When you add devices to your smart home, you usually have to download and use additional apps, which is frustrating and confusing. You can avoid all of this — and you don’t need a hub to do it. You just need one application.

Key to Smarthome Bliss: one app

iOS app menu showing Alexa, Google, Philips, Smart Life, Magic Home and more.
Are the lights in this room controlled by Alexa, Google, Philips, Smart Life or Magic Home?

Aside from voice communication, the best way to control your smart home is with a single app. This is especially true if multiple family members interact with your smart home. If everyone is always guessing which app controls the living room lights and which controls the smart plugs, you might be tempted to get frustrated.

It’s even worse when you have to change settings that are rarely used, such as procedures, timers, or scenes. If you can’t remember which app locks the door every day, you need to dig into all of them one by one.

However, if you control every feature of all your SmartHome devices through a single app, you can eliminate all (or most) of the confusion. Once set up correctly, you only need other firmware update apps and sometimes some additional features.

You have options for which app to use

Google Home shows smart devices in the basement and bedroom.
These devices come from four different sources.

The average smart home may not require incredibly complex procedures, in which case Google Home or Alexa will work well as your standalone app. The bonus here is all your smartphones, tablets, and voice control, all in one place.

You must ensure that all of your devices support the voice assistant of your choice. This list is constantly growing though. If you already have Google Home or Alexa speakers, be sure to consider whether the smarthome gadget you bought is compatible with them.

If you’re an Apple fan, you can use HomeKit and the Home app. But just like Google Home and Alexa, you need to make sure all of your devices have HomeKit support. HomeKit has some distinct advantages (such as Apple Watch support) and, depending on your hardware, more local control. This means that some of your commands will be processed faster than with Alexa or Google Home.

If you have smart subtitles like SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Hubitat, or HomeSeer, they also have dashboard apps to control your devices. You may not be able to control all features (such as procedures) in an application. Also, many Wi-Fi devices built for Alexa and Google Home are not compatible with hubs.

The hubs also don’t offer built-in voice control, so you still have to connect everything to your Google Home or the Alexa app if you want to. However, smarthubs usually provide more powerful automation than voice assistants.

How to set it up

Unfortunately, «managing a single app» does not mean «installing a single app». To get started, you still need to install the app associated with your new SmartHome device. You use this to set up the device and get it working. You then connect it to your single app solution, be it Google Home, Alexa, or HomeKit.

For Google Home, open the Home app, click the add button, click Set Up Device, and then click Work with Google. The Google Home app presents you with a list of manufacturers. Find the right one and follow the linking process.

The Add and Manage menu in the Google Home app.

The process for Alexa is similar. Open the Alexa app, tap the hamburger menu in the top left, and then tap «Add Device.» Select a smart device category, such as «Light» or «Plug». Select its manufacturer and follow the instructions to link your accounts.

Device category menu in the Alexa app.

HomeKit offers the most intuitive process for adding a device. Click «Add Accessory» and then use your iPhone or iPad’s camera to scan the QR code on the device’s box. Follow the instructions to name the device and add it to the room.

The Add Accessory button in the Apple HomeKit app.

Each smarthub has its own method for adding devices. The process can also vary depending on the type of device (Z-wave, Zigbee, light bulb, light switch, etc.). You can check the website for your smarthub to see the current way to add a device.

You can also set up sharing with your family so everyone can access the same app. In the Google Home app, tap «Add» and then select «Invite Home Member». For Alexa, you go to the Amazon’s Household website and add members to your Alexa Household. In the Apple Home app, tap the Home icon in the top left corner. Click «Home Settings» and then click «Home» (you probably only have the one) that you want to invite someone to. In the «People» section, click «Invite» and follow the instructions.

You still have to use the original app (sometimes)

Despite the purpose of a single app, you should not delete the original app for your smart devices. You still have to use them sometimes. For example, Alexa and Google cannot update the firmware for your smart plugs, so you must do it through the original app.

Sometimes you also miss a few features when you’re browsing another app. For example, the Philips Hue app offers more color options for your light bulbs than the Google Home app. In this particular case, it may be useful to create a scene in the Philips Hue app (certain apps may have similar options for other devices).

Google Home, Alexa, and HomeKit offer some support for scenes, depending on the device, allowing you to stay in a single app more often. However, for finer tuning, you still need the original app.

That said, if you can control at least 90 percent of your devices, routines, timers, and more in one app, you’ll spend far less time trying to figure out which app to use. Both you and the rest of your family will be grateful that you put in the effort.

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