"The perfect solution never involved wifi, internet or smartphones, but would still have had a decent UI, touch panel interface, learning algorithms. It would be an appliance, pure and simple, but a good one."
Honestly, the Honeywell thermostat I had installed six weeks ago seems to be what you describe. Its UI is a breeze, it is a touch panel, and it pre-emptively starts the heat so that the house is up to temp by the time I told it I get up in the morning. The four-period seven-day setup was easy to do with a question-based wizard. It's so much easier to use than the RiteTemp it replaced. I programmed it and haven't had to touch it since.