Last weekend, I dove into my first HomeKit project in a while, installing two Insignia Wi-Fi Garage Door Controllers. That’s quite a mouthful, so I’m just going to call it the Insignia Controller.
I sat on this project for months before getting started. I love playing with new gadgets and setting up automations using HomeKit, but the reality is that I live in a home with other people who aren’t as enthusiastic about my HomeKit projects. Not all of my projects have turned out well either, which has left me cautious.
HomeRun 1.2 was released today from developer Aaron Pearce, the latest evolution of the Apple Watch app for controlling HomeKit scenes from your wrist. Its last big update introduced the ability to create custom complications on the Watch, which was a fantastic addition because it enabled users to implement the complications that work best for them personally. Today’s update extends the theme of user customization and programmability, but takes it to a whole new level – exceeding anything I’ve seen from another Watch app before now.
Version 1.2 of HomeRun revolves around one main feature – daily routines – which takes a couple different forms. In each manifestation, however, daily routines equip users to program which actions the app surfaces on their wrist during the course of a normal day.
Jason Snell writing about a recent Apple hire for Macworld:
This past week we learned that the company has hired a new head of home products, which makes me ask the question: What exactly does Apple expect Sam Jadallah to do? Is his job to make deals with HomeKit partners and make the HomePod more successful? Or is this the sort of thing that happens when a company shifts gears because it realized that its old strategy wasn’t working?
That story got Snell thinking about how Apple could expand its current lineup of home products. He proposes two: a soundbar that integrates HomePod and Apple TV functionality and a wireless mesh networking system.
Both make a lot of sense. The technology for the soundbar has already been developed and it’s a device that sits in a unique position in a home entertainment system where it could both enhance the viewing experience with superior sound and facilitate the delivery of content from Apple’s services.
Why Apple abandoned the wireless home networking market remains a mystery. Although it may not have been as profitable as other product lines, networking sits at a strategic crossroads between all of Apple’s products. Whether it’s AirPlay, Handoff, the Universal Clipboard, other Continuity features, or something yet to come, controlling the network over which those experiences are delivered helps ensure that they work seamlessly.
Sam Jadallah, who previously worked at Microsoft and later ran a smart lock startup called Otto that was shuttered, certainly has the background to run Apple’s existing HomeKit programs, but like Snell, I hope his hiring is a sign that something bigger is on the horizon.
As I noted yesterday, the launch of the developer beta of iOS 12.2 has brought the necessary underlying APIs for manufacturers of smart TVs seeking to integrate their television sets with HomeKit. Originally announced at CES 2019, the initiative encompasses both the HomeKit and AirPlay 2 technologies, which the likes of Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony will roll out (albeit to varying degrees) in their upcoming smart TVs over the course of 2019. Thanks to the HomeKit Accessory Protocol and the work of enterprising third-party developers, however, it is already possible to get an idea of what the HomeKit part of these integrations will be like by installing unofficial plugins that add HomeKit compatibility to existing TV sets via software.
Thanks to developer (and homebridge contributor) Khaos Tian, I've been able to test native HomeKit integration with my 2017 LG TV running webOS, which does not currently support HomeKit out of the box and which, according to LG, will not receive an official software update for HomeKit support in iOS and tvOS 12.2. In this post, I'm going to share my first impressions of HomeKit's new TV features in the iOS 12.2 beta, describe how it all works in practice, and share some suggestions for changes I'd like Apple to implement by the final release of iOS 12.2.
Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:
Developer Khaos Tian hacked the HomeKit protocol to simulate adding a smart TV accessory to the Home app. He shared some screenshots and videos of these features ‘in action’ …
By essentially faking the existence of a HomeKit-compatible Smart TV accessory on his network, he was able to add a television tile into his Home app.
This reveals new interfaces for controlling the TV. You can tap on the tile to turn it on or off and access the Details menu to change input.
Tian has posted a series of examples of this new HomeKit integration on his Twitter account, including one where he was able to control his LG TV running webOS from the iPhone's Home app.
Interestingly, Tian has already contributed an update to homebridge – the third-party plugin to add all kinds of different accessories and platforms to HomeKit – with support for HomeKit's new TV control APIs. Here's where this gets really interesting for me: despite the launch of an online petition, LG has only confirmed that their latest 2019 TV sets will receive official HomeKit support. Thanks to homebridge, however, it should be possible to add native HomeKit integration to older LG televisions (such as my 2017 model) with plugins that bridge the webOS API to HomeKit's new endpoints. This is precisely what Tian is doing for his demo.
