Appleâs HomeKit may not be the most popular of the major smart home systems, especially when compared to competitors like Amazonâs Alexa ecosystem and Google Assistant, but it still has a lot of benefits, particularly when it comes to its deep integration with Appleâs platforms.
In fact, even if you prefer using Alexa or Google Assistant, you can still benefit from HomeKit. While there are plenty of smart home products that only support either Alexa or Google Assistant, odds are that if your light bulb, outlet, or fan supports HomeKit, itâll work with another service, too. Since thereâs no penalty for using accessories with multiple services, you can configure products with, say, Alexa and Appleâs Home app to get the best of both worlds.
Itâs easy to do. Hereâs how to make the most of your HomeKit gear.
As with most of Appleâs services, youâll need to have Apple hardware to use Apple Home and HomeKit â specifically, an iPhone or iPad because you canât actually set anything up without the Home app.
But to really take advantage of HomeKit, youâll also need a hub device, either an Apple TV, a HomePod, or an iPad (which needs to be in your house, powered on, and connected to Wi-Fi). This serves as the âbrainsâ of your setup, letting you use all of your smart home gadgets remotely. Itâs not required, but if youâre looking to make the most of your setup and use things like automations, itâs something to seriously consider.
Lastly, youâll need smart home gadgets that work with HomeKit. Chances are, youâll find this information on the box or online description of whatever youâre buying. Apple keeps a pretty comprehensive list here if youâre looking for something specific.
Once you have your iOS device and your HomeKit hardware, youâll need to add it to your Home app. To do that, youâll be asked to enter an eight-digit code or scan the HomeKit QR code thatâs included with your device. (Itâll either be on the hardware itself or somewhere in an included manual.)
Itâs also not a bad idea to write down the code somewhere, especially if itâs in a manual that you will probably lose, just in case you need to reconfigure things down the line. (The HomePass app for iOS is probably the best way to keep track of these codes. It has a clean and well-designed UI, although it does cost $2.99.)
Some devices, like thermostats or smart lights made by Philips Hue, might need some extra setup in their specific apps. For those types of devices, you should check the instructions that came with them.
Once youâve entered the code in the Home app, youâll be asked to assign a name to your hardware and add it to a room.
Rooms are how you sort all your smart home gadgets. Each accessory has to be set to a room, which is where it âlivesâ in the Home app.
Rooms can also be further grouped into zones, which are sort of like rooms for your rooms. The idea is that you group a bunch of rooms together into a zone (like upstairs or downstairs) for when you want to control a bunch of stuff at the same time. To add a room to a zone, hit the edit button in that room, tap the arrow next to the room name, and select which zone you want to add it to.
By the way, rooms and zones are also important if you want to use Siri. If your gadgets are grouped correctly, you can simply ask Siri to âturn on all the lights in the bedroom,â for example.
Scenes are the most powerful part of HomeKit. It lets you group together actions and have those actions trigger at the same time. Theyâre basically macros for your house.
To create a scene, hit the plus icon in the app and tap âadd scene.â Youâll then be presented with several presets and a custom scene option.
At that point, youâll be able to choose a scene name, which icon is attached to it, which accessories you want to be a part of it, and what theyâll do when triggered. For example, a âleave homeâ scene could shut off all of your lights and fans, while a âmovieâ scene could dim the lights near your TV and turn on the outlet where your popcorn maker is plugged in.
One of the less obvious HomeKit features is group devices, which is particularly useful for things like smart light bulbs that you want to trigger individually. When grouped, HomeKit treats those devices like a single accessory, so youâll just have to tap a single button to activate those devices and settings. For example, if you have a ceiling full of smart light bulbs that you want to turn on all at once, grouping them together will let you do that. Once grouped, theyâll always all turn on and dim / brighten together, which is something to consider when setting things up.
Itâs easy to group devices. Just hit the edit button in the room theyâre in, tap on each accessory you want to group, and tap on the âGroup with Other Accessoriesâ button.
By default, HomeKit accessories are tied to the Apple ID belonging to the person who sets them up (which, if itâs your house, should be you). You can allow other people to join your Home by heading to the main Home settings page of the app, which you can access by tapping the small house-shaped icon in the top left corner of the main âHomeâ tab. There, you can invite multiple users to your Home, allowing them to control the lights, the thermostat, or whatever else you have configured.
You can also limit the abilities of the people you invited. You can set the app so that they can only control accessories when theyâre actually in your house and connected to Wi-Fi or so they can only control hardware and not edit your setup. Access those options by tapping on the userâs icon in that same settings menu.
Users can also be part of multiple Apple Home setups, so should you be lucky enough to have multiple houses, you can manage and control the smart home gear in all of them from the single app.
If you have a hub device set up, you can also automate certain parts of HomeKit using the automation tab.
As with scenes, you add new automations by hitting the plus button in that tab, and youâll be given several triggers you can use: people leave, people arrive, a time of day occurs, an accessory is controlled, or a sensor detects something (should you have a HomeKit-compatible sensor, like a motion detector).
You can then attach individual accessories with their respective settings. For example: âAt 12AM, turn off the nightstand lights.â You can even attach scenes like âWhen I leave home, activate my âLeaving Homeâ sceneâ to the trigger.
Favorites and Control Center
One of the best features of HomeKit is one of the least obvious: the Control Center widget, which lets you have OS-level access to your home controls without having to dive into an app from anywhere on your phone.
Selecting favorites in HomeKit â which you can easily do by editing any accessory and adding it to favorites â will not only place it front and center on the main page in your Home app, but it will also add it to the Home widget in Control Center, allowing you to turn your devices on and off (or control settings with a long press), with control for up to nine devices. Scenes can also be added to favorites and will show up in Control Center as well.
Once youâve set up the Home app, all of your devices will also work with Siri on iOS, Mac, and HomePod devices, allowing you to ask Siri to turn individual devices on and off, activate scenes, or control rooms.
Yes, Siri is still a bit annoying to use, and Apple still has some frustrating limits â you canât, for example, ask Siri to âturn off my lights in 20 minutes,â despite Siri having both timers and control over your lights â but if you want HomeKit voice control, itâs better than nothing.
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