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Matter and Thread are set to improve smart home interoperability

Smart home devices automate many of our daily tasks and make it easy to check in on our home from anywhere in the world. Still, most smart home devices are only compatible with other products made by the same brand. Each brand has its own app and voice assistant you must use for their devices. Thanks to Matter and Thread, this siloed approach will soon end. We sat down with our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez, to learn more about these new technologies.

In this article: Apple HomePod Mini, Amazon Eero 6+ Mesh Wi-Fi System and Google Nest Hub Max

What is Thread?

“Thread is a wireless protocol based on a unique type of Wi-Fi and its own frequency,” Vazquez said. The Thread protocol is standardized to work with Internet-of-things (IoT) devices, such as smart home devices. “This is a big deal from a use-case perspective,” he said. “It will make it easier for IoT devices to work together. For example, if you don’t have great Wi-Fi at your front door but have a Thread border router at your front door, it will act as an extender for your network to connect devices in that spot.”

What is Matter?

Matter is an application layer running on Thread that will allow smart home devices from various manufacturers to work with each other. “In the next few years, when you buy a Matter-certified device, it doesn’t matter if it’s Google, Ring, Eufy or another manufacturer; they will all talk to whatever your platform is,” said Vazquez. “This is a big win for Apple users because HomeKit devices are expensive and not as plentiful as Alexa or Google devices.”

The companies behind the new Matter technology are a variety of tech-industry behemoths like Google, Amazon, Samsung and Apple. These businesses and many others formed the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which aims to improve IoT technology standards.

How to use Matter and Thread

“You’ll need a router that’s Thread-enabled or hardware on your network that works as a Thread border router,” Vazquez said. Numerous Thread devices are already available, such as the Apple HomePod Mini. You’ll want to buy Matter-enabled smart home products to ensure your devices can communicate with each other even if they are from different brands. There are a few Matter-enabled devices already, such as the newest Apple TV 4K. Many more have been announced.

Matter and Thread FAQ

Will existing smart devices support Matter?

A. Manufacturers can roll out updates that enable existing smart devices to support Matter as long as they use the correct connectivity method and have the processing power to support it.

Is Matter replacing Zigbee?

A. Matter isn’t replacing Zigbee, but it will likely have more support within the next couple of years. Some Zigbee-enabled-device manufacturers are working on bridges that will allow their products to work with Matter-enabled devices.

Is Thread better than Wi-Fi?

A. It isn’t better overall but can be better for IoT devices. The Thread protocol was designed with IoT products in mind and should let them work faster, communicate better, fail less and use less power.

Thread and Matter-enabled products our tech expert recommends

Best Apple HomePod Mini

Apple HomePod Mini

This is one of the few Thread border routers currently available. It allows you to use Siri to control smart devices throughout your home. You can connect multiple HomePod Minis to fill your house with sound. Most were impressed with the sound quality. It’s available in five colors: blue, orange, white, yellow and space gray.

Sold by Best Buy

Best Echo Dot 5th Gen

Echo Dot 5th Gen

The 5th-gen Echo Dot now supports Matter; you can only set it up through the Android app, but iOS support is coming soon. This smart speaker is easy to use and has a microphone-off button for when you want to ensure it isn’t listening. It’s compatible with most music-streaming services, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Best Buy and Target

Best Amazon Eero 6+ Mesh Wi-Fi System

Amazon Eero 6+ Mesh Wi-Fi System

This system can act as a smart home hub with compatible Thread and Zigbee devices. It supports Wi-Fi 6, ensuring you get the most out of your internet. This three-pack can provide high-speed internet up to 4,500 square feet. The setup process is quick and easy.

Sold by Amazon and Best Buy

Best Google Nest Mini 2nd Generation

Google Nest Mini 2nd Generation

This Matter-enabled product lets you control smart devices with Google Assistant. Most people loved the compact size and top-notch audio quality. The setup process is straightforward. It’s available in four colors: charcoal, sky, coral and chalk.

Sold by Best Buy, Home Depot and Target

Best Apple TV 4K 2nd Generation

Apple TV 4K 2nd Generation

This is compatible with Apple HomeKit Thread devices. It supports 4K streaming and Dolby Atmos for top-notch sound quality. It’s compatible with most streaming services, including Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max. Many were impressed with its ease of use.

Sold by Best Buy

Best Echo Show 10 3rd Gen

Echo Show 10 3rd Gen

This is compatible with Matter and Zigbee devices. Currently, you can only set it up through the Android app, but iOS support is coming soon. It features a 10-inch touch screen and Amazon Alexa voice controls. You can use it to check your video doorbell, watch TV, video chat with loved ones and more.

Sold by Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot and Target

Best Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max

Google announced this device will soon support Matter and act as a Thread border router. This smart device lets you make video calls, stream your favorite shows and more. Many were impressed with the sound and picture quality.

Sold by Best Buy, Kohl’s, Home Depot and Target

Best Philips Hue Smart Bulb Four-Pack

Philips Hue Smart Bulb Four-Pack

Philips Hue devices will soon support Matter via a bridge from Zigbee. These bulbs can last over 20 years and can be controlled via your smartphone or voice commands. They’re easy to install and use. You can use them to create timed routines that help keep your home safe.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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