The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

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The best smart home buttons
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Smart home buttons are a thing. You may think that, as we move away from remote controls, switches and apps and towards a voice-controlled smart home, you'd have no need for another physical controller in your house.

However, the brilliance of top smart home buttons lies in their simplicity, and multi-functionality from a single press.

Sure, you can turn your bedroom light on with the switch on the wall like your grandpa used to – but can that switch also turn off any lights you may have left on downstairs, turn on all of your security cameras, set your alarm and tune into some sleeping sounds on your smart speaker? It cannot. Unless it's a smart switch, of course, but that's a different story.

That's where the current crop of smart buttons come in. With a simple tap, double tap or long press you can trigger an array of smart home scenes and automations. Sure, you could ask Alexa or Siri to kick start these routines, but sometimes it's so much easier to just push a button – especially as you can strategically place them (and move them) around the house to where they will be most useful.

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Best smart buttons

Here are our picks for the best smart buttons you can use in your smart home, whether you're trying to control a single appliance, or you're looking to set up more involved routines and systems.

The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

Best smart button: Logitech Pop Smart Button

Buy now: Amazon | From £29.99

The Logitech Pop jumps onboard your smart home's Wi-Fi to scan for compatible devices it can control. Actually, its hub does. The Logitech Pop Smart Button itself is only capable of pinging Bluetooth signals to the hub; it's the hub that talks to your connected kit over the internet.

The hub itself is a small plug-like device that simply slots into a power point – you just sync that up with your home Wi-Fi in the smartphone app and add your buttons, one at a time, to the setup.

Out of the box it'll offer up controls for Lifx, Phillips Hue, Lutron, Insteon, August and Belkin WeMo devices, and it's also compatible with an array of smart home platforms including Apple HomeKit, SmartThings and IFTTT. It can also pair up with a Logitech Harmony Remote hub for the absolute wealth of controls that offers you.

Each button offers three control options – single press, double press, long press – so you can set up an array of choices for each one. And, rather than relying on pre-set recipes, you can chain together multiple devices across different platforms to work in harmony.

The great thing with the Pop, which puts it ahead of its rivals, is that once you've chosen a device to control, you can then dig deeper – e.g. choosing a Hue bulb to turn on at a specific color or brightness, or having your Sonos speaker(s) turn on one of your favorite radio stations.

The button itself is a fairly dull looking slab of plastic that Logitech says will last 5-6 years. There's a starter kit which comes with a button and a hub and, while the Pop buttons themselves aren't exactly expensive (at £29.99 a, er, pop), you're looking at around £60 to get started with that kit.

What we love

  • Extra functionalities
  • Simple set up
  • Compatible with lots of platforms

What we don't love

  • Boring design
  • Need to make a HomeKit choice
  • Hub is extra cash on top

The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

Runner-up: Eve Button

Buy now: Amazon | £44.95

Unlike Flic's and Logitech's smart buttons, the Eve Button doesn't let you specify individual smart tech devices, or add multiple gadgets to a tap control; it relies on HomeKit to do the heavy lifting. Living within the Eve app, which is essentially Apple's Home App in different clothes (you can actually do all of the configuration within the Home app, in fact), your single, double or long press options are reserved to start HomeKit scenes – and nothing else.

Now, while that does sound a bit restrictive compared to its rivals, if you're living in a smart home controlled by Apple's ecosystem then it's actually a great setup. Sure, if you want to just turn a single smart light on or off, it's a bit of a faff to set up a Home Scene for that basic control but, for more advanced chains of events, it certainly makes sense.

If you have a dedicated Apple HomeKit hub - i.e. an iPad, HomePod or Apple TV – then the Eve Button will work faultlessly in your house without issues. However, if you're only powering your smart home using the iOS Home app on your iPhone, you'll need that phone located nearby for things to work.

Design-wise the Eve is the bulkiest beast of the bunch, although the anodized aluminum finish does look more premium than the Pop and Flic's plastic build. As it's only Bluetooth LE powering the show, battery life is as long as the coin battery lasts (i.e. a long time) so you won't need to bother charging it.

What we love

  • HomeKit compatibility
  • Flexible uses
  • Long battery life

What we don't love

  • HomeKit restrictions
  • Slightly involved setup
  • Slightly bulky

The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

Best for Alexa: Amazon Echo Button

Buy now: Amazon | £19.99 for 2

Sure, they started life as a gimmicky toy that allowed Echo users to play head-to-head, fastest-finger-first style quiz games and the like, but the Echo Buttons have since evolved into one of the simplest, yet most comprehensive smart buttons available… as long as you’re tied into Alexa’s ecosystem.

The Bluetooth-packing Echo Buttons, which are powered by a couple of AAA batteries and come in pairs for less than £20, are capable of just a couple of things: lighting up and changing colors thanks to the LEDs under that milky white dome and talking to a paired Echo smart speaker.

