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Apple HomeHub – What a merger of iPad and HomePod should offer

Apple HomeHub – What a merger of iPad and HomePod should offer

A simple concept of a

If Apple is going to launch a HomePod product with a screen, it has to do more than sound good and look good. Let’s take a look at some long-standing rumors and features that Apple should include to make a truly remarkable device.


A simple concept of a “HomeHub” running tvOS

Apple has discontinued the original HomePod, but that doesn’t mean the entire range is dead. The HomePod mini is alive and well, and Apple could develop more smart home devices based on the bones of the original HomePod.

A report from Bloomberg On Monday morning, he suggested that Apple worked on various household devices in various forms – especially those with displays and cameras. Apple secretly repeats several versions of potential products before choosing a release version.

The report also mentions that the updated HomePod was expected for 2022, but could have been preserved due to the cancellation of the HomePod.

Since Apple entered the smart speaker market after competitors Amazon, Facebook and Google, there has been speculation about a possible HomePod with screen. Monday’s report sparked renewed interest in such a device, so let’s look at what this device might eventually be and what features it should include to be as broad as possible for as wide an audience as possible.

Current Apple hubs

While we’ll talk more about HomeKit in a little bit, in short, to get the most out of Apple’s home automation HomeKit, you need a Home Hub. In short, this is a dedicated device in the house, ie the central spoke in the wheel, which is the smart home. Without a Home Hub, you can’t control HomeKit devices outside the home.

Apple sells three categories of devices that can act as Home Hub – Apple TV, HomePod and iPad. Each of these devices offers a set of overlapping features that would be useful in a single product.

Characteristics HomePod iPad Apple TV HomeHub
Multi user Yes Not Yes Yes
Display Not Yes Yes (via HDMI) Yes
Multiple microphones Yes Not Not Yes
Always on Yes Not Yes Yes
Contains sensitive information Not Yes Not Not

HomePod

HomePod: excellent sound, no display, many microphones
HomePod: excellent sound, no display, many microphones

Users can control HomePod to play music, control their home, send messages, or provide voice information. There is no dedicated screen for the HomePod, but some features can be controlled by devices such as iPhone, iPad or Mac.

The benefits of owning a HomePod include excellent audio and voice commands to fill the room for HomeKit actions. Apple hoped this would be enough to justify the $ 350 price tag, but it was eventually considered too expensive and saw a price drop to $ 299 before its final discontinuation in March 2021.

The limitations of HomePod are related to its form factor. It has no display and cannot cast content on other displays. In most cases, users would be better off receiving information from Siri on the iPhone, where the data is displayed and can be referred.

IPad

iPad: Excellent screen, a few microphones and small speakers
iPad: Excellent screen, a few microphones and small speakers

Using an iPad is often a suggestion for fixing limitations with the HomePod, but it presents a new set of problems. For example, which family member would log in with their Apple ID, leave it unlocked, or share their passcode? This concern alone leads to a number of privacy and security issues. Creating a fake Apple ID is not always an option, as some families may already have six members.

Like the HomePod, the iPad is great as a Home Hub because it can be placed anywhere. However, due to the portable and personal nature of the iPad, users may not want to have a dedicated iPad limited to a wall or countertop.

Also, the iPad does not have as many microphones as the large HomePod and will not listen to alternative voices. There is also the problem of internal battery wear or screen burn. An “Apple HomeHub” tablet device would address a display always displayed in software in which the iPad does not make these considerations.

Apple could solve the iPad problem by adding multi-user support. This would allow authentication systems such as Touch ID or Face ID to work between device users. The option to add the Apple Watch unlock to the iPad for family members would require each member to have the watch attached to the iPad.

Apple TV

Apple TV: needs a screen, a good media interface, no microphones that always listen
Apple TV: needs a screen, a good media interface, no microphones that always listen

Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD can work as both Home Hubs. They need a TV to display information and can be placed anywhere you want a display.

TvOS software allows support for multiple users and simplifies finding media content. HomeKit has a presence here as well, with the integration of the HomeKit camera and stage controls.

Apple TV cannot listen to voice commands alone, and can only receive voice or touch commands via the Siri remote. There are no microphones in the Apple TV hardware.

