When it comes to smart power outlets, there are generally two options available to most people. Either you replace the power outlet on the wall or you use an external plug adapter that provides you with a smart plug socket, similar to an external power extension cord. Although both deliver a similar result, they are very different and knowing the difference will be important in deciding which to purchase.
The price difference between a smart wall outlet and an external smart plug is quite small, meaning that price is rarely a factor in deciding which to purchase.
The biggest difference is the installation and how clean they look. Replacing the outlet on the wall is nice and clean. There is nothing that sticks out of the wall or gets in the way. It is a visually seamless install. There is a drawback with this, however, and this is with the installation. Although it is possible for anyone to install a smart outlet on the wall, there are some obvious safety risks when dealing with the live electrical circuit in your home.
Is it safe to replace a power outlet on the wall with a smart outlet?
Like any electronics, so long as you purchase from a reputable brand that adheres to the safety standards of your country, you can be confident enough that installing a smart outlet on the wall will not pose a significant risk. With that being said, any electronic device, no matter how well made it is, will always have the risk of malfunctioning. The problem with a smart outlet malfunctioning vs a smart socket is that if something were to go wrong, you will not be able to cut off power to it quite as easy.
If a smart plug were to malfunction, you can simply plug it out and you are safe. IF a smart outlet on the wall were to malfunction, you may need to get an electrician in to help you safely fix the problem. Just like you should really have hired a registered electrician to install it in the first place. This adds some extra cost to the setup that may not be worth it when the only real advantage is that smart outlets that are built into the wall are a little easier on the eyes.