There’s no shortage of smart home alternatives for all sorts of home items. And they’re fun to have around, allowing you to get a small taste of how technology can make your home life a lot better. Problem is, not all of them are viable for people who are either renting an apartment or living in a smaller space. You know, the kind of living situation many people find themselves in when they move to a big city.
If you find yourself in that boat, that doesn’t mean you have to do without the conveniences smart home devices bring to one’s abode. There are, in fact, quite a few smart devices out there that make sense for your living situation. They’re small enough to fit in any size home, portable enough to take with you when you move, and easy enough to install that you can do it while dinner cooks in the oven.
Here are some of our favorites.
Speakers with built-in voice assistants are currently the de facto smart home staples. Chances are, you will have a speaker around anyway, so why not make it one that can update your calendar, check your emails, and take all sorts of requests via voice commands, too? If you haven’t gotten one yet, there’s a decent amount of choice, but we’ll keep things simple here.
For people neck-deep in Apple’s gated ecosystem, you’ll want something that plays nice with that ecosystem, so you need to go for the HomePod Mini and keep your conversations directed at Siri. It’s way smaller than the Homepod without giving up much in terms of sound quality.
For those without any Apple attachments, we highly recommend Amazon’s Echo series. We’re very partial to the 4th-gen Echo, which brings really good sound at an affordable price on top of all of Alexa’s upsides.
For those who hate Amazon because they’re evil, there’s always the Nest Audio from Google, which isn’t really any better than Amazon, so you’re supporting heathens either way. Some people prefer the Google Assistant to Alexa, though, and that’s a good enough reason to get this. Plus, it’s small enough that you can buy two and pair them for really good stereo sound.
Philips Hue Starter Kit
Instead of flipping switches, this kit with three bulbs and a bridge lets you replace your home lighting with ones that can be controlled remotely, put on a schedule, or trigger via a variety of things (like, whenever you come in the room). Plus, you can change the brightness without having to install a dimmer and you can even change light colors, so your primary home lighting can turn into mood lighting with a few swipes on the companion app. It’s also compatible with your smart speaker’s intelligent assistant, so you can control the lights via voice commands.
Google Nest Protect
Even the tiniest apartments need a working smoke detector and this battery-powered model does it better than conventional alternatives. It keeps a constant lookout for both smoke and carbon monoxide, giving you a heads up by glowing in yellow and giving a warning message if it detects a small amount so you can check on things. If either one gets to dangerous levels, it sounds the alarm and pulses red, so you can act fast. Unlike other similar detectors, it checks its batteries and sensors 400 times a day, so you’re immediately alerted whenever something needs to be changed, while a humidity sensor allows it to detect when smoke is actually steam, so you don’t get false alarms every time you cook up a storm in the kitchen.
Leaving your keys at home and locking the door behind you is something everyone’s gone through. It’s not fun. A smart lock eliminates that entirely. This model from Wyze is one of the the easiest to install, simply mounting on the inside section of your existing deadbolt and immediately giving you access to all its smart features, from remote operation to geofencing (it unlocks when you arrive and locks when you leave) and access sharing via the phone app. Plus, you can still use your existing key, in case you leave your smartphone at home. Sure, it’s not as compact as the similarly convenient August Smart Lock, but it’s also less than half the price.
Ring Alarm Security Kit
Want some home security, don’t want those complicated systems? Not a problem with Ring’s security solution, which offers flexibility that’s hard to find in any security offerings because you’re not locked into a service contract with professional monitoring only available as an option. The 5-piece basic kit, for instance, gives you a contact sensor for getting alerts any time a door or window is opened and a motion detector for places you want to monitor any movement, along with the necessary control hardware, namely a base station, a keypad (for engaging and disengaging the system), and a range extender. Just buy additional contact sensors and motion detectors as your apartment requires.
Wemo Smart Plug
Want to control appliances and electronics without having to upgrade to a connected model? Just take them off the wall outlet and hook them up to this Smart Plug instead, which can be switched on and off remotely at any time to control the flow of current. There’s also a physical power button, just in case you want to turn off the Smart Plug in the kitchen and forgot your phone in the bedroom, with the whole thing being compact enough to take up minimal space on any wall outlet. And yes, it works with all the three major voice assistants, so you can just tell Alexa to shut off the coffee maker.