One never knows what to expect at the Consumer Electronics Show. And so far, the biggest surprise is news of the Samsung SmartThings Station, a smart home hub with Matter support and a programmable button. Just for kicks, the SmartThings Station is also a 15-watt wireless charger too.
No, a smart home hub with Matter isn’t surprising. A smart home hub from Samsung is.
Why? Because it was less than two years ago that the company started to get out of the SmartThings hardware game. It stopped making all SmartThings devices and hubs, ceding the latter product to Aeotec. Samsung instead planned to focus on smart home software and services as it ramped up the industry transition to Matter.
Now Samsung is back to making hardware for the smart home as the SmartThings Station will be available next month. The company didn’t share pricing yet so we’ll have to wait a few weeks for that.
So why the change? According to Samsung, we need more hubs. This is the justification, per the company’s press release: “As the smart home market continues to grow, users need simple, interoperable and dependable ways to connect a more significant number of devices.”
I don’t disagree with that statement but the Matter interoperability standard is really supposed to take care of that. Granted, Matter device upgrades and on-boarding is still a bit of a work in progress based on my recent experience. And some of the challenges I faced with Matter upgrades are in part due to hubs from different ecosystems starting to work together. That doesn’t mean we need more smart home hubs though. It simply means the existing options need some software tweaks.
My guess on why Samsung is back in the SmartThings hub business? Even with expected interoperability with Matter, the SmartThings Station shines a spotlight on Samsung Galaxy phones and related services. I say that because some of the hub’s features are optimized for Galaxy devices with the Samsung SmartThings app.
For example, Samsung describes the SmartThings Station setup process this way: “When a user powers the device on for the first time, pop-up messages will appear on a user’s Samsung Galaxy smartphone to help guide users through the connection process smoothly.” While that doesn’t preclude such messages on other phones with the SmartThings app installed, this gives Samsung the opportunity to remind us all of its larger “galaxy” of products.
The SmartThings Station is also integrated with Samsung’s SmartThings Find service, which is similar to Apple’s FindMy network. You can double-press the Station’s button to ring your Galaxy phone, for example, and it tracks Samsung’s Galaxy Tags too.
I don’t think Samsung needed to make this device or get back into SmartThings hardware at all. However, the company has long used every chance it can get to show an Apple-like ecosystem of products and services. The SmartThings Station is simply another opportunity to do that yet again.