While smartphones are the devices we use most in our daily lives, they aren’t the only things precious to us. There are also our other devices, vehicles, and more. And yet many of these devices are now able to access the internet. Not the least of these is our home, leading to the modern “smart home” that you’ve likely heard about already. Yet what can you do with it, and what can you control with this increased access, and from where? There are too many options to go into fully, but we will talk about the possibilities when the opportunity arises.
To nobody’s surprise, it all starts with apps. Once some devices are installed in your home, you need to find the right options to give you all the control you want with as much convenience as possible. And of course, a good app needs to be reliable on top of that. Yet what apps are the best? Fortunately, we’ve researched for you and narrowed it down to almost everything you might need (outside of a few device-specific selections).
Here are some apps you can find that will make life much easier for you in your smart home or can help make your home into a smart home:
An excellent app for the anxious homeowner, the WISER App is a smartphone app meant primarily to help first responders know the situation in your home and give you an idea of what might be in there. It provides updates for issues with hazardous materials, and can provide you with the information you need should one be detected. It is somewhere between a smart home app and something else, but we thought to include it as any homeowner would want to help keep their home safer. And the library of information on hazardous materials is substantial. Just the things you can learn from the app are worth an initial install.
This will not be the only smart home app you want on your phone but do consider an installation. It will help keep you and those around you safe, and there’s no penalty for uninstalling it if you feel it does not fit into your lifestyle.
Next up is Alexa, which will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has been tuned into the tech world in recent years. Amazon has a dominant hold on much of modern living, and with Alexa, you have an immense level of home control as well as access to information and services. It’s like having a personal assistant in your home that is plugged into everything.
Setup is relatively simple, as Alexa will handle most of the work for you so long as you supply an internet connection and some permissions. You’d be surprised at how many devices are compatible, and that’s not even counting the vast array of Amazon gadgets and devices that have Alexa as part of the package. An Echo can be an excellent smart home hub, and the Alexa app is a way to keep track of things at or away from home.
Alexa is a very complex product and program with far more features than we can list here, and is much more than just a smart home device or app. To that end, we recommend you read up more before making any purchases, both on the positives and the negatives.
An alternative to Alexa that is just as strong in some ways, Google Home is Google’s solution to the many IoT devices they have on the market, plus many others that you want to connect to the network. If there’s a device, Google Home will probably be able to work with it.
Functionally, there are not too many differences between some of these major players, but the ease of use is heavily based on what hub and devices you have in your home. If you have Google Nest, for example, Google Home will be your app of choice. However, Google Home also has put major effort into privacy options and tools for those concerned, and you can easily get a look from any audio or video streams you have from devices in your home.
The app itself has a sleek interface that is easy to use, and you’ll be able to access the settings for related devices and give commands as needed. Voice commands are a given, and you’ll likely be able to handle a quick chore while multitasking or at least check if a device is working the way it should. In a larger Google infrastructure, most people find it works naturally, and there is a sense that you can mindlessly control whatever you wish after a few weeks of use. When convenience is key, Google Home might be the app for you.
While you might not have heard much about SmartThings unless you have used it, the app is actually Samsung’s counterpart to Alexa and other smart home apps. And it makes sense, given the number of different devices that Samsung makes for the home and the number of smartphones it produces annually.
With the app, you can remotely check on devices and make adjustments to many of them as needed, get notifications about your devices, and much more. You can set up automatic operating procedures for devices, and group devices together for ease of operations. Effectively, it does all the standard things a good smart home app does, and just a tiny bit more.
It might not be as fancy as some of the other apps on this list, but sometimes that is exactly what you are looking for. However, we would like to note that even on the app pages it states that SmartThings is best and optimized to be used on Samsung smartphones and smartwatches. If you use another brand, you might want to look elsewhere or be careful about what you’re getting into.
Seeing as there are plenty of other options around, why not add Apple to the mix? Apple might not have as many random devices on the market as the other tech giants, but the ones you have are probably centerpieces of your home. And the ability to control them from your app without any effort is a key part of the home of the future. If there is a HomeKit-enabled device, Apple home works for it, and you just need to pick a home hub (a HomePod, Apple TV, or iPad) and work from there. Whatever setup you want to make for your home, you should be able to pull it off with Apple Home.
