SmartThings' next-gen smart home hub goes on sale

SmartThings takes its new smart-home control center to market with a trim new design, a new app and some new possibilities for third-party device makers.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
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Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
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BERLIN -- SmartThings teased the basic details of a next-gen version of its eponymous smart home hub at this year's CES. Now you can buy one. The SmartThings Hub Version 2.0 is available for purchase as of today.

You should see it listed on Amazon, Samsung.com (SmartThings is owned by Samsung) and SmartThings' own site for $99, and for £100 in the UK via Curry's PC World online and retail stores. Pre-order units are said to have shipped out to customers. SmartThings' CEO Alex Hawkinson also outlined more details about the new hub and surrounding hardware during a presentation this morning at the IFA technology conference here in Berlin.

SmartThings 2.0 makes its debut on the Samsung stage (pictures)

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The new SmartThings Hub looks about the same as the previous iteration -- it's still a squared-off piece of white plastic, but this version adds a Bluetooth 4.0 adapter alongside its Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave radios, giving you the potential to control even more connected devices. The company says the new unit also has a more powerful processor, which now grants the hub the ability to transmit live video feeds through the SmartThings app from connected Samsung and D-Link video cameras.

A new backup battery will let the hub maintain control of other smart home devices on your local network in the event of a power failure (at least those devices that still have power themselves). A new cellular back-up accessory, available later, will also let you control of your smart home when your landline Internet service drops off. It will even maintain some of your automation programming locally so you don't lose scheduled events like lights coming on at certain times.

There's not much new on the sensor front feature-wise, but updated versions of SmartThings' own motion, sound and other detector accessories are now one-third the size of the originals (ranging from $35 to $55, or £30 to £45, they will also be bundled with the hub in various specialized kits). The idea is to minimize the visual impact of installing these various hardware doo-dads around your home.


Along with the new hardware, the company says it has spent a lot of time tweaking the layout of its app to make it more user-friendly. Among other changes, it now lets you assign and organize devices within in the app by the room you've installed them in. That's arguably more intuitive than having to sort through various devices under a category-specific designation, such as "lighting."

SmartThings will also be offering a section in the app called Smart Home Monitor. The idea is that it's for users who simply want to know "is my home okay?" The Smart Home Monitor will provide quick, remote access to the recorded video clips from your cameras, as well as the status of various home-monitoring devices like leak or smoke detectors. That's a more comprehensive approach to smart-home monitoring than other services, particularly those from camera makers such as Nest, Netgear and others that only let you see a video feed.

The video clip storage service brings a potential new stream of revenue for SmartThings, since, like other video storage providers, it will charge customers a fee for the service. With SmartThings it will cost you $4.99 per month after a free trial through December 2015, and it will store your clips for up to 30 days. The clips themselves are saved based on event triggers. If the motion detector goes off, the system will start recording, and it's smart enough to save the footage from a few seconds before the event, as well.

SmartThings has also done work on the software behind its app which it says improves the experience of installing and controlling third-party devices via SmartThings. As an example, a smart lighting company whose products work with SmartThings can now design its own branded section within the SmartThings app to guide you through the installation process. That hopefully means a better user experience overall, and it also sounds like a win for device partners, who get to maintain branding and user experience control.

We will have a review of SmartThings' new hub as soon as we can get our hands on one. You can also expect to see bundled kits at retail from SmartThings and third-party device partners. We'll report back on those specific packages are we learn more.

For the rest of the news from IFA 2015, check out CNET's complete coverage.