SmartThings starting to feel like Homeseer?

I have several friends who are interested in SmartThings because they have echo and want to expand those capabilities. These are technically savvy people, what I call “second adopters.” They already use IFTTT. They don’t mind some set up, but they have busy lives and they don’t want to tinker or go to the forums to figure out how to do something. They are expecting echo-type simplicity and they’re obviously not getting it.

None of them are going to the “marketplace” tab because they assume that that’s where they would find add-ons for purchase. It doesn’t make sense to them that you go to the marketplace to set up a device you already own.

None of them can figure out the lighting wizard. It’s OK as they set up the very first rule, but then they don’t understand what to do if they want to have a second schedule for the same device.

So say they have a light in the entryway. They want it to come on at night if the door opens. They also want it to come on based on a motion sensor when you’re coming from a room on the other side. They also want it to come on from a button on the Minimote. They can figure out how to do the first one of these, no matter which one it is, but after that they don’t know what to do. Or how to find out which use cases they’ve already scheduled. And the method of grouping lights, in particular, doesn’t seem to have the same functionality as many other systems, including echo.

The motivation for this note is that one of them told me they decided to look for a “more modern system, like Insteon.” :tired_face:

Having now had four of these conversations, I’m starting to feel like SmartThings is a very powerful platform that requires a large commitment of time and energy to utilize that power.

I’m not saying there’s a good alternative in the marketplace at this time but while I’m really happy with what I can do SmartThings, it seems to be shifting even further away from a plug-and-play concept.

Virtual switches are fantastic, and I am very grateful for them, but they’re not intuitive and nothing in the new mobile app design makes them any moreso.

Is SmartThings becoming just a coder’s platform?


I don’t think so at all, just the opposite. I don’t think it’s plug and play either. There is some learning curve to it, and for folks who want zero learning curve with sophisticated setups, there is disconnect in that person’s thinking!

Oh come on, it isn’t that difficult to figure this out!! It takes some effort at learning how the app works. It’s actually very easy to add multiple automations, much easier than before. The new app v2 is easier to navigate than v1, is better organized, etc. It only has 5 buttons, how hard is it to explore each to see what it does? Who cares that it’s called Marketplace. Once you explore for 15 minutes, you’d discover that’s where you find apps.

It sounds like they just need a better Getting Started Guide.


Not sure this helps, but this how I am using the Smart Lights app. First, I have only one instance of it installed, not multiple, otherwise you will have a list of apps all called Smart Lighting.

When you open Smart Lighting, at the bottom is New Lighting Automation, I used this to add all of my lighting automation’s. I have several setup for the same lights triggered by the same motion detectors. For example, I have one automation for the master bath for between Sunset -60 and 12:00 am the bathroom lights turn on at 100% and turn off after motions stops +15 minutes. I have another automation set for the same lights and motion detector for between 12:00 am and Sunrise +30 at 10% and turn off after motion stops +5 minutes.

Now there does seem to be an issue with Smart Lights sending the setLevel command to my GE dimmer switches, but I’m sure that will get resolved. The setLevel command works fine for my Philips Hue and Osram Lightify lights, which I have similar automation’s for in the bedroom. However the ability to add multiple automation rules for the same lights is not difficult to do.

:arrow_up:️ This for sure. :sunglasses: And it needs to not have the initials “JDR.” LOL!


What screen are you opening it from?

Open Smart Lighting from the home tab (four squares) then look in your smartapps list. You can add more rules to a single instance of Smart Lighting.

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Nope. If there were better developer tools, there would be more apps available to non-coders. SmartThings appears to be in its awkward teen years. It tries to do a lot but it has not yet become great at any one thing.

Agreed. Along with more scenario specific wizards, lighting wizard and other solution modules should be front and center. Bring search back and add help dialogs in the app.


Part of the problem with Smart Lighting is that the “New Lighting automation…” action is at the bottom, under all your previously configured automations… If it was always at the top, it would be much easier and faster to find…


OK I figured out part of the confusion for people who are brand-new to SmartThings.

There are three different ways to access the new lighting wizard, and you get three different screen views and three different results. But I don’t see anywhere that explains these differences and if you didn’t already know how smartthings works, that could get pretty confusing.

Initial set up through the Marketplace

First, at some point during the initial set up of your device let’s say you discover the smart lights solution app. It might be in the marketplace under “SmartThings recommends” or it might be as part of A device setup. In any case, you find it, you set up your first automation and save it under a custom name, and you’re done.

