HomeKit in action

Back in January, I wrote about some problems with Apple’s home automation protocol, HomeKit:

In order to command smart home appliances from outside of the home, one must have a HomeKit hub. As of now, the only HomeKit hubs are the latest generation Apple TV, an iPad that does not leave the home, or an Apple HomePod.

That’s not easily accessible. My parents have three functioning Apple TVs, and paying to upgrade just for HomeKit would be a bit much. My parents both use their iPads outside of the home, so that’s not an option. And who even knows when the $300 HomePod will be released?

Since then, there have been some developments.

First, the Apple HomePod was released, but it costs $349 before taxes, not the original rumored price of $299. Reviews said that the speaker is much higher quality than competitors, but Siri is still a bit behind Alexa. (But, that might change!)

Second, my parents ended up replacing one of their old Apple TVs for a newer, HomeKit hub-enabled version. Their initial goal was to replace an older thermostat with smart thermostat that they can control using their iPhones. Ironically, the old thermostat was too old to be replaced; the smart thermostat we ordered was not compatible with the old wiring.

However, I also helped them to add a HomeKit-compatible smart plug to a lamp in their porch, so I was able to give HomeKit a try. Connecting the smart plug to the wifi network was a breeze, as was adding it to the Home app.

While the user installing the smart device needed to install a separate third-party app for setup purposes, after installation everything can be controlled from the Home app. That means that different smart devices from different developers can all be neatly organized and easily used under a single app. This means that I can install smart devices for my parents and they won’t ever have to worry about managing different third-party apps.

I had some minor difficulty granting my father permissions on the Home app, as he had not updated his iPhone to the latest version of iOS. After doing so, however, adding him was a breeze.

If you get past the cost of purchasing a HomeKit hub and the (currently not-so-cheap) cost of smart appliances, using the Home app is great. If Apple wants to truly get people to start using home automation, it should consider making it more affordable for new users.