Amazon has opened up the platform to allow Echo Buttons to kick start routines and, hallelujah, the gimmicky Echo Button is now a smart button capable of controlling any devices that work with Alexa. You can only associate a button press with just one routine, but the steps of that routine are only bound by your own imagination and, of course, the actions that Amazon’s smart assistant is capable of.

For example, we've got one Echo Button set up by the back door – paired to a Dot in the kitchen - that, when pressed, opens our garden office’s Somfy blinds, turns on all of the smart sockets in the office, plays BBC Radio 6 Music on our Sonos speaker and turns on our desk light. Another button does all of this in reverse.

The handy ‘wait’ function of Alexa routines also means it turns everything off but waits 2 minutes before shutting the blinds, thus giving me time to escape. Oh, and it turns our robo-vacuum on too, to pick up all the crumbs from all the biscuits we've eaten while putting off doing some work.

What we love

  • Alexa-native
  • Fun game options
  • Well-priced

What we don't love

  • Alexa-exclusive
  • Slightly gimmicky design

The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

Best for HomeKit: Fibaro The Button

Buy now: Amazon | £31.80

Another smart button which is firmly bedded down in Camp Apple is Fibaro's The Button. Like the Eve Button, you'll need a smart house powered by HomeKit to get any use from the version we've used; there is a Z-Wave model on sale too.

However, unlike the Eve Button you will want to do all of the configuring from within Apple's Home app – give the native app a miss, it's a bit of a mess. The Button is powered by a 1/2 AA battery (yep, that's a size… look it up – don't chop an AA battery in half) and operates on Bluetooth LE so you should be good for a few months. You can actually check the battery level in the app.

It's the similar trio control setup that's becoming the norm on smart buttons – a single tap, a long press or a double tap – with all of those able to kick start a HomeKit scene or automation. As with the Eve, it all works seamlessly after the initial (albeit slightly clunky) pairing of control methods to action from with the app.

In terms of the design, Fibaro have gone down a door-knob path for The Button. Coming in a range of colors including white, red, yellow or black, the 3cm high button certainly has a bit of a novelty feel to it. There are no lights on board to indicate it's powered up or it's recorded a press; although you can set it to beep from within the app.

What we love

  • Interesting looks
  • Apple HomeKit integration

What we don't love

  • Those looks are a bit much sometimes
  • HomeKit only
  • Clumsy pairing setup

The best smart buttons for smart home automation and scene control

Best for versatility: Flic

Buy now: Amazon | £19.43

Flic has been in the smart button game longer than most – it first went live on Indiegogo in 2014, smashing its $80,000 target and raising almost $1 million. It's easily the most button-like smart button, measuring just 27mm x 27mm x 8mm and weighing less than 7g. In fact, there's a Flic 2 on the way, though it hasn't hit the market quite yet.

The range of tech it's compatible with is huge – highlights include Hue, Lifx, Sonos, Ecobee, Ikea Trådfri, WeMo and Wink – and the gaps can be filled with IFTTT and Logitech Harmony controls and recipes as well. Like the Pop, it's a simple one, two or long tap control method.

The app is also jam-packed with 'fun' (i.e. naff games) and extras; the most useful being the 'find my phone' function that plays a loud alarm through the Flic app on your smartphone. It's also compatible with a number of fitness platforms – you can start and stop a Strava run with it, for example. It even comes with a little belt clip so you can wear it out and about.

Back to its smart home smarts and, using Sonos as an example, unlike the Logitech Pop you can't really go beyond basic controls – on, off, toggle, next track and so on – with the Flic. However, it's much cheaper than the Pop as you don't need to fork out for a hub – it can work by just using your phone as its gateway.

Now, that has its flaws, of course – you need to allow the app to run at all times and it'll only work if it's in Bluetooth-range of your phone – and that's why Flic offers a hub to pair up to the Flic buttons (from £100).

What we love

  • Compact design
  • Works without a hub
  • Fun extras aplenty

What we don't love

  • Relies on paired phone / tablet
  • Basic controls on the whole
  • No HomeKit syncing

Smart buttons: What to consider before buying

So, those are the contenders. Smart buttons are still a fairly new idea and the market isn't exactly bursting at the seams with options. However, even if more contenders do come to the party, they won't really do much more than the current offering can.

Once you go beyond a button that offers two to three scenes at the tap of a button, you're entering the realm of a remote control, and that would be missing the point. What you do need to consider, though, is what devices and platforms the smart button you're thinking of buying taps (see what I did there?) into.

Does it support HomeKit scenes, are IFTTT applets compatible? Will it integrate with how you already run your smart home?

We detailed some of those factors in each entry above, and more information can be sought out from each manufacturer. We've lived with the above examples for a while now, and they just work.

You'll hardly ever have a click (or double, or triple, or long press) go unnoticed and, on the odd occasion this does happen, no button below is more guilty than any other of this misbehavior – we found them to be pretty much on a par when it came to reliability.

TAGGED    smart home    buyers guides

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