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10 best smart home gadgets

Switch on a light or water the plants by raising your voice

Join the internet of things ( iStock )

Gadgets that help you run your home by using your voice rather than walking over to your wall light, thermostat or hi-fi are becoming increasingly common. They vary from security cameras to smart lights, connected speakers to watering devices for your plants.

Each of the devices here has its own smartphone app so you can control it remotely. Most work with any smartphone using their dedicated apps, but some, Eve products for instance, only work with Apple gadgets.

For the best results, it’s worth having one of the systems that can control the gadgets directly. Apple, Google and Amazon have smart speakers which can hear you across the room and can be controlled by voice.

Apple’s Home app works on the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, HomePod speaker and soon, Mac computers. To control the gadgets here with your voice, you say “Hey, Siri” to the Apple device.

Google has a series of voice-controlled speakers called Google Home, Google Home Mini and others. Its voice-activated helper, called Google Assistant, is in these speakers and can also be controlled through any Android phone or through the dedicated Google Assistant app for iPhone.

The third system is in some ways the most advanced. Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated assistant, is on Amazon tablets, Echo speakers (such as the Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Dot and Echo Spot) and apps for Android and iPhone.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Nest Thermostat: £219, Nest

Compatible systems: Amazon, Google

Nest’s first product, the learning thermostat, looks sensational and works like a dream. Twist the dial to turn the heating up or down and click the screen to adjust settings. Or do it all from the iPhone or Android app. If you have Alexa or Google, you can tell it what to do from there, too. It connects to your boiler, for instance, and controls heating and hot water.

You can set a schedule or let it learn your movements. If you go away on holiday and forget to turn the heating off, it’ll do so automatically after 48 hours. Then, when you’re setting off on your journey home, for instance, with one click of the app you can turn the heating back on so it’s toasty for your arrival. 

You can have it installed professionally for an extra £60, ordered when you buy the thermostat. Nest claims the thermostat saves you money on energy bills by controlling when it’s used and its regular messages telling you how much energy you saved this month compared to last (if you did). Nest is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

Buy now

Eve Aqua: £89.95, Amazon

Compatible systems: Apple

Watering the garden, especially if you have plants in pots and certainly during the hot summer, is crucial. The handsomely built Eve Aqua attaches between the garden tap and hose. You can set it to come on at regular intervals (two minutes four times a day, say) for the best effect. It monitors the amount of water used, too.

Name the Eve Aqua as you like, and control it by saying: “Hey, Siri, turn on the sprinkler,” for instance. If you have an iPad set up as a home hub, or an Apple TV or HomePod, you can control it remotely from your iPhone, too, which is handy if there’s a dry spell while you’re away and you want to top up the watering.

Buy now

Philips Hue Starter Kit: £169.99, Meet Hue

Compatible systems: Amazon, Apple, Google

Philips was the first company to create smart lighting and remains at the forefront of the technology. A starter kit gives you a bridge unit that connects to your router and three bulbs which are white only or have white and millions of colours. You can set schedules or turn the lights up gently in the morning to wake up to a sunrise effect, for instance.

If you go on holiday and forget to turn lights off – or on – you can manage this from your smartphone. If you have an Amazon Echo Plus, a compatible hub is built in, so you don’t need the bridge unit.

Buy now

Ring Video Doorbell 2: £179, John Lewis

Compatible systems: Amazon, Apple, Google

The video bell attaches to your door and when the button is pressed it can trigger your existing doorbell or link wirelessly to the Ring Chime bell inside the house. When someone rings the bell, it notifies your phone instantly, and a speaker and microphone mean you can speak to whoever’s there directly.

It has an easily removed rechargeable battery and two choices of metallic faceplate. A video recording plan is available which stores video recordings for up to 60 days (£2.50 a month).

Buy now

Nest Protect: £109, Nest

Compatible systems: Google, Amazon

This is the most elegant smoke and carbon monoxide alarm you’re likely to see. It’s a smart sensor too, as it can tell the difference between smoke and steam. And instead of the shrill and unpleasant noise most smoke alarms make, this one speaks a warning before the alarm proper goes off. It alerts your phone, too. It comes in two versions, wired and battery-powered.

