It’s hard to make a judgment on smartthings right now because their version two will be out soon, they’re already taking preorders. (Of course how soon is soon is a different question.)
There are many different hubs, they all have pluses and minuses. Looking just at the first generation of smartthings it has two big pluses: a very open platform that works with multiple protocols, and a very helpful developer community. You put those two things together, and there are many people who could help you create something that will solve your own individual use cases.
Just as an example, I myself am quadriparetic, I use a wheelchair and have limited hand function. With smartthings, I am able to use a zigbee Motion sensor to unlock a Z wave door lock. I can combine I beacons and zigbee presence fob presence detection. And I can give a voice command to my Amazon echo to turn on ESPN and have my television come on. All very cool.
But, yeah, the UI sucks. Fortunately community members have stepped up, and there are two third-party apps with solve many of the UI issues. Smart tiles is a very popular dashboard app . Free to try, and then you can make a contribution to the author if you like it.
I also personally like smartrules, which is a typical rules engine. You buy that through the regular iOS App Store. It doesn’t cover everything, but the author is very responsive to adding new features as the community indicates a need for them. You can find reviews in the forum. The extra 10 bucks or so is not worth it to everybody, but A lot of people find it valuable. It’s always good to have choices. They have a free demo where you can set up just one rule and play around with it to see if you like it before buying the full app.
As for competing hubs: again, they all have pluses and minuses. Staples connect has made reliability their number One priority, as their target market is small businesses. The UI is pretty good. The biggest complaint people have is there’s a very limited number of devices and they pretty much threw out anything that might compromise reliability. So you can’t add custom code, there’s no IFTTT channel, no geolocation, and no voice control.
Iris is definitely worth taking a look at. It’s from Lowe’s. They’ve done a good job of making a wide variety of devices available. It doesn’t have good voice control, and you do need to pay a monthly fee of 10 or $20 to unlock most of the advanced features. can’t really add custom code to it. Like smartthings, they have a new version coming out soon, and I don’t know what all those options will be.
vera is a solid offering for techie people although it’s zwave only. No voice, no IFTTT, not really intended for cloud services. If staying off the Internet is important to you, I would certainly consider it.
Apple’s homekit is really just getting started. Impossible to evaluate yet. My own guess (and it’s just a guess) is that by summer 2016, apple’s entrance into the low-end home automation market will drive other competitors to improve their plug-and-play offerings, so that about a year from now there will be several nice home automation systems under $3500 that will be mostly plug and play and have some voice and some geolocation. With decent UIs. I expect Apple/insteon to be one contender. I do expect Samsung/smartthings to be another. And there will be another two or three big ones. We’ll just have to see. I’m actually putting off a lot of my big home Automation projects until then for that reason. I just think we’re going to see a lot more choices at that time.
In terms of really nice UI/rule engines with regards to things that are available right now, not “coming soon”, everybody has their own aesthetics. I think two of the top contenders would have to be Fibaro and Insteon. Fibaro is brand-new from Europe, and insteon is one of the older offerings from the US. Both have full-featured rules engines. But we should also note that these are both among the more expensive offerings in this category. Fibaro is about $1000 just to get started. insteon is offered in different models but in any case you’ll spend at least three or four times what you would spend for similar functionality from SmartThings. Insteon used to have a reputation as being old-fashioned, but they really made an effort in the last 18 months to upgrade everything. They’re working on a homekit integration, they have quite good voice control, they’re trying to pull in a lot of different protocols. And a very wide device range. They’re on my list to Revisit in about a year after the homekit stuff is out to market. But they were too expensive for me to use as my interim solution well I’m waiting for the market to mature.
Let’s see, who else? Oh, yes, wink. Wink had great promise, but ran into major financial issues, and has been trying to sell parts of the company since January, but without success. Their CEO just left in July, they’ve gone through a major restructuring, and basically if they get bought out it may end up being a nice system, but right now the question of their literal survival makes it hard to jump into them as a new customer. Their system also seems to be a little laggy, I’m not sure why because it’s basically the same technology as everybody else, but you just see that complaint over and over again.
So if you’re choosing just on the basis of UI, I would probably look at Fibaro. Very nice UI, well engineered devices. But a lot more expensive, and not as many device choices.
If you find insteon attractive, I would wait until at least next spring when they have more of the homekit integration in place so you can judge that as well. I think there going to be a lot of changes in that time.
Like I said, there really isn’t anyone best solution right now. Everyone has pluses and minuses Just comes down to the features that are the most important to you.
If you have time you might also take a look at smarttiles and smartrules and see if they add any missing pieces to SmartThings for you.
In a way it’s kind of a bad time to be starting with home automation, because there are so many known major changes expected over the next year. But it’s also a fun time too because there are so many new improvements coming out every month. So a lot of it also has to do with your own tolerance for a rapid rate of change.
I wish I had a better answer for you but it’s just the state of the industry right now.