iOS 16 Home app preview: What’s new in Apple’s HomeKit smart home app – The Verge

Apple’s Home app has always felt like an afterthought. Probably because it was. Apple didn’t want to make an app to control its HomeKit home automation software framework; it didn’t release one until two years after HomeKit launched. Even when the Home app finally arrived with iOS 10 in 2016, it rarely saw any significant updates, and progress felt painfully slow. But with iOS 16 arriving this fall, the app is getting a ground-up redesign. It feels like Apple is finally taking its little smart home project seriously.

I’ve been testing the new Home app on an iPhone 13 since the iOS 16 public beta was released on July 11th (it’s also coming to the iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch). While on the surface, the redesign is mainly aesthetic (Pretty icons! Redesigned buttons! New wallpaper!), it’s Apple’s aesthetic. Which is to say, it’s a software design that looks good and works well; that’s not something I could say about the old Home app.

The old Home app (on an iPhone SE) and the new Home app (on an iPhone 13).

All this effort is clearly motivated by the impending launch of Matter, the new smart home standard developed by Apple along with Google, Amazon, Samsung SmartThings, and many others. When Matter arrives later this year, many more devices will be able to work in HomeKit. Today, there are fewer than 1,000 HomeKit-compatible devices. Compare that to the more than 100,000 that work with Amazon’s Alexa smart home platform, and you can see Apple has a lot of work to do.

Apple didn’t release the Home app until two years after HomeKit launched

Part of that work is rebuilding the underlying architecture of the Home app to prepare it for Matter, and the other part is redesigning the interface to make it usable with more than 20 devices paired to it. Other than a few teething problems, Apple has largely succeeded in terms of usability. The new Home app is easier to navigate, has more intuitive controls, and, most importantly (to me), lets you arrange your devices how you want them.

When you open the new app, you’re no longer confronted with an endless list of “Accessories” (such a descriptive word … ) and “Favorites” (how am I supposed to pick favorites between my lamps?), followed by a stream of camera snapshots. Instead, thanks to some horizontal wizardry, you still see your Favorites and Cameras but can now scroll quickly to all your Rooms. Plus, thanks to a new Shortcuts section at the top, you can easily sort all your devices by type: Lights, Security, Climate, Speakers & TV, and Water. This organizational structure turns what used to be a frustrating tap, swipe, and peck experience to turn on a light or unlock a door into something akin to usable.

But while the new Home app is much easier to use, it still lacks some crucial tools that could make a HomeKit-powered home truly smart.

The three biggest changes coming to the Apple Home app

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