HomeKit: Everything You Need to Know

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The HomeKit ecosystem may seem daunting and confusing if you're unfamiliar with smart home products, their functionality, and their benefits, but getting started is actually simple and straightforward.

    Learning the ins and outs of HomeKit after setup does take a bit of effort, but it's not a difficult process and having interlinked electronics that can interact with each other and be automated can save time and really streamline your life.


    What is HomeKit?

    HomeKit is Apple's smart home platform, which is designed to let you control various internet-connected home devices -- ranging from thermostats and plugs to window blinds, light bulbs, and more -- with Apple devices.

    These days, more and more products are internet connected, which is why you've heard the phrase "Internet of Things."

    The Internet of Things is a confusing mix of "smart" products that connect to the internet and can be controlled by a range of different platforms, from Amazon's Alexa to Google Home to Samsung SmartThings.

    HomeKit is Apple's "Internet of Things" solution that connects HomeKit-enabled smart accessories together in a way that lets you operate them using your Apple products.

    What You Can Do With HomeKit

    HomeKit isn't a product or software, it's a framework that links smart home products together and adds new capabilities to devices like lights, locks, cameras, thermostats, plugs, and more.

    HomeKit lets you control smart home products using apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or simple Siri voice commands.

    While controlling smart home products with Siri or with an iPhone is convenient, the real magic of HomeKit comes when you have multiple HomeKit-enabled products because you can control them all at once using scenes or set up automations so that they activate automatically.


    You can, for example, create a "Good night" scene that makes sure the doors are locked, closes the garage, turns off the lights, lowers the thermostat, and then activates a night light whenever motion is detected. With automation, you can set individual HomeKit devices to come on or off at specific times, or you can set entire scenes, like the aforementioned "Good night" scene to come on at a set time.


    HomeKit setups, scenes, and automations can be as complex or as simple as you like, and now that HomeKit is in its fifth year of availability, there are all kinds of HomeKit products you can purchase. With a bit of time and some money, you can have a whole smart home ecosystem that's streamlined, automated, and easy to control.

    Setting It Up

    Getting started with HomeKit is as simple as purchasing a HomeKit-enabled device, whether it be a smart plug, light bulb, AirPlay 2 speaker, Apple TV, HomePod, thermostat, or something else.

    From there, open up the "Home" app, which comes pre-installed on all iOS devices. Tap on the "Add Accessory" button that's on the main screen of the Home app, and then follow the steps after it opens up to the rear camera.

    All HomeKit products come with a HomeKit QR code on them, which you need to scan with the camera. Scanning the HomeKit code adds a device to the HomeKit framework, and then you can follow a few additional steps to assign it to a room, a necessary step for organizing your HomeKit devices.

    How HomeKit Devices Connect

    HomeKit devices connect to your HomeKit setup through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or a hub, which connects to Wi-Fi.

    Many HomeKit devices in the United States use WiFi or connect to a hub over WiFi. Hue light bulbs, for example, use a hub, while smart lights from other brands like LIFX use WiFi.

    There are some devices that connect over Bluetooth, and with Bluetooth devices, it's worth noting that you're going to need home hubs to extend connectivity, otherwise connection range can be rather limited. Home hubs include the Apple TV, the iPad, and the HomePod.

    Types of HomeKit Devices

    There are all kinds of HomeKit devices on the market, some that are more capable than others. The following HomeKit categories are available:

    [*]Window Blinds
    [*]Air Conditioners
    [*]Air Purifiers
    [*]Garage Doors
    [*]TVsApple maintains a full list of HomeKit-compatible devices on its website, complete with links, so this is the best place to get an overview of all of the different HomeKit devices that you can put in your home.


    Smart home devices that are compatible with HomeKit will have "Works with Apple Homekit" labeling on the packaging to make it clear that they support HomeKit.

