HomeKit Hands On: iOS & iPadOS 13 Developer Beta 1
Apple has released their first developer betas for its upcoming operating systems today, iOS 13, iPadOS 13, macOS Catalina, WatchOS6 and finally tvOS 13, all set to be released this fall. Naturally, we wanted to checkout what was new with HomeKit, so we took the plunge and installed all of the betas across all of our devices. Let’s take a look at what changes have been made to HomeKit in the first beta of iOS / iPadOS 13:
Upon first opening the Home App after installing iOS 13 b1, we were surprised to see a splash screen detailing some of the changes that have been added. This is a great thing to see, as the Home App is visually simple, yet can run powerful automations if a user so wishes to do so. Encouraging users to look beyond the basics is a huge step to increase awareness about the platform.
Moving past the what’s new screen, we were met with our first visual changes in the Home App, with new glyphs or icons for certain device types being found. Overall, the icons seem to have a slightly darker appearance, and some device tiles tend to blend in more giving them a weird effect where the text labels are shown but the outline of the tile is not. This could simply be a beta issue that will be addressed in the future so we are not too worried about it at this time. New icons include a new ceiling fan icon that can be assigned to fan switches (note this one is not animated), motion sensor, temperature, smoke and co detector. With dark mode activated, the Home App looks as one would expect, with device tiles taking on a dark shade of gray, and device controls or menus are in all black.
Going into a devices control screen also prompted us with yet another huge visual change. Gone is the full screen controls, and in its place are card like “popovers” that do not occupy the entire screen, giving somewhat of a sense of context over what screen was displayed before it. This card like design spans to other tabs in the Home App, such as Automations, and helps to provide a consistent experience that is in line with other Apple Apps such as Podcasts, and Apple Music. These “cards” can be dismissed or closed using a downward swipe gesture, which is neat, but during our testing, we saw several instances where we dismissed the automation tab simply by scrolling up and down.
Moving onto the actual controls, we saw many different types of sliders and toggles, with the biggest change being temperature adjustments for thermostats. The familiar slider that apple used for all previous versions of iOS, has been replaced with a dial, where adjustments are made from left to right, similar to what you would see in a classic round style of thermostat. Ironically, there is only one HomeKit thermostat on the market that uses this style of design, which is the Honeywell Lyric Round. Another change we found was for devices that feature multiple sensors, such as the Onvis SMS1, now have a device control screen that shows all three sensors at once. This is a great way to see an overview of the sensor, although we did find a somewhat annoying issue where on the favorites or room overview screen, the App seemingly defaults to humidity or motion, which in our case is not the metrics that we wanted, as we prefer temperature to be shown. For cameras, we found a new status indicator icon next to the name of the camera on the device tile, as well as a new button that will pull up any actionable accessories in the same room as the camera in a nice “pop over” window.
Over in the automations tab, we quickly found ourselves enamored with new abilities for HomeKit to trigger audio playback. This ability was on our iOS 13 Wishlist, as we have also seen devices such as the HomePod as being underused, which is now no longer the case. Automations such as playing a certain song when someone arrives home is now possible, as well as playing a song when the “party” scene is triggered. Potentially the biggest application of this new feature, is the ability to set up a makeshift “alarm” system using a HomePod plus contact sensors or motion sensors to play a certain track from Apple Music when one is triggered during a specific timeframe. Of course, Apple Music has TONS of alarm sounds available, making this easy to set up. Apple even had the awareness to include specific volume options, such as using the volume that was previously set on a HomePod, or setting a custom level just for the automation. Again this makes it great to use as an alarm, and we will have more on this specific feature soon, with suggestions for sounds and schedules.
Sticking with new automations, the Home App also includes “system” level items, such as connecting to a specific Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device when arriving home. Other options include automations based on: Alarms, Time of Day, Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, Lower Power Mode, NFC, CarPlay, and even opening Apps on your iOS device. One thing we will note on these is that the icon or glyph colors for these types of automations are blue, as opposed to orange that we are used to seeing, and we chalk this up to these specific automations being Shortcuts, and not native HomeKit actions. This means that these automations will require some form of authentication to actually run them, most likely in the form of an actionable notification.
Over on the iPad, with developer beta 1 of iPadOS installed, we did not find anything different visually aside from the “cards” which were much smaller on the iPad screen. Perhaps the biggest change for the iPad, as demonstrated during the keynote address, are iOS widgets, normally located on the “minus 1” screen (swipe to the left on the home screen) can now be viewed directly on the iPad’s home screen and even bettter, left there permanently. This means that users of 3rd party HomeKit Apps, such as HomeCam from Sunya Limited, can have a live camera view displayed directly on their iPad’s home screen. While this could be accomplished before via picture in picture mode, there is something that is just more appealing having it as a little tile that does not float over your Apps. This also can apply to HomeKit favorites, allowing quick access to toggles for scenes or devices directly from the home screen.
As of right now, these are all the iOS/iPadOS specific Home App changes that we have found so far, but we will keep digging around and will keep you updated with any additional items that we may come across. Stay tuned for our hands on with HomeKit and macOS Catalina, as well as tvOS 13, and watchOS 6. Have you found something HomeKit related in iOS 13 that we missed? Let us know using the tips form, or via Twitter, @HomeKit_Hero.