Samsung SmartThings Hub: Commendable Compatibility, but Awkward App
Since Samsung has been in the hub game longer than the rest, it’s gotten the hang of keeping up with technology and adapting its hub to work with almost anything. It has the best compatibility of all the smart home hubs we’ve reviewed. However, using the mobile app requires some trial and error.
Data effective 8/8/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
Samsung’s 3rd generation SmartThings hub costs less than previous models thanks to its lack of backup battery and switch to cloud storage. While we like the lower price tag, no backup battery means it’s open to power outage vulnerabilities. But the SmartThings cloud has added even more memory, allowing you to integrate all your IoT devices, so we can’t complain there.
One of the first pleasant surprises about the Samsung SmartThings hub was that I didn’t have to plug it into my router. The area around my router is something of a jungle, and I was happy to avoid adding another gadget to the mob.
I ended up placing the SmartThings hub in my home office, about 30–40 feet from my router in another room. Despite the distance, connectivity was fine with the exception of a handful of “Not Connected” alerts that lasted a few seconds at most.
What’s in the box:
USB power cord
Installation and Setup
Physically installing the SmartThings hub was a cinch—all I had to do was plug it into an outlet. Connecting the SmartThings hub to the app was also easy, but it did take longer than I expected. The app was slow to load, and setting up my Samsung account was a hassle because it kept saying my passwords didn’t match, even when I knew they did. I finally gave in and let my smartphone pick a password for me, which satisfied the SmartThings app in the end.
Since I’ve never set up a smart home hub before, I was confused when it wanted me to connect to a Wi-Fi network I didn’t recognize. I eventually realized that it was connecting my phone to the hub itself so that the hub could then connect to my Wi-Fi network. It would have been nice to have more explanation throughout the installation process so I could have more easily understood what was happening.
There was a lot of lag time between each setup step and some lag time waiting for a software update, but overall the process went smoothly, if not quickly.
The Samsung SmartThings hub is compatible with a wide variety of smart home devices. I tested mine with a Wi-Fi smart bulb and a smart plug. Unfortunately, the Discover Devices feature of the SmartThings app didn’t work with any of the devices I added, requiring me to look up each device by typing it into the app. To connect each device, I had to log into each product’s account first, which was time consuming. If you were connecting only Samsung SmartThings devices, this process would probably be a lot smoother.
One thing I like about the SmartThings app is the ability to sort your devices by room. Because I tested only two devices, I didn’t really need this feature. But if I had a whole houseful of smart devices, it would make it a lot easier to identify each one from the app.
The SmartThings app lets you create custom scenes to control multiple devices with one touch. For example, you could create a scene called Good Morning that turns off your smart home security and turns on your coffee maker and a kitchen light.
I initially created two scenes: Night Lighting and Work Lighting. Night Lighting turned on my office lamp to 20% brightness and turned on the string of lights I’d plugged into the smart outlet. Work Lighting turned off the smart outlet and turned on the office lamp to full brightness.
While both scenes executed perfectly, I was perplexed that I couldn’t just push the scene icon again to turn the scene off, turning all the lights off at once. To work around the issue, I created a third scene that could operate as an off button for the other scenes. I called it No Lighting and it worked fine. It would be nice if Samsung added some in-app tips for creating scenes and automations so I could have avoided the frustration of having to figure that out myself.
SmartThings automations use an IFTTT-type protocol so you can set certain conditions to trigger specific devices. Conditions can be based on your phone’s location, time of day, app mode (e.g., Home or Away), or the status of another device. For example, you can tell SmartThings, “If I’m gone, turn off living room lights.”
I ran a few different automations based on the time of day and my location, but I learned that I had to make sure automations didn’t interfere with each other: I had an automation that would turn lights on at 6 p.m. and off at 9 p.m. A second automation would turn lights on when I arrived home. But if I had the first automation running and I arrived home at 10 p.m., after the smart lights had been turned off, then they wouldn’t turn on, because they were still under the direction of the first automation.
Much like creating scenes, it was like a tricky logic puzzle to figure out how to get the automations to work the way I wanted them to, but once I sorted it out, the hub worked fine. Once again, I would have appreciated more in-app guidance, maybe with some warnings to let me know when one automation I was creating was going to interfere with another one.
As a mom, probably my favorite part of testing the SmartThings hub was connecting it to my Amazon Alexa so I could use voice commands to control my devices and scenes. After all, it’s not often I can tell someone what to do and they’ll actually do it without argument. While sitting in my office, I could simply say, “Alexa, turn on Work Lighting,” and she’d say, “Okay,” and my desk lamp would turn on at full brightness. I could also control each device individually by calling them by name, like, “Alexa, turn off kitchen plug.”
Here are a few smart device brands that work with SmartThings:
Data effective 8/8/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
Because it can connect to Z-Wave devices, the Samsung SmartThings hub is compatible with more brands than the Google Home Mini or the Amazon Echo Plus 2. But unlike those devices, the SmartThings hub doesn’t have a speaker or microphone for voice commands. It’s a good choice for a hub if you already have a voice assistant without a hub, or if you just want a hub that can connect to more smart devices.
The one compatibility area where SmartThings is lacking is connecting to Nest. If you want a hub to connect your Nest thermostat with other smart home gadgets in your home, you’ll probably need to shop for Amazon, Google, or other Nest-compatible hubs.
SmartThings Hub FAQs
Does the SmartThings hub have USB ports?
The hub has one USB port that currently doesn’t do anything, but according to the developers, it’s there “to set the groundwork for future expansion.”1
How can I use smart home devices for safety and security?
Security applications for smart home devices are endless: you can have your door locks automatically unlock when you arrive home, have smart smoke detectors communicate with your thermostat to turn off your house fan when smoke is detected, or set smart lights to turn on when a motion sensor detects motion to deter burglars.
When it comes to simple installation and broad product compatibility, Samsung SmartThings is definitely one of the best smart home hubs.
Using the mobile app to connect devices and set up scenes and automations requires some trial and error, but once you get it set up, your devices will do what they’re supposed to, and you shouldn’t have to interact with the app much after that. In my opinion, that’s what having a smart home is all about, so the Samsung SmartThings hub gets my stamp of approval. Still, I would recommend you find someone who’s used the SmartThings app before to walk you through setting up your own automations and scenes until you get the hang of it.
How We Reviewed the Samsung SmartThings Hub
To test the SmartThings smart hub, I downloaded the SmartThings app to an iPhone and then connected the hub to a Wemo Mini Smart Plug and a TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Bulb. I also connected the hub to a 2nd generation Amazon Echo Dot using the Amazon Alexa app. I tested a variety of scenes and automations over several days. Find out more about our product testing process in our full methodology.
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more