    Basic HomeKit Setup Tutorials

    [*]How to Add a Device to Your HomeKit Setup
    [*]How to Delete a Device From HomeKit
    [*]How to Give Others Access to Your HomeKit Setup
    [*]How to Add Rooms and Zones to HomeKit
    [*]How to Create HomeKit Scenes
    [*]How to Automate HomeKit Products
    [*]How to Add a Second Home to HomeKit
    [*]How to Use Siri to Control Your HomeKit Devices
    [*]How to Use HomePod to Control Your HomeKit Devices

    Using the Home App

    [*]How to Use the Home App to Control HomeKit Devices
    [*]How to Customize Your Home App
    [*]How to Change the Wallpaper in the Home App
    [*]How to Set HomeKit Favorites

    Setting Up Remote Access

    [*]How to Control Your HomeKit Devices When Away From Home
    [*]How to Set Up HomePod as a Home Hub for HomeKit Devices
    [*]How to Set Up an iPad as a Home Hub for HomeKit Devices
    [*]How to Set Up an Apple TV as a Home Hub for HomeKit Devices

    HomePod and AirPlay 2

    [*]How to Use HomePod to Control Your HomeKit Devices
    [*]How to Use AirPlay 2 Speakers With HomeKit

    HomeKit Requirements

    Using HomeKit requires an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running the latest version of iOS, along with at least one HomeKit-enabled device.

    Using the Home app on the Mac requires macOS Mojave, and to control devices when away from home, an Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod is required to serve as a Home Hub.

    Ways to Control Your HomeKit Devices

    The great thing about HomeKit is the myriad ways that you can control your HomeKit compatible devices.

    You can use Siri voice commands on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, HomePod, or Apple TV to ask Siri to complete HomeKit tasks.

    Devices can be controlled manually in the Home app, or in the app that comes with the device. Each HomeKit device will have an app downloadable from the iOS App Store that offers a way to control it.

    You can also purchase HomeKit-enabled button-type devices that serve as remotes to activate HomeKit scenes physically, and there are switches for controlling HomeKit products such as lights.

    Reviews of HomeKit Accessories

    [*]The Philips Hue Outdoor Lightstrip With HomeKit Integration Lights Up Your Backyard
    [*]Lutron's Caséta Lamp Dimmers and Serena Shades Bring HomeKit Convenience to Your Lights and Windows
    [*]Nanoleaf's Touch-Enabled Canvas Offers Up Fun, Interactive Mood Lighting[*]LIFX's HomeKit-Enabled LIFX Z Light Strip Adds Smart Multi-Color Accent Lighting to Your Home
    [*]Nanoleaf's 'Aurora Smarter Kit' Offers Awesome HomeKit-Enabled Mood Lighting for $200
    [*]Philips Hue Play Adds Bright Bias Lighting to Your Entertainment Center
    [*]Eve's New Light Strip is a Great HomeKit-Enabled Hub-Free Accent Lighting Option
    [*]Eve's HomeKit-Enabled 'Eve Flare' Offers Awesome Mood Lighting, Long Battery Life, and Water Resistance
    [*]The HomeKit-Connected Eve Room Keeps Track of Temperature, Humidity and Air Quality in Your Home
    [*]Koogeek's Light Strip and Door & Window Sensor Offer Solid Low-Cost HomeKit Options
    [*]Eve Aqua Brings HomeKit Automation to Your Irrigation Sprinklers
    [*]Elgato's HomeKit-Connected Eve Degree is a Sleek, Palm-Sized Temperature Monitor
    [*]Weatherproof Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor Lets You Automate Your Indoor or Outdoor Lights
    [*]Fibaro's HomeKit-Connected Flood Sensor Notifies You When Leaks Are Detected
    [*]Nanoleaf's New Dodecahedron-Shaped Remote Gives You Access to 12 HomeKit Scenes
    [*]Fibaro's 'The Button' Adds Physical Control Options to Your HomeKit Setup
    [*]iDevices' Instant Switch Expands Manual Control of Your Other iDevices HomeKit Accessories
    [*]Eve Button Offers Quick Physical Controls for Activating Your Favorite HomeKit Scenes
    [*]Elgato Eve Light Switch and Eve Motion Add Versatility to Your HomeKit Setup
    [*]Schlage Sense Remains a Top Option Among HomeKit-Enabled Smart Locks
    [*]Yale's $220 Assure Lock SL is a Sleek, Keyless HomeKit Deadbolt
    [*]Logitech's Circle 2 Brings HomeKit Compatibility and a New Design
    [*]D-Link's Omna 180 Cam HD Offers HomeKit, But Could Use Improvement
    [*]Emerson's $200 Sensi Touch HomeKit Thermostat Offers a Large Color Display and Easy Setup
    [*]Honeywell's $199 Lyric Round Thermostat Features a Nest-Like Design With HomeKit Support

