I am a fan of multipurpose smart home hubs. No one has the space or patience for yet another plastic box plugged into their router. Beyond acting as the brains of your Apple smart home, the HomePod is a great speaker; Google’s Nest Hub Max helps run your Google Home and is a superb digital photo frame. And the new Samsung SmartThings Station? It’s a SmartThings hub that also charges your phone.
Yes, Samsung made a SmartThings hub three years after saying it wouldn’t make any more SmartThings hardware. (Well, it’s actually a modified version of Samsung’s existing wireless charger, but it has a SmartThings logo, so it’s SmartThings hardware.) But the $59.99 SmartThings Station is also a smart home button, an always-on device scanner for SmartThings Find, a Matter controller, and a Thread border router.
If you have a smart home and are all in on Samsung devices, especially if you use a Galaxy phone, this is close to a must-buy. But if you use any other brand of phone, while this will work as both a SmartThings / Matter hub, smart button, and wireless charger, it’s not quite as compelling.
Let me back up. SmartThings needs a new standalone hardware hub because of Matter, the new smart home standard that Samsung founded, along with Apple, Google, Amazon, and many other companies, that’s designed to fix smart home interoperability. But it is not going to turn all the smart home platforms into one homogeneous, harmonious place.
What it will do is facilitate communications between devices: your new Matter smart plug will work with the smart light bulb you already have and with your SmartThings app and Apple Home app. But you still need to pick a platform (or two) to run your home on. And regardless of the platform, you’ll get the most out of it with a platform-compatible hub — hence, SmartThings now has a new inexpensive standalone hub.
Matter is a new smart home interoperability standard that provides a common language for connected devices to communicate locally in your home without relying on a cloud connection. Developed by Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung, Matter uses Wi-Fi and Thread wireless protocols and, in its first rollout, supports smart sensors, smart lighting, smart plugs and switches, smart thermostats, connected locks, and media devices including TVs.
All this means that if a smart home gadget you buy has the Matter logo on it, you can set it up and use it with any Matter-compatible device and with any Matter-compatible platform. Matter devices are starting to become available, and we expect to see a lot more arrive this year.
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple Home are some of the big platforms that support Matter, and they have all updated their compatible hubs to be Matter controllers.
The SmartThings Station works over Wi-Fi and is powered via USB-C, giving you flexibility with where you put it (it doesn’t have to plug into your router). For $59.99 if you supply your own 25W power adapter, or $79.99 if you need the power brick, it’s expensive for a wireless charger that only charges one device, but a bargain at either price for a SmartThings hub that supports Zigbee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Thread, and Matter.
The Station is small and square, with a discreet look and a nice feel to it. It will fit in fine on your hall entryway table or by your bed. It comes in black or white and has one physical button on the top right. This is also small, displays the SmartThings logo, and can be used to trigger smart home routines. If you have it by your bed, you could set one press to trigger a Good Night scene and a long press to activate a Good Morning scene. Or, on your hall entryway table you could have a Welcome Home scene and a Goodbye scene.
There’s an LED indicator on the side at the front with two light bars: one that tells you the state of the hub (blue for all good, yellow for problems) and the other that tells you the charging progress of any device on it (red is charging, blue is ready).