Some smart home products are a gift from the heavens, while others are just plain weird. But we don’t spend a lot of time talking about mediocre smart home devices—products that are useful but not worth buying. These devices are usually overpriced, excessive, creepy, or doomed to an early death.
Again, the products listed in this article aren’t useless. If you want to buy them, go right ahead. But we’re going to discuss some problems that prevent Review Geek from recommending these smart home devices.
Smart Appliances Won't Last a Decade
Robot Lawnmowers Can't Replace Humans
Indoor Smart Cameras Are Just Creepy
In-Wall Smart Outlets Don't Make Sense
Smart Appliances Won’t Last a Decade
Nearly every home appliance is now available in a “smart” configuration. You can buy a smart fridge with a big screen, a smart dryer that notifies you when clothes are done, or even a smart oven with Alexa voice controls.
But these products aren’t worth buying. Appliances are supposed to last for several decades—can you think of a single smart gadget that’s lasted for more than 10 years? Internet-connected devices become obsolete very quickly, and the lifespan of a smart home product depends entirely on the manufacturer’s preference.
Of course, if a fridge or washing machine loses its smart functionality, it will still work as a basic appliance. But that’s kind of a bad thing; using an outdated computer that no longer receives security updates leaves you vulnerable to hackers.
Even if these problems were to disappear, smart appliances feel like a solution searching for a problem. They really don’t do all that much. And customers seem to agree with this sentiment—in a conversation with the Wall Street Journal, LG and Whirlpool complained that less than 50% of customers actually connect their smart appliances to the internet.
Robot Lawnmowers Can’t Replace Humans
Robot lawnmowers are pretty neat. They automatically trim your yard every day, saving you time and giving you the best-looking grass on the block. Not to mention, these robots turn lawn clippings into fine pieces of nutrient-rich mulch, which are dispersed on your lawn as fertilizer.
Here’s the problem; robot lawnmowers aren’t ready for primetime. They’re still a bit limited, as they can’t mow edges and rarely work on large hills, inclines, ditches, or mounds. Unless your property is relatively flat, you’ll still need to do a decent amount of manual yard work.
Not to mention, these devices require a bit of attention. The initial setup includes some manual in-app programming, and you need to set up guide wires around your property to keep the robot mower contained (even if you have a fence, you’ll probably need a guide wire).
But the main problem here is the cost. If you get professional lawn service for $45, you’ll pay a total of $540 by the end of the year (assuming you receive service twice a month, skipping the fall and winter months). A good robot mower will run you upwards of $1,000 and doesn’t include services like edging, tree trimming, and leaf blowing, which are usually offered by lawn care companies.
If you can handle those extra duties, a robot mower could pay for itself after just two years. But if you’re buying a robot mower, you probably don’t feel like doing yard work!
Yes, there are situations where a robot mower may be worth the money. These products are commonly used by businesses to reduce the labor cost of yard work, and they may make sense on a large property (especially in a rural area without many lawn care services). But generally speaking, robot lawnmowers just aren’t good enough or cheap enough.
Indoor Smart Cameras Are Just Creepy
Smart security cameras and pet cameras are a privacy nightmare. These devices contain security vulnerabilities that may not be noticed (or may be ignored) by the manufacturer—they’re a great target for hackers who want to watch, hear, or harass victims.
Not to mention, employees hired by Ring, ADT, and Roomba have been caught watching customers through their smart cameras. Even if a camera brand is serious about user privacy, someone will try to find a way and violate customers.
You probably don’t care if someone peers through your outdoor camera. But an indoor camera can see and hear inside your home. We suggest that you avoid buying any indoor smart camera or pet camera, as the privacy risk is just too great.
Naturally, some situations may call for an indoor smart camera. Maybe you’re going on a long trip and you want to keep an eye on the house. Or, if you’re extremely worried about an abusive person or stalker, you may be willing to trade a bit of privacy for personal safety (just make sure that the person you’re trying to avoid cannot access your smart home devices).
In-Wall Smart Outlets Don’t Make Sense
We love smart plugs—they let you turn devices on and off using schedules, voice commands, app controls, or smart home routines. Like traditional outlet timers, smart plugs connect to existing outlets or power strips. But what if you cut out the middleman and installed a smart outlet directly into your wall?
On paper, a smart outlet isn’t such a bad idea. But these products require semi-permanent installation, which seriously reduces their versatility. You can move a smart plug to another location in your home, but you can’t do the same with a smart outlet (unless you remove the outlet from the wall and reinstall it elsewhere, which is a pain in the neck).
Not to mention, smart outlets perform the exact same task as regular smart plugs. Yet they cost more money, they’re more difficult to install, and like all smart home products, they will eventually stop doing their job. You’re better off buying a smart plug, or better yet, a smart power strip.