I want a smart home. What’s the simplest way to start?


Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode and Dan Seifert discuss on Too Embarrassed to Ask.

If you want to automate your home with “smart home” gadgets, and you’re not a super-geek, watch out. Incautious consumers, like one listener who wrote into Too Embarrassed to Ask, may buy devices that don’t work with one another.

But there is hope! Inspired by that listener’s email, this week the Too Embarrassed team dove into how to make your home smart with a little less hassle.

“Maybe we’ll get there at some point. Today, there isn’t one [perfect solution],” The Verge’s Dan Seifert said on the new podcast. “There is one that I can recommend that covers most of the bases: If you are looking to start with a smart home today, I would recommend looking at the Samsung SmartThings hub.”

So what makes SmartThings a better start than Apple HomeKit, which the listener who wrote in had bought? Seifert stresses that Samsung’s smart home hub isn’t “fully universal,” meaning it doesn’t work with everything, but it works with a greater portion of the hardware that’s currently on the market.

“SmartThings doesn’t work with HomeKit. Frankly, not much works with HomeKit,” he said. “But if you’re looking for something that you can buy and then not be pigeonholed into very specific accessories to go with it, SmartThings is the way to go.”

On the new podcast, Recode’s Kara Swisher, The Verge’s Lauren Goode and Seifert also talked about new smart home hardware like Google’s Wi-Fi extender system, Google Wifi, or the ever-growing options for speakers with virtual assistants baked in, such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo lineup.

In response to another listener question, Seifert pointed out that these virtual assistants are not universally able to talk to smart homes directly. So if you’re putting an Echo under the Christmas tree, check to see if you’re also going to need a smart home hub.

“The Echo and Echo Dot are not smart home hubs in and of themselves,” he said. “They are access points to control your smart home. Some things need a hub; some things work directly. The WeMo switch works directly with the Echo, so you don’t need a hub for that. However, a hub will give you many more options, so a SmartThings hub will let you add lights and switches and all kinds of things in the future.”

Have questions about smart homes that we didn’t get to in this episode? Or have another tech topic on your mind? You can tweet any questions, comments and complaints to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. You can also email your questions to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net, in case Twitter isn’t your thing.

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we’re looking for questions about a specific topic.

You can listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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