What is the Samsung SmartThings app?
The Samsung SmartThings App, together with the SmartThings Hub, forms the heart of the Samsung Smart Home system. The app fulfils a central operating function and enables the control, coordination and monitoring of the smart home devices. Because Samsung is striving for an open platform, not only Samsung products but also third-party devices should be able to participate in networked communication. Due to the history of its efforts in smart home technology, Samsung is issuing its smart home control centre in different versions under different names. In addition to revising and merging the offers, a new sorting of the series names is intended to consolidate the IoT product portfolio.
What functions does it offer?
In 2015, new versions of the SmartThings Hub and the SmartThings App came onto the market as components of a control centre for the Smart Home.
In 2017, Samsung released the Connect Home and Connect Home Pro mesh systems along with the associated Connect Home app. The mesh systems integrate a router to optimize the Wi-Fi range and a SmartThings hub for controlling smart devices.
In spring 2018, Samsung announced that it wanted to standardize its heterogeneous smart home landscape: The SmartThings app is now called SmartThings Classic. The Connect Home, Smart Home, Smart View and many more apps - we are talking about up to 40 different applications - are to be combined and henceforth available as SmartThings apps.
In summer 2018 Samsung replaced the devices in the Connect Home series with the SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub.
As a result of the development, different Smart Home solutions from Samsung are available and users can - or must - operate their control modules in quite different combinations. To build the best possible scenario, Samsung makes the following recommendations:
- All new users of the Samsung SmartThings Hub or the SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub mesh solution should use the SmartThings Classic app as a control centre.
- All users of Samsung Connect Home systems should work with the new SmartThings app.
- Switching from the SmartThings Classic app to the new SmartThings application is currently not recommended. Samsung is preparing the migration but will inform its customers again expressly and in good time when the change is imminent.
- A complete replacement of SmartThings Classic by the new SmartThings app is only planned when the entire range of functions is mapped in the new environment. A specific time for this cannot yet be foreseen.
The new SmartThings app is compatible with the Android and iOS platforms and optimized for Samsung smartphones such as the Galaxy S9 and S9 +. In addition, Samsung guarantees the smooth interaction with the iPhone. However, there have been reports of performance losses from practice.
Users who want to integrate Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap work with the SmartThings Classic app. For security reasons, Alexa only supports routines for lighting, on / off and dimmer switches and thermostats.
Users who want to connect to Cortana from Microsoft or Google Home must also use the SmartThings Classic app.
The use of Amazon Echo / Alexa, Cortana from Microsoft or Google Home with the new SmartThings app is only possible if the connection was previously set up in SmartThings Classic.
Compared to the new SmartThings app, SmartThings Classic offers a more versatile range of functions. Users who operate the application in combination with the SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub, which was released in summer 2018, have the most powerful of the Smart Home solutions from Samsung. In order to fulfil its controlling function, the app enables the registration of different Smart Home devices and the configuration of the settings for their operation creating rules for communication and collaboration between the various devices
The SmartThings Classic app supports collaboration with branded smart home devices, but also the integration of third-party products. The range from Samsung includes a smart socket, moisture and motion detectors and multi-purpose sensors.
The individual automation of the smart home takes place through the definition of rules and scenarios. Rules determine the behaviour of the smart home devices in certain rooms or apartment areas at certain times or during defined periods of time. Scenarios also coordinate the interaction between devices that perform different functions. In the SmartThings Classic app, some automation routines are predefined under the names "Good morning", "Good night" or "Welcome home" to make it easier to get started. Users can customize the routines or add new routines as needed.
So-called SmartApps can be run within the SmartThings Classic app. The small programs can be downloaded free of charge from a virtual marketplace and implement a useful behaviour pattern for a smart home device by bundling function commands. The applications help to structure the automation in the smart home as finely as possible but are more suitable for advanced users of the Samsung product world. The SmartThings range of functions can also be expanded through a link with the services of the IFTTT provider. The “IFTTT recipes” integrate many web services that cannot be accessed directly from the Samsung applications.
A heterogeneous product range is responsible for the fact that Samsung's smart home world is currently difficult to understand. As part of its clean-up work, Samsung has renamed the previous SmartThings app to SmartThings Classic. The former Connect Home app is now being continued under the name SmartThings. It is to completely replace SmartThings Classic within an unspecified period, but currently still has the lower scope of services. In the hardware area, the new SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub replaced the Connect Home and Connect Home Pro systems, which were one year older.
Samsung recommends the combination of SmartThings Wi-Fi Hub and SmartThings Classic App to its new customers as currently the most powerful hardware and software combination for device control in the Smart Home.
What is the Alexa App?