    Plugs and Outlets
    [*]iDevices' Switches and Outlets Bring HomeKit to Your Existing Lights and Home Appliances
    [*]ConnectSense Smart Outlet Offers Two HomeKit-Enabled Sockets and a USB Port
    [*]Vocolinc Offers the First HomeKit Supported Essential Oil Diffuser With the 'FlowerBud'
    [*]Chamberlain's MyQ Garage and Home Bridge Add HomeKit Support to Your Garage Door

    Security and Privacy

    Security and privacy are topics that Apple takes seriously, and thus every manufacturer that creates a HomeKit-compatible device has to follow Apple's security guidelines, better ensuring your devices are safe from hackers.

    Apple's commitment to privacy and demand that HomeKit products be secure is reassuring at a time when our homes are filled with smart devices that can hear us and see us.

    For a long time, Apple required all HomeKit products to include a hardware-based HomeKit authentication coprocessor for HomeKit certification, and many HomeKit devices continue to offer this. In 2017, Apple began allowing manufacturers to obtain HomeKit certification with software-based authentication, but HomeKit is no less secure as a result.

    All HomeKit devices use the same security features, including end-to-end encryption, non-reusable encryption keys, and two-way authentication (Apple verifies your HomeKit device and your HomeKit device verifies your Apple device) when connecting to a HomeKit setup.

    A HomeKit camera, for example, sends video and audio streams directly to an iOS device and those streams are encrypted using randomly generated keys to prevent someone from intercepting your video feed.

    All HomeKit data stored on your devices is fully encrypted, and HomeKit syncing between devices is done via iCloud and iCloud Keychain, both of which have their own security. Apple also must approve each and every device that gets the HomeKit labeling. In a nutshell, Apple has worked to make HomeKit a secure smart home platform that people can trust.

    HomeKit is not without its bugs, though, and there have been some security snafus. In December 2017, there was a bug that left HomeKit accessories vulnerable to unauthorized access, but Apple was quick to fix it.

    For those interested, the nitty gritty details about HomeKit security are available in Apple's iOS Security Guide and are well worth checking out if you have security concerns about using smart home devices. [PDF]

    Solving HomeKit Connectivity Problems

    When using HomeKit devices, you might sometimes see an error that a device is unreachable in the Home app or have other problems connecting to a HomeKit product.

    The Home app, and most HomeKit apps that accompany HomeKit products, provide very little info on why a HomeKit product isn't working properly or connecting to your network, which can make troubleshooting HomeKit issues frustrating.

    There are a few basic steps you can follow that will sometimes solve connectivity issues.
    1. Make sure the HomeKit device has power, is turned on, and is in range of your router if it's a Wi-Fi device.
    2. Turn the HomeKit device off, wait a good 10 seconds, and turn it back on. Do the same thing with your iPhone or other device you're attempting to use with HomeKit.
    3. Check the Wi-Fi connection and reset your router. Make sure your iOS device is up to date, connected to the internet, and that you're signed into iCloud.
    4. Make sure your HomeKit device is on the right Wi-Fi band. There are a lot of HomeKit devices that are 2.4GHz while most devices connect to 5GHz networks, and that can sometimes cause problems. If you have a 2.4GHz accessory, make sure it's on the 2.4GHz network. Steps for this will vary based on your setup.
    5. Remove the device from HomeKit in the Home app and then re-add it by scanning it. For some HomeKit products, this is probably a last resort step because it eliminates scenes and automations.
    6. Remove the device from HomeKit and reset it. This is a step that's necessary when removing some HomeKit devices from a HomeKit setup. You're going to need to consult the manual of your device because resetting is different on every product.
    If none of these steps work, you're going to want to contact the support staff for whichever product you're having problems with to get further information on what to do for troubleshooting purposes.

