Does Apple Need to Get More Into HomeKit Hardware?

HomeKit Hardware

Recently, Parker Ortolani at 9to5Mac suggested that Apple’s HomeKit is “doomed to fail” unless the iPhone maker delves deeper into making hardware for smart home automation. Ortolani makes some valid points, but what’s missing from his case has me scratching my head. I’m not convinced that more Apple hardware for smart home automation is the answer.

Fact: Apple Already Provides the Necessary HomeKit Hardware

Ortolani stresses a 1982 Alan Kay quote that both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have maintained. The industry pioneer said, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” Ortolani acknowledges Apple rules the workplace with the Mac and iPhone.

Then he goes on to claim the Cupertino-based company isn’t following the same model when it comes to smart home technology. I see it differently. Apple provides HomeKit without any additional hardware, straight from your iPhone, if you don’t want automation.

If you want to automate things or control your HomeKit accessories remotely, there’s the HomePod, Apple TV, or, in a pinch, an iPad you leave plugged in at home. From my perspective, that’s very similar to Apple manufacturing the iPhone and Mac, then relying on accessory manufacturers to flesh out the catalog.

The Problem is Quality, Not Quantity

The real threat to HomeKit isn’t the amount of hardware Apple produces for it. Plenty of manufacturers are already offering everything from smart TVs you can control with HomeKit to full-blown home security systems. In between, you’ve got lights, smart electrical plugs, thermostats, and sensors galore.

The problem is the reliability factor, which has been improving. There’s still work to be done, though. HomeKit doesn’t always work, and I have to think the problem lies with the software behind it. Multiple accessories, from several manufacturers, suffer the same inconsistent behavior.

When you’re troubleshooting a complicated system like HomeKit, you look for patterns. If it’s just a single device failing, you can blame the hardware (maybe.) That’s not the case here, most of the time. HomeKit occasionally forgets how to talk to numerous devices, at the same time.

Like It or Not, Not Everyone Wants HomeKit-Only Support

The second major hurdle HomeKit needs to address is one Apple is already poised to resolve. When you install your smart home hardware, you may be ill-advised to lock everything into HomeKit. Google and Amazon are still strong contenders in that arena, and resale value of your smart home could hinge on interoperability.

Sure, light bulbs and smart plugs are easy to take with you. But what about those smart light switches, garage door openers, thermostats? You’ll want to maximize compatibility with other smart home ecosystems. To date, Apple hasn’t really ensured that, since its own smart home software only works with HomeKit accessories.

In 2022, that should change. Apple has come on board with the Matter smart home standard. That means, in the future, homeowners and renters will be able to add accessories to their Home app from multiple ecosystems. It won’t matter if the smart home device is HomeKit- or Matter-compatible. Both will work.

Making HomeKit More Reliable and Easy to Use

Apple has, over the years, improved upon HomeKit. We can now address Siri to control third-party smart home accessories. That was out of the question in the early days of HomeKit. In my opinion, Apple needs to continue refining the hardware and software it already has.

It might be nice to have a suite of Apple HomeKit accessories, from light bulbs to switches to cameras. I doubt that it’s necessary. Refining the Home app and HomeKit software are much more important. So is allowing customers to choose from smart home accessories that work across multiple ecosystems.

That’s precisely what Cupertino is working towards. As long as Apple stays the course with that, I think HomeKit has a long, successful future ahead of it.

7 thoughts on “Does Apple Need to Get More Into HomeKit Hardware?

  • The status quo hasn’t exactly worked out for HomeKit and Apple, has it?

    Not only are HK devices harder to find, they’re often costlier, and with any 3rd party product, there’s always a risk that the manufacturer will leak, if not intentionally sell user data as part of its business model. Apple hardware, with its privacy focus, would at least reduce that risk.

    But, before any discussion of Apple IoT hardware begins, the company must devise some sort of coherent strategy for the home, and execute it. That’s something the company seemingly has difficulty doing of late, outside of its core product lines.

    Does Apple want to be part of its users’ home lift? A couple mediocre speakers, saddled by a lagging voice assistant (another story in itself), isn’t going to cut it.

    Users are looking for all sorts of smart IoT devices. It would be even better if they worked with the integration and polish Apple has been known for, and with respect for privacy. Is there not a market for such hardware, either from Apple, or a partner it can work closely with? Why has the company ceded that space to Amazon and Google, and forced its users into those data miners’ hands?

    Long time Apple users will recall having to live life in the minority, and having fewer choices at higher prices. Now that Apple is as successful as it is, and one of the dominant powers in tech, users still haven’t escaped that prison, at least with respect to the Iot segment. The company can, and should do better than it has.

  • The ONLY hardware I get for the home is homekit because Amazon and Google make it a point to destroy your privacy. Anyone that gets non homekit equipment LOSES their right to say “oh I didnt’ expect that to not be private” when everythign Amazon and Google are about is exploiting your private data. It’s like all the wackjobs that were ‘shocked’ that their PUBLIC Facebook posts were mined.

    If it’s not homekit, it doesnt exist as far as I’m concerned. There is no guarantee to privacy even with HomeKit, but of all the suppliers, homekit is the only one that remotely comes close to having a shot of maintaining home privacy. Also, most homekit gear can work locally, meaning even if apple servers die, things will continue to work. That is super important.

    TLDR google and amazon suck for home because they absolutely will destroy your privacy. Not question of, or even when, but just how deeply they will screw you and it over.

    1. The days of needing a bridge/hub are already fading. Thread support is helping, and Matter will take it a step further. I think Phillips Hue is one of the last holdouts on requiring a separate bridge device. That’s one reason I steer clear of those products, for now.

      1. Yes! And I have several lightbulbs, and switches, that don’t need a bridge. These are just dimmable LEDs, some with a warm color temperature. I have a string of rope light LEDs around the inside of the bed frame plugged into a HomeKit switch, that is my alarm clock. There is box fan in the window also controlled by a HomeKit switch; at zero dark early and the bedroom is getting cold it is “Hey Siri, turn off fan”.

  • Apple failed miserably at HomeKit. Who cares about Philips lights changing color? I recently bought SimpliSafe Security system and a Nest thermostat. Neither hooks into homekit. It stinks. Gotta go to Google for Nest which Apple should have bought.

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