Remote, Touchscreen or App. Which is best?

When designing your Smart Home you will want to consider how to control devices. Control systems offer the ability to combine many devices onto a single interface, but which to choose? A traditional style remote, touchscreen or App?

App

Crestron app
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Crestron App: Lighting Control

This is the least expensive option as the apps are often free. For most systems, the app offers the same functionality as the touchscreens making it a good option for multi-room control. Usually, the app can be used remotely.

The major drawback to apps is that they run on phones and tablets which are intended for multiple purposes. Each time you use the app you have to wait for it to load, this makes the experience clunky.

Apps are great for adding additional controls or features but shouldn’t be used as the only control. Particularly in areas that get heavy use.

Remotes

Control4 remote as a representation of smart remotes
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Control4 SR-260 and a view of Control4 On-Screen Navigator

In terms of cost, this is the next option up from an app. They come in many varieties but what they all have in common is hard buttons. Hard buttons are easier to use without looking, making the user experience more intuitive. Remotes are quicker to use, they are always on and ready, no app to load, no connection delay. Imagine the phone rings and you want to mute the music, with an app you would have to open it, wait for it to load and then press mute: With a remote, you hit that one button and that’s it.

In my experience, where user’s have elected to use App only in areas with TVs I am asked to provide a remote at a later date in almost every case.

Touchscreens

Crestron on-wall touchscreen as a representation of on-wall touchscreens
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Crestron TSW-760

These are the most expensive control option but they do have advantages. Placed in areas that get more use they provide a convenient and “always ready” place to control the entire property. Touchscreens also have the ability to integrate with access control system reducing the need for multiple wall-mounted devices. Touchscreens don’t make a very good primary control but as a complementary whole-house control with additional detail and features, they are essential for larger projects.

Remotes are by far the best primary control as they are simple and convenient. Where multiple rooms are being controlled touchscreens placed strategically are a convenient way to control the whole property. With Access Control in the system touchscreens are essential. Apps are a great convenience feature but shouldn’t be thought of as the main control for the sake of user experience.

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