Looking to buy some smart home gadget gifts this holiday season? Make sure to consider these compatibility issues before you whip out the credit card.
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If you’re looking for the perfect holiday tech gift, it’s hard to go wrong with a smart speaker or other connected smart device. However, before you hit that buy button, make sure the gadgets you buy work with the recipient’s home and the other gadgets they own. Here are a few basic things to consider when buying smart home devices.

  • The Best Smart Locks of 2016

    Smart Locks and Video Doorbells

    Some devices involve complex installation processes, so it’s best not to spring them on unsuspecting gift recipients. Smart locks like the Kwikset Kevo, for example, require owners to modify their doors, which they might not be allowed to do if they rent. It can also require re-keying other locks or getting new keys.

    Some models, like the August Smart Lock Pro, only replace the inside knob, so if your recipient doesn’t want to (or can’t) modify their locks, you have options.

    Some video doorbells like the Nest Hello, meanwhile, don’t just require modifying your home’s wiring, but also require a subscription to access certain features. When in doubt, stick with something simple, or talk to the person you’re buying for first.

  • Smart Lights

    The easiest way to install smart lighting is to use smart bulbs that do not require a hub, like the Eufy Lumos or LIFX Color 1000. They plug into existing lamps, overhead lights, and fixtures, connect to your recipient’s Wi-Fi network and can be controlled with an app or voice commands.

    Just make sure you get the right kind of bulbs. Most common household bulbs use the standard A19 socket, but some light fixtures use the smaller, candle-style E12 bulbs. Next time you’re in their home, take a look at the kind of bulbs they have and how many they’ll need before you buy.

    In-wall light switches like the Belkin WeMo Light Switch have to be installed in place of your existing switches, and usually require a neutral wire that some homes might not have. Smart plugs that you can stick in an outlet make a good alternative here.

  • Nest Thermostat E

    Smart Thermostats

    Smart thermostats can save your recipient money over the long run. However, not every home can support them. While they’re typically easier to install than something like a smart lock, certain heating or AC units aren’t compatible. Companies like Nest have compatibility tools that can tell you whether or not the Nest Learning Thermostat will work with your home.

    It’s a little tougher to get this information for a gift recipient—we don’t advise pulling someone else’s thermostat off the wall to look at its wiring—but maybe it’s worth asking them to take a look before you take the plunge.

  • iLife A8 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

    Robot Vacuums

    Giving someone a robot vacuum means giving them the gift of a cleaner house with less effort. It’s a great idea for a present, but not every home is an ideal place to let one loose. Before you buy, get some info on your recipient’s home. How many floors do they have? Carpets or hardwood? Do they have pets that shed a lot? The answers to these questions will help you determine which vacuum will make the right gift, or if they are better off with a robot mop instead.
  • Smart Home Device Compatability, Bi Intelligence

    Smart Speaker Platforms

    Smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo line or a Google Home device, are ideal centerpieces in a smart home. Both products allow users to play music, set reminders, answer questions, and control all their other smart devices without lifting a finger.

    Before you make a purchase, though, you should know the differences between an Alexa-enabled device and a Google Assistant gadget. More importantly, you need to make sure you are getting a device your recipient can actually use.

    If they already have a smart speaker, it’s a good idea to stick with the ecosystem they chose. If they have a Google Home, consider a Google Home Mini, Google Home Hub, Lenovo Smart Display, or Google Home Max speaker. If they have an Echo and love Alexa, there are plenty of Alexa-enabled gadgets that can join the party.

    That’s not to say they can’t have an Echo Dot in the bedroom and a Google Home in the living room, but they won’t play nice with each and require different commands.

  • Third-Party Device Compatibility

    Similarly, many third-party devices have jumped on the Alexa and Google Assistant bandwagons, from TVs and soundbars to lamps and coffee makers. But some only support one or the other, so make sure your gift recipient won’t be shouting “ALEXA!” at their new video doorbell in vain.

    You also want to keep their digital subscriptions mind. Apple’s HomePod, for example, only supports Apple Music. And while Apple Music is heading to Amazon Echo devices, it’s not yet supported on Google Home gadgets. Google Home users can tap into Google Play Music Premium, Spotify Premium, Pandora Premium, YouTube Premium, and Deezer Premium, though.

  • Holiday Gift Guide 2018

    Holiday Gift Guide 2018

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