Smart home device makers must align product design with consumer control habits

Once upon a time, you flipped a switch, you pushed a button, or you turned a dial. Controlling pre-smart home products was simple, just like the products’ functionality. Today, products like smart thermostats, smart lighting, and smart cameras have become vastly more complex and feature-rich, but so have the demands for home control.

Matter, the imminent interoperability standard, promises to simplify communication among devices and thus reduce development costs, but it won’t necessarily reduce the complexity of consumer preferences for home control interfaces. Give consumers an option, and some segment will prefer it.

Interpret’s recent Smart Home Matrix™ research finds consumers choose any of nine methods as their primary means of home control. “Fragmentation of the home control experience reflects varied lifestyle preferences, product features, contexts, and ownership of different means of control,” said Interpret Vice President, Brad Russell.  

Video doorbells (44%), network cameras (35%), and smart thermostats (33%) are the most likely to be controlled using the manufacturer’s app. These devices typically offer robust features and controls that manufacturers cannot, or will not, replicate with voice control, physical controls, or a third-party control app.

Smart light bulb owners most commonly prefer voice control using a smart speaker or smartphone, with 46% overall using voice as the primary means of control. Voice is the most convenient for simple actions like on/off and dim. For 8-16% of product owners, the best control is no control, or better said, automated processes. After initial setup and scheduling with a manufacturer’s app, many devices are controlled automatically, delivering “set it and forget it” benefits. 

Physical controls are still used as the primary means of control by 1 in 5 smart thermostat owners. 

Many consumers use multiple methods depending on varied contexts which make voice, a system’s app, manufacturer’s app, or physical controls most suitable to them.

“Designing for, testing, delivering, and constantly updating integrations with all these means of control creates substantial product development costs,” points out Russell. “Knowing consumer preferences for your product category and even your brand and feature set will help manage those costs efficiently for the optimal ROI.”

Learn more from Interpret’s Smart Home Matrix: Consumer research series or contact us for more information on upcoming syndicated research or custom research capabilities.