Home Widget is what Apple's HomeKit app should have offered from the start
Lights, Camera, Widgets.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and a lockdown was put into effect in the UK, I decided to transform my home into a smart one by buying smart lights and cameras. Thanks to Apple's HomeKit, which lets anyone with an Apple device control these appliances through the Home app, it was a breeze to dim the lights and check the cameras on my iPhone.
But one glaring omission since iOS 14 debuted in the same year that brought widgets to be placed on the home screen, was the lack of separate widgets to control my lights, and recently, my television, from the home screen.
This is where Home Widget came in to save the day; it let me easily create small, medium, or large home screen widgets for any appliance that supported HomeKit. You can create three widgets for free, or for $8.99 / £8.99, you can create an unlimited number of them. This app will track every smart appliance that's connected to your iPhone and iPad, and these will show in Home Widget.
Instead of reaching for Apple’s Home app, I can just go to a widget, switch off a light if I’ve left a room in my house, and that’s it. It’s turned HomeKit, and all of my lights, into a faster smart home without reaching an app to do the same function.
While Apple brought out an update to its Home app to make it more reliable with iOS 16.4, the features that Home Widget offers, only make me wonder why Apple hasn't offered something similar as yet. With this in mind, here’s how I’m making some widgets to make it easier for me to control all of those HomeKit appliances in my home.
Widgets. Widgets everywhere
Creating a widget here is simple enough - you simply launch the app, press the + icon, and away you go. If you're using Home Widget on your iPhone, you also get to customize a lock screen widget, so you can assign that to an appliance you frequently use each day more than others.
However, when it comes to the home screen, you can create a widget in every size that Apple offers - from a small square to a 4x4 widget that could fill up an entire home screen.
I use two widgets on my iPhone - one that allows me to check on our dog Jolly in the front room with our camera, and another towards the top of the display where I can switch off and on three lights across the house.
I can customize these however and whenever I like - from the name to the colors and the icons for each light. I'll find myself randomly changing these, simply because it's easy to do from the home screen. As we've recently moved house, I'm tempted to buy more lights and a smart doorbell, so using the 4x4 widget on a separate home screen is something I'm considering.
iPad: The HomeKit Hub?
While you can use widgets on the lock screen with Apple's Home app, it doesn't offer the same customization that Home Widget offers, and there's still no way of adding Apple’s widgets to the home screen.
This feels like a big miss: Widgets are being used more than ever on iPhone and iPad devices. They offer customization of your home screen in a way that wasn't possible before, and while you can use Home Widget to add a smart light to the home screen, you can’t do it with Apple's Home app.
This miss is only exemplified when you create some widgets on an iPad Pro's home screen with Home Widget. There is an 'extra large' widget available only on iPad, so you can create some wild widgets if you own a bunch of smart appliances connected to HomeKit.
This opens up the possibility of turning that old iPad you've had in a box for the last few years into a HomeKit hub. It’ll take you no more than an hour, thanks to Home Widget, and I'm starting to consider buying an iPad mini just for this reason.
Hence it’s a shame that Apple isn’t letting me imagine these scenarios for my house. While the baked-in Home app is … let’s call it adequate, I've found it to be slow when switching on appliances, and again, the lack of widgets is a swing and a miss.
This is why Home Widget is one of the best apps for HomeKit - it has a simple design to create a widget in any way you like, and it makes you wonder how you can take advantage of everything that smart appliances have to offer.
Sure, we may see this feature appear in iOS 17. But right now, Home Widget offers exactly what I need, and for that reason alone, I'm happy to leave Apple's Home app indoors and locked away.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.