2018 Smart Home Holiday Gift Guide
Welcome to our fifth annual smart home holiday gift guide. Since we made our first shopping recommendations in 2014 we have watched the smart home market grow and become more and more mainstream.
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These days it is hard to find folks who don’t already know about Alexa and Google Home – and if they don’t already own a smart speaker, they certainly have an opinion. Apple’s HomeKit is also gaining traction through the HomePod and changing standards that will expand the number of HomeKit-enabled devices available.
Still, only a small percentage of smart speaker owners are using them to control their homes, leaving a huge opportunity for technology companies and holiday gift shoppers alike.
With so many more choices for the smart home, it can be challenging to select the best gifts for your loved ones (or yourself). Is the product easy to use? Is it using the latest technology? What about privacy and security? Is it actually useful? AppMyHome is here to help with recommendations based on our knowledge and experience. No matter your price range, we have great gift ideas to make your loved one’s holiday brighter.
Smart Kitchen Splurge
Vitamix Ascent Series Smart Blenders – from $369.99 to $549.96, available on Amazon.com
Our favorite gift from last year was the Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender and its partner, the Perfect Blend Scale. We are big foodies at AppMyHome and have been wanting a Vitamix for years, but it took Bluetooth to finally push us to make the purchase.
The Ascent series has all the powerful blending features you’d expect from a Vitamix, with the addition of wireless connectivity to allow the base to read the container size to adjust programs automatically, and to pair with the Perfect Blend App and scale to access 17+ programs and 500+ recipes.
Potential Marriage Saver
BedJet Climate Comfort System – from $269 – 40 percent off now through the end of December when you purchase through BedJet.com
We spend much of our lives in bed and temperature can have a huge effect on the quality of our sleep. Unfortunately, two people who love each other and share their bed may have dramatically different sleeping temperatures and preferences, leading to fights over the blanket, the thermostat and the fan.
The BedJet circulates warm or cooling room temperature air under the covers, keeping you and your partner comfortable all night long at your preferred level. Depending on your needs, you can buy one or two BedJets and control them separately and effectively with the AirComfort Cloud Sheet.
In the winter, the BedJet can warm a king sized bed by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just minutes – faster and more effective than most electric blankets. It’s a great gift for anyone who enjoys sleeping. Read our story and watch our video to learn more.
A Secure Gift Selection
Kwikset Obsidian Keyless Lock – $229 for Z-wave version, also available without connection for simple keyless entry.
We have been using Kwikset Kevo Touch to Open smart locks for years and they have been great – allowing us to unlock our doors with our phones and over the Internet and using Alexa with the Kevo Connect bridge. We always thought we needed to have the extra protection of a key in case something went wrong with the lock and we had to get in the old fashioned way. But we got the opportunity to try out the elegant Obsidian keyless entry lock and we have been really impressed.
We just enter our user code and we are inside in seconds, and we can set individual codes for others who need to come into our home. Since we’ve connected the Obsidian to our Z-Wave smart home hub, we can also lock or unlock it from anywhere in the world, and even ask Alexa to do it. It comes in two gorgeous finishes, Satin Nickel and Venetian Bronze, so it matches our home’s decor.
We’d recommend the Obsidian smart lock as a great gift for anyone looking to upgrade their home with keyless entry, whether or not they want to connect it to other devices in the home. Read our full story.
For Pet Lovers
Petcube Bites – $229 for a single camera, with optional Petcube Care 24/7 monitoring starting at $4.99 per month. Black Friday sale – $100 off at Petcube.com.
For the pet lover in your life, treat her to the Petcube Bites, an interactive pet camera that can dispense treats to a good boy or good girl from anywhere in the world. The Petcube Bites has a high-quality HD camera so your loved one can see their dog or cat from anywhere, as well as talk to them and reward them with a treat.
It comes in a sleek package that can live on a shelf or be mounted on a wall, and the optional Petcube Care service stores up to 30 days of video in the cloud and includes perks from other pet partners, such as Noble Friends, Pet Fusion, Rover.com and DogTV.
