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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

iOS 16 HomeKit: A fresh vision for the Home app

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In May, I said that a redesigned Home app was on my iOS 16 wishlist, and WWDC did not disappoint. HomeKit is set to get a major upgrade with iOS 16, including an all-new Home app, lock screen widgets, new Home key vendors, deeper Matter support, and more. Let’s look at what’s new coming with iOS 16’s HomeKit upgrades.

HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.

iOS 16 HomeKit app upgrades

The Home app hasn’t changed that much from its original release. It’s added new device categories, but the overall functionality is the same. With iOS 16, Apple has rethought the smart home. A light switch, thermostat, security system, and cameras are not the same devices, so the Home app gives them different treatment. iOS 16 allows for quicker access to specific categories like TVs, speakers, cameras, lights, etc. If you look at the climate section, you’ll see all your accessories related to climate in your home. While not as detailed as HomeCam, iOS 16 also improves watching multiple cameras simultaneously. There are also many new icons to use to distinguish between devices. I particularly love how you can make different devices have different size icons.

In my early testing of iOS 16, I believe that Apple is addressing something that I began to notice over the last year: the iOS 15 HomeKit UI doesn’t scale as your HomeKit environment grows past 10 or so devices. Apple’s rethinking is perfect for a smart home setup that’s built around HomeKit. Apple’s first principles approach to the Home app looks to be a fantastic upgrade.

The iPad and Home Hubs

I suspect that customers using the iPad as a home was a very small percentage. It’s much more practical to use a HomePod mini, Apple TV, or even the original HomePod. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a Home hub, it’s what’s required to have access to HomeKit products when away from home. It’s also a requirement for using HomeKit Secure Video with compatible cameras. The video captured by your HSKW cameras is privately encrypted on your home hub and uploaded to iCloud so that only you and those you share it with can view it.

In iOS 16, the iPad can still be used as a HomeKit Home Hub, but only if you don’t want the latest HomeKit features.

Because iPad will not be supported as a home hub with the new architecture, users who rely on iPad for that purpose do not need to update the Home architecture and can continue enjoying all existing features.

iOS 16 HomeKit brings Matter support

iOS touts iOS 16 as improving overall Homekit reliability. Overall, I’ve had great luck with HomeKit, but I know it largely can depend on your device selection and Wi-Fi deployment. Matter will officially be supported in iOS 16 when it becomes available this fall. Apple mentioned they’ve contributed to the foundation of Matter through HomeKit. While we won’t know for some time, I have high hopes that Matter can do for smart home technology what the Wi-Fi standards did for the Wi-Fi industry. I’ve just recently purchased on of Eero’s new Wi-Fi6E routers for my new house, so I am looking forward to putting it through the paces in the coming months.

Overall thoughts on iOS 16 HomeKit upgrades

While we didn’t get continuous recording in HomeKit Secure Video, Apple brought a fantastic vision of the future of the Home app with its iOS 16 Homekit upgrades. All the pictures I’ve seen so far show me that Apple understands that customers have gone beyond just a handful of products in their home, and it’s easily possible to have 30+ HomeKit devices between lights, doors, alarm systems, cameras, etc.

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