Poor reliability and performance makes SmartThings unusable as a platform

Argh, smartthings. I so desperately want to love you. On paper you’re exactly the home automation product that I want but you’re SOOOOO unbelievably unreliable its impossible! Despite various platform upgrades etc. I’m still having constant problems.

I’ve only got the start kit (plus additional presence sensor) at the moment but in essence here are the issues I’m having on an almost daily basis:

  • Presence sensors constantly giving false readings. I continually get notifications saying sensor x is away and seconds later sensor x has arrived home. Makes them totally unusable

  • Open/close sensor frequently getting its readings wrong. I keep getting notifications telling me the front door is open when it isn’t! To make this work, with the wonkey presence sensors I keep getting alarms telling me no one is home but the front door has been opened. Neither of these are true as we are at home and the door is closed!

  • Battery life: I’ve only had my starter kit since mid September and for two months of that the sensors weren’t working. However, I’m getting notifications on my phone now that I’ve only got 13% battery left in them. Am I expected to change the batteries in these every 12 weeks or so? Or is are they faulty?

  • Wall plug – sometimes (most of the time to be fair) this works well. Sometimes though, there’s a horrendous delay in getting the thing to work. It can take what seems like an age to respond – admittedly this is only in the 10-20 second range but doesn’t bode well.

This is in addition to the presence sensors being completely broken for two whole months due to a botched platform upgrade which was totally mishandled and miscommunicated from start to finish.

I really want to add to my setup and get an IP camera and some additional motion sensors etc plus some Hue bulbs, but really cant justify any further investment until the platform becomes at least somewhat stable!

Is everyone else’s setup this flakey?

Hey there! I really wish you weren’t having problems, but they are rather widespread.

Maybe this can help…

The battery operated devices - are you using the batteries that came with them? I’ve seen a lot of posts where people have received almost dead batteries. I would our brand new high quality batteries in them. After that I would exclude the devices and then add them back into the system. Weak batteries could have caused communication problems when you first set up the system.
They also reduce the signal strength and distance.

As for the door sensor, I have two things…

1 - how far from the hub, and how many walls are between the hub and door sensor? There may be a range issue because of obstructions.
2 - how close to your router is your hub sitting? It should be at least 3-4 feet away. If you have a longer cat 5 cable use it. This only affects zigbee devices, which I believe your door sensor and presence sensors are. The hub and router run on the same frequency for zigbee, this causing interference from the router… It’s stronger than your hub.

Give these simple things a try and let us know if they helped or not, I look forward to the feedback.

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I’ve felt your pain but I have to say I’m in a much happier place now. When I first got my hub in October it was very unreliable, the presence sensor struggled to ever work. I had a separate Aeon Motion sensor which never seemed to work not communicating with the hub. After struggling on, the hub ultimately stopped talking to the cloud and whilst I managed to get it to work after a full reset I sent it back for a replacement directly from ST.

Since getting the replacement it has been rock solid. I didn’t buy the starter kit but I have two ST Motion sensors and a ST presence fob, all are now working very well. Since I’ve added lots of devices up to about 45 devices now, mostly not ST brand.

The presence sensor is now fairly accurate post the platform issues haven’t noticed any false readings. The batteries are all all showing above 66% although battery power is likely to be affected by distance from the hub.

Have you contacted support on this, they typically haven’t been quick but getting the issues logged will obviously help the platform as a whole. Getting things logged as separate issues may also help them. If it comes to a replacement they where quite efficient but you will be without the hub for a bit, mine was a week.

While ST can be unreliable and there is no way to sugar coat it (it has been stated and documented throughout the forums on an hourly basis), I can tell you from my own experience that once my setup was “large” enough, my reliability issues/concerns became minimal (and bearable).

I know this is no consolation, but size does matter. If you read the forums, one theme that starts to come through is that reliability increases with the number of devices. I’m at 200+. The second theme is that event driven automations are more reliable than time driven automations (temper this with the first theme). Now with respect to time driven events, sunrise/sunset are problems, but keep in mind that they occur for hours every morning and every night (East Coast to West Coast). Also keep in mind that everyone likes on the hour, quarter hour, and half hour, so these can be issues too (shouldn’t be, but that’s the way it is). For presence detection, I use my phone. My phone works well for detecting departures, but sometimes I sit in my driveway for 15 seconds (looking like an idiot) before it knows I’m home (if I grab my phone it figures it out before I can open the app - maybe the issue occurs because it’s switching from LTE to WiFi - I don’t know).

Lastly (and likely off track), I think this one is more problematic than people realize, is the redundant actions and apps. For example, if I want an app to text me and my wife, but the app only accepts one phone number, I can install the app twice to achieve that functionality versus adding that functionality to the app. This clogs the ST platform. I understand that everyone can’t code, but herein lies what I believe is the huge problem with home automation - one app doesn’t meet all needs (although I think Rule Machine does an excellent job at trying to achieve this). My apps work exactly how I want them to work because I wrote them (not necessarily the way someone else wants it to work). So I either code and get the functionality that I exactly want, or I don’t and live on the fringe of the functionality that I crave. I like ST and I like the ability that it gives me to accomplish what I want (there’s nothing that I’ve wanted that I couldn’t get it to do).

When I upgraded to Hub v2, while at the time I wanted a migration tool, I’m glad the migration tool didn’t exist. I cleaned up so much. I removed lots of (unintentional) redundant actions (I modified a few apps to help with that). Having the benefit of hindsight and understanding ST better, I was able to come up with a much better, more stable, and more robust setup. I do want the tool though, but for backup purposes. My first v2 hub failed and adding everything a second time was painful.

I do use Rule Machine and Smart Lighting. All of my other apps are custom (sump monitoring, laundry monitoring, alarm control, doorbell, dehumidifiers, etc.).

I wish you luck.


Any chance you’re willing to share those custom codes?

Originally I set my Smarthings starter kit up in one room with close proximity of devices. I had great difficulty getting the presence sensor recognised but eventually I did and for the next few weeks this aspect was mostly reliable. Then I decided to move my hub to a more suitable and central location in my home. Most ZigBee devices were OK except the presence sensor which now erroneously keeps leaving and entering maybe a half dozen times a day. The outlet is still within a few feet of the presence sensor and works I think 100% reliably from the newly located hub. I had expected this to take over as a repeater for the presence sensor but I don’t think it has.

In an effort to force this I turned the hub off for a day and then restarted it but the presence sensor still erroneously exits and leaves repeatedly. It was OK before but the original hub location is impractical for building a system. It appears my admittedly small ZigBee network isn’t working too well in its mesh functionality. Batteries are good but I believe the presence fob is still hanging on to a now flakey direct path to the hub. Am I able to factory reset the presence fob and reintroduce it via a ZigBee repeater or must it direct pair initially ? Given it took me maybe 20 attempts to recognise initially I have little confidence a pairing via a repeater would ever be achievable, even if theoretically possible.

What can I try or am I just wasting my time based on the current state of ST firmware ? I’ve posted here as its one of the problems the OP cites, and of course many other frustrated users, but I’m in the dark as to which I should be able to fix nyself and which are just bugs.


This article is listed under the older presence sensor, but the troubleshooting is the exact same. It will extend the delay between when the sensor falls off the network and when the platform considers the sensor Not Present

If you continue having issues, shoot a note over to support@smartthings.co.uk