    Many HomeKit manufacturers have online troubleshooting databases, so in some cases, you can just Google for a solution.

    There are more drastic steps to take, such as logging in and out of iCloud or resetting your entire HomeKit setup, but we recommend contacting a manufacturer before trying these last resort options just because of the hassle involved.

    Discuss HomeKit

    Have a setup question or a HomeKit issue you just can't figure out? You might want to check out the HomeKit forums on the MacRumors site for additional help. There are quite a few HomeKit users on the forums, and most people are happy to help.

    Guide Feedback

    Want to offer feedback on this guide, ask for feature additions, or point out an error? Send us an email here.

    Article Link: HomeKit: Everything You Need to Know
  2. BlueCreek macrumors regular

    Aug 28, 2014
  3. MrTemple macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2013
    Canadian Pacific North Wilderness
    I was sure these 'smart home' gadgets were going to be more fussy than functional. But to try it out, I ordered a couple homekit outoor outlets for my Christmas lights.

    Fast forward a few months, and half my house is on Homekit dimmers and outlets. I love it!

    My wife loves them too! And she takes great delight in playfully giving me the gears when our leading-edge tech sputters.

    I bought the well-reviewed ones, and like they say... It just works.
  4. itsmilo macrumors 68020


    Sep 15, 2016
    My hue lights always ended up bitching that the name is different compared to the home app so I just gave up and went with Alexa.
  5. nutmac macrumors 601

    Mar 30, 2004
    While I personally love HomeKit, setting it up properly isn't easy.

    For one thing, many devices rely on HomeKit pairing code. Some devices have HomeKit code printed on the bottom of the device. But many include it on a piece of paper that will likely be lost the next time you may need it. An app like HomePass or Notes can be used to store them, but iCloud really should back them up.

    NFC-based pairing is nicer, but reliability of NFC-based pairing can be hit or miss.

    Beyond pairing, another problem is needless complexity of the device management.

    While Home app is superior to Amazon Alexa (which is absolute junk) and Google Home (too simplistic), it is very un-Apple-like.
    1. If you have more than a handful of devices, Apple Home app is a mess. Organizing them requires a lot of patience and navigating rooms is awkward.
    2. One size fits all approach of square button is a poor way to interact with the device. Home app needs more dynamic interface that is more optimized for the types of device.
    3. Automation is all too limited.
    And finally, the stability. HomeKit is very sensitive and "No Response" is all too common. It's gotten to a point where having a great mesh Wi-Fi network and placing HomeKit hub (e.g., Apple TV, HomePod) near Bluetooth devices is an absolute must. I only purchase devices from very narrow range of brands (e.g., Lutron).

    So yes, I love HomeKit and it is easily my favorite of the three home automation standards. But I home iOS 13 brings major improvements to Home app and stability of HomeKit.
  6. Tivoli_, Apr 8, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019

    Tivoli_ macrumors member

    Dec 14, 2017
    HomeKit app needs improvements like integrating the functionality of the smart devices into the app. I don't want to go back and forth between the manufacturer app and HomeKit to take advantage of some of the features. Also, it is about time to let us automate iTunes music and AirPlay.
    With every iOS update, the first thing I check is the HomeKit app looking for changes. No luck so far.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 8, 2019 ---
    By experimenting, I found out that changing the router's device lease time from daily to a longer period of time like monthly, helped reduce the number of "No Response" errors as the devices don't get assigned a new IP every day when the lease is up.
  7. RobertN macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2019
    The second image with ‘Favorite Scenes’, what app is that?
  8. Grepus macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2019
    I have Hue lights and dimmer switches, and was loving Homekit until recently.

