Apple has had a few duds over the years, but HomeKit is particularly frustrating: After a few years, it’s still a mess disguised as an intuitive smarthome platform.
HomeKit was introduced in iOS 8 back in 2014 as a way to control smarthome devices from your iPhone from apps or Siri. One of the big benefits is the setup process, where you can just scan the HomeKit code printed on the device and your iPhone will immediately recognize it and set it up.
HomeKit has evolved since then, including the addition of the Home app, which gives you a central place on your iPhone to control everything in your house.
Unfortunately, that’s where most of HomeKit’s pleasantries end. It was a promising framework that had many users believe Apple would take over the smarthome sector. However, it’s been anything but. While the smarthome industry has been booming over the last couple of years, with the release of new smarthome hubs and voice assistants, HomeKit has remained rather stagnant…and frustrating.
HomeKit’s Selection of Devices Is Lacking
While the list of HomeKit-enabled devices is continuously growing, it’s still pretty lacking (thanks to strict hardware requirements by Apple). There are a ton of popular smarthome products that still don’t support HomeKit, including the Nest Thermostat and Belkin WeMo line, which are some of the most recognizable smarthome products on the market.
HomeKit-compatible products aren’t exactly scarce, but the fact that you need to severely limit your options in order to get something that supports HomeKit is pretty off-putting when you’re trying to build up your smarthome.
Conversely, smarthome hubs like Wink and SmartThings support a huge number of devices, as do voice assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. These make much better “glue” for your smarthome than HomeKit ever has.
Apple’s Home App Is Extremely Buggy and Frustrating
The lack of devices isn’t even my biggest gripe. My biggest issue with HomeKit is that it just doesn’t work well to begin with. It’s so bad that even the best exterminator wouldn’t be able to get rid of all the bugs, and the setup process can be frustrating and cumbersome even though it’s supposed to be simple and easy.
For starters, the Home app (which took ages to even come out on the iPhone and iPad) isn’t all that great. It’s simple and easy to use once you get everything up and running, as well as when everything is working properly, but those last two parts is where things can get a bit frustrating.
For example, when I add my Hue lights to the Home app, it doesn’t import any information whatsoever from the Hue app, so I have to rename all of the bulbs and place them in rooms all over again. Not only that, but all of my Hue dimmer switches show up with the same generic name, so it’s impossible to know which one is which, since “Identify Accessory” doesn’t do anything for dimmer switches. Furthermore, the switches remain completely useless after setup until you configure them. And you guessed it, HomeKit doesn’t import any of those configurations from the Hue app.
Perhaps my biggest complaint, though, is that you can’t just show all of your devices and accessories on one screen—if there’s a particular device you’re looking for, you have to select the room it’s in first. Granted, you can fix this by simply adding every device to your “Favorites”, but that also kind of defeats the purpose of having Favorites in the first place.
On top of that, half the time HomeKit tells me there’s no response from my Philips Hue Bridge. I can connect to it just fine from the Hue app and control my lights from there, but in the Home app there’s “No Response”. And when I went to reset the connection, I scanned the HomeKit code on the back of the Hue Bridge and HomeKit thought it was my Ecobee3 thermostat. Great job, Apple.
It’s not just me, either: my coworkers have similar issues with HomeKit as well. One of my colleagues noted that his smart lock constantly goes offline and light bulbs frequently go missing from the interface. (You’ll see in the screenshot above that my thermostat is showing “No Response”—I didn’t stage that, that’s just the thing HomeKit decided to have trouble with the day I wrote this article.)
Of course, bugginess can happen with any smarthome platform, and it’s possible your experience will be different. But HomeKit seems to be a department in which Apple is constantly putting on the back burner, with the goal of only keeping things warm and not really cooking it to perfection. So I wouldn’t be surprised if HomeKit just never ends up being a well-oiled smarthome platform worth using.
What You Should Use Instead
If you have similar experiences like I do with HomeKit, it’s best to just stay away from it right now and use something else.
If you want to use voice commands to control smarthome devices around your house, you don’t need to use Siri. In fact, both Alexa and Google Home would be better choices. You can pick up an Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini for $50, sometimes less if there’s a sale going on during a holiday. (A lot of people are selling these devices used for quite cheap, too.) These devices are particularly great because you don’t need your phone to use them—they’re standalone voice assistants ready for your commands 24/7.
Furthermore, not sticking to HomeKit gives you a much wider set of smarthome products to choose from. You still need to make sure that whatever you buy works with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Wink, or whatever other platform you decide on, but those lists are way longer than HomeKit’s thanks to Apple’s hardware requirements.
If you do decide to take the whole smarthome thing more seriously, you’ll want a separate smarthome hub, which will provide you with a ton of extra functionality, like automating devices (rather than just being able to control them manually).
Granted, HomeKit can do automation, but you would first need an Apple TV or an iPad as your “hub” in order to do that. Even then, you still can’t use things like door sensors, motions sensors, and more to create complex automations and interactions between devices, which is where HomeKit’s “simple to use” mantra gets in the way.
In the end, HomeKit should be a terrific smarthome platform, especially for novice users who want to dip their toes into this tech. Unfortunately, HomeKit is just way to too buggy and frustrating to be reliable, and it’ll cause more headaches than it’s worth. And with Apple’s lack of interest in the smarthome market, HomeKit just isn’t a worthwhile investment for users who are serious about smarthome tech…at least for now.