Smart Homes Need Smarter Apps

Consumers are frustrated with smart homes. Notably, they’re not annoyed with the devices that wire up their living environments. It’s the apps through which they schedule and manage each device, according to a new report from Argus Insights.  

Argus, notably, uses actual data drawn from devices and public sources like app-store reviews. In this case, it analyzed 50,000 smart-home device and app reviews from August 2015 to the present. Researchers found that there is a profound disconnect between how consumers perceive the hardware and software produced by several major smart-home brands.

Industry stalwart Honeywell’s apps received the best ratings despite their low-rated devices. By comparison, apps from Philip apps were considered the least satisfactory, though their physical products faired better.

A Slow App Is Not Smart

Users  often complained of “major delays” and generally “slow” and “unresponsive” interfaces. One major pain point persists around video streaming, with reports of videos going “black every few seconds” and “extremely long” load times when attempting to view content through applications. 

One big reason for dissatisfaction is that consumers don’t have a choice in most cases: In order to use the device, they’re forced to download the manufacturer’s app. This is a big argument in support of smart-home hub developers like Wink. Wink CTO Nathan Smith recently told ReadWrite that Wink is deemphasizing its physical touchscreen hub in favor of its apps that can handle many major smart-home brands, and its recently announced support for Amazon Echo.

Make Better Apps—Or Get Out Of The Way

There is an inherent bias to data drawn from consumer-posted reviews, as consumers are more likely to post reviews of products when they experience problems. Yet two things stand out from the report:

  • Consumers are resigned, not receptive, to using apps to manage their smart-home devices. Manufacturers have largely failed to create captivating experiences.
  • Overall, most app experiences fail to match up with that of the hardware devices. 

This study is a wake-up call to companies in the smart-home space: You can’t think of yourself as just a hardware company anymore. You’re an app developer, too.

And if you discover you’re not a very good app developer? Then you’d be best off opening up an API and letting others build better apps for you.

Screenshot via Marvel Studios

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