Samsung SmartThings Review

We used SmartThings for over a year to see if it's a good foundation for a smart home.
Samsung SmartThings
Aeotec Smart Home Hub
Aeotec Smart Home Hub
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • Pros
    Broad smart compatibility
  • Pros
    Excellent automation tools
  • Cons
    Expensive equipment
John Carlsen
Senior Staff Writer, Security & Smart Home
November 05, 2021

Samsung SmartThings offers some of the best smart home compatibility on the market. It works with most smart home platforms and helps control your smart devices from a single app. While you don't need a hub to use SmartThings with dozens of Wi-Fi smart devices, you'll want one to unlock the full range of what SmartThings can offer.

Unfortunately, finding a SmartThings hub is more difficult these days since SmartThings no longer makes first-party equipment. Instead, you need a third-party "Works as a SmartThings Hub" product like the Aeotec Smart Home Hub. Learn what makes SmartThings stand out in our hands-on review.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Wide compatibility
Pro Bullet Scenes and automations
Pro Bullet No monthly fee
Pro Bullet Great mobile app
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Expensive equipment
Con Bullet App takes you time to learn

SmartThings hub pricing

Hub
Price
Voice assistants
Technology
Mobile app
Monthly fee
Learn More
Aeotec Smart Home HubAeotec Smart Home Hub
Amazon Alexa, Google AssistantSmartThings,
Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee
Android, iOSNone

Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

What is home automation?

Play Video

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one! Learn how to protect your home, your loved ones, yourself, and your belongings.


What's in the box

Samsung SmartThings Hub 3rd Gen, what's in the box

Image: Kasey Tross, SafeWise

  • SmartThings hub
  • USB power cord
  • Ethernet cable

Samsung SmartThings app

The SmartThings app is your primary method for setting up and controlling smart home devices. On the surface, the mobile app has a simple user interface with five tabs along the bottom:

  • Favorites: easy access to your preferred devices, services, and scenes
  • Devices: organize your smart home into separate rooms
  • Life: control and monitor your devices with convenient services
  • Automations: make devices easier to use with custom scenes and automations
  • Menu: change settings, link to voice assistants, and try experimental features
Thumbs Up
Is the SmartThings app good?

SmartThings is one of the best smart home apps available. While it's not perfect, it offers more flexibility than the Google Home app and isn't as cluttered as the Amazon Alexa app.

Rooms

SmartThings Devices tab

Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

Organization becomes very important as your collection of smart devices grows from just a few to dozens or hundreds. You can create and manage rooms from the Devices tab of the app.

Navigating your rooms

Every room has a separate tab you can see by swiping to the left or right. Swiping through more than a few rooms is a bit tedious, so we're glad that SmartThings includes a dropdown menu for quick access. You can also tap on the dots near the bottom of the screen to jump to a tab, though it's hit or miss unless you have a specific dot for a room memorized.

Custom wallpapers

We like that you can assign different wallpaper to each room for easy identification. The default wallpapers are colorful gradients, but you can also use photos from your phone for a more personal touch.

Scenes, automations, and services

Apart from manually controlling your smart home products on the Favorites and Devices tabs, you can also automate tasks through the Life and Automations tabs. These tools and services require some planning and time to set up—but they make SmartThings into something more than a remote control.

Scenes

SmartThings creating a scene

Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

Creating custom scenes helps you control multiple devices with one touch or voice command. You might create a “Good Morning”  scene that opens your smart blinds, disarms your security sensors, and turns on your coffee maker. The app doesn't walk you through creating scenes beyond some basic tips, so you usually need to create and test them as you go to make sure everything works.

Scenes perform the same action every time, so you can't use a scene to toggle smart lights on and off. It's far easier to create a lighting group that controls lights with one button. Still, scenes are most useful for changing the color and dimming of smart light bulbs without digging into the settings menu every time.

Light Bulb
Virtual Home

Although the SmartThings app has limited tutorials for creating scenes and automations, we like the Virtual Home tool that shows you what a functioning smart home looks like. Best of all, it doesn't require any devices, so you can see if you like SmartThings before buying it.

Automations

SmartThings creating an automation

Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

The Automations tab is the heart of SmartThings because you can customize how your devices react to trigger conditions like your phone's location, time of day, device status, and system status (Home or Away mode). It's a great way to have SmartThings turn on a motion-activated night light after bedtime or lock the front door when you leave to run errands.