You are not given an option to create a second automation at that time.

from the list of smart apps in rooms view

Second, if you’re in rooms view, you can choose the smartapps tab and you will see something which has a different name then the app that you used in the marketplace but it is not the custom name that you used for your first automation. This is called “smart lighting” it appears to be the same thing as the “smart lights” solution app from the marketplace. You will get one instance for every instance you installed in the marketplace.

When you select one of these, you do get a screen showing the automation you have previously set up using this particular instance, and the option to add a new one.

Of course if you happen to have installed multiple instances of the wizard, and you happen to have picked the wrong one, you won’t see all the automations you previously created.

And, as Mike mentioned, the “add new automation” is it the end of the list of any automations you’ve already done, so you have to know enough to scroll down to find that.

from the device detail screen

If on the other hand, you went into rooms view, selected a particular room, and then selected a particular device, you will see the name of the automations that you have created for that device. So not “smart lights” and not “smart lighting” but the custom name that you saved the automation under, in this case “Guestroom lights”

If you select this automation, there is no option to add any additional automations. Nor is there a way to do it on the device detail screen prior to selecting this automation.

So first time users are understandably confused

This appears to be what was confusing at least some of my friends. They would set up the first rule. Then go to the device, see the first automation, but from their point of view not be able to set up another rule.

They didn’t know they were supposed to go to the smartapps choice under the rooms view. And neither did I!

They looked for a way to set up a second rule either under the place where they set it up the first time (marketplace) or attached to the device that they included the first time (rooms view, device details)

However, apparently the UI wants them to set it up under marketplace, view it under device details, but add a second rule for the same device under the smartapps tab of the rooms view.

I think those of us already familiar with how smartthings works can sort of follow that, and some of the pretzel logic behind it, and if not be able to remember all the details the next time, at least find it again.

But I would argue that someone brand-new to the system has no way of knowing that an “automation” is different from a “smartapp,” or that you’re going to see them in different places.


Still amazed they intend to retail at Best Buy. In its current state ST is going to be a returns nightmare. Bruce is right in that it isn’t all that hard to understand - once you’ve invested some time. Are most folks willing to follow these forums to achieve their desired result? I don’t think so.

But, that’s just the initial phase. It’s the stability/reliability that’s going to kill it for most of the type consumer mentioned by JD. My wife keeps wondering why automating the home takes more time than when it wasn’t. Deal breaker for a lot of people.


Virtual switches is nothing more than a hack that we’ve come up with to fill the gaps in ST design. There should be no need for virtual switches in a well designed system. One should be able to bind any event to any device (object) in a generic way without resorting to virtual switches.


Virtual switches allow me to provide integrations with third-party services without having to buy a bunch of physical switches.

I find them very useful. :sunglasses:


As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re using accessibility options like voiceover or switch control, having the primary navigation at the bottom of the screen will literally give you a headache. It’s the main reason I haven’t done very much exploring in the new app. It’s really hard to navigate. Basically you have to step through every other thing on the screen In order to get to the one you want.

This is how people who are quads use touchscreens:

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There were three different ways in the old app also (sometimes more), just different. You could go into SmartApps, or Lights & Switches, or individual devices in Things and drill into SmartApps. It was always confusing. Many people were confused by Lights & Switches (even you, I think), and it’s relationship to Groups. People had a priori expectations that didn’t always map into the reality of the UI. That UI was confusing, for sure, and some people were always throwing up their hands and declaring that it was a POS. The same is true now, there are some people who are saying that V2.0.2 is a POS, throwing up their hands, and saying “I quit”.

The new UI is better, although still confusing in some regards. But, the reality is that the UI is an interface to a fairly complex system with complex inter-relationships between it’s elements. There is not a single simple way to build that UI, unless you dumb it down. Doing that would create a different sort of huge headache!

There is a learning curve, for sure. People who want to traverse it can do so without much difficulty. Plus, when you’re starting out, and have only put in a handful of devices, it’s easy to tear it down and start over when you figure out that you weren’t doing things the way you wanted (i.e., that’s called learning, traversing the learning curve). I don’t thing the learning curve is particularly difficult, except to someone who is averse to learning something new and complicated. For those people, let them eat cake instead of automating their homes!

I too tried smartlighting wizard then gave up and switched to simplerulebuilder. Wish they would just buy that from @JoeC, not that they have to and get rid of 80% of these one off apps that I even write.


