really like the Home app and HomeKit in general for the easy setup. You also don’t have to leave the Home app to control the plug. You can rename it, turn it on or off, set up automation, create scenes, handle updates and see the status from the Home app.

For integration with other Wemo devices or to pair it with Alexa or the Google Assistant, you’ll need to get the Wemo app. It’s available for free on Android and iOS. The only requirement is that you’ll need a Wemo account. It’s free to make if you don’t have one. Once in, you’ll select “Add a Wemo” and follow the on-screen instructions. It should take no more than just a few minutes.

After that, you’re really set. From within the Wemo app, you can click “More” and then “Connect to our smart home partners” to pair with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. With either of those, you’ll link your Wemo account with the respective ecosystem account. Then you’ll be able to control the smart plug from those voice assistants. It happens in real time as well, with no noticeable latency. You can also rename the plug, handle updates and set a schedule. The latter is handy if you have a lamp plugged into the outlet, as you can set it to turn on or off when you’re not home. That’s an easy way to get the taste of a smart home from just one device.

Bottom line

At $24.99, you really can’t go wrong with the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug. It’s available now from Belkin directly and up for preorder on Amazon. With the latter, it should start shipping on August 3. We were big fans of the Mini Smart Plug, and Wemo didn’t take away any features here. It really just condensed it all down into a smaller package — and, as an added bonus, knocked $10 off the base price.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.