It's been long overdue but iOS 10 users can now get Apple Home, a new standalone app that's dedicated to making it easier to control HomeKit accessories from all of your Apple devices.
Unveiled at the Cupertino company's WWDC keynote as part of its iOS 10 announcement, Home has just landed alongside iOS 10. The app is available not just for iPhones and iPads but also as an optimised version for the Apple Watch too.
Apple Home: How does it work?
Integrating Home into the Control Center, lockscreen and 3D Touch of the iPhone and iPad, you can use it to launch and control individual or multiple smart home devices, letting you ditch some of the controller apps already hogging up space on your homescreen.
As part of Home, Apple is introducing a Scene mode where you can assign devices to work together at different times of the day. Using Siri, you can select a good night scene, and it'll lower the smart lights, turn down the heat and even lock the doors.
Voice commands are designed to be as conversational as "Turn off my bedroom lights" and checking the status of connected accessories like "Is the front door locked?". Example scenes include 'Good morning', 'I'm leaving', 'I'm home', 'Movie night', 'Dinner party' and 'Good night'.
When you're in the iPhone/iPad app, you can use 3D Touch to press and hold an icon for actions that aren't just turning things on and off e.g. to dim lights or turn down heating.
Home will also allow you access to HomeKit devices from the iPhone's lockscreen including the ability to view a smart home camera positioned by your doorbell. You can even then choose to unlock the door if you're happy to let them in.
Apple Home: Apple TV
Apple's new smart home setup also cleverly brings the Apple TV into play to act as a sort of super secure smart home hub.
It can manage the commands being sent to your HomeKit devices as well as enabling remote access and geofencing support. You could, for instance, view a live feed from a smart security camera when you're out at work or switch scenes as you would if you were in the house.
You'll also need an Apple TV to trigger automatic functions from specific devices or scenes, albeit just the once to set up the rule. It's the usual stuff - put the heating on at 6am in the winter, set the lights to turn on when you arrive home or motion sensors for lights in individual rooms.
Apple Home: HomeKit devices
Apple's Home app will of course only work with HomeKit compatible devices. So we're talking about the likes of Philips Hue, August Home Access Kit, Tado and Honeywell's smart thermostats and a list that continues to grow by the month. The big omission is Google-owned Nest.
With "over 50 brands" planning to build HomeKit compatible gadgets and smart home appliances, Apple envisages that you'll be able to open garage doors, control thermostats, turn on air conditioners and a whole lot more pretty soon.
This will - in time - include: lights, locks, thermostats, window shades, security systems, garage doors, humidifiers, fans, plug outlets, cameras, doorbells, air purifiers, air conditioners and sensors.
Just like previous badges, there is also a 'Works with HomeKit' symbol that will be on compatible devices from third party companies.
Apple Home: On the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch hasn't been left out here. Now watchOS 3 is rolling out to Apple Watch owners, and arriving on the new Series 2 model, you can use your smartwatch to get alerts e.g. 'there's someone at the door' and control accessories. It's not the full Home app experience as on an iPhone and iPad but you can switch between scenes and switch devices on and off.
It's been two years since HomeKit first launched, so Apple has made us wait for something that really should've been available from the start. The Home app might not be a groundbreaking addition, but it's definitely one that will make smart home life a whole lot easier. And for many people, this could be the push they need to finally make their home smart.
We'll be living with Apple Home and HomeKit tech so look out for more Apple Home features coming soon.
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