    I discovered that programming the dimmer switches with the Home app gave the buttons much greater capabilities than when using the Hue app. Like all 4 buttons could be made to do things in any room.

    With IOS 12, and the equivalent AppleTV upgrade, these switches started acting up. Frequently one or two of my dimmers will simply stop responding. Sometimes they respond 30 seconds later. Of course I went through all of the troubleshooting, rebooting the hub, the WiFi. Even deleting the switch and setting it up again. It would work for a while but then fail again. The couple of dimmers I have that were programmed with the Hue app are fine.

    Well, I discovered the quick fix - reboot both of my Apple TVs when this happens. BUT with the latest IOS 12.2, it will only fix it for a day or two, maybe three. Then the problems start all over. IOS 12.2 seems to have introduced some serious instability.

    Right now, the only real fix I can see is to give up and delete the dimmer switches from Homekit and set them up completely in the Hue app, as the ones I have done that way still work fine. I'm thinking most people don't program their switches with the Home app because I can't seem to find others experiencing the same issues. This is definitely IOS 12 that has changed these, and 12.2 has made it really bad.

    I also have problems with an automation that when a Hue motion sensor is triggered, it turns on a (non-Hue) plug. This was working fine until IOS 12.2. Now the plug comes on about 30 seconds after the motion - just like the lights controlled by the Hue dimmers sometimes have a 30 second delay before the light comes on (or off).
  9. radiology macrumors 6502


    Feb 11, 2014
    Westlake, OH
  10. Intellectua1 Suspended


    Jun 3, 2016
    Seattle, Washington
    I went from Alexa to Google Home which I love! Siri and being locked in Apple's ecosystem is why I avoid Homekit.
  11. MrTemple macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2013
    Canadian Pacific North Wilderness
    Siri works shockingly well with HomeKit. Its natural language processing with HomeKit puts the rest of Siri's abilities to shame.

    "Can I get it a little brighter in the living room?" [Works]
    "How about a little more." [Works]
    "Put it down to 22%." [Works]
    "I'm going to bed" [My "Goodnight Moon" scene is activated]

    Siri is at its best with HomeKit. It's the only part of Siri that feels like Star Trek.
  12. busyscott macrumors regular


    Sep 29, 2015
    The fact that we need an article like this is proof that HomeKit is anything but “easy”.
  13. hipnetic, Apr 8, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019

    hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    We're an Apple family. iPhones, MacBooks, iPads, Apple Watches. And I appreciate the priority that Apple puts on privacy. But...

    I use Alexa for all of my smart-home functionality. HomeKit is behind functionality-wise, certain device types are hard to find or too expensive (e.g., cameras), and they have no similarly-priced equivalent to the Echo Dot. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Siri is the most awful of all of the "smart" assistants I've ever tried out. I even have a CarPlay head unit in my car (that I added afterwards) and Siri frustrates me more often than it gets any request right.

    Whoever is in the "lead" on these things can change, so I do make it a priority to *try to* buy devices that are compatible with all 3 standards (Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Assistant, or whatever Google calls it). So one of my first purchases was a few Lutron Caseta smart-dimmers and the Lutron hub. It works with all three standards. Sadly, Lutron absolutely rapes you on the price of their smart-dimmers, and over 2 years later, they're still charging about $60 for each dimmer. I can only imagine the profit margin they're making on those things. Leviton was too late to the party. They are pricing theirs a bit lower, but I don't want to have two different style dimmers around my house, as that will just make for an inconsistent (poor) user experience, so I'm stuck with the Lutron Casetas until we change houses.

    Similarly, I also bought the ecobee thermostats (I have 4 zones, so I had to buy 4 - ugh). I liked the style of the Nest thermostats better, but I went with the ecobee because it supported all 3 standards. The little remote temperature sensors were a nice feature, too.

    When it came to buying smoke/CO2 detectors, though, I just bought the Nest models. Other options at the time had mixed reviews, and I figured I'll never need to "control" my smoke detectors via Alexa or Siri, anyway. So long as it had an iOS app that could alert me to issues, that was good enough.