With the Alexa app, buyers of Amazon speakers, such as the Amazon Echo Dot 3, Echo 2 or Echo Show 2, come into contact very early on. After all, it is required for the initial setup of the smart speaker. The Alexa app also serves as an illustrated guide and bridge to connect the digital assistant to the home Wi-Fi network. The Amazon smartphone app also remains a loyal companion for individual settings, control options and additional information on search queries. The Alexa app is available for Android smartphones or tablets and iPhone or iPad.
The 5 most important settings for the Alexa app
Once started, Alexa works well on the Amazon speaker: It answers questions, plays music and reads the latest news on demand. However, you can only really enjoy the device when Alexa is tailored to your individual preferences and connected to your own smart home devices. You can use these five settings to create a turbo start:
- Set up a music service: Most Echo speakers can be played via Bluetooth, but the speaker is more fun with a streaming service. To do this, select "Settings - Music & Media - Music Service" in the Alexa app and log in if necessary.
- Setting Calendar: integrated uadie calendar services from Microsoft and Google to appointments to manage Amazon's digital assistant by voice command. Under “Settings - Calendar” the desired service can be selected in the Alexa app and authorized for access through Amazon's loudspeakers.
- Connect smart home devices: Alexa works with many smart home devices from different manufacturers. Smart lights, radio-controlled sockets, thermostats - the chances are good that they can be controlled by voice with the Amazon Echo. Because now even toilet seats, shower fittings and cleaning robots are voice-controlled.
- Activate additional skills: Alexa learns more and more with the help of skills (free additional functions). For example, you can use my taxi Skill and a suitable voice command to request a taxi or the current pollen levels in the region on demand. Of course, the big list also includes all kinds of bizarre things such as the cat simulator, which uses randomly selected noises to simulate the presence of a house cat. From the garbage calendar to the pizza delivery to brain jogging - Skills adapt the loudspeaker according to your own needs.
- Adjust daily summary: Amazon Alexa gives you an overview of all-important news and events of the day on demand. The sources that she consults for this function can be activated using the Alexa app via the Alexa Skill Store and adjusted via "Settings - Update". A wide range of different news services is available.
What other functions does the Amazon Alexa app offer?
In everyday life, the Amazon Alexa app is an ideal companion for dealing with Amazon speakers. If you send a search query to the smart device, Alexa gives a direct voice response and stores further information on a card in the Alexa app. For the daily summary of current news, for example, the card contains an overview of all reports with links to the full articles. Other practical functions of the Alexa app are:
- Weather information: Alexa stores a seven-day forecast in the app for inquiries about the weather. In this way, the last activities on the start page are combined into a clear history.
- Listen to and manage music: The smartphone also offers the option of conveniently managing music manually.
- Maintain shopping or to-do lists: Entries are added to the lists by voice command and edited via the Alexa app, marked as completed or their order changed. Perfect for verbally maintaining a shopping list and then taking it with you to the supermarket on your smartphone.
- Create appointments or timers: Up to 100 timers and alarm clocks, which can be stored in the app, remind you of important appointments and events. They offer options around volume, different sounds and repetitions.
The Amazon Alexa app also gives users access to advanced settings to better customize the Echo speaker. For example, you can save your favourite team in the Bundesliga, so Alexa always brings you the right sports news. For up-to-date traffic information, it makes sense to set regular start and destination dates, for example for the way to work. By setting up a confirmation code, unintentional voice purchases via Alexa can be easily prevented. The connection with IFTTT should also be of interest to smart homeowners.
The individually designed scenes and groups, which could be put together from Alexa compatible devices from the start, were a good idea in themselves, but still far too cumbersome. With so-called "routines", Amazon now wants to enable even more individuality and facilitate the uniform control of many smart home devices.
In this context, the term “routine” means that a voice command triggers a whole chain of actions. For example, saying "Good morning Alexa" could turn on the bedside lamps and the coffee machine, while Alexa reads the latest news and turns on the heating thermostats in the bathroom. The shout "Sleep well, Alexa", on the other hand, would work as a start signal for lowering the blinds and locking the front door using a suitable Smart Lock.
The greatest advantage of a routine, however, is certainly that its activation words and chains of action can be put together completely individually. So instead of learning by heart which wording which LED bulb or which thermostat can be switched on, everyone can think about what they want to call their devices.
Alexa routines work according to the if-then principle, which can be linked to a timer if desired. There is therefore the option of either setting up a certain statement or the reaching of a certain point in time as a trigger for action.
Then further actions can be selected from the four areas of news, smart home, traffic and weather and linked to the desired voice command or time. You can also use drag & drop to specify the order in which they should be carried out.
Can I also access the Alexa app with voice commands?
In principle, the Alexa app also allows devices to be voice controlled but must always be started first. If you do not (yet) see a speech bubble symbol for voice control in your Alexa app, you should log out once and then log in again to download the latest update.
To conclude it seems the Alexa app wins against the Samsung SmartThings app as it has many more options to control systems around the house. It also appears to be more stable than Samsung SmartThings, however of course, ultimately it is down to the user which you prefer and which works better for you.