Soma is back with a new version of its smart shades product, which they claim has a 4x faster motor and with a lower price point. Which could address the biggest issues I had with the original version when I reviewed them? So continue reading to find out how these perform in this Soma smart shades 2 review.
To be fully transparent, Soma provided the Soma smart shades 2 and the Soma Connect for testing and review purposes. This will not affect my opinion wherever it is positive or critical of the device. You can read more on our review promise and ethics statement.
Soma smart shades 2 review key facts
- Smart Shades 2 price: £99
- Connect price: £39.99.
- 4x faster motor
- Sunrise & Sunset mode,
- Quiet Morning mode
- Works with HomeKit – You need the Soma Connect
- Built-in battery can last up to 30 days
- Solar charging
- Automation schedules
- Supports maximum weight of up to 5 kg
- Recommended max blind or shade size of 2m wide and 2m high.
In the Soma Smart shades 2 box
- SOMA Smart Shades 2
- Solar panel
- USB to 1/4″ jack cable
- Beaded chain
In the Soma Connect box
- SOMA Connect
- UK power adapter and cable
Soma smart shade 2 design
The Soma Smart Shades 2 has not changed in design from the previous version. It comes in a white colour and made of plastic. Removing a cover, you will find the gear that you feed the beads from the blind into along with two holes if you want to fix it to the wall with screws. Around the rear you find 3M type sticky pads that help attach the device to the wall. Finally, on the bottom of the device you get the power port, which takes a 1/4″ jack cable.
You also get an USB to 1/4″ jack cable that can power and charge the Soma Smart shades 2. But if you want to be more environmentally friendly or you don’t have a power source close by. You can use the included solar panel, which can be stuck onto a window and connected by the 1/4″ jack cable.
SOMA Smart Shades 2 supports a variety of endless loop beaded chains along with a variety of blind types. The motor supports a maximum weight of up to 5 kg with a recommended shade size of 2m wide and 2m high.
As with the motor unit, the Soma connect is a small white little device. In fact, the device is a Raspberry Pi module built into a plastic case. It has several ports like USB, ethernet and HDMI dotted around it. But the only port you need to worry about is the micro-USB power port.
It is also worth pointing out that Soma has told me that if you already have your own Raspberry Pi. They wll provide the custom software needed for the Soma Connect free of charge.
Installing & setup
Setting up is fairly straightforward, but you do this in, two parts. The first being the Soma smart shades 2 device and the second being the Soma connect. However, I want to point out you do not need the Soma connect to use the blinds, they will work perfectly well with it. You just won’t be able to connect it to HomeKit, Google Home or Alexa.
It’s also worth point out that the Soma Smart Shades 2 connects to your device via Bluetooth. If you are using the Soma connect, then this is via Wi-FI to your network and smartphone. But the connection between the Soma Connect and Smart Shades 2 is via Bluetooth.
Setting up Soma Smart blinds
First you connect it to a power source and plug in the charger into the power port. You then need to down the app which is oddly called Smart Shades in the App Store.
I then fitted the Soma Smart Blind unit in the Games room, which is also used as my HomeKit test lab. This involved feeding the beads into the gear. Once I had the beads and gear setup, I then stuck it to the wall with the sticky pads, but you can use screws.
I then followed the rest of the setup process that involved calibrating it for the open-and-closed state of your blinds or shades. Assign a room and you’re done. You can now control your blinds with your phone, but you will need to follow the pairing process with each additional phone or tablet you want to connect.
Setting up Soma Connect
Turning to the Soma connect, again you plug in the power, open the app and select Soma Connect option. Then follow the instructions, which involves adding your Wi-Fi details. Once complete, you are then ready to connect to HomeKit.
Soma does not have official HomeKit certification by Apple. So when you add the connect to the Apple Home app, setup is slightly different. When you tap “+” icon in the Home app, select “Add accessory. You tap “I don’t have a code or can’t scan” and the Soma Connect should appear as a bridge device. Once you click on it, you will be then asked to enter the HomeKit code of 031-45-154, which is the standard HomeBridge code. The Home App will then warn you; you are adding an unsupported accessory. But other than that, everything works as expect with HomeKit and you finish adding the device as normal.
