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Posts tagged with "HomeKit"

Switching Your Default HomePod Music Service to Pandora

Yesterday, Pandora updated its iOS app, allowing it to serve as your default music streaming service on the HomePod. The setup isn’t entirely obvious, but it’s not difficult either, and it’s available in iOS and iPadOS 14.1 and 14.2. Here’s how it works.

Apple first revealed that the HomePod would support third-party music streaming services at WWDC without any explanation of how that would work. However, with the release of Pandora’s update, we now know that the process involves a combination of the third-party app’s settings and Apple’s Home app.

Other third-party music services are sure to follow Pandora’s lead, so even if you’re not a Pandora user, it’s instructive to see how it has implemented HomePod integration. In the Pandora app, tap on the Profile tab, select the gear icon in the top, righthand corner of the screen, and then tap ‘Connect to HomePod’ and then ‘Use in Home’ when prompted. Once you complete these steps, you can ask Siri to play music ‘on Pandora’ from your HomePod.

Tap 'Use in Home' to add Pandora as a HomePod playback option.

Tap ‘Use in Home’ to add Pandora as a HomePod playback option.

If you want to take things a step further, you can make Pandora your default music service in the Home app. Open Home, and go to Home Settings, which you can reach by tapping the house button at the top of your iPhone or iPad’s screen. Next, tap your profile picture. Here, you’ll see your personal Home settings. If you set things up correctly in Pandora, it will be listed under the Media section of your Home Settings. Tapping on the Pandora entry allows you to toggle Update Listening History on or off and remove Pandora from the Home app. If you have multiple people assigned to your home, only the primary user can manage music streaming services.

Setting up Pandora as my default music streaming service. Note that a bug in iOS 14.2 fails to display app icons properly at times.

Setting up Pandora as my default music streaming service. Note that a bug in iOS 14.2 fails to display app icons properly at times.

To set Pandora as your HomePod’s default music streaming service, tap ‘Preferred Service,’ which is directly below the Media section.1 Here, you’ll find a list of each service available to be set as your default. Pick Pandora, close Home Settings, and you’re finished. Instead of having to request that Siri play music ‘on Pandora,’ all requests to play music will play using Pandora’s service unless you specify a different service. Once Pandora has been added to Home, it remains available on your HomPod, even after its app is deleted from all your devices.

Apple Music and other services will still be available from your HomePod after you switch default services. However, you’ll have to specify the playback service you want to use, even if you’re asking Siri to play a playlist specific to Apple Music or one you created in your Apple Music library. For example, with Pandora set as your default service, to switch to Apple Music, you need to use a command like “Hey Siri, play Taylor Swift on Apple Music.’

Using Pandora as my default music streaming service for my HomePods.

Using Pandora as my default music streaming service for my HomePods.

Switching to a different music streaming provider worked seamlessly in my testing. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious where to go to find the settings to switch services in the Home app. I suspect a lot of users will look in their HomePod’s settings or the top level of Home Settings, where you go to manage hubs and other categories of HomeKit devices. Still, once you know where to look, the process is simple and a welcome alternative for users who prefer different music streaming services.

  1. In iOS and iPadOS 14.2, the Home app uses the terminology ‘Default Service’ instead of ‘Preferred Service.’ ↩︎

Managing the Internet Access of HomeKit Devices with the Linksys Velop Mesh WiFi Router System

At WWDC 2019, Apple announced that HomeKit support would be coming to WiFi routers. Not a lot was known about what that would entail, until recently, when new and updated routers with HomeKit functionality began to hit store shelves. A few weeks ago, Linksys sent me its Velop Tri-Band Mesh WiFi Router System that added HomeKit support late last month. I’ve been using the system for a few weeks now and want to share the setup process and explain what HomeKit-enabled routers offer that other routers don’t.

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Hands-On with the HomePod’s New Intercom Feature, Alarms, and Siri Tricks

With yesterday’s releases of iOS 14.1 and HomePod Software Version 14.1, which could really use a catchier name, Apple has introduced several new features announced last week at its iPhone 12 and HomePod mini event. Most readers are probably already familiar with what’s in the updates based on our iPhone 12 and HomePod mini overviews, so I thought I’d update my HomePods and devices to provide some hands-on thoughts about the changes.

Most of the new features are related to the HomePod. Although proximity-based features are exclusive to the HomePod mini, which features Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband chip, some of the other functionality revealed last week is available on all HomePod models.

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Apple’s HomePod mini: The MacStories Overview

I have two HomePods: one in our living room and another in my office. They sound terrific, and I’ve grown to depend on the convenience of controlling HomeKit devices, adding groceries to my shopping list, checking the weather, and being able to ask Siri to pick something to play when I can’t think of anything myself. My office isn’t very big, though, and when rumors of a smaller HomePod surfaced, I was curious to see what Apple was planning.

