By Dan Moren
October 3, 2017 8:48 AM PT
Philips Hue switches and sensors now work in iOS’s Home app…mostly
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Smart home devices are still a morass of different apps and standards, so when I get a chance to consolidate, I jump at it. Thus, this morning’s update to the Philips Hue iOS app and firmware, which lets you configure your Hue switches and sensors from iOS’s own Home app, seemed like a great opportunity to simplify my setup.
But, as it so often turns out, the results were kind of mixed.
Consolidation is a plus here–I like having all my devices accessible in a single app, rather than having to run around to multiple apps and try to remember where I set all my rules.1 There are a couple other nice touches in the Home app integration as well: for example, now that I have my Hue motion sensor in the Home app–and it displays as three separate sensors, which…okay–it tells me the temperature and light level in my office. I can even ask Siri what the temperature in the office is, which is pretty cool.
However, the downsides to this integration are more apparent. Apple’s automation features are still pretty rudimentary, and the app takes a blunt instrument approach to handling some of the specific features of these devices.
First off, as nice as it is that the Home app can display both light and temperature sensor data from the motion sensor, there is no way–as far as I can tell–to automate based on that information. You can’t create an action to trigger on a certain temperature or light level…which is exactly what I’ve been doing. Instead, Apple only lets you trigger automation based on the motion part of the sensor. I get that it’s the most obvious use case, but hey, if we have all this other information, we should be able to use it, right?
More annoying, however, is Apple’s treatment of some of the Hue switches. I can’t complain about the Tap Switch, which is easy to configure and use in the Home app, but the Hue dimmer switch is treated, to its detriment, exactly the same as the Tap Switch. This is a bummer, because the dimmer switch’s default configuration in the Hue app is pretty good: in addition to On and Off buttons, there are two dimmer buttons–one lowers the light level incrementally with each press, the other raises the light level. But in the Home app, you can’t configure those the same way–instead, each button has to perform only a single discrete action on a press. So you could set the dimmer buttons to, say, 75 percent and 50 percent brightness, respectively, but there’s no way to get the finer grained control that the Hue app offers.
Likewise, the Philips app lets you configure the dimmer switch to toggle between multiple scenes/actions depending on how many times you press the On button. (It supports up to five presses, which I always thought was a bit excessive, but I now kind of miss.) The Home app only supports an action for a single press–though it does specifically say it’s a single press, which makes me wonder if multiple presses might be supported in the future.
I’m going to try and switch control of the dimmer switches back to the Hue app (although the Home app doesn’t make it readily apparent how to remove control of devices) until Apple’s home control gets a little more nuance. As it is, the company’s smart home support seems to be improving by fits and starts. I’m glad that iOS 11 added more capabilities to the Home app, and it’s a positive that Apple has somewhat relaxed its HomeKit standards to make it easier for third parties to integrate their products. But in the truest Apple fashion, it seems to make top-down decisions about how people will use smart home technology; it sure doesn’t feel like the company is necessarily casting a wide net for how people actually use these devices.
- As it happens, the Hue app update will also now display routines created by other apps and that is a godsend. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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