If you're in the Apple ecosystem and you want a portal to your smart home, there's no better window than Home. It's a standalone app dedicated to making it easier than ever to control your HomeKit-connected tech from all of your Apple devices.
It was unveiled as part of iOS 10 last year, but has since become an entrenched way of life for Apple-based smart home aficionados. You can access it from your iPhone, of course, but also your iPad, Apple TV and Apple Watch.
Still got questions? Here's everything you need to know.
Apple Home: How does it work?
While Home is a standalone app, it's also integrated into the Control Center and lock screen. You can use both, plus 3D Touch on iPhone and iPad, to launch and control individual or multiple smart home devices. That way, you can ditch some of the specific controller apps by throwing them in a folder you'll never touch, saving valuable home screen space.
Home has a few different ways - three, specifically - to interact with your devices within the app. There's 'My Home', which lists out all your smart home devices, favorites first; 'Rooms', which groups devices based on which room they're in; and 'Automation', which allows you to automate smart home reactions. For instance you can turn off the lights when you leave home, or set things to happen at certain times of the day.
These automations can be grouped together into 'Scenes'. They're basically super simple ways of activating an automation. For instance, you can create a 'Good Night' scene that turns off the smart lights, turns down the heat and locks the doors. Or you can create a 'Movie Time' scene that turns on the mood lighting and gets a movie ready for playing. These scenes can be activated by either Siri or in the Control Center.
Speaking of Siri, voice commands are designed to be as conversational as "Turn off my bedroom lights". You can also check the status of your connected devices with a simple "Is the front door locked?". Go wild. While we're in alternate ways to control your smart home, be aware that you can use 3D Touch for granular controls. For instance, using 3D Touch you can dim lights or turn down heating rather than just turn things off or on.
And finally, Home's integration with the lock screen allows you to view smart home cameras and the like right away. You can even chose to unlock the door if you're happy to let them in.
Apple Home: Apple TV
Apple's smart home setup cleverly leverages the Apple TV as a super secure, secret smart home hub.
It can manage commands and automations for your HomeKit devices, as well as enabling remove access and geofencing support. You could, for example view a live feed from a smart security camera when you're out at work or switch scenes as if you were right at home.
You automation commands include things like activating or deactivating the lights when you arrive and leave home, or having things happen at a certain time - like turning up the heater as it gets colder at night. Last but not least, you can use it to bridge motion sensors and other smart home devices.
Apple Home: HomeKit devices
Apple's Home app - of course - only works with HomeKit compatible devices. So we're talking about the likes of Philips Hue, August Smart Home, Tado, Honeywell and more. The list keeps growing. The general - and obvious - rule of thumb is that if you can buy it at Apple.com, it'll work with HomeKit.
However, the big commission is Google-owned Nest. And sure, Apple is planning to build HomeKit up so that you can eventually control all aspects of your home. Open garages, control thermostats, turn on air conditioners, water your garden, whatever you can imagine. But still, the lack of Nest is a big one.
Anyway, the number of devices - and types of devices - are continually growing. You can soon expect a whole number of different devices, including window shades, humidifiers, plug outlets, air purifiers and more to be supported.
Just make sure you spot that 'Works with HomeKit' badge that'll show up on compatible devices from third party companies.
Apple Home: On the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch hasn't been left out here. Thanks to watchOS 3, you can use your smartwatch to get alerts and control accessories. It's not the full Home app experience that you'll get on an iPhone and iPad, but you can still do things like switch between scenes and switch devices on and off.
It's been about three years since HomeKit first launched, and Apple has been steadily building it up - making us wait for something that really should've been available from the start. The Home app might not be a groundbreaking addition, but it'll definitely make living the smart home life a lot easier. And it'll get better as Apple updates its OS.
On the horizon with iOS 11
With iOS 11 not far away, there are a good amount of upgrades that you should be aware of. First, Apple has totally changed Control Center. Rather than have you page through three different, and frankly, complicated screens, Apple is combining everything into one customizable one.
That's right, you'll be able to customize control center to place whatever devices you'd like there. So you'll be able to more simply turn your devices on or off. And that's not all, iOS 11's Home is also getting support for smart sprinklers and faucets.
One of the big pain points with Apple Home, and HomeKit in general, is that it can be a little convoluted to add devices to your home setup. In iOS 11, you'll be able to scan QR codes and use NFC from right within the Home app to add devices, making it far more simple and easy to beef out your smart home. Even better, Apple is going to let third parties update their software to gain HomeKit support, so you won't have to wait for brand new hardware with Apple's special HomeKit-required hardware in it like before. Hooray!
As always, we'll be living with Apple Home and HomeKit devices on an ongoing basis, so continue to look out for new reviews and features.
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