It's a bit tricky to set up automations since SmartThings can cancel out overlapping tasks. For example, scheduling two automations that control your porch light (off during the day and on at night) might keep the light from turning on for more than a few minutes after sunset.

While the app gives a basic explanation of how to use automations, it's often a trial-and-error process to find what works best. It could help to completely map everything out on a piece of paper before choosing your settings in the app. Either way, setting up automations is often confusing until you get the hang of it—much like learning how mathematical equations work for the first time.

Life

The Life tab hosts eight services that help make your SmartThings system run automatically. Unless you have specific devices—most of which are pricey Samsung devices—you won't find much use for these services. Still, three of these services have some potential:

  • SmartThings Home Monitor works like a home security system to have your devices react to smoke, water leaks, or someone triggering a sensor. It can send notifications, text messages, sound sirens, turn on lights, and record video.
  • Smart Lock Guest Access creates guest codes you can share via text message, but doesn't offer scheduling options. SmartThings doesn't have great smart lock tools beyond controlling locks through the app.
  • SmartThings Cooking provides recipes, meal plans, and kitchen monitoring. It doesn't require any specific appliances but benefits from having a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator. We like the clean layout and checklists in the recipes. But a dedicated cooking app is probably better.

The other services don't bring much to the SmartThings experience beyond collecting controls and information in one place for more convenience.

What devices are compatible with SmartThings?

Depending on the equipment you have, Samsung SmartThings supports smart home devices from over 100 brands. Listing them all here would be a slog for everyone, so here are some highlights from the complete Works with SmartThings List:

Product type
Notable brands
Voice assistantAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Security camera or video doorbellArlo, Google Nest, Ring
Smart lightingKasa, LIFX, LIFX, Philips Hue, Nanoleaf, Sengled, Sylvania
Smart plug, outlet, or light switchBrilliant, Centralite, Fibaro, Leviton, Lutron, Wemo
Smart sensorsAeotec, Dome, Ecolink, Jasco, Nortek, Zooz
Smart lockAugust, Kwikset, Schlage, Yale
Smoke detectorFirst Alert, Konnected, Utilitech
Smart thermostatEcobee, Google Nest, Honeywell Home, Lux, Trane
Water shut-off valveEcoNet, Fortrezz, LeakSmart
Smart speakersBose, Sonos

Sadly, you won't find Apple HomeKit on this list since you can't control your devices with the Apple Home app. Here's a quick breakdown of how SmartThings works with some of the more influential smart home brands out there.

Checklist
Is Samsung SmartThings necessary?

Strictly speaking, you don't need Samsung SmartThings to control your smart home. Still, it's nice to manage multiple devices from a single app instead of jumping between different apps.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

Both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant add voice control to your SmartThings system. This makes it easy to ask your smart speaker to turn on the lights, activate scenes, or lock the front door.

Without a SmartThings hub

If you don't have a SmartThings hub, you can still link your SmartThings account to Amazon or Google. But the odds are that you won't need SmartThings since many Wi-Fi devices work directly with the voice assistant. But SmartThings is a nice upgrade to Google Assistant since its automation and routines are more advanced and offer more flexibility.

With a SmartThings hub

Using a SmartThings hub boosts your voice assistant with more device options. In some cases, like with Z-Wave, it's the only way to bring those devices into your smart home.

IFTTT

IFTTT is an online service that acts a lot like a smart home hub—except that it's compatible with services and devices you won't see in a typical smart home like Slack, Fitbit, Spotify, Google Drive, and Slack. For example, imagine having a light change color when the weather conditions change to rain.

Despite the huge amount of versatility, IFTTT doesn't offer much to folks without a subscription. You can create only three custom applets (IFTTT's version of routines) before you need to pay. Without a subscription, you must choose from a list of predetermined applets—there are plenty to choose from—so there's no guarantee that you'll find the right tool for your needs.

If you choose to pay for IFTTT Pro (around $4 a month), you can create unlimited applets. Either way, it's a nice option for making SmartThings do more with your smart home.