If you want just the camera without the treats, Petcube also offers the PetCube Play, with HD video and two-way talk. Either one is a great gift for your friends with pets or for your own pet. Read about Teddy’s experience with the Petcube Bites.
For the Cord Cutter
Amazon Fire TV Recast – $229.99 for 500GB storage, also requires an HD Antenna and Fire TV streaming media player or Echo Show.
For the cord cutter in your life, the Fire TV Recast is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that allows you to watch and record over-the-air TV so you can watch it later, without the need for a cable or satellite subscription. We cut our cable years ago and while we can get plenty of channels with our antenna, we miss the ability to record and have been looking for a product like this for years.
If you know anyone who doesn’t have cable or is considering dropping their service, this would be a great gift to help them keep up with their favorite shows.
For Data Geeks with Insomnia
Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor, $199.99 List, Amazon price varies.
Everyone on your shopping list sleeps, and most of us don’t get enough of it. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches can track sleep, but wearing them to bed and keeping them charged can be a pain. With the Sleeptracker, you just plug in the device, put the monitor under your mattress, set up the app and you get automatic and highly accurate sleep recording.
We’ve had ours for several months and we have learned so much about our sleep patterns and tips to improve. The Sleeptracker comes with two individual sensors making it a great gift for couples or for you and your spouse. Read our full review.
Making old appliances smart
Most people have lots of perfectly functional home appliances that they might like to control with their voice or their phone, but the only way to connect them is by replacing them with a brand new and more expensive version. The BOND Home solves this problem, making remote-controlled ceiling fans and fireplaces smart in just seconds. Just plug in the BOND, download the app, point the remote at the BOND and the device is connected. This allows you to access all the remote functions – power, speed, timers, dimmers – from your phone or your smart speaker.
BOND works with just ceiling fans and electric and gas fireplaces today, but it is capable of recording and transmitting both RF (radio frequency) and IR (infrared) signals, so in the future it will be able to control air conditioners, garage doors and motorized shades. It’s a great gift for anyone with a ceiling fan, and a great bundle with an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Winning Dinner in 2019
We are big fans of meal kits here at AppMyHome. We love having fresh, delicious food arrive at our home every week, so there is never a question about what’s for dinner. Two of our favorite meal kits offer E-gift cards so you can share the dinner love with your friends and family.
Blue Apron – E-Gift Cards for Meals and Wine – $60 minimum recommended but available in any amount
We’ve been using Blue Apron almost as long as it has been available in our area, and it remains one of our favorites. Blue Apron meals offer fresh and interesting ingredients and clear instructions, making it easy for your loved ones to prepare delicious dinners and learn new cooking techniques along the way. You can buy Blue Apron E-Gift Cards in any amount, for either meal kit delivery or Blue Apron Wine, that ships pairing-size bottles every month of award winning wine for $10 per bottle. We recommend at least the $60 gift that would cover one week of dinner or one month of wine for two people. Read our full review.
SunBasket Gift Cards – $80 minimum recommended but available in any amount
If your friend or family member is following a specific diet, such as Paleo, Gluten-Free or Vegan, you might want to surprise them with a SunBasket Gift Card. For $80, your loved one will get one week of SunBasket, including 3 meals using organic and clean ingredients for two people. They will be able to choose from 18 recipes every week.
Easy-to-use Smart Camera
Wyze Cam HD Indoor Wireless Camera and Wyze Cam Pan – $27.98/$37.98 on Amazon
There are hundreds of smart cameras available today in all kinds of price ranges and we have used several inside and outside our home over the years. For the price, the Wyze Cam is an incredible value and a great gift for anyone who needs an indoor camera. It includes motion and sound detection, night vision, and two-way audio so you can listen in and respond to what is happening near your camera.
Unlike a lot of other smart cameras, the Wyze Cam comes with 14-day rolling cloud storage at no extra cost so you can access the videos and includes an SD card slot if you’d prefer to record locally. You can control multiple cameras with the Wyze app or with Alexa, and share your cameras with other users in your family. Since almost anyone can find a use for a smart camera, The Wyze Cam is a great gift for anyone on your list.