Now, as someone who's been running homebridge and the homebridge-webos-tv plugin for the past few months (and I promise I will write about this eventually), I'm excited about the idea of having a native interface for controlling my TV from the Home app (and, ideally, Siri too). As you can see, the plugin I'm currently using can only "fake" controls in the Home app by adding switches. It can get...confusing:
But it works. I've been running homebridge and this plugin without issues for months now, and I've gotten so used to asking Siri to change inputs on my TV, I can't imagine not having these integrations anymore. A recent update to homebridge-webos-tv even added support for individual channel input and more remote control buttons. For this reason, assuming that the folks at LG don't change their mind and ship a HomeKit software update for older TV sets, I think I'm going to experiment with a dual setup for webOS TV support in HomeKit: some controls based on the official HomeKit API, and others provided as custom switches – both based on homebridge plugins. But that's a story for another time.
Earlier this week we rounded up all of the important Apple-related announcements from the first couple days of CES. Some of the highlights were major TV manufacturers adding AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support, the first HomeKit doorbell, and accessories to complement Apple's latest devices. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out that first roundup.
As much ground as we covered in that initial piece, the convention has continued on these past few days with plenty more announcements worth noting. Here are more of the top accessories, HomeKit devices, and other interesting products announced at CES.
Apple may not be exhibiting at CES, but its presence is felt nonetheless. More than ever, Apple’s technologies like HomeKit and AirPlay are showing up in third-party hardware. What’s different this year is the first appearance of Apple video content on third-party devices in what is undoubtedly the first step in the company’s emerging video strategy, which breaks from the traditionally tight integration between Apple hardware and software.
As in past years, the MacStories team is sifting through the hundreds of press releases to find the announcements that are most relevant to our readers. CES has only just begun, and we’ve already seen a long list of product announcements that affect iOS and Mac users. Below are the highlights of those early announcements. We’ll follow up with another roundup later this week collecting additional products showcased at CES.
It’s worth noting that CES announcements rarely indicate the countries in which new products will be available, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for additional details if you see something that interests you.
HomeRun is a simple Apple Watch utility for controlling HomeKit scenes from your wrist. Where Apple’s Home app for the Watch can be clunky to navigate, especially if you have more than a couple HomeKit devices set up, HomeRun makes controls easily accessible for all your scenes. And today, with version 1.1, HomeRun has introduced custom complication creation, making it possible to have different launcher complications for each of your configured scenes.
Inside the HomeRun app on iPhone, the Complications screen in version 1.1 appears largely the same at first glance, but once you start tapping around you'll discover that Watch complications are now fully customizable. Visit the detail view for a specific watch face and you'll be able to update any and all complications for that face with custom colors and icons to accompany your selected scenes. The Series 4 Watch's Infograph face, for example, presents options to customize both the corner slot and circle slot complications.
Creating custom complications works just like setting up scenes for the main Watch app itself, with the same set of colors and glyphs available in both places. That means the excellent assortment of glyph options for scenes are all accessible as complication icons as well.
When it launched last month, HomeRun enabled adding scenes as complications to your watch face, but you had to use the app's icon for each complication. Custom complications were a natural next step for the app, and I'm thankful we didn't have to wait long for them to arrive.
HomeRun 1.1 is available on the App Store.
HomeRun is a simple, elegant utility for triggering HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. Through a combination of color and iconography, HomeRun developer Aaron Pearce, who is the creator of other excellent HomeKit apps like HomeCam and HomePass, creates an effective solution for accessing HomeKit scenes from your wrist. It’s a user-friendly approach that’s a fantastic alternative for HomeKit device users frustrated by Apple’s Home app.
Apple’s Home app is hard to use on the Apple Watch. First, when you open Home on the Watch, it’s not clear what you’re seeing. Home presents a series of card-like, monochrome scene and accessory buttons that you scroll through one or two at a time. Although the app doesn’t say so, these are the favorite scenes and accessories from the Home tab of the iOS app. That makes the list customizable, which is nice, but the app should do a better job identifying where the user is in relationship to the iOS app.
Second, although you can rearrange your Home favorites to reorder them on the Watch too, you can only see two scenes or one accessory at a time. Depending on how many favorites you have, that limits the Watch app’s utility because a long list of scenes and accessories requires a lot of swiping or scrolling with the Digital Crown.
HomeRun avoids this by eliminating text and relying on color and iconography to distinguish between scenes. The app is also limited to triggering scenes, reducing potential clutter further. The approach allows HomeRun to display up to 12 scenes on a single screen of a 44mm Apple Watch compared to the two scene buttons that Home can display. If you set up more than 12 scenes, they are accessible by scrolling.