Apple HomeKit wish list: The features we want to see

If we had a direct line to Cupertino…

Our Apple HomeKit wish list
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None of the big three smart home ecosystems – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit – are perfect as anyone living with them will tell you. In fact they're developing and improving week by week.

That's why we decided to put together three feature wish lists with our grumbles, suggestions and free advice on how to improve each one. You know, to increase the chances of us getting exactly what we want. Some are specific, some are fairly universal.

Read this: The Ambient's Google Assistant wish list

We started last week with Google and now it's Apple's turn to get the wish list treatment. Here's the list we've compiled between The Ambient's editors and staff – add yours to the comments below or tweet us @theambient on Twitter and we'll update the story with your suggestions.

Make Scenes more versatile

It's weird that a Scene – Apple's version of a Routine – can be turning something on but that you then can't just say "Hey Siri, turn that Scene off". Instead, you need to run the same Scene with the opposite action. In general, HomeKit is way behind Alexa and Google Assistant (and the indie competitor platforms) when it comes to building Scenes, routines and groupings.

Integrate HomeKit with more big brands

Apple does lots of things well, but when it comes to the smart home so do brands like Sonos in multi-room audio or Nest in smart thermostats, cameras and now alarm systems. Alexa has the most compatible products and integrations and Google and Nest stuff is starting to work together more and more seamlessly. Meanwhile Apple is still lacking HomeKit compatibility for other fairly big brands like Hive and Canary. Until Apple makes everything, it needs to work with everything.

Let Siri control Spotify on HomePod

Properly. Right now, Apple's HomePod smart speaker works with Spotify via app controls but Siri voice controls are still limited for Spotify in that you can't start things off with a Siri voice command. Once a track or playlist is playing, you can use voice controls – but why should we have to switch between the two when you don't have to with Apple Music? And most of us on The Ambient team still use Spotify as our daily music streaming service. With iOS 12 and Siri Shortcuts, you can now set up a Workflow to include playing a Spotify playlist but it's a little convoluted and definitely not the same in terms of features and ease of use.

Apple HomeKit wish list: The features we want to see

A Home app for pro-users

Various smart home companies, including Tado, have pointed out to us that users can do more with their branded app than they can from within the Apple Home app – even for HomeKit compatible devices. So right now Siri can do the basics but there's much more functionality to unlock when it comes to interacting with say, smart thermostats via Siri or the Home app. And when it comes to these types of features, the ball's in Apple's court.

Make it easier to add devices…

Adding devices to your HomeKit system is still a faff – for one, we hate having to keep the six figure codes which are printed in the manual, on the box or sometimes on the device itself. We get that this stems from Apple's encryption and security standards but compare it to Amazon's Alexa which simply scans your network for devices to add and it feels irritating.

…And to retro add devices

By this we mean smart home tech that might not have been HomeKit enabled when you bought it but is now. For starters, Lifx smart lightbulbs. It's easy enough to recover a lost HomeKit code for Lifx bulbs or get a code for older bulbs, but it still takes some work and the process could be made a lot simpler.

HomeKit needs to know we're boss

A specific niggle now but we bet you come across it at some point. One of our editors here keeps being told by his Home app that his Philips Hue rooms are set up 'wrong' in his house. As he says "you're not the boss of me, Home app". HomeKit needs to be flexible enough to recognise that everyone's home and set-ups are different and if something's 'wrong', tell us why and how to fix it.

Apple HomeKit wish list: The features we want to see

Improve reliability and seamlessness

Apple is always on about how things just work, and you'd think if you were in the Apple ecosystem HomeKit would be one of those things. That hasn't been the case for us, as we've seen weird inconsistencies. For instance, one of our editors has problems controlling a certain Lifx light on his iPhone but can control it perfectly from his iPad.

Add a Zigbee or Thread hub

The HomePod, Apple TV and iPad can act as a sort-of hub for HomeKit, adding the ability for you to control your smart home devices when you're away from home. But Apple still doesn't have support for a genuine hub, like the Echo Plus or new Echo Show does. Perhaps it's waiting to add Thread to its devices – we can't wait either, as adding a Thread, or even Zigbee, support to the HomePod or Apple TV would go a long way to solving a lot of Apple's problems with HomeKit.

Let us know how you'd improve on Apple Home, HomeKit and Siri in the comments below.

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