Siri is also active with Apple Home, and you can use voice commands to control your smart home settings while enabled. Other advanced features are enabled as well, including automatic video recording, scheduled setups and scenes, and more.
Apple Home obviously works best with Apple devices as you can imagine, but Apple Home also can work with other devices if you are willing to set them up (results may vary a bit here). If you have an iPhone or Apple watch, the setup will work even better for you. Still, we recommend reading more on the app and related devices to see if it’s the best choice for you.
Access: Apple App Store
Moving outside of the realm of smart home hub apps, we have MyQ Garage and Access Control. It, as you might guess, is mostly for garages, though it can also help act as a security app. It will allow you to control your garage door (so long as it is compatible), but you can also get notified if there is any activity or movement around the area. While animals will be the likely culprit, you can feel a lot safer knowing you can react as needed to anyone encroaching upon your property.
It also is a step up from the button for a garage door opener or doing it manually. If you’re in a rush, you don’t want to lose the thing. You aren’t so likely to lose your phone, carrying it on you at all times if you’re like most people. You can put the button back in a drawer where it belongs and even install the app on multiple phones, making it easier for your family as well.
MyQ Garage and Access Control might be a simple app with a single purpose, but it's one worth having installed on your smartphone for your smart home.
A third-party app for control of many of the devices you see in homes across the country, MyHome Plus is a great option if you have a mixture of devices or for some reason do not want to use one of the first-party apps. It works with practically anything, and that versatility will make it a popular feature on the smartphone of many a smart homeowner.
You can control what you would expect with the app. With it, there are sliders when appropriate, zones to make grouping and general control easier, and you can even see the battery life of connected devices (where applicable). Some might not like the design of the app as much as the major players, but it is workable and generally easy to use for the average person.
Overall, we recommend it to people who have a mixture of products who want a solid app to work with, and who might not necessarily want to work with one of the larger brands on the market.
Price: Varies depending on the platform
An app from the maker of many easy-to-use but effective smart home devices, WeMo is a great app to get started with and a universal organizer and hub for your smart home. Given how widespread the company’s products are, chances are you’ve heard of them before. And their app pairs excellently with your smart home, to the point where you should rarely be confused with the standard operation.
You can use WeMo to control the basic functions of devices, get a better clue on your lighting, open your garage door, and do practically anything normal that you would expect from a smart home app. If there is a WeMo device, it’ll work with it.
As for the functions, you can set schedules, and set up a series of “if this, then that” commands to make managing your smart home easier (and there are setups online you can download so you don’t have to set things up from scratch). And if you’re worried about security, you can use a feature that will turn lights on and off randomly, making it appear as though you are home when you are not. These features and more make it worth a look, even if there are more well-known hub apps out there.
So while most of the other apps have multiple functions, Phillips Hue is focused on one thing and one thing only: smart lighting. And it does a great job at that. If you have smart lights in your home, which can now do all sorts of things from changing color to brightness using the right app and settings, you owe it to yourself to check this out. It will give you all the controls you want, whether you just want to play around a bit or whether you’re interested in a bit of mood lighting for an evening. It can be great for movie nights, game nights, or just about any social occasion.
Phillips Hue is also easy to use, and there are plenty of options to choose from if you don’t know where to start. The visuals on the app are also rather helpful, effectively offering a preview of what you’re looking for. You will likely need a Hue Bridge to use the app, but we promise the results will be worth it when you wow your family members and house guests with the light show. The bulbs, light strips, and other accessories can also be expensive, so budget accordingly, but they’ll last a while and the ambiance is worth it for many. You might just even surprise and delight yourself.
There are perfectly reasonable concerns about smart homes and security. If someone can hack a smartphone or a computer, it stands to reason that someone could hack a home as well. The Danalock line of products hopes to assuage those fears, and they have corresponding apps with which you control them. You’ll want to look more into the various locks themselves to see if they are for you, but they are certainly a good security option.
