The iDevices Thermostat, released quite a while ago, has seemingly flown under the radar when it comes to HomeKit thermostats despite being the cheapest on the market. While there are not many HomeKit thermostat offerings around, it seems that most HomeKit set ups involve the Ecobee line of products, with little to no reviews to be had for the iDevices thermostat, which has a retail price of $99, but can be found for as little as $69 at times. Having had the Ecobee 3 in my home for a couple of years now, I have long thought that the device just didn’t really offer much in terms of actual use cases for my home when it comes to its lauded temperature sensors and its energy saving ties to local utility companies. This coupled with Ecobee’s rather frustrating handling of schedules and how they collide with adjustments made through the Home app or Siri, led me to try something new… or old in this case.
Design-wise, the iDevices thermostat is not the flashiest of smart thermostats, with the white rectangular frame following traditional programmable thermostat styling. The device features a small a LCD display in the center of the unit, and 4 capacitive buttons on its face, one set of up and down arrows, as well as a back and settings button. The display itself is not a touch screen, which can take a while to get adjusted to after having a thermostat that you can just touch or tap to adjust. I found this to be trivial though, as I rarely ever touch the thermostat itself, and when I do, the capacitive buttons get the job done. With that being said however, navigating the menu system on the thermostat is clunky at best. In order to access adjustments outside of raising and lowering the temperature, one must press the “gear” button, located on the top left of the device.
Once in the main menu, the up and down adjustment arrows are used to toggle through the vertical list of options. While there is not many options to be found, it can be a little frustrating to use the “gear” button to confirm selections. Even after going through the set up process with the device, and through various adjustments over the last few weeks, I still find myself struggling with this simple, yet odd process.
Installing the device was a simple process as well, although not as easy as other thermostats on the market. After removing the display from the base of the unit, using a simple squeeze and pull, the terminals for wiring and the mounting screw holes are revealed. Mounting the thermostat requires two screws, one on each side of the base and can be fastened with included wall anchors if needed. Wiring the thermostat requires a tiny flat-head screwdriver, which could cause some to have to go out and buy one specifically for installation purposes. All that is left after wiring the thermostat is to snap back on the display.
Of course, if you want to control the device remotely, you will need a HomeKit hub, such as an Apple TV, iPad or HomePod, but I figure that most HomeKit households already have at least one of these around, so I don’t see it as a deal breaker for most. Of course, if you wanted to, you could also set up the device using the iDevices Connected App, which for the sake of review purposes I also did. This process was surprisingly quick and similar to just using the Home App, with only a few additional screens, such as one for setting a schedule thrown into the mix.
Using the App for set up does, as you would expect, prompt the user to create an iDevices account, but it is not necessary at all, in fact, iDevices provides a skip button which was great to see. Creating an account does provide some benefits though, such as the ability to remotely monitor and control the thermostat without a HomeKit hub. One odd thing that I noticed is that the thermostat does have some audible noise that comes from the unit. Just like a traditional thermostat, you can hear a click when the unit calls for the heating or air to start up, and when it turns off. I also noticed that the thermostat itself emits a “electrical whine” of sorts at all times. While this sound is not noticable after taking a few steps away from the thermostat, it still is strange to hear.
Navigating the iDevices App is, as one would expect, not the greatest of experiences. The App features a dark theme, with purple accents, but presents data in a cluttered manner, especially if you have lots of devices in your home. Just like the Home App, navigating the iDevices Connected App uses swipes to toggle between rooms, and small photo icons for devices. Tapping on a device name or picture brings up a device specific menu, which only presents option for the particular device type.
For a thermostat, the App provides the expected temperature adjustment functionality, and a section to set a schedule. I will admit that I did not dive in to the scheduling aspect at all, as my recent fights with the Ecobee 3 reminding me that I just wanted to use the Home App for all of my scheduling needs. Outside of those options, I did not see a need at all for the iDevices App. Firmware updates are main reason why I haven’t deleted the iDevices Connected App from my phone, although I have yet to see an update in the month or so that I have had mine installed.
Now lets talk about performance and reliability. First let’s start with the good. The iDevices Thermostat responds to commands given to it via an App or via Siri pretty much instantly. In my testing, I found the iDevices Thermostat to be faster than the Ecobee 3, which was already pretty speedy, and informational updates to the device within the Home app are quick as well. Unfortunately, the iDevices Thermostat does not fare so well when it comes to reliability. Frequently, the thermostat will just decide that it does not want to connect to my Wi-Fi network for a while, causing the dreaded “No Response” message to appear in the Home App. Of course since I set up my schedules using the Home App, I have run into many instances so far where I noticed that my house is hotter than normal, all because the thermostat went unresponsive when my schedule was supposed to trigger.
Timing for these bouts of connectivity issues are random. I have seen the device go for a few days without any issues, but other times, I see it happening about once an hour. Sometimes the thermostat decides it wants to hop back on my network, and other times it requires me to physically detach the display of the thermostat and replace it again to reboot it. This is of course, unacceptable for a thermostat and one that pretty much seals its the fate of this thermostat within my household. Of course, this could always be caused by an issue with my home network, but other than the Leviton Decora Smart Switches that I previously reviewed, this is the only device that has this problem.
Recommending the thermostat is a tough one at this point. There are some great things about the iDevices Thermostat that have me thinking that it is worthwhile. Being free of cloud based services, a simple no-frills design, basic operation, and the lowest price of all the HomeKit thermostats make it truly compelling. However, reliability truly trumps all, and with this being the case, I cannot recommend this thermostat, at least in its current state. I really wanted this thermostat to be the one that I would keep within my home for years to come, but alas, I have already replaced it due to the connectivity issues. Having already had an Ecobee thermostat, what did I device to replace the iDevices thermostat with? Stay tuned to find out.