Still unsure about whether to take the plunge and invest in a smart home? Here are some neat starter gadgets that won't break the bank.

Wemo Insight Switch

wemo-insight-switchWhat is it?

Want to get in on some of this remote control wizardry you’ve been hearing about? The Wemo Insight Switch is a friendly, no-strings solution. Just plug it into your wall socket, plug in a device of your choosing, and dive into an app on your phone to switch your device on and off from wherever you are. It tracks energy usage too, which helps you keep those pesky electricity bills low. It can also send alerts when your device powers off, which is handy if you’re constantly forgetting to take your washing out of the machine, or if you want to crack down on the kids’ TV time. Pair it with the smart home recipe-making app IFTTT (If This Then That), and you can get it working with other gadgets in your house, and create clever schedules and rules to make smart stuff happen.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

It has a simple, intuitive app, doesn’t require a hub or complicated installation, and gives instant remote control of devices. It can work as a standalone gadget, or be used alongside other WeMo smart devices. Its IFTTT compatibility also means it can be as versatile as you like, and can work alongside any future smart devices you add to your home.

Buy the Wemo Insight Switch from Belkin for £49.99

iDevices Socket

iDevices SocketWhat is it?

Socket by iDevices is a retrofit gadget that can house practically any type of standard size bulb to turn it into part of your smart home. Simple screw it onto any lightbulb in your house, pop the bulb back in its shade and connect Socket with the iDevices app on your phone. After that, it’s a simple case of customising your newly smart bulb to suit your lifestyle.  The kind of tricks you can pull once Socket is in place are no different to the likes of big-name smart lights light Philips Hue. With the app in hand, you can control your lamp’s brightness, schedule it to switch on and off in line with your daily comings and goings, and even choose its brightness and power with the easy-swipe colour light ring. There’s even some zoning and grouping fun to be had, letting you customise lighting scenes around the house to suit different settings, like “Movie Night” or “Kids’ Bedrooms”. What’s more, Socket teams up Apple HomeKit devices, so you can even call upon Siri to dim and control your Socket-equipped lightbulbs.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

A lot of smart lightbulbs and lighting systems require an additional hub to act as a gateway between your lightbulb and your phone, but Socket comes as a standalone device for instant connectivity. Its Apple HomeKit compatibility makes it future-proof, so you can build a diverse smart home around it.

Buy iDevices Socket for $59.95 (around £47)

Pebblebee Stone

pebblebee-stone-blackWith the ability to control your phone remotely, track your stuff and command an army of smart home gadgets with a single button, PebbleBee Stone wants to be the shortcut to your life. Just what shortcut you take when you press the stone’s button is entirely up to you. Using the Pebblebee phone app, you can decide whether it triggers your phone to take a selfie, sends a Slack message to your colleague while you’re driving, or even skips your music track. How handy is that? When it’s not being a remote for pretty much everything, Pebblebee Stone can be fixed onto objects to act as a handy tracking device. Be it your umbrella, jacket, water bottle or even the dog, Pebblebee and its host item can be tracked from your phone using crowd GPS. It has motion sensors, so you can set up alerts for when Pebblebee moves out of range, or even just budges slightly. Pebblebee Stone also has a temperature gauge; just stick it in your car, the garage, or your wine cellar and get timely alerts to your phone when a certain temperature is reached.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

It can perform such a wide variety of tasks on both a basic and complex level, so it’s ideal for training you up for the smart life. The option to control smart devices with it means it can become part of your bigger smart home system in the future. Also, it’s just a single button…What could possibly go wrong?

Buy Pebblebee Stone for $30 (around £23)

Sengled Pulse

Sengled Pulse lightbulbWhat is it?

The Sengled Pulse is a smart lightbulb that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. That’s right; as well as beaming down a range of ambient colours like red, white and silver, this smart lightbulb will play your tunes from the ceiling. Amazing. Simply screw the bulb into your existing light fitting and you’ve got your very own overhead stereo lighting system that you can control with your phone. You can toggle the lighting level and speaker volume of every individual Sengled Pulse lightbulb in your house from that app, and create an awesome home cinema experience by streaming audio from your TV to the bulbs. There’s even a white noise setting designed to help send your kids off to sleep with soothing sound and dim light. And speaking of dim light – you can make your bulb as bright or gentle as you want with a custom dimmer feature.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

Again, this lightbulb doesn’t require any expensive hub or gateway, so you can literally just plug it in and play. The built-in speaker function is a massive bonus if you’re not keen on forking out for a smart audio system just yet.

Buy Sengled Pulse from Amazon for £40

Amazon Echo Dot

amazon-echo-dotWhat is it?

Amazon recently launched a voice controlled Bluetooth speaker called Amazon Echo in the UK, which lets you control smart home devices, toggle your music, make shopping lists, and all kinds of handy tasks just by talking to its virtual assistant, Alexa. The Echo Dot is a smaller, cheaper version that does exactly the same, but needs to be plugged into your existing Bluetooth speaker in order to control your music. With Echo Dot plugged in, you can ask Alexa to play some chilled out jazz, check what’s in your calendar for tomorrow, tell you the weather forecast, order stuff from Amazon Prime and even hail you an Uber cab. There’s way too much stuff to list, but you can read more about Amazon Alexa’s talents here.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

It doesn’t need smart home devices to be useful; its native functions are enough to keep anyone happy. It doesn’t need complex commands either, and reacts to conversational requests like “Alexa, play me some gentle piano music”. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, and it can grow with your smart home.

Buy Amazon Echo Dot for £49.99

Ring Video Doorbell

Ring video doorbellWhat is it?

Ring is a WiFi-connected video doorbell that sends a notification to an app on your phone whenever someone’s at your front door. With an onboard mic for two-way chatting, you can tell your friends to come on in, give the Amazon delivery man instructions on where to leave your package, or even tell a salesman to shoo – all directly from your smartphone screen. Wherever you have access to the internet, you have access to Ring, so you could be sipping a Margarita on the poolside this summer and still be able to see who’s calling when you’re not there. There’s also a built-in motion sensor, which is able to detect all kinds of doorstep activity and send an instant alert to your phone when there’s someone lurking. That’s handy if your guest decides to knock instead of ringing the bell. After hours, the motion sensor will trigger Ring’s night vision camera. No more curtain twitching for you, neighbourino.

It’s perfect for beginners because…

You can easily install it yourself, and then you’ve pretty much got a house-sitter for life. Ring works with some smart home hubs too, so it’s primed for working alongside other smart gadgets like door locks and lights, should you dabble further into home automation in the future.

Buy the Ring Video Doorbell for £159