Apple moved into the connected home market along with Nest and Amazon when it released it's HomeKit software, which runs with Apple's iOS devices. The original system was slightly disjointed, running on individual chips in different devices. But earlier this month Apple launched their newest iOS10 software, which comes with the new Apple Home control app that seeks to give users a more cohesive experience.
CNET editor David Priest presents the ways the Apple Home app works, and the areas where it still needs improvement.
1. Home successfully unifies the fractured HomeKit platform. Gone are the days of 20 HomeKit apps and 20 user interfaces. Apple has finally given the world a central Home app that makes HomeKit feel like a real platform.
2. Home makes Siri a compelling smart home tool for the first time. With Home, Siri can legitimately do something better than me: she can close a dozen shades, turn off the lights, and lock all the doors within seconds of me saying, "Lockdown." And the Home app lets you personalize how you group devices (in rooms, for instance). That lets you control whole swathes of the house with single voice controls.
3. Home's user interface is informative and much more accessible to the layperson. Apple is bringing an inaccessible technology to an understandable platform. Home makes installation easier, tells you how to fix things when they go wrong, and encourages you to explore the possibility of smart-home tech -- all via a well-designed interface that teaches you as you go.
4. User sharing is no longer hell on an iPhone. One of the biggest problems that's plagued Apple HomeKit since its inception was the terrible iCloud account sharing. Essentially, if you wanted to give someone else (like your significant other) access to your HomeKit account on their iPhone, you'd have to send them an invitation through the settings menu on your iPhone. Sharing (now facilitated by the app) now happens almost instantaneously.
5. Home lets you control your house from your (Apple) TV. Using Siri on the Apple TV remote, you can now activate scenes to control the house. That might not seem like a big deal, but since the TV is the hub of many homes, it makes sense for it to act like it.
6. Home adds new automation possibilities to otherwise standard products. It will add automations that your smart devices might not have had in the past. For instance, Home can use geofencing to close your shades and turn off your lights automatically when you leave the house.
1. Siri still struggles to understand you. She can't understand you as well as Alexa, the Amazon Echo voice control, and that leads to serious frustrations. Couple Siri's need for verbal precision with her sometimes sluggish pace of parsing your words, and it can leave you annoyed.
2. Siri still lives on your phone. If Apple releases an Amazon Echo competitor sometime soon, this might change. But right now, Siri is limited because she lives on your phone. Two problems stem from this: first, accessing her isn't hands-free, like it is with Alexa (and the "Hey, Siri" feature isn't an adequate stand-in); second, a whole household can't use her in the same way they can Alexa.
3. You can't control the Apple TV using Siri on your phone. The Apple TV Remote app helps mitigate this some, but direct, iPhone-based Siri control of your Apple TV would bring home and home entertainment control to the device I use most often.
4. Home's organization still needs work. As the smart home market grows, more users are going to be managing more devices. Right now, Home just lists them on one page, and divides them by room on another. It works alright, but you'll end up avoiding the app over time.
5. Sometimes, everything stops working and you can't figure out why. This isn't just a problem with Home; it's a problem with the smart-home industry. When you rely on automation for basic control of your lights and shades, if everything stops working during, say, a firmware update, it can really throw a wrench into your daily routine.