What’s New for the Home App in iOS 13 & macOS Catalina Developer Beta 2

Today, Apple released the second beta of iOS/iPadOS 13 and macOS Catalina to registered developers. In this version of the beta, we expected to see some refinements to the overall experience within the Home App, and we found pretty much just that. This early in the beta cycle, we did not expect to find many new additions, and while we were correct, we did find a few new splash screens as well as some new options for upcoming features with the HomePod and Apple TV. Of course we also found various bugs, which will hopefully be addressed in later betas now that they have been out in the wild for a few weeks. Let’s dive in to what changes that we have found so far.

Refinements

The first thing that we noticed upon opening up the Home App, is that various tweaks have been made to correct some of the odd visual issues that were present in the first beta. Things such as device tiles that were displayed as squares without rounded corners, particularly when viewing them in the new controls menu for devices that had multiple sensors, have all been corrected. Finally, we also felt as though the transparency levels on inactive devices have been altered slightly, with the “tile” being slightly brighter.

Splash Screens

As we mentioned during our hands on with iOS 13 developer beta 1, we appreciated the addition of splash screens added to the Home App. We find these screens to not only provide insight as to what has been added, but also as a way to reinforce the potential power that lies within the Home App. In the second beta, Apple has added even more splash screens to explain the capabilities that have been added. The first screen that we encountered was for the new multiple user capability that has been added to the HomePod. This ability is added through a Siri voice profile that your device has developed for you, and is sent to the HomePod to enable features such as playing music from your personal library, or for accessing personal information. Users are presented with an option to continue with adding the profile or to avoid having their voice recognized. Once continue is selecting, a Personal Requests screen will appear which is similar to the one that was added in iOS 12 highlighting the ability to make calls, send messages, add notes, and review calendar entries. Finally, a screen will appear letting beta users know that these new HomePod abilities will be enabled during an update to the HomePod later this year, which pretty much confirms that Apple’s musicologist will not be seeing a beta again this year.

To our surprise, we found additional splash screens presented to us seemingly at random after perusing the Home App for a little while after installation of the second beta. This second set of screens is for Apple TV’s new multiuser support coming with tvOS 13 in the fall. We were presented with a screen asking us to “Add Your Profile to Apple TV” and options to enable this on every Apple TV in the home was available, and individual Apple TV’s can be selected using a “customize” option. Just like with the HomePod, after making our selection we were greeted with a screen that mentioned that our Apple TV needed to be on tvOS 13 to use the profile feature, which we were in the process of installing during our look around the Home App.

New Options/Controls

While there weren’t very many changes when it comes to controls and options in the second developer beta, we did manage to find a few. The first change that we found was that when adding a new device, the option to proceed without scanning a device code was now more prominently featured, and it was now a standard button. Once a new device was added, we also found a new screen suggesting potential scenes that it could be added to, presenting a list of scenes that were already created for the room that the device is assigned to. Jumping over to the camera preview window, we found that the number displayed for the time that the thumbnail for the camera last updated was now on the preview itself, in the bottom right hand corner, which looks much better than how it was displayed before (on the camera name bar). Diving into the settings for our camera, we noticed a new option to send snapshots of motion events from the camera, which could be toggled on and off to prevent these captures from being sent to others within your home.

Over in the Home settings pane (accessed by clicking on the home icon on the top left of the favorites page), we found new options relating to the aforementioned HomePod and Apple TV features. A toggle for “Recognize My Voice” was added under “Siri” and a new submenu for Apple TV profiles was found. As you might expect, the new menu allows users to control which Apple TV their profiles are accessible on, with each having a toggle that can be turned on and off.

Bugs & Remaining Issues

Seeing that this is still an early beta, we have encountered quite a few bugs in this build, including some that didn’t exist in the first release. Over on macOS Catalina Beta 2, we ran into issues where device tiles on the favorites screen would simply vanish for no apparent reason, leaving an awkward empty space. We also found that the quick menu to switch between rooms (the house icon in the top left) would sometimes fail to work at all, making it impossible to switch to a different room without using gestures on a trackpad.

Missing devices on the favorites screen in macOS Catalina

We did want to highlight one prominent “issue” that we still see with the Home App in iOS 13, which is the way that devices with multiple sensors are displayed. Unfortunately, a change was made to consolidate these devices into one device “tile”, which can cause issues with more taps being needed to trigger an action. This change has also removed the ability to see metrics that may be important to some directly from the favorites or room overview screens. In our case, we use our Onvis SMS1 Motion Sensor for keeping an eye on the temperature in all of the rooms within our house. With the grouping feature, we are now presented with motion status and humidity levels on the favorites screen, completely negating our primary use case. Of course feedback has been sent about the issue, and we sincerely hope that Apple either adds an option to change which metrics are displayed, or abandons the grouping feature altogether.

Comments or Questions?

Have you found any changes or additions in the Home App that we missed? Let us know in the comments below, or via Twitter, @HomeKit_Hero.

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