Unlock HomeKit device controls with Home Widget not available on Apple's Home app

Cupertino, September 19, 2023

You may have wondered what would happen to widget-focused apps like Home Widget when Apple announced at WWDC that a Home widget would be coming to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma. I did that too. But even though the Home widget works well, it's limited, leaving room for developers like Clément Marty to take their widgets to a whole other level. If you're a home automation geek, you'll quickly encounter the limitations of the Home widget. For example, it's great for turning lights on and off, but it can't dim your lights or change their color. Home Widget goes beyond the binary choice between on or off and has a spectrum of features, making it indispensable for home automation fans. Let's see what it can do.

Home Widget is not limited by the fact that widget developers are limited to using buttons and switches for interactivity. Just like the Home widget, you can use it to turn lights on or off, but you can also dim them or change their color. The way this works is clever. When you set up a widget in the Home Widget app, a process similar to creating widgets in Widgetsmith, you can choose a 'Type' for each widget tile. For lights, actions can include turning them on and off, turning them on and off after a five-second delay, and turning them on and off after user confirmation. There are also a number of different dimmer options. Once your widget is set up to control dimming and color, when you tap the widget, a new view will appear, with what looks like a slider and a grid of color buttons. You can't swipe the slider because widgets only support buttons. Instead, you tap along it to set the brightness level you want and then choose a color by tapping it. It works very well, but tapping the slider takes some getting used to.

The 'Type' confirmation I mentioned above is a nice addition to the latest version of the app if you have something like a HomeKit-enabled garage door. Instead of accidentally opening your garage with a stray tap, you'll first be asked to confirm your action. Interactivity also means that Home Widget can now adjust your blinds and manually refresh your widgets, neither of which could be done with Apple's Home widget. Another nice addition that isn't interactive is the ability to display sensor data on a widget, such as temperature and humidity, both of which are hidden far too deep within the Home app's interface.

In addition to the Home Screen widgets, Home Widget has updated the Lock Screen widgets to be interactive. On the iPad, Home Widget uses the new larger size available in the sidebar when your iPad is in landscape mode. The size and available actions are similar to the small Home Screen widget. However, during my testing on the 12.9” iPad Pro, a bug occurred that caused the lock screen widget image to be off-center. Home Widget also works in iOS 17's StandBy mode. Like other widgets I've reviewed, the StandBy version is similar to Home Widget's small home screen widget, which can hold one or four items. If you find yourself wanting to control lights or other devices all day, having your iPhone connected to MagSafe and in landscape mode can be a nice way to quickly get to your favorite devices. Also worth noting is that Home Widget performs much better, with devices responding more quickly than in the past.

I've only just started exploring what can be done with Home Widget. I plan to use it to control a core set of devices from my iPhone and a more comprehensive set of devices from my iPad Pro and Mac desktop. If you have a large collection of HomeKit devices or are frustrated by the limited ways you can control them with the Home app widgets, I highly recommend checking out Home Widget. Home Widget is available for the iPhone and iPad in the App Store as a free download. Certain features of the app require a subscription.

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