If you have the battery version, it alerts you when the battery needs replacing instead of chirruping annoyingly late at night when you’re half asleep. If you have Nest Thermostat, the two can work together so if Protect detects an emergency, Thermostat turns off the heating. It even works as a night light when it senses someone walking past it. Works with Apple, but only through the Nest iPhone app.

Buy now

Eve Button: £44.95, Amazon

Compatible systems: Apple

A smart home is all very well, but sometimes people prefer an actual button to press. Or maybe there’s someone in your home, resident or visitor, who’s not quite au fait with smart tech. This portable switch is a great solution. You configure it to do certain tasks and button presses achieve them. It can work with other smart devices such as locks and lights.

So, for instance, a single press might turn on all the lights in the living room, a double press could turn on the kitchen lights and a long press could be the last thing you do in the evening, so the button turns off all the lights downstairs, locks the front door and switches on the lights in the bedroom.

There are even tiny, coloured stickers so you can easily remember what the different button presses do.

Buy now

Nokia Body Cardio bathroom scales: £79.95, Nokia Health

Compatible systems: Amazon

Connected bathroom scales, eh? That’s right, and they’re great. Each time you weigh yourself, the scales tell you your weight, body water content, fat content and more. Not to mention the weather forecast for the day and your heart rate. Then, it saves every measurement to the Nokia Health app on your phone or online so you can monitor your weight gain or loss over a period, spotting trends in a way that’s hard otherwise.

A coaching programme can send you gentle encouragement by email to help you reach your desired weight. You can read your weight in kilos, lbs or stones and lbs. The scales are smart enough to know who’s standing on them just from the weight, so several members of a family can use them. They have a rechargeable battery and come in black or white finishes.

Currently on sale at a reduced price – usually £129.95.

Buy now

Nest Hello: £229, Nest

Compatible systems: Amazon, Google

Like the Ring above, this is a video doorbell. When someone is loitering nearby, it alerts you, even if they don’t press the button. When they do press the doorbell, your phone rings and, if you have Google Home, you’ll get a voice alert on the speaker as well as hearing the doorbell ring. Automated response messages mean that if you’re not there, at the touch of a button it’ll say: “We’ll be right with you”, “We can’t answer the door”, or give instructions on where to leave the parcel.

Of course, there’s a microphone and speaker, so you can speak to your caller from wherever you are. It helpfully comes with an angled backplate so it can be put on the wall to see who’s there even if the bell is in the corner. You need to have an existing doorbell for it to connect to and though it’s simple to use, professional installation is recommended (£100 extra).

You can also set it not to ring at specified times – when a baby’s asleep, say. Like with the Ring, a subscription can save video recordings online.

Buy now

Eve Energy: £44.95, Apple

Compatible systems: Apple

A smart power switch is one of the simplest ways to get into home automation. This device plugs into your wall socket and then you can plug your light or fan or kettle or whatever into the switch. Then, instead of stumbling across a darkened room to reach the switch, you can just say: “Hey, Siri, turn the living room light on,” for instance.

It’s easy to set up and it even monitors electrical consumption, too. In the Eve app, you can add an automation, such as lights coming on at certain times of day, or in conjunction with other Eve devices. So, the plug could turn the switch on when the motion sensor outside senses movement, for instance.

Buy now

Netatmo Welcome: £199.99, Netatmo

Compatible systems: Google

The Welcome is a proficient, classily designed security camera which you place anywhere indoors. It’s a smooth aluminium cylinder that looks good enough to have on display. Face recognition means it can automatically turn off video recording for familiar faces.

It has local data storage on board, but also uploads video to the cloud. Unlike other smart cameras, there’s no video subscription charge as you save data to your Dropbox account, for example.

It has decent night vision and is smart enough to not bother you when Rover jumps on the sofa (unless you want it to).

Buy now

Verdict: 10 Best Smart Home Devices

These are different kinds of gadgets, so comparisons are hard, but the Nest Learning Thermostat will probably make the most direct and immediate change to your home. Nest’s other gadgets are all superbly usable and all connect together cleverly.

Eve’s versatile items all connect together too, and the Eve Button is particularly easy to use if you’re less comfortable with smart gadgets, or are visiting.

Finally, both the video doorbells, from Ring and Nest, offer great peace of mind.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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