We have been recommending the Amazon Echo to holiday shoppers for the last three years, and this year Amazon has more ways than ever to bring the joy of Alexa to your holiday shopping. There are hundreds of devices that now include Alexa. Out of all these options for your holiday shopping list – AppMyHome recommends:
Echo Dot (third generation) – $49.99 List, available in three colors and multiple bundle options and discounts for two or more.
We are huge fans of the Dot, a tiny smart speaker that allows you to add Alexa to any room in your house. We have first and second-generation Dots throughout our home and we have given them as gifts to many friends who want to get started with home automation.
The third generation Dot offers a sleeker, rounded design, improved sound quality, and the ability to connect to a wired or wireless external speaker for even better sound from streaming music, news and podcasts. If you have friends or family who still haven’t tried a smart speaker, the Dot is a great first Alexa device, and even if your loved one already has an Alexa, chances are they would love another one.
Echo Dot Kids Edition – $69.99 List
Kids love talking to Alexa, but with regular Amazon Echos open to exploring the entire Internet, playing explicit music, and adding items to the household shopping list, it is good to give parents a bit more control for their children while still enabling the fun of a smart speaker.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes in fun colors and includes a year of FreeTime Unlimited with access to kid-friendly Audible books, music, games and educational skills. Parents can use the Amazon Parent Dashboard to see what their kids are doing, set time limits or pause the service. Parents and approved friends and family can also use the Dot to communicate inside and outside the home. It’s a great gift for kids and parents alike.
Echo Plus (Second Generation) – $149.99 List, available now with a free smart bulb
When we bought our first Amazon Echo we already had a smart hub connected to control our devices, so connecting our home was as easy as saying, “Alexa, discover devices.”
If you or your loved ones don’t have a separate home hub, you can still connect smart bulbs, switches and other devices to Alexa but you are generally limited to WiFi devices which are more expensive and if you get too many, can bog down your home network. The Echo Plus smart speaker includes its own hub that can easily connect to and control hundreds of ZigBee smart devices like light bulbs, switches, motion sensors, and door locks.
This is a great gift for someone who is just getting started with home automation but is interested in connecting and controlling many different parts of their house.
Google Assistant Voice Control
Google Home Mini Smart Speaker – $49 List
AppMyHome is primarily an Alexa household, but your gift recipient may not be. If they use an Android phone, chances are they are fans of Google Assistant and Google Home. In that case, we would recommend the Google Home Mini.
Google joined the smart speaker market a little later than Amazon but has been working diligently to catch up. We have a Google Home Mini and while we don’t use it that much to control our devices, we appreciate its great depth of answers, ability to recognize users’ voices, and our ability to keep asking questions and getting answers in context.
Our Holiday Wish
Meural Canvas – Starting at $595, plus $49.95 annual membership. Available at Amazon and directly from Meural.com
At AppMyHome, we are hoping Santa will bring us a Meural Canvas. We fell in love with Meural when we saw it on display this fall at the CEDIA Expo. Much more than a digital picture frame, the Meural Canvas uses sophisticated technology to display artwork in your home – from famous museum works to contemporary pieces to your own uploaded images.
The Canvas shows the artwork in stunning detail – you can see every detail clearly, down to the brushstroke, and it automatically adjusts the brightness based on the room, so you can always see the artwork perfectly. You can control your Meural with your smartphone, with Alexa, or with the discreet controls built into the frame.
The additional Meural Membership gives you unlimited access to their library of 40,000 diverse works of art. Owning the Meural Canvas is like having a your own private art museum. It’s a perfect gift for your favorite artist or art lover, or for someone looking to take their home or office decor to the next level. See the Meural in action at the CEDIA Expo.
There are plenty of other Smart Home, Kitchen and Travel items for the holiday shopper at Our Smart Devices page, or our Shop by Merchant page, be sure to check often as holiday deals change frequently.