It is that special time of year again, where everyone gets to throw out their crazy wishes for Apple's upcoming operating systems in hopes of actually having them come to fruition at WWDC. While all of the HomeKit goodies usually appear towards the end of WWDC week at dedicated developer sessions, this year is obviously going to be a little different.
Will HomeKit get any keynote time? Will there be a HomeKit developer session? Nobody knows! That doesn't mean that we cannot have a little fun though. Here's a look at the current rumors and my list of what I would like to see for HomeKit at this years dub-dub.
So far, in the lead up to WWDC, we have heard a few details about what Apple has in store for HomeKit through various leaks. The biggest headliner seems to be a night shift style feature that changes compatible lighting in the home to match the varying color temperatures presented by nature. So during the daytime, lights would default to a cooler temperature, which could help to energize, and at nights, they would shift to softer, warmer colors to promote rest.
Apple also seems to be working on expanded facial recognition capabilities for HomeKit cameras. Currently, HomeKit can analyze the action in front of camera's view to determine if it is an event based on a person, animal, or vehicle, and will notify or record accordingly. For iOS 14, Apple may be bringing the ability for cameras to recognize specific faces, which could allow for personal notifications like "Jon has arrived home" when they walk in front of the camera.
Finally, rumors point to the HomePod gaining deeper integration with the Apple TV. The rumors suggest that the HomePod will be able to be set as a permanent audio output source, and will even work with stereo pairs, making Apple's smart speaker better suited for home theater use.
The background stuff
Before we dive into the os specific wishes, let's focus on some of the behind the scenes stuff that impacts all of the devices. These include available automations, and accessory types, as well as data or settings that are never shown to the end user.
Whenever I try to explain automations to someone who doesn't reside in the world of HomeKit, I always lead with an example of turning on a fan when it gets too hot, despite knowing that the Home app doesn't support this directly. Yes, you can accomplish this by using a third-party app, but the entire point of the Home app is to provide a secure, consistent experience for users.
Oddly enough, the Home app has the ability to show temperature automations currently if created in another app, you just cannot build them in Apple's Home. Other missing automations include humidity and, while not as useful, at least to me, light-based automations. This obviously needs to change, and I hope that it comes with this years round of improvements.
Apple's list of accessory categories is also in desperate need of expansion, with HomeKit currently missing some of the biggest smart home sellers. Not only does it feel odd to step outside of the Home app to control non-HomeKit accessories, it just looks bad for the platform in general with so many options being available for other voice assistants.
Just off the top of my head missing categories include: robot vacuums and mops, appliances like coffee makers, refrigerators, ovens, toasters, water heaters, washers, and dryers, as well as some of the other stuff like adjustable beds, and pet feeders. Shortcuts support definitely helps in some of these cases, but it is not a complete substitute.
Quality of life improvements
While I have never experienced this personally, I have heard the horror stories where someone's HomeKit configuration or database becomes corrupted, requiring them to nuke it all and start over. HomeKit technically shouldn't need backups, as iCloud keeps everything in sync, but for these occasions, they would be nice to have.
Having to go back and set every accessory and room name, building automations, creating scenes, or selecting accessory types is not something that I ever wish to have to do again, and a simple back up would definitely help the cause. There is one third-party app that has backup capabilities, Controller for HomeKit, which does help, but again, it takes users outside of the Home app experience.
Device logging is another one of those features that has a third-party option through Controller for HomeKit, but like all things, it is limited and not as useful as it could be. Even if it is something as simple as a text file that can be generated on demand, having the ability to see when or why an accessory decided to play the no response game, or when the air conditioner was suddenly changed to heat from cool would be incredibly handy.
HomeKit hubs, the Apple TV, the HomePod, or the always at home iPad, are another sore point for HomeKit as the user has no way to establish which one should be the one to rule them all. HomeKit unfortunately just seems to randomly pick which one is going to act as the hub regardless of where it is actually located in the home. A simple toggle is all that is needed here, nothing fancy.
iOS and iPadOS 14
Now on to iOS, which surprisingly, I don't actually have a lot of platform specific wishes for. I generally like how the Home app looks and feels on iOS, so outside of additional device icons, I don't really have visual change wishes. Instead, I just want to see more quality of life improvements.
