This is the problem with selling iot devices which don’t have an ongoing fee. They have to pay for weather information, and for servers, but are not getting any revenue past the initial installation. They don’t get ad revenue in the app, and how often do you use the app anyway? At some point, the profit from the hardware will be consumed by their costs, and selling more controllers will just make the problem worse. Lawn maintenance products might bring in some revenue, but mail order will always be more expensive than a local store. Keeping the product free only works if we are the product.
If Rachio could make something premium, with a small ongoing payment, they may be able to improve some of the existing interfaces. The question is what they could sell given what they are providing free for now. Skips for future rain is something which might have been a premium feature, while still providing free skips for past weather, but they give it away for free already. Just based on water saving, a $5 per year fee could have been feasible. I’m just not sure what they could bring as a premium feature above today’s product.