Z-Wave and Zigbee

SmartThings' compatibility with Z-Wave and Zigbee is exclusive to a SmartThings hub, but these purpose-built smart home devices have tons of benefits. Most notably, Z-Wave and Zigbee use less power than Wi-Fi, so you don't need to change batteries on wireless devices as often. While this works best in security sensors, it's also great for smart locks.

Both Z-Wave and Zigbee also use mesh networking to ensure your devices stay connected to the hub more reliably. If a device dies between your hub and another device, it will connect through other active devices, which is a nice backup plan.

Z-Wave and Zigbee devices are often cheaper than their Wi-Fi counterparts since the hub handles all of the work connecting to your smartphone. Although Wi-Fi smart devices are starting to compete better on price, we think the battery advantages of Z-Wave and Zigbee are hard to ignore.

Samsung SmartThings equipment

In December 2020, Aeotec announced a partnership with Samsung to take over the hardware side of SmartThings. Aeotec is a seasoned smart device maker, so we're excited (aside from some branding confusion). Although Samsung no longer manufactures SmartThings equipment, it still manages the SmartThings software, services, and mobile app.

Let's explore some of this Aeotec equipment and see where it fits into the SmartThings ecosystem.

Aeotec Smart Home Hub

Best SmartThings hub
Aeotec Smart Home Hub

Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

The Aeotec Smart Home Hub is identical to the SmartThings Hub V3 it replaces. The technology, software, and even the appearance are the same—but with a different logo.

Our time with the SmartThings Hub reveals a connected device chock full of great tech. You can connect it to your home network using Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable, which is easy to set up and manage. The hub controls Z-Wave and Zigbee smart home devices and is compatible with the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants.

The hub itself isn't very large (about the size of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), so you can tuck it away on a shelf without taking up too much space. It doesn't have a wall-mounting option, but Galdoo sells a compatible bracket for about $10.

Unlike previous models, this hub doesn't have a backup battery. But we don't think it's much of a loss, considering the hub doesn't focus on home security with professional monitoring, where a backup battery is more practical.

Bell
Previous SmartThings hubs

The SmartThings app still supports the SmartThings V3 and V2 hub models (if you already have one). We don't recommend buying these since they’re way pricier than the model Aeotec sells. But they're still good options if you can find one for a reasonable price. The SmartThings smart hub V1 no longer works with the SmartThings app.

Other SmartThings devices by Aeotec

If you're a fan of older SmartThings devices, Aeotec now makes these too. Like the smart hub, these devices are essentially identical to their Samsung predecessors.

  • Aeotec Multipurpose Sensor: This handy Zigbee sensor detects four types of activity:
    • Entry sensor that can detect open windows and doors
    • Vibration sensor that can detect when the device moves, like when a door is moving
    • Tilt sensor that can detect the device's angle on objects like garage doors
    • Temperature sensor that monitors conditions inside your home—great for helping SmartThings control your smart thermostat
  • Aeotec Motion Sensor: watches for movement inside your home and has a temperature sensor too
  • Aeotec Cam 360: This security camera can pan and tilt to help you look around the room. It comes with 24 hours of free cloud video storage.
  • Aeotec Water Leak Sensor: watches for water leaks and monitors the temperature to help you spot leaks and frozen pipes
Aeotec's other smart devices

At the risk of turning this into a full review of Aeotec's smart devices, we'll point out that the brand makes another 16 Z-Wave devices that are compatible with SmartThings. These products existed before Aeotec took over SmartThings hardware.

Samsung SmartThings setup

To get started with the SmartThings app, you need only to create a Samsung account and start adding devices to your system. You will need a hub to use Z-Wave and Zigbee products.

Setting up the hub

Setting up Aeotec SmartThings Hub

Image: John Carlsen, SafeWise

It's a cinch to install the SmartThings Hub since you plug it into an outlet and use the SmartThings mobile app to scan a QR code on the bottom.

The whole process takes about five minutes, though it can take longer depending on whether you need to update the hub's firmware.

Although the smart hub has an Ethernet port, the built-in Wi-Fi means you don't need to use it if you don't want to. This is great for placing your hub in a central location away from your router, though we're betting you'll probably keep them in the same place anyway.

In an older version of this review, we said the setup process was much slower and had several hiccups when connecting to Wi-Fi. But we didn't notice any of these problems, so we're glad that Samsung smoothed out the wrinkles for a better experience.

