After a few solid years of running my smart home on the Google platform, I’m starting a transition to the Apple HomeKit. For several reasons, it will not be a cheap or hassle-free effort. And he will take some compromises from me as well.
Why am I doing this? Part of the reason is to provide more HomeKit reviews, tips and experiences here on the site. But the main reason is my recent decision to change the phone.
Short story: After testing an Android phone that has been unplugged in recent months to increase my level of data privacy, I’m impressed by Apple’s recent efforts on this front. Although the company still has the personal data of its users, it does not rely on this information almost as much as any other high-tech company for generating money, especially through third parties. The new “nutrition label” applications that show what data the software collects or tracks are also useful for choosing the mobile software I want to use.
So I now have an iPhone 12, and while I could simply use Google apps for anything, including my smart home, that would beat my approach to data privacy. Therefore, it’s time HomeKit!
Switching will cost me
Immediately, I found that most connected devices in my smart home do not work natively with HomeKit. Of course I was expecting this, but it was still annoying.
In fact, only the Home app on my iPhone appears only HomePod, HomePod mini and Ecobee thermostat. Technically, my Vizio TV works just as well, but this is limited to AirPlay 2 support.
I have a wide range of smart bulbs from different manufacturers that are not HomeKit compatible. There are some from Cree, Cync (formerly known as GE’s C), Samsung, Sylvania and Wyze. I have a LIFX bulb, some Philips Hue bulbs from Stacey and a Hue bridge, so I connected them to the HomeKit.
But I will try to replace at least a dozen HomeKit light bulbs in the near future. This will cost me at least $ 20 per bulb, depending on the brand and features.
My smart home has some Samsung door / window sensors and some smart sockets, so they will need to be replaced as well. I have three Wyze rooms, both inside and out, that will cost a lot of money to change.
And then there’s my front door. We like both the Nest Hello video ringtone and the Nest x Yale smart lock. With the word “Nest” in the name of the products, you already know that there is no HomeKit support for any of them. I would expect to spend at least $ 400 if we replace these two devices.
Third-party solutions to save money and make the transition easier
In fact, there is a way to reduce spending here and it comes in the form Homebridge, the open-source platform that adds non-HomeKit devices to the HomeKit. I recently tested HOOBS, which does this using Homebridge and I can use it where possible.
For example, I was able to add my Wink lights to the HomeKit using HOOBS during testing, for example.
The lights appear like any other HomeKit lights, support HomeKit automations and worked well with Siri. There are 2,000 plugins available to support many non-HomeKit devices, including some from Nest. Unfortunately, current support is limited to Nest devices that I don’t have; At this time, I can’t add the video ringtone or front door lock to HomeKit using HOOBS.
However, any of my current connected devices running HOOBS will allow me to replace the devices for a longer period of time. Or I could simply rely on HOOBs to add HomeKit support to my supported devices and not to replace them at all.
What I will miss the most and what I will gain
There is one aspect of HomeKit that confuses me and will be the biggest pain point: Apple does not make smart displays, as Google and Amazon do. We are so used to using the ones we have to see who just rang the bell or to touch an icon to turn off the lights without using our voice.
Live videos from the front door can be seen in the HomeKit world if you have an AppleTV, but we do not intend to add one of these at home. I think we will use our iPhones instead of smart displays.
On a positive note, once we are fully equipped with the HomeKit equipment, we will gain some nice features.
HomeKit Secure Video support ensures that the flow from our cameras is encrypted from one end to the other. HomeKit Adaptive Lighting is already supported on Philips Hue lights and I saw it in action: early in the morning or late in the evening the bulbs slowly turn to a warmer white than the color temperature of the noon light.
And the HomePod mini, which we use as a hub for HomeKit, is already Thread enabled. Once we receive devices with Thread support, they will respond faster than we can say “Hey Google … I meant hey Siri” during our transition. It also doesn’t hurt that Apple finally allows Spotify to be a default option for the music service in the next version of iOS 14. Goodbye AirPlay to HomePods!
Will it be worth the cost and lack of smart displays? In the end, I think so.
We will not lose too many functions, if any, in our smart home. We will be able to benefit from the response time and the low latency of Thread devices without the need to buy a new hub.
And we will feel better about our private data at home, knowing that Apple will not provide this data to third parties. I always said that once you give up this data, you have completely lost control over how it is used and by whom.
I’m sure some of you have made the switch from Google or Amazon to HomeKit. Was it worth it?