Apple’s fall OS updates will include a variety of HomeKit and home entertainment features. Unsurprisingly, some of those changes can be found in the company’s Home and TV apps, but this year, those apps only tell part of the overall story. To get the full picture, you need to zoom out from the apps, where you’ll find an interesting mix of new smart home device and entertainment features sprinkled throughout each platform.
Let’s start with HomeKit devices. This year, many of the changes coming to Apple’s OSes relate to two important categories: video cameras and door locks. Controlling both types of devices will become easier this fall, thanks to deeper integration with the upcoming OS releases.
WWDC keynotes cover a lot of ground, hitting the highlights of the OS updates Apple plans to release in the fall. However, as the week progresses, new details emerge from session videos, developers trying new frameworks, and others who bravely install the first OS betas. So, as with past WWDCs, we’ve supplemented our iOS and iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8, and tvOS 15 coverage with all the small things we’ve found interesting this week:
I’ve long considered HomeRun by Aaron Pearce a must-have app if you’re into HomeKit automation. With version 2, which is available for the iPhone and iPad and is out today, HomeRun adds all-new ways to access HomeKit scenes with in-app grids and Home Screen widgets, along with an updated Apple Watch complication editor. Although the initial setup process can be a bit laborious, investing some time in a setup on multiple devices pays off, allowing you to trigger scenes in many more ways than is possible with the Home app.
Eve Systems has announced the availability of an update to its Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter, which now supports HomeKit over Thread. Thread is the technology that began appearing in HomeKit devices late last year with the introduction of the HomePod mini. It’s a mesh networking system that allows devices to communicate with each other in your home without first communicating with a central hub or over the Internet. Thread-enabled devices also tend to be more responsive and use less power than devices that only use Bluetooth or rely on WiFi connections.
Because the new Eve Energy is a smart plug, it has a continuous source of power that allows it to act as a Thread router like the HomePod mini. That’s significant because the more edge routers you add to a Thread system, the more robust the mesh network becomes. However, there have been few devices other than the HomePod mini that could act in that capacity.
Eve Energy’s Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.
As a HomeKit device, the new Eve Energy plug can be controlled by Apple’s Home app or the Eve for HomeKit app. The device also reports the energy used by whatever it powers, giving users a way to assess the power consumption of their appliances and any power-hungry electronics.
I haven’t had a chance to try the new Eve Energy yet, but I hope to in the coming weeks. I’ve owned a couple of earlier-generation Eve Energy smart plugs, and both have worked better than other smart plugs I’ve tried in the past.
With the announcements over the past several months, it’s clear that Eve Systems is committed to building Thread into their products, which I’m glad to see. Thread support is still relatively rare to find in HomeKit devices, but the pace seems to be picking up. I’m eager to see how a larger, mixed Thread network of devices performs compared to older Bluetooth and WiFi-based ones.
I’ve experimented with a lot of HomeKit devices over the past few years, and I often think about how I would set my home up if I were starting from scratch. That is exactly what Quinn Nelson of Snazzy Labs has done with his new home:
Nelson’s video shows off some fantastic HomeKit devices, but more important than the gear is his approach to home automation. There are a lot of important lessons in this video. However, the two that resonated with me the most based on my experience are the benefits of sticking with one platform to reduce complexity and the importance of having manual options for smart devices. More often than not, I’ve regretted it when I’ve lost sight of those two principles.
Like Nelson, I’m a big fan of the Lutron Caséta line of HomeKit lighting products. We installed a light switch in our living room about two years ago, and I haven’t had a single issue with it ever. Now I just need to try to resist the urge to see what it would cost to replace my bedroom shades with the fancy Lutron Serena shades Nelson also showed off.
Aaron Pearce, the developer behind some of my favorite HomeKit apps like HomeRun, HomeCam, and HomePass, has a new utility that is out today for the iPhone and iPad called HomePaper that solves a very specific problem: boring Home app wallpapers. The room and home settings of Apple’s Home app let you assign a photo or one of nine colorful backgrounds as wallpapers. The trouble is that photos of a room in your home are often too distracting to serve as wallpapers, and Apple’s other choices are too limited and similar to each other. That’s where HomePaper comes in.
