You can do so much with home automation these days that it’s becoming more of an art form than a standard home accessory. As with any art form, you’re going to need the right tools for your project. Z-Wave is the obvious choice when it comes to wireless home automation protocols. They are very easy to set up, work well with most other smart home technologies and they have plenty of range.
When setting up home automation, you’re generally going to be setting up some pretty complicated routines, hence the word automation. So it’s probably pretty important to have a pretty well made application to create and control all of these routines.
What Makes a Good Z-Wave App?
Companies are trying to solve home automation in many ways, buy some of the features they put out don’t make any sense, while others are game changers. Good home automation apps are usually going to have good grouping features and “if this, then that” logical functions. But keep in mind, even apps that have all of these functions might approach them in an unintuitive or confusing way.
If you’re looking to include home automation with home security, Protect America has a great mobile app for controlling Z-Wave security. Having your smart security features professionally monitored, like your security cameras, will add a huge layer of protection to your home.
Great home automation apps will also have good compatibility with different technologies. Z-Wave for example has the ability to extend its range by hopping from different devices without having to connect back to the central hub. Some apps will use this to their advantage and offer unique features. The physical hub is another huge factor in performance and convenience, too. They generally run their own proprietary software and try to avoid third party apps from controlling their hardware. It’s my opinion that higher flexibility and compatibility are among the more important factors in choosing a home automation platform.
Best Z-Wave Apps
A lot of these apps are going to come with their own hub, as I mentioned earlier, but some of them are available by themselves without any hardware, but you will have to either buy a compatible hub or build your own with something like a Raspberry Pi.
Nest Smart Home App
The Nest app simply works. Hardware is going to have a huge impact on this of course, but it has the highest rated smart home mobile app in the app store for a reason. The user interface is super easy to understand and set up. It also has advanced grouping and automation features.
Almost is also a great choice. Their mobile app is very easy to understand and as an added bonus, it is visually compelling. One drawback about their products though is their mesh network doesn’t work very well. If you plan to use Almond as the central hub in a large area you might want to choose a different platform.
SmartThings (Samsung Connect)
Samsung’s SmartThings is a pretty obvious choice, but there are a few bugs in their application. Although the system itself it extremely versatile and powerful, SmartThings can have a really hard time connecting to some appliances. A good rule of thumb is to read about your hardware and see if anyone else is having trouble connecting their appliance to the SmartThings app.
Wink – Smart Home
Wink is a solid choice for home automation. They have all the built in stuff you usually want, like push notifications to your phone or video. One of the drawbacks to Wink is their video delay. Likely they will fix this issue in later product releases, but for now be aware that the hardware on their lower end products have limited power which can cause a delay in the video feed.
Worst Smart Home Apps
Vera products actually work extremely well, especially for the price you pay for them. The problem with Vera is in their mobile application. While it is easy to setup, it’s very difficult to preform simple functions that would be relatively easy on other, higher end applications. The app will also crash randomly, which can be extremely inconvenient when you’re relying on the app to monitor something at home. Our advice is to just avoid this platform until they get a more stable mobile application.
GE chose to make separate applications for different types of appliances. They have a completely separate mobile for kitchen, laundry and comfort. It’s ironic that they went this route because you would think that because it’s more specific, that it would connect better, but GE mobile apps have some of the worst connectivity we’ve ever seen. Honestly, it would be a waste of time to list out all of the problems with these applications. It’s fairly safe to say you’re better off just avoiding GE mobile apps altogether.