(Pocket-lint) - SmartThings started life as a Kickstarter launching in 2012, before the brand was bought by Samsung in 2014. At the time it was a big purchase and seen as Samsung's big move into smart home.
Since becoming part of the Samsung family, SmartThings has found itself integrated into Samsung devices, launching a range of hardware devices, while working as a platform to control your smart home too.
This is everything you need to know about SmartThings and how to make it work for you.
A quick introduction
Many people will be familiar with the SmartThings name because of the integration into Samsung devices, particularly its smartphones.
SmartThings, and the associated logo (which looks like six connected circles), appears on Samsung phones when dealing with connected devices; the app is part of the Samsung apps installed on phones and you'll find it features on things like Samsung's appliances.
The SmartThings app is universal, working on Android and iPhone to control SmartThings hardware and compatible devices, although the functionality between Samsung and non-Samsung devices is slightly different.
SmartThings is both a range of branded smart home products and the platform that controls them. The software platform supports other services, like Philips Hue, while it also integrates features like SmartThings Find, a service limited to Samsung devices.
To use SmartThings, you'll need to login with a Samsung account.
What devices does SmartThings offer?
As a smart home company, the SmartThings hardware revolves around a collection of plugs, hubs and sensors. To use the plugs or sensors you will need a SmartThings Hub to connect these devices up.
There have been several versions of the SmartThings Hub, the V3 (2018) being the latest and this will allow you to control your SmartThings system of hardware.
However, the SmartThings Hub also supports Zigbee and Z-Wave, so you can use it to control smart home hardware using these protocols, although in many cases, like for Philips Hue bulbs, it's recommended that you use a Hue Hub and link the services on the software side (which we'll get to in a bit) for the best results.
Once setup, SmartThings will let you run a range of sensors, including leak detectors, motion sensors, smart buttons, smart plugs, and smart bulbs, within the SmartThings system.
The offering is different internationally, so you might find there are more products available in some countries than some others.
SmartThings: The app
The app is likely the biggest part of the SmartThings system that you'll encounter. While you'll use the app to setup and control your SmartThings hardware via your SmartThings hub, there's actually no need to have any SmartThings-branded hardware at all to use the SmartThings platform.
SmartThings on Samsung devices also supports SmartThings Find (more on this below) and the Galaxy SmartTag, which aren't supported on non-Samsung devices.
Beyond the app, SmartThings is also compatible with major voice assistants - Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa - meaning that you can use your Nest Hub or Amazon Echo to control SmartThings, once you've linked them. Here's a guide to linking to Google Assistant, and Alexa is a similar process.
Bixby also supports SmartThings and via these routes you'd be able to use voice control.
However - it's also worth considering that many of the devices and services that SmartThings will control, like Arlo, can also be controlled directly via Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit, so if you're a user of any of those platforms, you might not need to use SmartThings at all.
As we've just said, the SmartThings app can work with a wide range of compatible devices from major smart home manufacturers including, but not limited, to:
- Philips Hue
That will allow you to add those devices - and many more - to the SmartThings app to make them part of your smart home.
You can also add many Samsung devices to the list, including things like Blu-ray players, televisions and domestic appliances.
The SmartThings app will let you scan for devices, or add them by brand or category, so adding devices is simple, usually inviting you to sign into the service you want to link and grant permission to work with SmartThings.
The app lets you divide connected devices into rooms, allowing for coordinated room-based controls, assign backgrounds and images to personalise the experience.
You can setup automations within the SmartThings app, so that you can have IF and THEN controls.
The process lets you select from time, a device trigger (like a motion sensor or camera), location, location mode (home, away, night), weather. This will be the IF side of the equation.
You can then decide what happens from the THEN options - control devices (turn on a camera, alarm, light, open the garage), send a message or notification to someone, change the location mode, or run a scene.
For example: IF motion sensor is triggered THEN camera records AND notification is sent.
The automation process makes it really easy to turn on the lights at a particular time, arm the security system when you leave the house, open the garage when you arrive at home and a whole lot more.
Scenes, as the name suggests, will let you create a set of actions from a range of devices, for example you can have a movie scene that dims the lights and closes the blinds, while switching to your Blu-ray player.
As we said, Scenes can also be integrated into automations.
SmartThings Find launched in October 2020 as an addition to SmartThings that's exclusive to Samsung users. Only those on a Samsung device will get access to SmartThings Find, which is where the Samsung account really comes into play.
SmartThings Find allows you to locate Samsung devices. You'll have to be signed into a Samsung account on those devices, which will then allow it to use the Find My Mobile services. This allows the last registered location to be logged, so devices can be located on the map.
While Google offers a similar service via the Google account, it's a nice way to see where all your Samsung phones are.
But more usefully, SmartThings Find has expanded to offer support for other Samsung devices like headphones, and in the case of the Galaxy Buds Pro, for example, Samsung Find can locate each earbud, so if you lose one, you have the chance of finding them again.
It's a slight duplication of the service offered within the Galaxy Wearable app, which also lets you track down your headphones if you lose them.
The Galaxy SmartTag is also part of the SmartThings Find system and only works with Samsung phones. Again, all of the Galaxy SmartTag controls are handled by SmartThings. The Galaxy SmartTag only works with Galaxy phones, but in return, it can also be located using the Galaxy Find Network. This is the anonymous and encrypted side of the network that will locate Galaxy devices, feeding back the location to power the SmartThings Find system.
Many will encounter SmartThings because of its wide use across Samsung devices and frequent mentions within Samsung's One UI on its phones, for example.
When it comes to running a smart home, SmartThings will be the default choice for those who have opted to setup a system including SmartThings hardware. For those who are just looking for a unifying platform, Google Home or Amazon Alexa will offer much the same experience, but with the benefit of those hardware devices like the Echo or Nest speakers providing easily accessible voice control.
SmartThings Find offers something to Samsung users that's neatly kept in one place, but overlaps with Samsung's Find My Phone/Mobile and Wearable finding options, as well as those provided by Google itself for Android.
The downside is that SmartThings Find is only available to Samsung devices, whereas the other systems have more universal support.
Ultimately, SmartThings on the software side, as a platform to build a smart home, integrating functions across Samsung devices, and to keep track of Samsung devices has seen some growth, but Samsung hasn't invested as heavily in the SmartThings-branded hardware experience lately. That might suggest that the platform is seen by Samsung as the better service, relying on other hardware brands for the physical smart home tasks.