Smart Home Tech Adoption Slowed by Underwhelming Apps

App functionality is a major consumer pain point, with frequent complaints of slow video streaming, long load times and the video blacking out. 

smart homes and apps

Consumers are more frustrated with the applications that dictate, schedule and manage smart home devices than with the actual devices themselves, according to an Argus report that compiled data from nearly 50,000 smart home device and app reviews.

The report found incumbent home security companies like ADT, Comcast and AT&T are failing to delight consumers with their apps while the more innovative and newer smart home-focused companies like Vivint and Honeywell appear to be cultivating a more synchronized hardware and software ecosystem and are doing better among consumers.

"We were shocked at how poorly the large service providers like AT&T Digital Life were doing with consumers. Given the branding and growth of these companies, the assumption was they were delivering on the brand promise," John Feland, CEO, Argus Insights, told eWEEK. "The reality is far from delightful."

Feland said the one shining star among the service providers is Vivint, which has transformed its app experience from middle of the pack to the highest rated smart home app in the study. Vivint's success has come largely from fixing the issues other providers have, he said.

"The other surprise was the gap between consumer perceptions of smart home devices and the apps that control them," he said. "Nest is the highest rated thermostat on the market, yet their app sits in the middle of the pack. More stark is the chasm between Philips Hue bulbs and app. The Hue app has consistently frustrated consumers, largely due to connectivity issues. The terrible shock is it seems Philips has done nothing in the past 12 months to improve the experience."

Feland said this could be one of the reasons that demand for smart lighting has dropped by more than 25 percent from the previous year.

App functionality is a major consumer pain point, with frequent complaints of slow video streaming, long load times and the video blacking out.

Philips represents a market trend of devices that are far more delightful than their apps, creating a dangerous gap in the overall customer experience.

"Some of the issues are related to connectivity to the smart home devices, frustrating consumers that their smart lighting app isn't connecting to their new bulbs, forcing a return to the switch on the wall," Feland said. "Other issues are related mainly to app quality, problems with stability, crashing, et cetera."

He explained that when consumers are expecting the reliability of a light switch but experience a buggy, lagging interface, this is impacting overall adoption for smart home technology.

"The other issue we see is complaints on notifications and event detection," he said. "Consumers tell stories of waiting for responses from their smart home ecosystem after their kids have run in front of the Dropcam or the temperature dropped and waiting and waiting and waiting."