The Home App’s wallpaper choices are limited.
Pearce’s app combines the best of both kinds of default Apple wallpapers by taking a photo, desaturating it, and overlaying a colorful gradient. You could do something similar in a photo editor, but HomePaper automates the process with a simple app that lets you experiment with different looks, arriving at one you like quickly and easily, the hallmark of a great utility. The result is an image that helps visually differentiate homes and rooms from each other like a standard photo would but with an additional burst of color and style.
HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.
HomePaper makes creating great-looking wallpapers effortless with a huge set of pre-built gradients that you can pair with an image in your photo library or by taking a picture with your iPhone or iPad’s camera. You can also pick the two colors for the gradient yourself using the iOS system color picker. When you’ve chosen or created a gradient you like, tap the download button in the bottom left corner of the screen to save it to your iCloud Photo Library, where it’s available to add to the Home app.
HomePaper is by far the simplest of Pearce’s apps, but it’s no less useful. I had settled on a single generic Apple-provided background that was the same for all my rooms because the choices didn’t inspire me to mix them up, and there was too much friction involved in creating my own. With HomePaper, though, I spent a few minutes snapping photos around my house and then applying gradients, achieving results that look great with minimal effort. The Home app looks nicer now when I open it, but it’s also easier to tell one room from another at a glance, which makes HomePaper a wonderful addition to my HomeKit apps.
HomePaper is free to download, allowing you to make one wallpaper. A $0.99 In-App Purchase unlocks the creation of unlimited wallpapers.
Ever since I got a glimpse of what Thread could mean to home automation by pairing a Nanoleaf A19 bulb with a HomePod mini, I’ve been excited about the technology’s future. We’re still in the early days of adoption by device manufacturers. However, today, Eve Systems announced a significant expansion of its Thread-compatible lineup of HomeKit products, giving the technology a substantial boost.
Eve had already added Thread to its window and door sensors and EU-compatible smart plugs. Today, however, the company said that US and UK-compatible versions of its Eve Energy smart plugs would be coming soon and that it will also release a weather sensor called Eve Weather. Eve is also updating its existing $99.95 Eve Aqua outdoor sprinkler controller to add Thread via a firmware update.
Thread, which I covered in-depth as part of my HomePod mini review is a wireless communication protocol that has the advantage of extended range, longer battery life, and security. Devices that implement it don’t require a separate hub either because devices like the HomePod mini act as a border router coordinating communications among devices and the Internet.
Source: Eve Systems.
The new Eve Energy smart plug will be available in the US on April 6th and the UK on May 4th according to The Verge and will cost $39.95 in the US. In addition to working with Apple’s HomeKit technology, Eve Energy benefits from having a constant power source, which allows it to act as a border router like the HomePod mini, further extending the reach of Thread devices throughout your home.
Eve Weather, which has an IPX3 water resistance rating, tracks the outdoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. The device will cost $69.95 and be available in the US and Canada beginning on March 26th.
I’m glad to see more Thread-enabled products hitting the market. The promise of Thread has been difficult to test with so few devices available, but with the products announced by Eve Systems today and Nanoleaf’s existing lighting products, I expect that we’ll soon have a better idea of whether the promise lives up to the hype.
For nearly a year, I had a Logitech Circle View camera perched above the front door of my house, which allowed me to keep an eye out for visitors and deliveries. The wide-angle lens was able to capture my front stoop as well as my yard, providing an excellent perspective on what was happening outside.
That setup worked extremely well. In fact, my two Circle View cameras are so reliable that I had begun thinking about replacing a second outdoor camera from Canary that I was using in the back yard. That’s why when Logitech got in touch to see if I wanted to try its new Circle View Doorbell, I jumped at the chance. I figured that if it worked out, I could migrate the Circle View to the back yard. I was also intrigued by some unique features of Logitech’s doorbell and eager to see how well they worked in practice. I haven’t been disappointed.
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.