Using Soma smart shades 2
Starting with the Soma App, on the main page, you get a window diagram with a gradient background that changes with the time of day. Sliding shade graphic will set your desired position and the unit will respond.
Th side menu on the left lets you change devices, add the Soma Connect and add further Soma devices to your setup.
At the top right you find the advanced menu with various options. In this menu you can alter the lowest and highest position and group with other devices if you have multiple Soma Smart Shades installed. You can also check the battery level and see if it’s connected to power via USB or solar panel. You also have a troubleshooting option to restart the device, reset and reconfigure, check for updates and contact support.
Triggers and automations
Also in this menu you have advance control for the Soma with several automation options that they call triggers. This is unlike the previous version that only came with one type of trigger. These triggers range from time of day, sunrise and sunset and light levels.
With time of day trigger you can set the blinds to open/close at a certain time of day and with the open with sunrise & sunset Trigger. You can set the blinds to open and close, which uses your iPhone’s location date to determine these times.
One of the more interesting automations is the light level’s trigger. This option requires that the solar panel to be connected to the Soma Smart Shades. This allows you to programme the blinds to open or close dependent on the amount of light that the solar panel detects. But because Soma recommends sticking the solar panel to the glass of the window facing outside. It will only read the light levels outside, rather than in the room itself.
All the triggers support the blinds being open to a specified level depending on your preference, along with 100% open or closed.
The Soma Smart Shades 2 also features Morning Mode. You can activate this mode in any of the triggers and operates the motor at a slower speed than normal. You also get an option to set the number of revolutions per minute.
Soma Smart Shades 2 and HomeKit support
As already mentioned, the Soma blinds do not officially support HomeKit. But regardless, HomeKit support has been faultless, and I have experienced no issues like “No response” within the Home App.
You can lower and raise the blind by sliding the control inside the Apple Home app, or use Siri voice commands. Using HomeKit, you can even make specific requests like “Siri, set the blind to 25% open”.
You can also integrate the blinds into scenes and automation. For instance, I have the blinds set to the morning scene and when activated it will raise the blinds automatically. Then in the evening the blind is part of my evening scene in which the blind is closed.
Soma smart shades 2 Performance
My major criticism of the previous version was how slow they were to open and close. The previous generation took 1 minute and 17 seconds to close and 1 minute and 21 seconds to open for a 80cm wide and 123cm drop blind.
But Soma has improved the speed with an upgraded motor in the Smart Shades2. Although the blind I used for the test is 180cm wide with a drop of 96cm, the tests produced a significant improvement. Closing the blinds in 17 seconds and opening was slightly slower at 20 seconds. These speed improvements are amazing and on a par with the Ikea Smart Blinds which I reviewed on back in January of this year.
With the speed improvement has come a noise increase with the motor and this is slightly up on the previous version.
The one drawback of installing the Soma system is that there is no way to operate the blinds manually. So it’ the smart way or no way and this is not ideal if you have visitors that don’t have access to the app. Another limitation, unlike other smart blind options, you don’t get a remote included. But you could programme a Philips Hue dimmer to operate the blind via HomeKit.
Soma smart shades 2 review conclusion
The New Soma Smart shade 2 has some huge positives, not only has the price point improved to make it more affordable. But the operation of the blinds has also got a speed boost, which was my biggest complaint of the previous version.
As with the previous version, they support HomeKit, although not officially. But Soma said they are working on bringing official HomeKit support later down the line. Operating the Smart Blinds 2 both using the app and HomeKit has been painless and worked every time.
While Soma has made some improvements with version 2, you still cannot operate your blinds manually once the device is installed. I am still surprised that Soma don’t offer a remote either as part of the package.
Despite those 2 points, the Smart Shades 2 work perfectly as advertised, and the installation is hassle-free. I love that the fact that Soma has listened to feedback and improved the speed and lowered the price. This now makes the Soma Smart Shades a great option if you want to convert your existing blind smart.
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