So many smart home products have hit the market over the last couple of years, a brand new barrier to entry has been erected — sorting through all the choices is such a pain that it seems easier to keep living your dumb home life, which was working well enough, to be fair. There’s no need to give up on the smart home movement just yet, though. We’re here to help you find some of the best smart home gadgets on the market — the ones that actually make your life easier, because we all know how often smart technology ends up being more trouble than its worth. These 12 devices do that with simple designs that often work with what you’ve already got. Lots of lip service gets paid to the word seamless — these gadgets pull it off.
Sometimes, the best gadgets come from the old guard. Early smart home locks went all-in on contactless technology, with locks that only responded to your phone or a keyfob — with no failsafe if modern technology fails, as it sometimes does. A Kwikset Kevo lock can still be opened with a regular key, in addition to a keyfob or a touch of the finger if you have your smartphone on you — your smartphone will wirelessly communicate with the lock, opening the door once you touch the deadbolt. The smartphone functionality is heavily encrypted and can be shared with other family member or guests, with all permissions easy to manage or delete entirely. If you have a Nest smart thermostat, you can even connect the two, so Nest will know to turn on heating or air conditioning right when you arrive. Kevo is compatible with iOS and Android (5.0 and up), and you can get it heavily discounted on Amazon now for $182.
Why We Like It: Key-less technology literally means you don’t need to have a key with you anymore, you can share e-keys with family and friends. It’s designed to look just like a regular lock and is available in 3 finishes.
What Needs Improvement: The lock doesn’t always respond to touch or fob on the first try. The lock will often not work if the app is not running on the screen. App often crashes.
When we look for smart home gadgets to feature, we always love to see something that reduces clutter — if you live in a city with expensive rent, space is probably at a premium. That’s why we like the Sengled Pulse. These LED lights tuck away Bluetooth speakers inside, while fitting into standard light sockets in lamps and fixtures. Sengled isn’t the only company doing this, but unlike many others, they’ve gone the extra mile on sound quality, partnering with JBL instead of going with the cheapest audio components. Both the light and sound can be controlled by a free iOS or Android app, and you can buy a pair of the bulbs in pewter or candy apple red from Amazon for $118.
Why We Like It: The bulb’s dimming and its volume can be controlled from the app. It’s truly a multi-purpose lightbulb!
What Needs Improvements: Audio quality is muffled and sometimes staticky – so it’s definitely not a replacement for a serious speaker system.
Ring Video Doorbell
Remember our hermit apps? Ring fits right in, although it’s a bit more than that — a doorbell for today. Ring goes in place of your old doorbell, sending you alerts not only when someone rings, but when motion is detected in the general vicinity of your home (this one’s squarely for you homeowners with lawns). A camera streams video, which you can view on the companion app. Speakers and mics on Ring allow two-way communication between you and whoever is at the door, so if it’s that Amazon package you’ve been impatiently waiting all of two days for, you’ll know immediately. If you don’t want to rely on phone alerts, you can look into the upcoming Chime accessory, which will buzz like your old doorbell whenever someone approaches your door. You can get Ring on Amazon in one of four colors for $200.
Why We Like It: It lets you see who is at your door and communicate with them, even when you’re not home. Works as a great burglar deterrent. The system is easy to install and the app is easy to use. Camera is good quality and even has night vision. Motion detection feature sends you alerts each time someone is at your door.
Where It Needs Improvements: There are lags between the doorbell and the alerts on the app. So far there is only one preset chime audio, but they say that there will be an update which brings more door chime choices. Also, there is no on demand viewing at this stage.