Users cannot access sensitive data or login information while browsing Apple TV. Only relevant applications are available, and purchases can be hidden behind a password.

A hybrid Home Hub solution

Apple could borrow from other
Apple could borrow from other “HomeHub” design products, such as Pro Display XDR

Each of Apple’s Home Hubs has strengths and weaknesses based on their form factors. Apple could benefit from offering a new product in the Home Hub category that combines the best of each.

The “HomeHub” hybrid would be similar to HomePod in that it is a dedicated speaker with great sound, has a display similar to an iPad and displays applications and data via tvOS.

The current HomePod and HomePod mini run tvOS. This means that they already have the necessary frames to display the tvOS interface, applications and features.

Apple could add features like iMessage and FaceTime to “HomeHub”. The code was discovered by MacRumors In tvOS shows that Apple has added FaceTime and iMessage frames, along with a new AVFCapture frame related to image capture.

After authenticating a specific user via biometrics, password or Apple Watch, “HomeHub” will allow access to features such as FaceTime or iMessage for a specific user. Otherwise, the hub would only display HomeKit commands and a screensaver.

All of this adds up to a compelling new device that would compete with similar offers from Amazon and Google.

About HomeKit …

The Apple HomeKit is available on all its devices, but does not have a central hub
The Apple HomeKit is available on all its devices, but does not have a central hub

A recent report mentions home automation control as one of the most significant drivers of smart home displays in the home, and expects it to grow by more than 30% over the next few years.

Google sells its own smart display under the Nest brand, calling it the Nest Hub. The latest version of the device was just launched in March 2021, with even more improvements to the smart home.

Amazon has its own smart screen and an army of Alexa-compatible smart displays, which work similarly to Alexa-approved smart home devices.

In its current state, there is no smart display available that can control HomeKit devices. Some devices, such as Hue bulbs, work with Alexa and the Google Assistant and Amazon and Google smart displays by extension. However, devices that support HomeKit only – such as Eve and Logitech – are left to cool.

This creates a hole for HomeKit users who have to choose between jumping ship to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and abandoning HomeKit and Siri or creating their own from an iPad to a booth. But, as we discussed – the entry-level iPad has sub-par speakers and does not have a dashboard interface suitable for a central home control center.

Dedicated control HomeKit

A suitable Apple smart display could include control of HomeKit devices, act as a Home Hub, and possibly open a new category for third-party HomeKit devices.

As a HomeKit Home Hub, it could work similarly to a HomePod or Apple TV. It would be responsible for controlling your HomeKit Secure camcorders, providing remote access to your devices and acting as a border router for your Thread devices.

As it stands, third-party devices do not have access to HomeKit camera streams and cannot control HomeKit devices outside of limited button support. Ring and August users can have the smart display of the smart wall panel on their door. Brilliant can control your Hue bulbs, hue, Sonos speakers, and even appear in the Home app as a switch, but it can’t control specific HomeKit devices.

If Apple explored this route, it could unlock this ability for third-party products such as Brilliant and allow them to see your cameras as well as control your HomeKit devices.

This route would give us a real Apple smart display, with full support and control for your HomeKit devices, a live view of your camera streams, as well as unlocking new features for third-party HomeKit devices.

Apple’s smart home is just beginning

Apple Home used to demonstrate the HomePod mini
Apple Home used to demonstrate the HomePod mini

Apple has not yet given up on the smart home. HomeKit devices are becoming more and more available, and the addition of Thread makes things work even better.

In 2019, it was reported that Apple is hiring more staff for the HomeKit team. Apple product timelines typically extend by about two years, so expect announcements of this soon-to-be-renewed initiative.

Apple needs to launch new products to compete at home. Whether it’s “Apple TV 6” or “HomeHub”, something needs to change the customer’s perspective to get traction in space.

Stay up to date with all the Apple news right from your HomePod. Say “Hey, Siri, play AppleInsider” and you’ll receive the latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask your HomePod mini for “AppleInsider Daily” and you’ll hear a quick update directly from our news team. And if you’re interested in Apple-centered home automation, say “Hey, Siri, play HomeKit Insider” and you’ll be listening to the latest podcast in a few moments.