First announced at Apple’s WWDC earlier this year, Siri has now landed on Ecobee SmartThermostats. The Apple voice assistant arrives via a free software update allowing you to say “Hey Siri” to the thermostat to set the temperature, send an intercom message, and use all of Siri’s smart speaker features.
This is the first third-party device to include Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, although the feature is not exclusive to Ecobee. Apple said that all HomeKit accessory makers will be able to integrate Siri voice control into their products starting this year. For any integration to work, you will need to have a HomePod or HomePod Mini on the same network, through which the device (in this case the SmartThermostat) will send the requests. The integration won’t work with just an Apple TV or iPad running as your HomeKit hub.
The function only works with the newest Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control ($249.99), which has a built-in microphone and speaker and has supported Amazon’s Alexa since its release in 2019. You can’t have both AIs active at the same time, however; you have to choose, but you can switch back at any time.
Siri is my main smart home driver, so I have been impatiently waiting for this update. It landed on my thermostat this weekend and so far the experience has been pretty good (barring a few hiccups getting it going). It’s essentially like having a HomePod on your wall. I can do everything I can with a HomePod using the Ecobee instead: set timers, ask about the weather, find my iPhone, and control lights and other smart home devices. It was fractionally slower than using Apple’s own smart speaker for those tasks, but not enough to be an issue.
The Ecobee’s microphones and speakers aren’t as ideally situated as on a HomePod — they’re in the back of the device against the wall, so it did have some trouble hearing me, and if you have an Apple device nearby — phone, watch, etc. — that device invariably picks up the request first. This is a good thing, though; really you want the thermostat to be the fallback device, not the primary one. With Alexa in the Ecobee, it often picks up the request over any other nearby Echo speaker, and I get music playing on its tinny speaker instead of the Echo Studio I’d intended it to.
The Ecobee speaker also shows up as an Airplay option, which was surprisingly fun, especially as you can group it with other Airplay speakers. I experienced a major smart home nerd moment when I was streaming music from a smart smoke alarm (Onelink Safe & Sound) and a smart thermostat, simultaneously. Welcome to the future.
Music is one area the Siri integration is better than Ecobee’s Alexa integration. While Amazon’s voice assistant works out of the box with the thermostat and you can play music through the thermostat, it doesn’t work with Alexa’s multiroom feature. It’s pretty sad to try and rock out with music just from your thermostat.
Setting up the integration is simple: pair the Ecobee to HomeKit from the thermostat’s screen, then add it as an accessory through the Home app, and an option to “Speak to Siri” will pop up. From there, you can tailor the experience (such as deciding if you want to enable personal requests). If your thermostat is already connected to HomeKit, a card will appear in the Home app asking if you want to enable Siri. You can switch between voice assistants in the integrations menu in settings on the thermostat or in the Ecobee app.
Having Siri in more places in the home will help make the voice assistant a more useful smart home controller. However, putting it in a $250 thermostat doesn’t exactly make the HomeKit experience a less expensive one. Plus, you have to have a HomePod Mini for it to work. No one should go out and spend $350 just for this experience. It’s useful for those who already have this tech. But going forward, I would like to see some Siri-enabled accessories under $50 to help bring the voice assistant into more corners of your smart home.
In other Ecobee news, the company has been testing out some user interface changes on its optional Beta program. According to a post on Reddit, one change is replacing the fiddly slider used to adjust the thermostat’s temperature with a tappable option. I asked Ecobee about this potential new interface and it told me: “We’re currently exploring some UI changes to the Home screen of the Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control, and have invited several thousand thermostat users to participate in this optional Beta.”
It’s a change that can’t come soon enough as the current slider method is one of the worst interfaces I’ve tested on a thermostat. Unless you have teeny, tiny fingers, it’s really tricky to manually change the temperature by just one or two degrees; it often jumps around five to 10 instead.
Siri on Ecobee officially launches on October 12th and is arriving on Ecobee SmartThermostats over the next few weeks. For the integration to work, you need to have a HomePod on software version 15 and an Ecobee thermostat on firmware 184.108.40.2062.