We found the Danalock Bluetooth Z Lock is a bit more focused on security than even the usual smart locks. There are options to cover the usual suspects, but Danalock does not even require a hub to use. And while most smart locks would be suspect when it comes to hacking and security, so far we have found absolutely no reason to fear anything like that will have to the Danalock Bluetooth Z Lock. There is not necessarily
And while there are a fair number of negative reviews online, we found that most of these reviews were from people who were not using the app properly in the first place, or who did not understand it.
Price: Free, though you should own the product to use it
One of the main benefits of having a smart home and smart devices and appliances is having more control over your energy usage while not forgoing any comfort. You can tell your home when you will be home. And ecobee is the smart home app that is best designed to save as much power as possible in this respect. If you want to make the most of your smart thermostat and climate controls, ecobee is probably the app for you. There are even smartwatch features and compatibility for maximum convenience.
With it, you can set a temperature schedule for comfort, remotely control the lights and set them on a schedule, and do much more for both your comfort and your energy bill. There is even an away feature that can quickly turn out the lights, etc. while you are on the go. Whatever the inconvenience or emergency, you’ll still have control over your smart home while you can trust the app to save as much energy as possible while you’re away. You will have the peace of mind not offered by some other apps, and it’ll be easy to set up no matter what you’re working with.
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Are you looking for a universal remote on your smartphone? Then Control 4 might be the perfect app for you. It can connect to lighting, various entertainment devices and setups, cameras, and other security devices. They went out of their way to talk about the number of devices (thousands) that can work with Control 4, and the list includes practically anything you can find in a store or even online. Unless the brand wants to lock Control 4 out, there shouldn’t be an issue.
The design is lovely to use and look at, and Control 4 allows for a lot of personalization for not only quick access but settings that will make your life easier, even when you just wake up in the morning and barely know what you are doing.
Control 4 does require a strong network, and you will need to check to see what version of the Control OS you are running in your smart home to make sure you have the right app. Nonetheless, there is a strong argument to get this app depending on the devices you have in your home, and we know it’ll be the perfect fit for many.
Price: Free, though a subscription is required to make the most of the app.
AT&T Digital Life is the telecommunications giant’s version of a smart home hub app, and with it, you can try to make life easier for yourself, especially if you have some AT&T devices in your home already. With it, you can connect to devices in your home, watch video feeds directly from the app, and perform other expected tasks such as opening or closing the garage door.
If you use a lot of AT&T apps and related devices and services already, you might feel at home or comfortable with it. Otherwise, it might not be your cup of tea, and there have been a fair number of bugs in the past (which they regularly work to fix).
We would recommend the AT&T Digital Life app to people who need something simple and connected to the devices they have already. It also is relatively easy to manage all the devices in your home, and get camera feeds without much hassle. It is by no means the most advanced option, but sometimes that is not what you are looking for. Check it out, see how well it works on your phone and for your home if you are concerned about one of the other major players, and make your own decision.
Finally, we have Honeywell Home, which is an app dedicated to the management of various smart home products (the ones made by Honeywell) and is available for all modern smartphones of both platforms. With it, you can get updates from security cameras, watch direct feeds from them, and work with several smart thermostats. It might seem more basic compared to the other apps, but it might be all you need. And given how easy it is to use, simpler might be better. And of course, you will have all the basic control functions for the devices that you expect from a smart home app.
Depending on your preferences, you can get notifications if there is something suspicious going on in your home, if the temperature heavily changes, or if there is anything else that warrants your attention. Honeywell Home is also helpful if you’re going to be away from home, as you can get a notification if there is a leak in your home or if the temperature drops too low. If you live up north and have some of their products, Honeywell Home might be a huge help or a home saver.
Seeing as we do not wish to overlook anything, here are some additional tips and notes to keep in mind when you are looking for or using smart home apps:
Not every app is best for every person or home, and you will certainly not need all of the ones listed above. Nonetheless, we hope that you have found something that will make your life a little easier when managing your space and that you can be a little more comfortable in the future. Nothing is stopping you from trying some of these out for yourself, so get to it, download a few, and experiment with some afternoon that works for you! We wish you the best of luck with your search and upgrades and hope you have a great day.