You make a very valid point "Mr Ecobee Thermostat" on the first stage heating. I have mentioned it to ecobee and I am sure like with all good feedback they will react to it positively. First stage operation can be better handled. In my case the majority of the thermostats we use go on geothermal and the first stage is where we want the equipment to remain as much as possible. Pushing it to second stage can have an impact on efficiency. That said the ecobee handles staging better then almost every other thermostat I have seen.
The reason I like the ecobee is because we can use time / temperature and more importantly outdoor temperature to control the aux heat operation. As you rightly point out basing your Aux heat operation based on TIME can be a problem if your issue is economy and not comfort. With a time algorithm you are more comfortable in your home but your wallet may ache a bit.
This is also why with geo I do not use the smart recovery in any thermostat because you end up spending $3 to save $1.
It is far more efficient to stay in first stage and maintain the temperature then to jack the system up 30minutes before you want a set temperature and have it run full bore 1st, 2nd and 3rd stage Electric. That said if you look at a Gas Heating system you can take everything I just said and throw it firmly out the window :)