Amazon and Google dominate the smart home market. Beyond Amazon’s growing lineup of Echo smart speakers, the tech giant also owns home security brands Ring, Blink and Wi-Fi router brand Eero. Smart thermostat maker Ecobee gets funding from Amazon. Google owns Nest and brought the company further under its control this year, rebranding most of its connected gadgets from “Google Home” to “Google Nest,” like the Google Nest Mini and the Google Nest Hub.
That’s part of the purpose of this post — to look at the smart home in a different way and to see what else is out there when you remove some of the most obvious players. That said, Alexa and Google Assistant are compatible with…well, pretty much every smart home gadget at this point. For better or for worse, this would be an exceptionally short list if we stuck to devices that are totally independent from Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility. It would be even shorter if we left off products that use backend support like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.
Larger questions about market consolidation and data stewardship emerge the deeper down the rabbit hole you go on Amazon and Google’s omnipresence in our lives. There’s also the question of privacy. Amazon and Google dot headlines for misusing user information and collecting health care data without informing people. Amazon’s home security company, Ring, has been the subject of numerous CNET reports for its partnership with over 725 law enforcement agencies across the US.
I had to draw a line somewhere for this story, so for the purposes of this product roundup, Amazon, Ring, Blink, Eero, Ecobee, Google and Nest-branded devices are out.
Of course, the brands I list here aren’t impervious to data breaches either. Apple, which I nominate below for best smart speaker and best smart display display, had an iPhone security flaw that allowed hackers to gather personal information from websites. And an issue with Apple’s FaceTime app made it possible to listen to a person receiving a call, even if they didn’t answer the call.
Still, this is a particularly great list if you have concerns about the privacy of Amazon and Google products.
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get into this list of the 10 top smart home devices that aren’t made by Amazon or Google.
Arlo Pro 3
The best home security camera
Let’s get the annoying stuff out of the way first. At $500 for a two-camera pack, the Arlo Pro 3 is expensive (it’s currently discounted to $450 on the Arlo online store). That $500 kit also includes a required hub that you have to connect to your router. Arlo claims the hub helps extend the Wi-Fi range of its Pro 3 cameras and improves the battery life of each camera’s rechargeable battery, but feel superfluous compared to all of the non-hub Wi-Fi security cameras out there.
That said, the Arlo Pro 3 is my favorite home security camera. It’s weatherproof and can go anywhere, as long as your Wi-Fi network reaches it. It has easy-to-remove rechargeable batteries that can last for months on a single charge (battery life will vary based on use). And the camera itself has a built-in spotlight and siren to startle potential intruders.
With an Arlo Smart subscription, starting at $3 per month, you’ll receive custom motion alerts that tell you whether it sees a person, a car, an animal or a package — and get 30 days of access to recorded motion clips. Arlo cameras are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
August Smart Lock
ProThe best smart lock
The $229 August Smart Lock Pro is a Bluetooth-enabled smart lock. It comes bundled with a plug-in Connect Wi-Fi module so you can also control your lock beyond Bluetooth range from the August app. Like other locks from August, which is owned by the same company as Yale, this model retrofits over most existing deadbolts and makes for a simple installation.
In addition to the lock and the Connect module, the Smart Lock Pro kit includes a door sensor and a related feature called “Door Sense.” With this feature, you can confirm whether your door is open or closed, as well as locked or unlocked straight from your phone. The app is easy to use, from following the step-by-step instructions to install your lock, to checking whether your door is open or closed — and customizing your lock’s feature in the settings menu. The August Smart Lock Pro supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands.