Alongside a slew of new features for iOS 16, announced at WWDC 2022, the company unveiled a brand-new Apple Home app for smart home control, ahead of the launch of the Matter standard.
Rather than just giving the current app a facelift, Apple has said that it has reworked Home (and the underlying HomeKit technology) from the ground up, with enhancements to the underlying technology designed to make it more efficient and reliable for users to control devices.
More noticeable are the changes coming directly to the app, with a fresh interface that’s designed to make it easier to navigate organise and view accessories. The latter is important. Once Home gets filled up with devices, trying to find a specific one to control can be very hard.
With the new version of Home, Apple has introduced categories, including those for lights and security devices. Selecting a category displays just those devices, sorted into rooms. It should mean an end to hunting for devices, giving faster access to those devices you use more often.
Apple has steadily improved its video camera support, with recent additions adding people detection into the mix. Now Apple has its eye on making it easier to see what’s going on in your home with a new multi-camera view that lets you see four cameras at once, with additional feeds available by scrolling to the right.
There are also new lock screen widgets, giving quicker access to some devices without having to unlock a phone and open the Home app.
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What the new Home app won’t have at launch is Matter support. That’s coming later in the year as a software update when the new standard launches this Autumn. Designed to make interconnection, installation and smart device discovery easier, Matter is backed by all of the big tech companies, including Apple, Google, Amazon and Samsung.
When Matter launches, it should increase the number of devices that are compatible with HomeKit dramatically, making Apple’s Home app even more powerful and useful than it is today.
A redesign is nice but it’s Matter I’m waiting for
As someone with a lot of smart home devices, I suffer from trying to find devices in the Home app. I flick between rooms, and scroll up and down through identical-looking tiles, desperately looking for the device that I actually want to control. With the new interface, Apple looks to have made this easier, and I’m not going to complain about that.
Yet for all of the polish, the main thing holding Home and HomeKit back is device support. With far fewer devices supported than on Alexa or Google Assistant, even when you add in unofficial device support through the excellent HomeBridge server, Home is held back by simply not making everything available in one place.
It’s this that the Matter protocol promises to solve. When this finally launches in Autumn, supported in iOS 16 via a software update, we’ll finally get to see what Home is really capable of. Given that, in my opinion, Home Automations are some of the most powerful and flexible; opening them up to a wider range of products could make Apple’s system my smart home platform of choice.