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Apple HomeHub – What an iPad and HomePod Merger Will Deliver



If Apple is going to release a HomePod-like product with a monitor, it has to do more than sound good and look good. We’re researching some rumors in many years and the features Apple should incorporate to create a truly unique device.

Apple discontinued the original HomePod, but that does not mean that the entire lineup is dead. The HomePod mini is alive and well, and Apple can develop more smart home devices based on the legs of the original HomePod.

A report from Bloomberg Monday morning suggested that Apple has been working on different home devices in different form factors – especially those with monitors and cameras. Apple secretly repeats several versions of potential products before choosing a version to release.

The report also mentioned an updated HomePod was expected in 2022, but may have been canned due to HomePod’s cancellation.

Since Apple’s entry into the market for smart speakers after competitors Amazon, Facebook and Google, there has been speculation about a possible HomePod with screen. Monday’s report has aroused renewed interest in such a device, so let’s examine what this device may ultimately be and what features it should contain to be as much as it can be for as wide an audience as possible.

Apple’s current home hubs

While we talk more about HomeKit a bit, in short, to get the most out of Apple’s home automation of HomeKit, you need a Home Hub. In short, this is a dedicated device, in the home, it is the central oak in the wheel that is the smart home. Without Home Hub, you cannot control HomeKit peripherals outside the home.

Apple sells three device categories that can serve as a Home Hub – Apple TV, HomePod and iPad. Each of these devices offers an overlapping set of features that will be useful in a single product.

Characteristics HomePod iPad Apple TV HomeHub
Multi-user Yes no Yes Yes
Show no Yes Yes (via HDMI) Yes
Multiple microphones Yes no no Yes
Always on Yes no Yes Yes
Contains sensitive information no Yes no no

HomePod

HomePod: great sound, no screen, lots of microphones

HomePod: great sound, no screen, lots of microphones

Users can command the HomePod to play music, control their home, send messages or provide voice information. There is no dedicated screen for the HomePod, but some features can be controlled via devices such as an iPhone, iPad or Mac.

The benefits of owning a HomePod include excellent audio and voice commands that fill the space for HomeKit actions. Apple hoped this would be enough to justify the $ 350 price, but in the end it was considered expensive and saw a price reduction to $ 299 before the final end in March 2021.

HomePods limitations are related to the form factor. It has no screen, nor can it throw content to other screens. In most situations, it is better for users to get information from Siri on their iPhone where the data is displayed and can be referenced.

IPad

iPad: Great screen, few microphones and small speakers

iPad: Great screen, few microphones and small speakers

Using an iPad is often a suggestion to fix the limitations of the HomePod, but this presents a new set of problems. For example, which family member would sign in with their Apple ID, leave it unlocked, or share the password? This concern alone leads to a number of privacy and security issues. Creating a fake Apple ID is not always an option, as some families may already have six members.

Like the HomePod, the iPad is great as a home office since it can be placed anywhere. However, due to the portable and personal nature of the iPad, users may not want a dedicated iPad limited to a wall or countertop.

The iPad also does not have as many microphones as the full-size HomePod and will not listen for alternative voices. There is also the problem of the internal battery wearing out or the screen being burned out. An “Apple HomeHub” tablet device always addresses one on screen in software where the iPad does not take these considerations into account.

Apple was able to solve the iPad problem by adding multi-user support. This will allow authentication systems such as Touch ID or Face ID to work across users of the device. The ability to add Apple Watch Unlock to iPad for family members will require each member to have their watch attached to the iPad.

Apple TV

Apple TV: Need a screen, good media interface, no microphones that always listen

Apple TV: Need a screen, good media interface, no microphones that always listen

Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD can both act as home buttons. They need a TV to display information and can be placed anywhere you want a screen.

The TVOS software enables support for multiple users and makes it easy to find media. HomeKit also has a presence here with HomeKit camera integration and stage controls.

Apple TV cannot listen to voice commands by itself, and can only receive voice or touch commands via Siri Remote. There are no microphones in the Apple TV hardware.

Users do not have access to sensitive data or login information when browsing Apple TV. Only relevant apps are available, and purchases can be hidden behind a password.

