HomeKit in iOS 13: All the best new features and changes coming

iOS 13 is nearly here – and here's what it will bring

Here's what's coming for HomeKit in iOS 13

iOS 13 is just days away from release, and with it comes an update to the Apple Home app and some changes to how HomeKit works.

90% of the new changes are quite minor, but they iron out some of our biggest bugbears with the app, finessing the app and overall experience. It also brings other accessories like AirPlay 2 speakers more tightly into HomeKit.

Read this: The best Apple HomeKit devices

We've been playing around with the iOS 13 beta, which is still quite buggy and missing a few things (at this point we certainly recommending waiting for the full launch). Here's what's changed, what we're liking so far, and what's still to come (hint: mostly HomePod features).

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

More HomePod-friendly

iOS 13 brings the HomePod further into HomeKit with the playback widget, usually found in the Control Center, now appearing in the Home app (though it's a bit buggy in the beta).

Also, any AirPlay 2 speakers can be integrated into Scenes and Automations in iOS 13, so you can have music start playing when you come home or have it stop when you leave the house. Handily, this includes setting a custom volume.

Sadly however, despite being promised multi-user support for HomePod with iOS 13, the feature has been pushed back to "later this fall". Also delayed is the handoff feature, which will let you hand off music from your phone to the HomePod.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

New looks, better animations

The Home app in iOS 13 comes with a few more backgrounds to pick from – some defocused colored clouds instead of the older gradients – but you'll still be able to use your own photos.

Even better, there are now more specific icons for certain devices like humidity sensors, leak alarms and smoke detectors. That includes our Netatmo indoor air monitor, which has a new icon to indicate air quality.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

More sensible accessory layout

Here's an example of a small change that's already giving us great joy: device unification. For example, whereas before our iDevices smart plug, which has two outlets, showed as two separate accessories in the Home app, it's now just one. But tap it and we can see and switch both outlets in the same window. It's much more sensible.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

Another example is lighting. Now when you select a light in HomeKit, you'll get a brightness adjuster and a panel of shortcuts to your favorite colors. Thermostats have also had an overhaul, bringing all the controls (humidity, mode etc) into one screen.

Speaking of unification, when viewing a camera feed in Home you can now quickly access any other camera in the same room, using a new icon that appears at the bottom of the screen.

One more thing we like: third-party bridges, such as the Philips Hue Bridge, no longer show as separate devices in the rooms they're located. Instead you'll now find them by heading into the Settings, where all bridges are listed together.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

Apple TV multi-user support

We haven't been able to try this one out yet as it also requires tvOS 13, which isn't available as a public beta. But when it rolls out, multi-user support will be available, so different household menus can have their own interface, recommendations and playlists.

Read this: How to set up an Apple HomeKit hub

And like the HomePod, the Apple TV can be added into Scenes and Automations in iOS 13, but only for playing music, or playing/pausing video that's playing. However, you can use a Siri Shortcut to have the Apple TV turn on and, say, open the Hulu app.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

Automations and Siri Shortcuts

The Automations list in iOS 13 is cleaner and tidier, but functionally better too. That's largely thanks to Siri Shortcuts, which mean you can bring in other apps and devices into HomeKit in interesting ways. For example, you could have an Automation triggered by an alarm, or when the weather app shows it's dropped between a set temperature.

Siri Shortcuts aren't playing nicely with HomeKit at the time of writing, but we'll be doing a more in-depth write-up on using them when iOS 13 goes live for the masses.

All the best new features coming to HomeKit in iOS 13

HomeKit Secure Video

We've already done an explainer on how this will work, but in short, Secure Video will give users the option of storing camera footage in Apple's iCloud. Footage is encrypted locally on your HomeKit hub before it's sent to Apple's servers.

Secure Video won't count towards your iCloud plan limit, but you'll need more than the free 5GB plan in order to use the feature. The 200GB tier will support just one camera, while the 2TB plan will support up to five.

These are just some of the new changes in iOS 13 that we're loving so far. There will be others, and as iOS 13 arrives in full we'll be digging up and explaining everything that's new.

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