Today, those plans were revealed during the event the company held remotely from the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino. Apple introduced the HomePod mini, a diminutive $99 smart speaker that’s just 3.3 inches tall and 3.8 inches wide. In comparison, the original HomePod is 6.8 inches tall and 5.6 inches wide. At just .76 pounds, the mini is also considerably lighter than the 5.5-pound original HomePod.

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Eve Cam: An Excellent Addition to a HomeKit Secure Video Setup

Last week I added a new camera to my HomeKit Secure Video setup: the Eve Cam. Announced at CES this year, what drew me to the camera was its slim profile and HomeKit Secure Video support. I’ve used other Eve home automation products in the past and had high hopes that the Eve Cam would be just as easy to install, and as reliable as the electrical outlets and door sensors I’ve tried. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

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Preorders Begin for Eve Cam the HomeKit Secure Video-Enabled Indoor Camera

Source: Eve Systems.

Source: Eve Systems.

The devices I previewed in January during CES continue to trickle out with the HomeKit-enabled Eve Cam becoming a little more concrete today. The $150 indoor camera isn’t out just yet, but it is available for preorder with shipments to begin June 23rd.

In a press release issued today the camera’s maker, Eve Systems, is touting the privacy of the HomeKit Secure Video-only device:

Eve Cam offers a state-of-the art feature set and user experience, ranging from seamless installation and rich notifications to fully automatic, presence-based operation that allows the camera to deactivate when everyone is home. Eve Cam is made exclusively for Apple HomeKit Secure Video, delivering data security and privacy by design. Live images are never streamed through a server, and recordings are stored securely and fully encrypted in the user’s iCloud.

Because the camera only works with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video solution, it requires a 200GB or greater iCloud storage plan. A 200GB plan, which costs $2.99 per month, can be connected to one camera at no additional charge, while a $9.99 per month 2TB plan is required for up to five cameras.

The Eve Cam shoots video in 1080p at 24fps, has a night vision range of 5 meters, a 150-degree field of vision, two-way communication, a motion sensor, and can be wall-mounted using a magnetic plate that can be attached to a wall with adhesive. The device connects to iCloud using WiFi, requires a wired electrical connection, and is compatible with wall outlets in the US, UK, EU, and Australia.

I haven’t had an opportunity to try the Eve Cam, but I have owned electrical plugs and motion sensors from Eve Systems and have been impressed with their quality and reliability. The camera’s relatively slim profile and feature set make it look like it could be a good indoor alternative to the Logitech Circle 2 camera, though for outdoor use, you’ll still need something that can withstand the elements. Preorders can be placed on Eve System’s website.

HomePass 1.7 Brings Refreshed UI, Customizable Data Fields, and Improved Shortcuts Support

My HomeKit setup started out simple enough with a few Hue bulbs, but over time, it has grown to include security cameras, door sensors, electrical outlets, and more. As the number of accessories connected to my network grew, so did the hassle of managing them.

The initial setup of a device is rarely the problem. Instead, the trouble starts when you need to set up an accessory again later. In that case, you may have discarded or lost the documentation containing the HomeKit accessory code, or it may be in a hard to reach location. That’s where HomePass by Aaron Pearce comes in handy. It stores and manages your HomeKit accessory codes and other relevant information in one place.

Digital spring cleaning is something that’s been on my mind as I’ve been stuck at home and had some extra free time. We discussed the topic on AppStories this week in the context of apps, but HomePass provides the opportunity to extend digital spring cleaning to your HomeKit devices too.

We’ve covered HomePass before, so I won’t go into all the details of its core functionality. Instead, I’ll focus on what’s new and the features that make HomePass one of my favorite HomeKit utilities.

As with prior versions, HomePass remains incredibly easy to use because it pulls information about your HomeKit accessories from the Home app’s database. Add to that the fact that accessory codes can be added by scanning the stickers that you find on most devices or entering them manually, and you’re starting with a lot of information with virtually no effort.

With the latest update, HomePass has added greater flexibility and a more compact UI that works better with larger collections of HomeKit devices. For instance, sometimes you want to add more information about an accessory than is available in the Home app. With version 1.7 of HomePass, you can now add custom fields to a device’s entry to collect additional details. I’ve been satisfied with the existing fields that are auto-filled from the Home app, plus HomePass’s notes section, but it’s also something I’m glad will be available if the need arises for me in the future.

On the iPhone, devices stored in HomePass are now organized in a two-column grid of rounded rectangles a little like the tiles found in the Home app. Like Home+ 4 by Matthias Hochgatterer, HomePass does something Home can’t, though, which is collapse rooms by tapping on their names to hide away devices you don’t want to see. Combined with the new layout on the iPhone, which is similar to the existing layout on the iPad, it’s easier to manage a large collection of devices from a single screen.

