Rumor has it Apple just may be introducing their own, Tile-like tags later this year. Ones that we'll be able to use to locate things like our keys, wallets, and bags, as easily as we find our friends and devices today. In the exact same, soon-to-be-unified app, as a matter of fact.
And I'm seriously into this because it seems like an ideal application of Apple's user experience, privacy, and security oriented product model.
Rather watch than read? Hit play on the video above!
But, it also got me thinking: What other accessories could likewise benefit from that exact same approach? From getting first-party Apple versions onto the market?
Google has WiFi and owns Nest and Dropcam. Amazon owns Eero, Ring, and Blink, and has invested in ecobee.
Those are all functionally great products but, routers aside, ones that, since acquisition, have all conveniently delayed or abandoned support for Apple's HomeKit.
Which, yeah, I still think should be rebranded to Apple Home.
Ring may actually get that support and soon, but even if and when it does, there are still staggering privacy concerns when it comes to Amazon and Google products.
And, again, there are probably other acquisitions I've missed or forgotten.
Amazon has had several repeated scandals involving everything from Echo to Ring and Google has just subsumed Nest fully into its own account system, removing the last firewall privacy-conscious customers had between their data and Google's insatiable appetite.
Apple is by no means perfect in the bug department, far from it, but there's a huge difference between a bug and deliberate behavior, and between the business and policy models of these companies.
So, I'd argue, there's a giant, gaping, glaring hole in the market for customers, especially and including existing Apple customers, who truly want privacy-first products in our homes.
Now, yes, Apple can't make everything from everybody. A thousand nos for every yes, and all that. Currently, Apple is happy to leave all the kit for their home to third-party partners. Apple, the integrated, top to bottom, full stack, whole widget company is happy leaving the home, perhaps the place we need privacy and security the most, to the modular approach.
So much so, they've already killed the AirPort routers. Which, fair enough.
Despite their enormous size, there's just a limit to how many products a focus-centric company can focus on at any given time. Just look at their struggles to get everything from Macs to AirPods out in a timely fashion.
But, for the sake of this video, let's just assume Apple could find enough focus for first-party home accessories, just like they can for the Mac mouse and keyboard, and audio gear from HomePod to AirPods to Beats.
Maybe they even get a jumpstart by buying the equivalent of a Beats… if there are any left out there to buy. Whatever. Regardless.
If, super giant sized if these are the Apple Home products I'd love to see… along with some recs on what you can currently use instead.
I get that Apple hard quit the router market but I'm kinda still all shades of sore about it. The router is the gateway to the internet and there just aren't that many, if any, companies I trust with my packets leaving my devices and hitting the internet outside of Apple.
On the flip side, there are also very few companies that could provide as many integrations and features for Apple devices as Apple.
It would be secure and private, sure. It wouldn't monitor your business or get all up in your traffic, but it would provide any number of services, including caching any number of Apple services, to make everything from backups to downloads to streams just work better.
It could also be a personal, private iCloud if you want local backups as well as or instead of server-side ones, including for iOS devices.
With the advent of mesh, a stand-alone router could also work with HomePods and Apple TVs, to make not just the connection to your accessories but your devices rock solid throughout your home, no matter the structure, size, or layout.
Hell, make it a HomePod mini and just take my money already.
In the meantime, check out Netgear's Orbi
There are almost unlimited options when it comes to home accessories. A lot of them, though, don't scream Apple to me. Lights, plugs, even thermometers don't feel like they'd gain much from having an Apple logo on them, much less Apple engineering inside them.
That's why I'm going to stick to the ones that I really think would. Namely, the ones that involve privacy and security. And nothing says security like a lock. It's literally the icon for security.
I know there are some good smart locks on the market already. I use August and, generally, it's been fine. It'll even unlock automatically if you want it to, when it detects your iPhone within a very small geo-fence.
And that's the type of stuff, beyond even just the design of the lock itself, I think Apple could really sink their product teeth into.
The Mac, for example, can already unlock based on actual proximity of your Apple Watch, including time-of-flight calculations to prevent relay attacks.
Beyond that, even something like automatic pairing would be terrific. The current scanning system works but it feels old school, like Bluetooth in the age of AirPods.
I'd love to see that interface, the one we currently get for Apple audio accessories, used for Apple home accessories as well.
Until then, I'm using the August Smart Lock.
Video doorbells are great. They provide for both security and convenience. But not so much privacy, at least not the popular ones owned by Amazon and Google.
There's the Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell, which can and will do everything locally or only with your personal, private Dropbox, and has a host of other, clever features, but it's not yet available yet.
Still, it feels like Apple could really do something elegant, secure, and private here. There's just so many technologies that could come into play, including Apple's push service for notifications, FaceTime protocol for voice and video, iCloud Library for storage with expiration by default and adjustable settings for immediate or some level of retention.
And, because it's Apple, there could be some level of custom silicon involved as well. Something like what the new H1 chip does for headphones or what the W-series has been doing for wireless, or even the T series for security.
Providing local processing for facial recognition, so it can tell you who's at the door before you even have to ask or they even have to announce, but in a way that's based on your personal contacts and not anything siphoning selfies off into the cloud to train drone strikes or crowd control or anything, would be huge.
Beyond even the security implications of having mics and cameras locked down at the hardware level, and the easy pairing of computational connections, there's just so much that can be gained in terms of efficiency and usability as well.
August currently makes a doorbell cam, so if you're interested in their lock, you can check that out as well.
The big one, of course, isn't the cameras pointing out but the cameras pointing in. Call me paranoid, call me learned, but I just can't and won't trust a Google or Amazon, or, yeah, a Facebook mic in my home, much less a camera.
Again, there have already been far too many allegations of abuse, not bugs but abuse, wherein any number greater than zero is too many.
But, the need for cameras is real as is the scale needed to offer something really robust, really useful.
Apple, though, could provide a really good camera backed by a really good service and, most important, really good privacy.
Similar to a doorbell camera, Apple knows how to stream video, how to encrypt it, how to make great interfaces and experiences that are available across and between devices, and how to keep it all absolutely locked down from everyone and anyone but you.
With all the custom security and communications silicon, on-device computer vision and machine learning, super easy pairing, and privacy-first policies to power it.
For now, though, Netatmo has both indoor and outdoor cameras with privacy-centric options you can check out.
Look, I'm not advocating for an Apple cappuccino machine, regardless of how much fun that'd be to see. Or Apple consumer robotics, no matter how much I'd love for that to be a thing one day, especially as autonomous technology continues to improve.
I'm advocating for privacy-centric options for our homes, not just from Apple, but from Apple so that everyone else is forced to compete with and on privacy. Not just as a word they throw out on stage to gaslight us, or deliberately try to conflate or confuse them. But real privacy they really have to really compete on.
Because that, a rock-solid present, is how you build a better future.
And, yeah, I'm not typically fond of the whole blogger or podcaster or YouTuber listicle telling Apple or any company which products they should or shouldn't make.
Like Apple isn't rich enough or big enough to prototype any product any of us could think of, years before we think of it, and run the go-to-market a hundred and eight ways to Sunday to figure out whether or not they should actually make it.
But, here's the thing: Every once in a while, if you can make a good case, you can be heard. Just ask the iPad mini…
Should Apple be in the smart home business, even if Amazon, Google, Samsung… so many platform competitors are? No. But Apple owns Filemaker. Apple owns Beats. Apple can chew gum and subsidiaries can walk too.
I don't expect a rebrand to Apple Home. I don't expect a rollout of security and privacy focused home products.
But, I'd love to see both. How about you?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.