Adding devices

SmartThings add device

Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

Most compatible Wi-Fi devices will work directly with the app—just link the device's account to SmartThings, and you're good to start creating automations and routines. SmartThings can even detect compatible devices on the same Wi-Fi network and add them automatically.

The process is similar for adding Z-Wave and Zigbee devices to the hub. Just power on the devices, and SmartThings will add them. If you're having trouble adding a smart device, you can type in the brand and choose the model from the list.

The SmartThings app then walks you through the setup process, which usually involves QR codes and waiting a moment while the hub recognizes and adds your new devices.

Checklist
SmartThings community

There’s an active SmartThings community online, so it's easy to find out if a device works with the system (even if it's not on an official list). We recommend getting familiar with the SmartThings Community forum and the r/SmartThings subreddit. These are great resources for learning about new products, connecting with other smart home enthusiasts, and figuring out how your system works (or finding new things to try).

How SmartThings stacks up

Product
Best for
Price
Smart home compatibility
Learn more
Aeotec Smart Home HubAeotec Smart Home Hub
Best compatibilityAmazon, Google, IFTTT, SmartThings, Z-Wave, Zigbee
Amazon Echo (4th gen)Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
Best Amazon hubAmazon, IFTTT, Zigbee
Google Nest Hub MaxNest Hub Max
Best Google hubGoogle, IFTTT, Thread
HomePod Mini
Best Apple hubApple, Thread

Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Final word

When it comes to simple installation and broad product compatibility, the Aeotec Smart Home Hub combined with the Samsung SmartThings app make one of the best smart home hubs you can buy.

Using the mobile app to connect devices and set up scenes and automations requires some trial and error. But once you set it up, your devices do what they're supposed to, and you won't have to interact with the app much after that. Still, we recommend finding someone who's used the SmartThings app to help set up automations and scenes until you get the hang of it.

Learn more about building your smart home in our home automation guide for beginners and our review of the best smart home hubs.

FAQ

Samsung doesn't make SmartThings hardware anymore, and it's taking time for Aeotec, its new hardware partner, to meet demand due to the global chip shortage. We recommend searching for Aeotec SmartThings products when possible.

Although Samsung no longer manufactures SmartThings hardware, it still updates the SmartThings software and mobile app to work with the latest smart home products.

There's no fee or subscription to use SmartThings, but you still need to buy compatible devices to use it effectively.

SmartThings controls compatible Wi-Fi devices through a cloud server—just link your device's account using the SmartThings app.

Hubitat is a good alternative to a SmartThings hub but isn't as user-friendly. Still, Hubitat is a better option if you want to control devices without an internet connection or create custom automations using computer code.

How we reviewed Samsung SmartThings

My experience with smart home hubs stretches back to 2014, and I've been a SmartThings user since May 2020. I have dozens of smart devices in my home that link to a third-generation SmartThings Hub, which is the basis for my tests—it's also a valuable tool for testing other products for SafeWise.

SmartThings Hub testing

Image: John Carlsen, SafeWise

The hub automates my Kasa smart plugs, Sengled smart light bulbs, IKEA remotes, GoControl entry sensors, and other devices using Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Zigbee smart home protocols.

Although I use the SmartThings app to add new devices and create smart home routines, I primarily control the system via the Google Home app and Nest smart speakers.

While this review draws most of its conclusions from my personal experiences, I also researched online reviews from users and other smart home experts to build a better picture of SmartThings overall. I considered the following during my tests:

  • Features
  • Equipment
  • Setup
  • Smart home compatibility

Find out more about our product testing process in our full methodology.

Related articles on SafeWise


Disclaimer

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided "as is" and is subject to change or removal at any time.

†Google, Google Nest, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over nine years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

Recent Articles

Senior woman hugging dog
The Best Medical Alert Systems of 2022
See which medical alert system is the best to keep you and your loved one...
safewise's best home security systems
10 Best Home Security Systems of 2022
After hundreds of hours of tests and research, plus a combined 50+ years of experience,...
security system being installed on wall
Best DIY Home Security Systems of 2022
DIY install home security systems are cost-efficient, effective, and easy to install. See which DIY...
couple sitting on floor with moving boxes and a dog
2022 Best Home Security Systems for Renters
These renter-friendly home security systems keep your house or apartment safe and require less commitment...