    I also have a couple of Wyze cameras. They're super-cheap, are constantly being upgraded, and even work with my Echo Spot (which, again, is another neat device that Apple doesn't offer anything to compete with). The Spots are a little too price to put in every room of my house, and I honestly don't need a screen in every room anyway, so the other rooms get Echo Dots, which are super-cheap at $30 or whatever. Again, Apple offers nothing to compete with this, and even if they did, I don't think I'd enjoy dealing with Siri.
  14. BF1M macrumors newbie

    Nov 17, 2018
    Siri\HomeKit overnight can no longer tell the difference between the word light and lamp. Telling it to turn on the lamps in a certain rooms just now defaults to turning on all the lights in that same room instead.

    It was working perfectly for months....
  15. Unity451 macrumors 6502


    Aug 29, 2011
    That's a very broad statement...
    Cars are too expensive.
  16. Tivoli_ macrumors member

    Dec 14, 2017
    I believe that is from the iPhone control center (from home screen swipe)
  17. Dominicanyor macrumors 65816


    Apr 1, 2012
    I would like to use HomeKit in my home. I have a wink hub which is not compatible with HomeKit. Also a nest thermostat which I can’t use as well. Most the products that could be use with HomeKit is a bit expensive.
  18. lsutigerfan1976 macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    You will get roasted on here for saying Alexa lol. But i did the same, i have both Alexa speakers and Homepods in my house.
  19. danny1305 macrumors member

    Oct 5, 2018
    Yes, because your lone experience represents everybody....smh
  20. nickcliborne macrumors 6502

    Aug 25, 2008
    Nut house
    Check out homebridge. It really isn’t too hard to setup on a raspberry pi or similar device.
  21. brucewayne macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2005
    The biggest issue with Homekit is troubleshooting something that went wrong. Want to know why an automation run or why a device won't pair? Good luck. There is no running log to keep track of anything. The three 'troubleshooting techniques' are

    A) reset the device and start over. Rarely works.
    B) sign out of iCloud on all devices running homekit, (ridiculous since we have more than a dozen tvos, ios, and macs on mohave). Sometimes works but a total PITA, especially with 2 factor turned on and usually causes some other issue along the way.
    C) Reset homekit entirely. Which is an even bigger PITA since there is no facility to backup a configuration. This was the only solution to a ecobee3 that mysteriously unpaired from Homekit.
  22. jaredlipsitz macrumors member

    Aug 27, 2010
    I use it daily...
  23. kinless macrumors regular


    Apr 2, 2003
    Tustin, California
    While HomeKit is my preferred choice and works well, I made sure that all smart devices bought and installed in my home are compatible with the “Big 3” (Apple, Google, Amazon) in case future owners don’t want to be locked in to a platform.

    One thing I’ve noticed with several smart products is that scanning the HomeKit code using the camera causes setup problems, no matter how many times I delete and re-scan. The only solution was manually entering the code during setup, THEN it worked without a hitch. Both the thermostat and garage door opener had this issue, while iDevice switches worked just fine via scan.
  24. tx4app macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2015
    Austin TX
    As do I...a lot. It seems the only negative experience I have had revolves around using Siri to perform HomeKit operations. Whenever Siri would complain with something like "no response..." which may happen around 5% of the time (except when issued via AppleTV where it seemingly fails much more often), I found that using the vendor's app (e.g. Lutron) worked 100% of the time.
  25. chinito77 macrumors regular


    Nov 2, 2015
    Homekit has a nice interface and nice concept. However, over the years, it just feels worse due to the lag when given commands to either an always on iPad or Apple TV. There are lots of CONs with Homekit like:

    1) I get MANY unresponsive warnings
    2) Lights detach from automated tasks
    3) Pairing devices with no QR code is a major pain
    4) iPad and AppleTV would fight for control (Turns lights off and the other will turn them back on)
    5) iLife and Hue devices will sometimes only work with their native apps and not Homekit

    Homekit is far from new so this article was not useful to me but rather serves as a guide and not an article. I'd rather see a "How to fix Homekit" guide.

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