Stacey on the Internet of Things: Apple HomeKit's Broken Matter Experience - When Will It Be Fixed?

Cupertino, August 2, 2023

This should be an exciting time. Officially certified Matter devices are coming and becoming available. So the promise of easy device onboarding and support for multiple smart home ecosystems is here, right? Not so much if you're an Apple HomeKit user. In fact, the old HomeKit "it just works" experience is now the HomeKit with Matter "good luck with that" experience.

I first got a taste of this when I upgraded the Eve Energy Smart Plug firmware to support Matter in December. While the firmware upgrade process worked fine, connecting the smart plug to my home was a chore. I spent a few hours trying and retrying the process to no avail. Finally, I found a solution and my first Matter device worked. Google Home on Android connecting to the Eve Energy plug. Image courtesy of KC Tofel.

I attributed that experience to early growing pains for Matter, which I think was fair at the time. However, it is now four months later and I am having the exact same issues. For example, I just received a pair of brand new Matter certified Meross smart outlets. These were available for pre-order discount way back in January and now cost $39. They arrived a few days ago and yet the same onboarding issue exists. I don't blame Meross, just as I didn't blame Eve in December. And I don't blame the many people who work on Matter either. In this particular case, it seems that Apple has messed up the ball.

I say that because I used the same solution I used back in December to add the Meross plugs to my smart home. And that work requires the use of an Android phone and the Google Home app. Yes, that's still what it takes to get a new Matter device into a smart home running on the Apple HomeKit platform. You will also need an Apple Matter controller like the HomePod mini I have. But the Apple Home app can't add Matter devices yet. A Matter-certified device, like my new Meross plugs, doesn't even come with the old HomeKit QR code. These have their own unique Matter QR code. That means you have to use a different smart home ecosystem app.

I happen to have an Android phone, mainly because I've been testing mobile devices for 15 years and still have a few alternative handsets in my closet. That's how I was able to add the Eve Energy Smart Plug and, more recently, the Tapo Smart Plug to my home. However, most people are not like me. If they're a HomeKit household, chances are they don't have an extra Android device to onboard devices. Instead, they see this message when they try to add a Matter-certified device. The mistake of adding a Matter device to a HomeKit home. Image courtesy of K. Tofel.

Simply put, I don't think Apple was quite ready for the launch of the Matter device. I say that because Apple introduced the new HomeKit architecture as a software update in December. I got the upgrade on my iPhone and then everything went downhill. Indeed, Apple has withdrawn the software update, and we've now been waiting for a few iOS updates to restart that rollout. And I've been waiting for a fix for all the issues the December update caused.

Aside from the Matter device provisioning issue that requires a non-Apple device to work, my wife booted from the HomeKit house. My Apple Watch sends me multiple reminders every day that there was a problem adding her to the house. My HomePod mini routinely tells me my Apple password is incorrect, so I re-add it to re-authenticate. And I'm not the only one dealing with this. I've seen a lot of reports in the Apple Support forums from people who have upgraded their HomeKit architecture and are having this and other issues.

I am confident that Apple will address the HomeKit architecture problem in the near future. That should fix the broken HomeKit functionality and add full support for Matter devices. But until then, the Matter train has left the station, leaving Apple HomeKit users with problems and seeing other platforms move forward.

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