Samsung SmartThings: The Most Rounded Ecosystem?
If you’re just starting to automate your home, you could easily use a smart speaker as a makeshift hub. Indeed, the iconic Echo Plus and all-new Echo Studio both come with integrated Zigbee radios. When your plans extend beyond scattering a few devices around your home, there’s no substitute for a dedicated home hub. Check out our detailed guide to smart home hubs for a little background information on these gateways. Despite smart home tech flying off the shelves as quickly as manufacturers can produce it, there’s still nothing approaching a unified standard. Since your smart home experience will depend largely on the quality of the ecosystem you buy into, you want to get it right. So, today we’ll be looking beyond the usual suspects of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s HomeKit and embracing all that Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem has to offer.

The App

We’re delighted that Samsung has fixed the app debacle with SmartThings. For some time, two apps were running simultaneously but the Classic app is now out to pasture. Everything is now under the umbrella of the main SmartThings app. Download the app and see how you find it before committing to purchase. If for any reason you find it awkward to use, you can save yourself buying into something inappropriate. Far more likely, though, you’ll find it responsive and a pleasure to use. Device management takes place in-app and the overall experience is solid. Samsung still has some work to do but then what app is perfect? As with any smart home ecosystem, you need to get going with the basics first so we’ll help you out there…

The Basics

Maybe you’re a complete newcomer to home automation. If so and you’re looking to build an effective connected home, dependable WiFi is vital. How is the signal across your home? Do you suffer from those irritating dead spots in places? If you have a larger home, do any areas struggle to get decent WiFi? Mesh WiFi networks are a great alternative to regular routers. You use nodes – like mini-routers – in place of the standard set-up. This allows you to hose WiFi signal from corner to corner of even the most sprawling smart home. And the great news is, Samsung’s mesh WiFi offering comes with even more baked in…

SmartThings Mesh WiFi

For anyone intending to build a SmartThings ecosystem from scratch, investing in this mesh WiFi system is a superb starting point. To kick things off, you’ll get 3 nodes capable of peppering spaces to 4500 square feet with super-stable WiFi coverage. Each of the nodes has a range of 1500 square feet. The modular nature of a mesh WiFi system allows you to build up to 32 nodes if you need more firepower. With so many devices clogging up the 2.4GHz frequency, make use of 5GHz WiFi, too. This mesh system will optimize devices and channel hop in the background. Kiss goodbye to fiddling with settings and say hello to seamless signal throughout your whole home. Set-up is a cinch with simple instructions provided in-app. You’ll be able to use this app to see exactly what everyone’s doing online. This monitoring ability is great if you have kids and you’re trying to limit screen time. As an added kicker, this mesh router comes with a SmartThings hub baked right in. More on this stellar gateway next…

SmartThings Hub (Third-Generation)

If you want the most from your SmartThings ecosystem, you’ll want all your devices playing nicely together and under remote or voice control. The hub makes this possible. Now into its third iteration, what makes Samsung’s gateway stand out in a glutted field? Perhaps the primary selling point of this hub is the fact it boasts both Zigbee and Z-Wave radios. This enables your hub to help other devices run smoothly together. Once you’ve got your SmartThings hub plugged in and hooked up to your home WiFi, you can then pair any devices with it. The only proviso is that they’ll need to run on Zigbee, Z-Wave, or WiFi. Bluetooth doesn’t work with SmartThings. With everything set up, you can take charge of everything using nothing but an app on your smartphone. How about voice control? No problem there either. Throw in an Echo device or Google Home speaker and you’ll be up and running with Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Best of SmartThings

With that SmartThings foundation in place, it’s time to think about dialing in some devices…

Smart Outlet

A smart outlet makes a superb starting point to home automation. These nifty devices let you take remote control of otherwise dumb appliances with ease. From lamps and ceiling fans to heaters and coffee machines, manipulate your old appliances using the SmartThings app on your phone. You can also schedule devices to come on or go off at certain times. As with all the SmartThings ecosystem, you’ll need the hub to take full advantage of this compact but powerful addition to your connected home.