I think this is actually pretty terrible as well. It’s OK for us dedicated geek types that know the payoff in the end, and that have invested a whole lot of time and money into the ecosystem.

For the Average Joe that goes into Best Buy – or goes to Amazon for that matter – and thinks that they’re gonna have their whole house doing jumping jacks and making coffee at breakfast, they have another thing coming. :smile:


These aren’t people who are averse to learning things that are new and complicated. (One of them is a PhD in physics and a research scientist.) They just don’t want to invest that much time into figuring out the quirks of something that is supposed to improve convenience. They don’t see the return on the investment of their time. They’d gladly spend more money in order to be able to spend less time on what they see as trivial and unimportant set up tasks.

I’m not saying the previous version of the mobile app wasn’t also unintuitive. It clearly was. I’m just not seeing a corporate investment being made in reaching what I think is a pretty typical group of Intelligent, affluent, technically savvy consumers who are already spending a lot of money on home electronics.

In contrast, the Amazon echo and the Google onHub router, I think, are aimed at this audience. As is the Philips Hue bridge. People who have other things to do with their time.

The corporate philosophy of “they’ll figure it out” is exactly what I meant by the homeseer comparison. It’s saying the options are there if you’re willing to put in the work to figure them out. But this group of second adopters is saying they’re not willing to put in the work on that particular project, because they don’t see the return. They have other things to do with their time. And. Other systems competing for their money.

I just find it confusing that the V two hub didn’t come with a killer dashboard and a great rules engine. Why make things this hard if you’re going for a mass-market?

Well, we’ll see. If they’re really going to be in Best Buy that will be a good test of the product’s mass-market readiness. :sunglasses:

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Best Buy failed to make PEQ successful. What makes SmartThings think they can do better?

SmartThings needs dedicated trained staff in every store (and Geek Squad for house calls). DIY = BS.


Hi Everyone,

Here is my two cents on this topic. There is always a learning curve. And it does/will always take patience. That said, it really for the most part takes only little common sense to get the new ST app v2 to work.
From the beginning you start of with the main screen which has the new (in my opinion) “Cool” Smart Home Monitor which will work with “Scout” Home Monitoring Security Company. COOL! @JDRoberts, I do wish they could call Fire Fighters in event of Fire.

Second comes the Your Home overview with “Room” tab to help any type of user level organize their house. (In my opinion a GREAT improvement over the past ST app!) I Love this tab!

If we skip the “Things” tab, which has not changed, we can get to the “Smart App” tab we knowtice a much better view of all of your apps. (Esthetics count for so much UI improvement!)

You will all notice that for my demo, there is only one instance of the “Smart Lighting” installed. Will get to that now.

Let me say for someone like I, it only took 15 minutes Total to setup all the rules which I wanted. That includes a 2 year old tossing her food at me while not wanting to eat dinner. :sweat_smile:

I went to the “Market” place and “Smart apps” tab. First try, I created two instances of the “Smart Lights” install before looking in the above photo and seeing that I fouled up. :grin: When I went to check why I had to apps installed, I discovered that both had a “New Lighting Automation” button. @Ben This part should be better documented. For the newcomers, this Button should be more prominent and inform the user that they can continue creating rules in the same instance of the “Smart Lighting” app.

After that, it was a simple to uninstall the second instance and get all of my lighting rules setup.

That said, I believe that the New and (In my opinion) Greatly improved UI is a step in the right direction. @JDRoberts, if your friends need help with this, maybe, just maybe it would not be a big deal to help them. Tell them to PM me and I’ll walk them through. It is not as bad as it used to be!

P.S. I love the new “Routines” tab. Much cleaner and if it gave me the option to add my own Icons to the routines., i.e. Good Evening1! and 2! This would be perfect for me.

Thank you for listening to my two cents and apologies to anyone who may be unhappy with my blunt description.


Unless something has changed in the most current version of the mobile app, the “new lighting automation” button does not appear the very first time that you create a lighting automation through the marketplace. So it’s not a matter of it not being prominent enough: it’s not there at all.

It only appears if you know enough to go to the smart apps screen, and choose the “smart lighting” SmartApp there.

If instead, you go to rooms, choose a room, choose a device, and open its device detail screen, you are also not given the option to add an additional automation.

So again, I think it makes a lot of sense to those of us already familiar with SmartThings. But I think it’s a very confusing workflow for a brand-new customer.

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