A Guide to Smart Home Devices
Most of the smart home devices I tried were pretty simple to use. But the more I piled on the network, the glitchier things got. Suggestion: Stick with as few brands as possible or resign yourself to using some apps in lieu of voice control.
All HomeKit-certified products use Apple hardware and software, which makes for an easier setup and a more reliable connection; adding a Lutron outlet to control a light is nearly as easy as adding a Bluetooth device. But as usual, Siri occasionally misunderstood me, attempting a phone call when I was trying to adjust the thermostat. And when I moved beyond Wi-Fi range, I couldn’t use voice control at all, because I don’t have a third-generation or later Apple TV to relay the commands. (A software update this fall promises to address the problem by allowing an iPad to serve the same function.)
Alexa, the Amazon Echo’s voice-control assistant, mixes control of your smart-home devices with other personal assistant tasks, like calling Uber or checking your credit card balance, which might be problematic if Alexa weren’t such a good listener — often much better than Siri. But it’s not portable like your phone, so you’ll need a $30 Bluetooth voice remote (like I used) or a $90 Echo Dot (a mini version of Echo) if you leave the room where Echo is installed. And Alexa can sometimes be maddeningly picky, understanding what you’re saying but asking you to rephrase it anyway.