Smart Bulb

If you thought you’d need to dig deep for Samsung’s foray into the competitive smart bulb space, you’d be mistaken. These smart LEDs come priced in bargain basement territory despite packing a powerful punch. As with all energy-efficient LEDs, you’ll save money through drawing down less electricity. You’ll also benefit from increased lifespan with the bulbs compared to older incandescent bulbs. This A19 white bulb is dimmable so you can create mood lighting with a few swipes and presses without getting out of your seat. If you prefer voice control, these bulbs are compatible with the proprietary Samsung AI, Bixby. You can also use Alexa or Google Assistant if you have a smart speaker or smart display. OK, with those lighting basics in place, you might want to check out Samsung’s deep bench of sensors. Make your smart home safer as well as more convenient…

Motion Sensor

The best use case for the versatile SmartThings motion sensor is to regulate lighting, heating, and cooling based on whether or not someone is in a room. You could even arrange for the music to kick in as you enter the living room or home theater or get the scene set as you return home from work. The magnetic ball mount on the sensor allows you to easily manipulate the angle you need to best capture motion. Control is straightforward in-app as with all SmartThings tech.

Multipurpose Sensor

Have you got a large home with doors and windows everywhere? If so, keep everything protected with some multipurpose sensors. As long as you have the hub in place, you can stay alerted in-app on your phone if any doors or windows are unexpectedly opened. This is equally valuable whether you’re upstairs at night or away on vacation. If you get more involved with automation, you can get your sensor to ping alerts to your thermostat or lights for more rounded control.

Arrival Sensor

If you’re looking to stay connected to your home even when you’re away, this arrival sensor will keep you in the loop if anyone enters your house. You can build out automation so selected connected devices come on or off when someone enters or leaves the room. Program the lights and music to come on when you get in from work. As you leave in the morning, you can arrange for your smart devices to power down in your wake. Use this sensor in tandem with your smart thermostat to adjust heating and cooling in line with occupancy.

Water Leak Sensor

Water leak sensors might not be the most glamorous purchase for your smart home. Invest in one, though, and get valuable peace of mind when you’re away from home. Any devices you have connected to your SmartThings hub will turn on and off if any moisture is detected. You’ll receive an immediate alert in-app so you can take pre-emptive action. Save yourself from the headache and financial cost of an involved claim for water damage with this inexpensive SmartThings sensor.

SmartThings Button

Buttons have yet to get the traction we feel they deserve. This cheap and cheerful example from SmartThings lets you turn your compatible devices on or off at the push of a button. Customize the commands so you get your equipment doing exactly what you want it to even if your cellphone is nowhere in sight.

SmartThings Cam

Indoor security cameras have many use cases aside from capturing footage if in the unthinkable happens and someone breaks into your home. From keeping an eye on your baby to monitoring teens, you can even use the camera to check in on your pets when you’re at work. Despite the budget price-tag – all SmartThings kit is keenly priced – you get 1080p HD video. Footage is stored in the cloud with 24 hours of storage thrown in before you need to start paying. You’ll also benefit from two-way audio rendering this camera a de facto video intercom. Intelligent object and motion recognition minimizes false triggers. For a robust camera that segues perfectly with the rest of your SmartThings ecosystem, what’s not to love?

What Else Works with SmartThings?

Samsung continues to build out the SmartThings ecosystem with new devices but you’re not just limited to proprietary tech. One of the primary draws of SmartThings is the way you can add hundreds of devices from most of the major smart home players. Although you seldom run into compatibility issues, keep your eyes peeled for the Works with SmartThings label to stay on the safe side. Google Nest devices do not make a neat fit with SmartThings. Most HomeKit devices are also ruled out due to the lack of Bluetooth radio on the SmartThings ecosystem. Overall, though, we have to say SmartThings is the most inclusive ecosystem by some distance.

How To Connect Your SmartThings Tech

Luckily, getting started with SmartThings couldn’t be much easier. All you need to do is flash up the app then hit the + button top-right. Scan the QR code on your device and follow some simple guided instructions on-screen. How about if you can’t spot the code? Searching manually is a snap by brand or device type.

Final Word

SmartThings used to be for true techie tinkerers, and while it’s still a top choice for the hard-core home geek, user-friendly upgrades to the app since Samsung took over the product have definitely made it a more viable mainstream option. It’s still not for everyone, however. The relative openness of its platform compared to most of the competition does make for some headaches, especially when it comes to pairing devices, but if you stick to certified SmartThings compatible gadgets your path will be smoother. Even if you are already invested in a smart home ecosystem such as HomeKit, Alexa or Google, SmartThings can be an excellent addition, and is a simple way to super charge your smart home.
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