Favorites for all
Setting favorite accessories and scenes in the Home app is a handy way to keep frequently used items front and center, but as it stands, changing things up affects everyone invited to the Home. It would be nice for everyone to have their own favorites, especially for those that only need access to a few devices.
As I mentioned earlier, it is great how HomeKit keeps all of the important details in sync across devices, but it lacks in other areas including room wallpapers. I have spent far too much time over the years changing the wallpaper for each room in the Home app whenever it is time for an upgrade, something that seems like a relatively easy fix through iCloud (at least I think so).
Another wish that I have for iOS is accessory restrictions, or a full-blown "kids" or "guest" mode. Since we have HomeKit accessories in just about every corner of the house, I would love to be able to grant access to only the devices in, say my daughter's room. This would enable her to adjust things such as lighting colors or brightness, ceiling fan speeds, or operate a smart plug without having access to more critical things in the home like the thermostat.
The same also applies to guests, where I would like to be able to assign just a few accessories that may be needed if someone was watching the home, preventing potential confusion, and lengthy explanations. I have seriously considered wall-mounting an iPad or using an old iPhone just for this specific purpose, and as great as the HomePod is, sometimes it is just quicker and easier to tap a button.
HomeKit Secure Video
Moving over to HomeKit Secure Video, where another obvious wish revolves around activity or motion zones. The recent release of the excellent Logitech Circle View, and upgrades to the affordable wireless eufy Cam 2 and 2C has shown users just how much we desperately need the ability to assign specific areas within their view for notifications and recording.
This need is especially true with the lack of HomeKit-enabled doorbells being readily available, as some users rely on having a camera overlooking their front door or porch to keep tabs on packages or visitors. I would also like to see Apple dedicate a tab for cameras or have a list view of recorded events, since navigating the timeline to track down footage isn't the best experience.
Sprinkler or irrigation support, while great to have, is hampered by HomeKit's lack of scheduling capabilities. What makes smart sprinkler systems so special are their ability to run a pre-defined schedule without having to build an on/off automation manually for every day and time, and their ability to take local weather into consideration. The Home app could definitely benefit from this, as I am pretty sure that everyone that owns a HomeKit irrigation device uses the manufacturer's app exclusively at this point.
Control center and widgets
My final wish for iOS and iPadOS 14 is better Control Center and widget experiences. As it stands, the current Home portion in Control Center is way too limited, and just navigating to it requires too much interaction, so much so that I simply gave up on it a long time ago.
I hope to see Apple create a proper Home app widget either for the minus one screen or available directly within the icon grid that can have specific accessories or scenes assigned, or live camera feeds. This would also tie in well with separate accessory and scene favorites, as everyone could have the things they care about a tap or swipe away.
tvOS and the HomePod
When it comes to the living room, Apple's HomeKit still has quite a long way to go for both tvOS and the HomePod. While the Apple TV has HomeKit support, it is limited for cameras, and there isn't a complete solution for controlling accessories. For the HomePod, it is more of a matter of catching up to competitors, both in hardware and voice commands.
Sure, having the Home app on the big screen wouldn't be the preferred method for interacting with my home, and it wouldn't be one that I would use more than once or twice a week, but I would like to at least have an option. Third-party apps like HomeCam help fill the void for some things like cameras, but there is no app that offers access to all of my accessories, at least there isn't one that has been updated within the past few years.
I would also like to see the ability to display HomeKit notifications on tvOS if desired. I know that this won't be the most popular opinion, but I would appreciate a notification through the Apple TV when someone is lurking around the property, or when the garage door opens. Taking things a little bit further, I would definitely enjoy having the option to jump into a live camera feed straight from the notification, just like we do on iOS or macOS.
Speaking of cameras, even though tvOS can display HomeKit feeds, it doesn't support HomeKit Secure Video, meaning you cannot review recorded footage. Cameras on tvOS also do not relay any sound to the platform, which is a strange limitation that seems to have been forgotten once Apple shipped HomeKit integration on the TV.
It would also be nice to be able to summon a camera feed through the HomePod directly to an Apple TV on demand, like our friends can over in the Alexa and Google Home world. While not as critical as this can be set up using Shortcuts and the aforementioned HomeCam app, the HomePod seems to struggle with bouts of Shortcuts simply refusing to run randomly.
Perhaps the biggest reason why I want the Home app on the TV is that, I, like many, have dreamed of the day where we could have an always-on type of device in the home that would show us metrics such as air quality from our connected sensors, and of course camera feeds, all in one central place.
