Before its acquisition by Samsung in 2014, SmartThings got its start as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. After raising over a million dollars, the SmartThings product now includes a free app, no monthly fees, and a $99 hub, and compatibility with hundreds of smart devices from a variety of manufacturers makes SmartThings an inexpensive and convenient solution for DIY home automation.

Samsung then acquired SmartThings, adding its trusted brand to the product and giving the company the ability to continue to grow at the rapid pace which they have experienced since their humble beginnings. The Samsung SmartThings Hub is able to communicate with many products. Z-Wave, ZigBee, LAN and Cloud-to-Cloud communication is all supported. Additionally, unlike many of their competitors, the Samsung SmartThings Hub communicates on an encrypted channel which heightens the security of the system, making it less resistant to hackers.

While the starter pack is a bargain at $249.00, the cost of adding products to the system can be cost-prohibitive.Samsung SmartThings is a solid and innovative product for many aspect of home automation.

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The Good

  • Design and function
  • Mobile apps
  • Customization
  • Installation and use

Design and Function

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is the center of the home automation system and it is small and sleek. The designers kept the hub simple and paid close attention to details, for example, the device is button-free, which helps families with small children ensure that their device doesn't fall victim to with curious fingers.

Mobile Apps

Especially since Samsung acquired SmartThings, the usability of the mobile apps has improved. Since communication with the hub occurs with a mobile app, this feature is important. Currently there are apps which are compatible with iOS (7.0+), Android (varies per device), and Windows (8.1 and higher).

Customization

The Samsung SmartThings system is compatible with many products. The interface makes it easy to add additional products to the system as the owner desires.

Categories of compatible products:

  • Home and Family: key fobs, locks, arrival sensor
  • Doors and Locks: recessed door sensor, deadbolts, touchscreen lever locks
  • Lights and Switches: dimmer, panic button, siren with lights
  • Dangers and Damages: flood sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm
  • Motion and Cameras: motion sensors, indoor/outdoor cameras
  • Other: home entertainment

A comprehensive list of compatible products can be found online on SmartThings' site, which is frequently updated as new products are introduced.

SmartThings uses IFTTT (If This Then That) logic, which means that the sensors can be used to trigger other smart devices which streamlines the entire experience for users. It learns and adapts with its user making the product more accurate and helpful over time.

Installation and Use

Installation is simple as there are no buttons on the hub to worry about-it simply needs to be plugged in and connected to the internet. The app guides users through the setup process and continues to offer support after the initial setup.

Users can interact easily with their Samsung SmartThings Hub by texting with it almost as if it's a live person. The hubs and devices learn from the user and can trigger actions depending on how you respond to alerts. For example, if it detects a change and sends an alert, answering back with "I'm home" can trigger whatever actions have been programmed such as turning the lights on or unlocking doors. Similarly, users have a lot of flexibility with customizing the alerts they receive and when. Emergencies, for example, will alert users via text message in addition to app alerts. Less important alerts can also be silenced during certain times of the day.

The Bad

  • Occasional app freezes
  • Motion detector issues
  • Other system limitations

Occasional App Freezes

While the app has a lot of options, some users have experienced app freezes. This has been reported more frequently for iOS and those using Windows 10 on their mobile devices than for Android. mobile apps are designed for smartphones, rather than for tablets, but can be used on most tablets or iPads. Android users need to verify if their device is compatible before downloading by signing into the google Play account and visiting the app's homepage. BlackBerry devices cannot run the app.

Motion Detector Issues

There are a few reports of limited range for the motion detectors, meaning that they need to remain within 50 feet of the hub to be effective. Some people have used their motion detectors as a range extender and this alleviated the problem. This creates added difficulty for users.Some users have reported that their motions detectors frequently report false negatives - especially with pets. There are not currently settings to adjust the sensors' sensitivity.

Other System Limitations

Users should note that outlet appliance modules are reliable for controlling devices remotely, it cannot control devices that have their own controls (for example a coffee maker that has a "start brewing" button).

Although this seems to be common among home automation devices, the hub must be connected to the internet at all times. So while the Samsung SmartThings Hub is generally reliable, in the event of power or internet going out for any reason, all of the steps taken to protect a home are useless.

The Bottom Line

Samsung SmartThings is one of the more reliable, customizable, and user-friendly of the DIY home automation hubs. Families can easily select those features which they need to automate their home. Parents will appreciate the arrival sensor which is a key fob which can be attached to a child's backpack, etc. This device alerts parents when their children arrive home or leave the house (as long as they have the fob with them).

The partnership with Samsung has created a mainstream product with many options which is portable and easily expandable. We recommend Samsung SmartThings for those looking for a DIY system that is easily expandable; however, for those looking for a system with 24/7 monitoring, this is not the system that is the best fit.

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