With the release of Home+ 5 by Matthias Hochgatterer, there are more reasons for HomeKit power-users to try the app than ever before. One of the app’s strengths has always been creating automations based on device attributes that aren’t available in Apple’s Home app. That’s why I was already using Home+. However, now, the app has added a new design, folders to organize automations, Smart Groups for accessories, a Favorites view, and backups, which make the app more compelling than ever.
Although it’s not new to this version of Home+, it bears repeating that the app supports HomeKit API functionality that isn’t exposed by Apple’s Home app. That’s how Home+ is able to support automations that aren’t possible in Home or by using Shortcuts’ Home Automation feature.
A simple example is one that I’ve been using all winter. We’re in the midst of single-digit temperatures in the Chicago area, which means my heat has been running almost nonstop for days. As a result, the air in our house has been incredibly dry.
To assist our furnace’s humidifier, I broke out a standalone humidifier and plugged it into an iHome Smart Plug. I have a Netatmo Personal Weather Station and figured that I could set the humidifier to turn on automatically when humidity levels dropped beneath a threshold value. That’s not possible with Apple’s Home app, but fortunately, it’s an easy automation to build in Home+ 5, which supports sensor triggers as well as multi-condition automations.
It’s that sort of extended automation support that has made Home+ a central part of my HomeKit setup for quite a while now. With the latest update, though, I expect Home+ will appeal to an even broader audience.
If you have used Home+ in the past, the first thing you’ll notice is that the app has been redesigned from top to bottom. Many of those changes are similar to the tile-centric UI found in Apple’s Home app. That’s a UI that I’m not a big fan of in the Home app, and I’m torn about it in Home+.
On the iPhone and Apple Watch, I think the tile UI takes up too much space. However, Home+ does a little bit better job with the space available on the iPhone than Home does, and despite taking up more room, I think Home+ 5’s tile UI looks better than previous versions. I also appreciate that users coming from Home to Home+ will be more familiar with this UI. So, although I would personally prefer a more compact UI, I expect the new UI will appeal to a broader audience than before.
Other Home+ UI updates include updated icons that fit better with the design of iOS 14. There are now 99 icons, which provide a wider variety of choices than Apple’s Home app. Automations can also be stored in folders, a nice touch that makes large collections more manageable.
Another nice touch is Smart Groups, which collect similar devices into groups within each room. For example, I’ve got seven lights in my studio, and none of them are grouped in the Home app, allowing me to control them individually. Home+’s Smart Group of those lights doesn’t change that but lets me control all seven as though they were one light. Home added a similar feature in iOS 14.
Home+ has added a Favorites view similar to Home’s too, which can be synced with Home+ 5’s Apple Watch app from the iPhone version of Home+. There are a handful of devices that I access manually nearly every day and having them along with data from a couple of sensors in one place is a big plus. It’s worth noting, too, that the Apple Watch app has been updated, and in my testing, devices respond within a couple of seconds when scenes or devices are controlled.
Last but not least, Home+ 5 adds backup functionality, a feature for which I have a newfound appreciation. As I explained on AppStories a few weeks ago, I had my entire HomeKit setup wiped out over the winter holidays due to what appeared to be an iCloud bug. I took the opportunity to rethink my HomeKit setup, which was a positive, but with the number of devices I have, it took quite a bit of work. I know Home+ isn’t the first app to offer this feature, but it’s the app I prefer for the vast majority of my advanced HomeKit automation, so I’m glad to see that the feature was added. Now, I’ve got a backup of my setup neatly tucked away in iCloud Drive in case disaster strikes again.
Home+ 5 is the perfect next-step app for anyone with a growing collection of HomeKit devices or who wants to do more with automation. With the latest update, Home+ 5 has further cemented its place among the HomeKit apps I regularly use, which is why I highly recommend checking it out.