A hybrid Home Hub solution

Apple could borrow from other products for the 'HomeHub' design, such as the Pro Display XDR

Apple could borrow from other products for the ‘HomeHub’ design, such as the Pro Display XDR

Each of Apple’s Home Hubs has strengths and weaknesses based on form factors. Apple can benefit from offering a new product in the Home Hub category that combines the best of everything.

The “HomeHub” hybrid will be similar to the HomePod by being a dedicated speaker with excellent sound, having a screen similar to an iPad, and viewing apps and data via tvOS.

The current HomePod and HomePod mini run tvOS. This means that they already have the framework required to display the tvOS interface, apps and features.

Apple can add features like iMessage and FaceTime to “HomeHub”. The code was discovered by MacRumors in tvOS shows that Apple has added FaceTime and iMessage frames, along with a new AVFCapture framework related to taking pictures.

After authenticating a specific user via biometrics, passwords or Apple Watch, “HomeHub” will provide access to features such as FaceTime or iMessage for a specific user. Otherwise, the hub will only display HomeKit controls and a screen saver.

All of these things make up a compelling new device that will compete with similar offerings from Amazon and Google.

About HomeKit …

Apple's HomeKit is available on all devices, but lacks a central hub

Apple’s HomeKit is available on all devices, but lacks a central hub

A recent report cites home automation control as one of the most significant driving factors for smart screens in the home, and it is expected to continue to grow by more than 30 percent in the coming years.

Google markets its own smart screen under the Nest brand, calling it the Nest Hub. The latest version of the device was just released in March 2021, with even more improvements to the smart home.

Amazon has its own smart screen and an army of third-party Alexa-enabled smart screens that work in the same way as Alexa-approved smart home devices.

As it stands, there is no smart monitor available that is capable of controlling HomeKit devices. Some devices, such as Hue bulbs, work with Alexa and Google Assistant and Amazon and Google smart screens by extension. Still, devices that only support HomeKit – such as Eve and Logitech devices – are left in the cold.

This creates a gap for HomeKit users who then have to choose between jumping to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and leaving HomeKit and Siri or creating their own from an iPad on a stand. But as we discussed – the entry-level iPad has sub-par speakers and no dashboard user interface suitable for a central home command center.

Dedicated HomeKit control

A really smart Apple display could include controlling HomeKit devices, acting as a Home Hub, and possibly even opening a new category for third-party HomeKit devices.

Like the HomeKit Home Hub, it can work in the same way as a HomePod or Apple TV. It will be responsible for controlling the HomeKit Secure camcorders, providing remote access to your devices and acting as a border router for your wires.

As it stands, third-party devices do not have access to HomeKit camera feeds and cannot control HomeKit devices outside of the limited button support. Ring and August users can have their Brilliant smart wall panel display on the door. Brilliant can control the Hue bulbs, your shadow, the Sonos speakers and can even be displayed in the Home app as a switch, but fails to control HomeKit-specific devices.

If Apple explored this route, it could unlock this capability for third-party products like Brilliant and let them see your cameras as well as control your HomeKit devices.

This route will give us a true Apple smart screen with full support and control for your HomeKit devices, a live view of your camera feeds, as well as unlock new features for third-party HomeKit devices.

Apple’s smart home is just beginning

Apple Home used to demonstrate the HomePod mini

Apple Home used to demonstrate the HomePod mini

Apple has not given up the smart home yet. HomeKit devices are becoming more accessible, and the addition of Thread makes things work even better.

In 2019, it was reported that Apple hired more personnel for the HomeKit team. Apple’s product timelines typically last around two years, so expect announcements from this renewed initiative soon.

Apple needs to release new products to compete at home. Be it an “Apple TV 6” or “HomeHub”, something must change the customer’s perspective to get traction in the room.

Stay up to date on all Apple news straight from your HomePod. Say “Hi, Siri, play AppleInsider” and you’ll get the latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask HomePod mini for “AppleInsider Daily” instead, and you’ll hear a quick update directly from our news team. And if you’re interested in Apple-centric home automation, say “Hi, Siri, play HomeKit Insider,” then you’ll be listening to our latest specialized podcast right now.


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