From HomePass's Settings tab you can manage custom fields, export your data, and pick from four different icons.

From HomePass’s Settings tab you can manage custom fields, export your data, and pick from four different icons.

HomePass is organized into tabs now too. The first tab organizes devices by your home’s rooms. The second tab organizes the same accessories by category like ‘Bridge,’ ‘Camera,’ ‘Outlet,’ and ‘Sensor.’ Like rooms, devices are laid out in a grid, and sections can be collapsed. Categories is an excellent alternative way to break down your HomeKit devices functionally.

Device tiles support context menus now too. Long-pressing on a tile offers options to edit or delete the device or copy its code. It’s a terrific way to quickly grab a code when that’s all you need.

Tapping on an item opens up a view with the details about each device. Long-pressing on the HomeKit accessory code allows you to copy it. Also, at the bottom are buttons to set up ‘Get Code’ and ‘Copy Code’ actions using Add to Siri. Once set up, the actions can be triggered using Siri voice commands or included in custom shortcuts you build.

HomePass now supports context menus, better Shortcuts support, and custom device fields.

HomePass now supports context menus, better Shortcuts support, and custom device fields.

In addition to device-specific actions, the app comes with the following built-in Shortcuts actions that have been improved by the addition of parameters:

  • ‘Copy HomeKit Code,’ which presents a list of your devices by default, and copies the code for the one you pick to the clipboard. The action can also be used to grab the code of a specified device and pass it to the next action.
  • ‘Get HomeKit Code’ also retrieves a device’s code, but passes it to the next action without copying it.
  • ‘Get Accessory,’ which the app’s description seems to suggest retrieves all of the information about a device, though it only returns the name of a specified accessory when I’ve used it.
  • ‘Get All Accessories,’ which retrieves a list of all your HomeKit devices.

The app includes an x-callback-url scheme that developers can use to automatically add devices to HomePass from their apps too.

The app’s final tab is Settings, where you can manage the new custom fields, pick from among four Home screen icons, and export your device data as a PDF or CSV file for safekeeping.

I don’t use HomePass often, but it’s one of those utilities I’m glad is on my iPhone because it eliminates frustration when I need it. Too often in the past, I’ve had to dismantle gear to find a HomeKit code. Now that I’m in the habit of adding codes to HomePass when I get a new device, troubleshooting issues with my setup is far easier. Moreover, with a larger collection of devices than I had when I started using HomePass, version 1.7 has substantially improved their management.

HomePass is available on the App Store for $2.99.

abode iota Review: A Flexible HomeKit Security Solution

For years, I had a traditional security system in my home that cost hundreds of dollars each year for the monitoring service that went with it. I ditched that system about two years ago in hopes of finding a cheaper, smarter solution, but I’ve had mixed success.

The products I’ve tried in the past have been plagued by unreliable hardware and limited functionality. That’s why I was interested in trying abode’s HomeKit-compatible iota Security Kit when they offered to send me a test unit. After several weeks with the kit, which is available in the US and Canada, I’ve been impressed with both the reliability and flexibility of the hardware.

The iOS app doesn’t match the quality of abode’s hardware, but the issues with the app are mitigated by a solid web app and HomeKit compatibility that provide alternative ways to control the system. I’d certainly prefer a better iOS app. Still, even as is, the combination of abode’s hardware and the services offer a flexibility that other systems I’ve tried just can’t match.

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Eero WiFi Routers Add HomeKit Support

Amazon’s Eero routers are the first out of the gate with HomeKit support, which promises to provide greater security to your Internet-connected HomeKit devices.

The update, which appeared today via an update to Eero’s iOS app, walks users through the setup process of adding their Eero gateway to the Home app. Along the way, the Eero app explains that enabling HomeKit support allows Eero to firewall off each HomeKit device, so they only communicate with approved devices and services.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Users can set the level of security for each of their HomeKit devices from inside the Eero app’s setup process by choosing ‘More Options’ from HomeKit Accessory Security screen. Alternatively, security settings can be modified from Apple’s Home app. The three security levels available include:

  • Restrict to Home, which only allows connections to your home hub, which the setting warns may block firmware updates or other services.
  • Automatic, which allows connections to manufacturer-approved services and devices
  • No Restriction, which allows connections to any service or device
Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

I don’t currently use an Eero router as my main WiFi router, but I have a spare one, so I gave the setup process a try. The instructions for setting up HomeKit support were clear and easy to follow as you’d expect given Eero’s reputation for simplifying home networking. I wasn’t able to find the Eero router in the Home app initially, but as a reader pointed out, it’s near the bottom of the Home app’s settings that appear when you tap the house icon from the Home tab. I hope more router makers add this to their products soon. The promise of being able to limit access to more sensitive HomeKit devices like cameras and alarm systems is certainly an enticing one.

Eero’s updated app is available on the App Store as a free download.