HomeKit: Everything You Need to Know

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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:
  • Lights
  • Switches
  • Outlets
  • Thermostats
  • Window Blinds
  • Fans
  • Air Conditioners
  • Humidifiers
  • Air Purifiers
  • Sensors
  • Locks
  • Cameras
  • Doorbells
  • Garage Doors
  • Sprinklers
  • Speakers
  • Routers
  • TVs
Apple 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
Using the Home App
Setting Up Remote Access
HomePod and AirPlay 2
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.

HomeKit Secure Video

Apple in iOS 13 introduced HomeKit Secure Video, an API that uses the iPad, Apple TV, or HomePod to analyze video captured by compatible smart home cameras right in your home.


Video feeds are encrypted end-to-end and uploaded to iCloud, which means you alone can see the video footage without the risk of hackers accessing it. Multiple camera manufacturers, including Eufy, Eve, and Logitech have debuted HomeKit Secure Video cameras.

Using HomeKit Secure Video requires a 200GB iCloud data plan ($2.99/month) for a single camera, or a 2TB iCloud data plan ($9.99/month) for up to five home security cameras.

Reviews of HomeKit Accessories

Lights
Sensors
Buttons/Remotes/Switches
Locks
Cameras
Thermostats
Plugs and Outlets
Miscellaneous

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
 
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MrTemple

macrumors regular
Jun 11, 2013
200
374
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.
 

itsmilo

macrumors 68040
Sep 15, 2016
3,599
7,812
Berlin, Germany
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.
 
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nutmac

macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
4,690
3,111
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.
 

Tivoli_

macrumors member
Dec 14, 2017
92
347
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.
[doublepost=1554759940][/doublepost]
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.
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.
 
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Grepus

macrumors newbie
Apr 8, 2019
4
9
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).
 
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MrTemple

macrumors regular
Jun 11, 2013
200
374
Canadian Pacific North Wilderness
Siri and being locked in Apple's ecosystem is why I avoid Homekit.
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.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Oct 5, 2010
1,165
470
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.
 
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BF1M

macrumors 6502
Nov 17, 2018
451
508
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....
 
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Dominicanyor

macrumors 65816
Apr 1, 2012
1,188
238
Florida
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.
 
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lsutigerfan1976

macrumors 68030
Sep 14, 2012
2,594
1,581
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.
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.
 
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stars_fan

macrumors 6502
Aug 25, 2008
278
218
Nut house
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.
Check out homebridge. It really isn’t too hard to setup on a raspberry pi or similar device.
 

brucewayne

macrumors regular
Nov 8, 2005
154
180
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.
 

kinless

macrumors regular
Apr 2, 2003
150
201
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.
 

tx4app

macrumors member
Oct 9, 2015
47
24
Austin TX
I use it daily...
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.
 

chinito77

macrumors regular
Nov 2, 2015
165
222
Japan
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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