Yes, I could just leave a small window open on my Mac, or have my phone's screen on at all times while charging at the desk, but I would simply prefer to have it in the background, on a large screen that quite frankly doesn't get used much most of the day. Unfortunately, the closest thing that tvOS has currently is the third-party app, DayView, which was abandoned when the developer joined Apple.
I know, I know, WWDC is not about the hardware, but hey it's a wish list, so why not? Besides, I only have one hardware wish this year, which is a cheaper, smaller, HomePod that has just average sound. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy just how good the current HomePod sounds, and I use it every day in a couple of rooms in my home, but I want Siri in every room in my home, which is just not feasible at its current price.
Now, I know that Apple doesn't do cheap and the focus of the HomePod is indeed music, but like it or not, people do buy it for HomeKit, and sometimes people do not care if their music sounds good, they just want their music. Apple, you do you, and make a HomePod mini that is better looking, sounds better than most other options, and is made from more premium materials. Just put a price tag on it around $99 and I will be happy.
Let's face it, using the Home app on the Apple Watch isn't the most pleasant experience, and in some cases, it is downright painful. Even with the latest Apple Watch hardware, things are slow, unresponsive, and hard to track down at times, plus Siri on the watch is even less reliable.
Speed and reliability
Launching the Home app isn't as frequent on the Apple Watch, for me at least, so when I do want to punish myself by trying to get something done on the small screen, it often takes longer than just walking over to my iPhone and doing it there. This all stems from the Home app on the watch always having to refresh accessory states when launching it, even with background refresh on and having it added to the Dock or watch face.
Once everything is finally up to date, attempting to toggle a device state or pull up a camera feed is hit or miss. When things work, it definitely takes longer for accessories to react to the change than on other devices, if it ever does at all. Making matters worse is that I have been left wondering many times whether or not I actually tapped on the accessory tile to turn off a light or plug. So when combined with slow response times, I can sit there waiting for no reason at all if the watch didn't register the tap.
Also In its current form, the Home app in watchOS will only display accessories that are set to Favorites over on iOS, which does indeed make sense for making things quicker to access, but it also makes it frustrating when you want to get to an accessory that hasn't been blessed with that distinction. I am certainly not advocating for just one gigantic list of accessories on the watch, but I would at least like the ability to swipe from room to room if needed.
Finally, for watchOS, I would like to see Apple include the HomeKit scenes or accessories in watch face Complications. Yep, that's right, another sherlocking wish, but the third-party HomeRun app shows us just how useful having HomeKit right there on the watch face can be. Apple can start small by just including scenes on the watch face, but it would be awesome to see sensor data just a flick of the wrist away in the future.
I am certainly glad that Apple brought over the Home app to macOS a couple of years ago, but it really needs some work. Even though I am going to throw out a few additions that I would like to see, I would be ecstatic if the Home app simply got a tune up for this years release.
Clean it up
The Home app on the Mac seems to suffer from accessory status refresh issues, especially after waking it up after a few hours of inactivity. I routinely have to close the Home app completely before all my accessories will be updated and useable, and I have had many a morning where I panic a little when I see the main status message in the app display "Garage Door open", when it really isn't.
I also cannot tell you how many times I have had to close out the app and relaunch it just to get the little rooms navigation button in the tab bar to reappear. I have no clue what causes this button to disappear, and while there are other ways to get around, this simply should not happen.
Moving on to actual new capabilities, just like with iOS, I would like to see Apple announce HomeKit widgets that are accessible through the Today View in the macOS Notification Center. Yeah, pulling up the Home app isn't the hardest to do when you are already on your Mac, but I would love to have the ability to toggle a favorite from the notification pane, or peek in on a camera without completely interrupting my workflow.
Open it up
As I have mentioned a few times in this list, third-party developers help to fill the void for HomeKit for other Apple platforms, so why does the Mac not get the same love? It would be great to see what developers could do with everything that makes the Mac unique, but it is all up to Apple at this point to make HomeKit available. Quick menu bar actions, dedicated windows for displaying live views of every HomeKit camera, and storing/displaying measurements from sensors, are just some of its potential.
What are your WWDC 2020 HomeKit wishes?
What are your wishes for HomeKit for this years WWDC? Have some ideas for making the Home app better in general? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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