6 crucial things to consider when buying smart home devices
TL;DR: look at reputation, price, compatibility, hub requirement, power supply, and monthly fees
The more important the smart device you are buying, the more you need to consider each factor
Don’t just read smart device specs, read reviews to see what others have to say
It’s easy to get mesmerized by all of the promises made by the latest smart home devices, but that doesn’t mean they are always a smart purchase. There are many factors you should consider when adding a smart gadget to your home. We break them down, so you know what to keep in mind.
If you check Amazon, eBay, or even just your local electronics store, you’ll find a plethora of smart devices made by companies you may never have heard of before. Unless it’s made by one of our top five most trusted smart device companies than you should be aware that you could be buying a device that leaks data, spies on you, or maybe only lasts a few months due to shoddy workmanship.
…you could be buying a device that leaks data, spies on you…
Our recommendation: Stick with one of the trusted smart home brands. If not, check out their reviews on Amazon and search their company name in Google–you’ll quickly get an idea of any issues customers have faced.
Pricing can vary widely for just about any smart device. We saw a twin-pack of Insignia smart speakers on sale for $50 or you can buy the latest–and greatest–one from Amazon for $230! That price disparity can be found in everything from smart outlets to home security systems.
Our recommendation: Pick your price point based on the importance of the smart device you are buying. Need a smart bulb? Those are cheap and easily replaced if they burn out. Investing in a wireless smart thermostat? Something by Nest or ecobee can save you enough in heating and cooling to pay for themselves!
Pick your price point based on the importance of the smart device you are buying.
3. Smart Speaker Compatibility
A smart speaker is one of the fastest growing smart home devices in the world. It’s a key component to any system you set up and so it’s worth buying one that best connects to your existing smart home–or the one you have planned. The Amazon Echo is the most widely supported, but Google’s Home speakers are catching up fast.
Our recommendation: Pick the one that fits with your existing home tech lifestyle. If you watch a lot of Amazon Prime videos and listen to Amazon Prime music, then go with the Amazon Echo. If you use an Android phone and love watching YouTube videos, then go with Google. If you’re an Apple fan, then stick with the Apple Homepod.
Pick the one that fits with your existing home tech lifestyle.
4. Hub or Direct
You may not know this but some devices need a hub in order to connect to the internet. Others just connect directly to your home Wi-Fi network. Hubs used to be the best investment as they offered the most compatibility, but that is shrinking as more devices connect directly to the web. Also, hubs can create another point of failure. If your hub goes down, so does your connected smart device, even if your Wi-Fi is still purring along!
If your hub goes down, so does your connected smart device, even if your Wi-Fi is still purring along!
Our recommendation: Stay away from hubs unless it’s the only way to get the smart device, you want, to connect to the internet and not just use Bluetooth to connect locally.
5. Battery or Wired
Some smart devices use a built-in rechargeable battery, while others connect to a power outlet. Battery-powered usually means you can place the smart device in a hard-to-reach location–perfect for security cameras. It also cuts down on the need for hard-wiring into your electricity–the Ring doorbell for example. However, that also means you have the pain of keeping them recharged. Wired devices often work faster and offer more features because they don’t have to worry about power-drain.
Our recommendation: We’ve used both types extensively and now much prefer those that plug in. Sure, you could argue that if your power goes out, your smart device goes offline, but so does your Wi-Fi router, which means no connectivity anyway. Stick to battery powered only if you need to place a smart device in a location that simply doesn’t have a power outlet close by.
Stick to battery powered only if you need to place a smart device in a location that simply doesn’t have a power outlet close by.
6. Free plan or Paid
One of the biggest considerations for any smart device is whether it needs to connect to a remoter server in order to work. This is often true for smart security cameras and smart speakers. Just make sure that you get access to free video cloud storage or can play free Pandora music–at least as a minimum option. Some smart home companies insist on you paying a monthly fee in order to unlock all of the features they promised.
Some smart home companies insist on you paying a monthly fee in order to unlock all of the features they promised.
Our recommendation: Always pick a smart device that has a free option as standard. You can then try out the paid plan if you wish, but if you face a money-crunch, the device doesn’t become crippled because you didn’t pay the monthly fee.
We hope this helps with your smart device buying decisions. If you still need some ideas or help, then check out our complete beginners’ guide to buying smart home devices.