Apple Smart Home baseline is old, needs refreshing

Cupertino, October 19, 2021

Apple excels in many areas, especially in the range of computers. The company produces mobile computing solutions with kilometers beyond what its competition can offer. The same could be said about his iPhone. Despite this, Apple lags behind in smart home space. When the most interesting announcement about Apple's presence in the smart home space is some new colors for the HomePod Mini, something is wrong.

HomeKit has the potential to be a major name in the field of smart homes. Given how prevalent iOS technology is in everyday life, honestly it should already be. Instead, HomeKit compatibility tends to be a later thought for most technologies. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant dominate the playing field. HomeKit is so far behind that it is no longer even in the same stadium. Thread development has the potential to change this, but the end result remains to be seen.

Apple could do many things with just a few improvements.

Apple needs a deeper range of commodities

Take a look at Amazon and Google. Although their smart assistants are the best of the best, companies are expanding their presence beyond that. Amazon has several major products and product lines that bring customers into their ecosystem.

From smart speakers to smart displays, the Amazon Echo product line covers the range. Ring is an Amazon brand, but recognized enough to stand alone as a manufacturer of security cameras. Blink is a budget-friendly brand that appeals to consumers who have less disposable income to spend for their smart home.

Google also has a presence here through the popular pseudonym Nest. Between Nest Hub Max, Nest Audio, and various thermostats and security cameras, there are Nest customers who don't realize that smart home technology exists outside of that name.

Apple HomePod Smartphone Size Comparison
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Apple has no dedicated smart home products. Sure, there are many third-party devices built specifically for HomeKit, but none have the brand recognition that Nest or Ring have behind them. None of these products offer this level of utility. It's hard to understand, because Apple is able to move into new product categories and dominate them. AirPods are a clear example of this, becoming a force in the audio space in a short time.

If Apple wants to compete and balance the game conditions, it needs a central range of smart home products in the same league, in addition to just smart speakers. Apple could make a smart display that uses Siri to a greater degree. In fact, it might look similar to the quick HomeKit access that is already present in iOS. Adding security cameras or a smart connector could also be an easy way to start building a brand.

Take advantage of Siri more

One of the main problems with HomeKit is that Siri is so useless. This might be a hard thing to say, but compared to Alexa's intelligence and Google Assistant, Siri feels a lot like an early child.

Apple needs to take more advantage of Siri and expand its capabilities to be on par with Alexa and Google Assistant. Siri can now do something more than it could before in the form of reminders, but it's still not enough. Question and answer skills, such as the Google Assistant, combined with the general utility of Amazon Alexa, would make Siri a much more useful assistant, especially given its presence on every iOS device on the market today.

Another approach that Apple could take is to create an Apple TV that is a true control center for the smart home. It should be able to display the status of each connected device and allow users to control them via Siri or on-screen controls.

Add more hubs to the mix

HomeKit requires a hub for remote control of its devices. It's not that unusual; after all, Amazon and Google both use a similar system. The problem is that both Amazon and Google have affordable entry points for smart home hubs. The Echo Dot can usually be found for $ 35, while the Nest Mini averages about $ 50.

HomeKit has three hub options: HomePod Mini ($ 100), Apple TV ($ 150) or an iPad (plus $ 200). None of these devices are as affordable as the competition, and the iPad is not even a smart home device. There are no third party hubs either. At least with Google, you can use a Lenovo smart screen to act as a smart home hub.

View with multiple Apple TV cameras
Apple

The HomeKit hub needs to see a dramatic change, either in the form of accessibility or in the form of more products that can act as a hub. No one should invest in an Apple TV or HomePod Mini to control their HomeKit devices remotely, especially when Siri doesn't offer enough functionality to make it useful.

Apple is on a gold mine

Apple is known for its revolutionary approaches and products. HomeKit already uses Thread to a greater extent than other companies in the smart home space, and Thread is probably the next major breakthrough in smart home technology.

If Apple could diversify its main smart home portfolio, it has the potential to completely change the way we approach smart home technology. After all, Apple already works in an integrated system - I can start something on the iPhone and easily access it on the Mac. I get the same clock notifications I get on my iPhone and iPad. HomeKit could be used to notify me of texts, read them aloud, and give me hands-free access to many of my most commonly used applications on the go.

HomeKit devices are also one of the easiest to set up, often requiring nothing more than using the Apple Home app without having to use another app. Apple is on top of a mountain of potential, but it seems that the company has remained stagnant. Its current improvements are based exclusively on the field of new colors or small features, but a concerted effort could catapult Apple to the same level as Amazon and Google - or even beyond.

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