Introduction to App Reviews
This is the first in what will be a series of posts reviewing the various options for controlling, configuring and managing your HomeKit setup via iOS app. Typically a device requires you to use the manufacturer’s app for its initial setup and configuration, but once your device is added to your HomeKit home you are able to manage that device from any of the HomeKit compatible apps.
These apps can be divided into two categories: manufacturer apps and third-party apps. At the time of this writing, none of the apps provided by device manufacturers support creating and editing triggers, so if you want to take advantage of HomeKit triggers you will need to use a third party app at a minimum to manage your triggers.
Where feasible, when reviewing a manufacturer HomeKit control app we will also provide brief reviews of any devices sold by that manufacturer that we have experience with and are able to review.
With that out of the way, the first HomeKit control app review will cover the Elgato Eve iOS app.
Eve iOS App
The Elgato Eve app (iTunes link, Elgato Eve website link) is currently one of the best HomeKit system management apps. The interfaces are very quick to load and the app is very responsive, both in terms of HomeKit devices responding to commands itsends and in terms of the UI of the app itself on iOS. There is also a moderate level of configurability, with a decent icon set for devices and the way it uses photos as blurry backgrounds is cool (you can take a pictures of your rooms and set them as the background for the room’s views in the app and it isn’t annoying or tacky because the app blurs the photo).
A couple nit-picky things about the app would be the lack of trigger configuration support, but none of the HomeKit hardware device manufacturer’s apps seem to support that yet. The way the app handles scene execution is also pretty inelegant compared to the rest of the app, like it was tacked on as an afterthought. This seems to be true of manufacturer apps in general as well though. I have yet to find one where scene execution isn’t tucked away into a menu or other not very logical view/location in the app.
Also, for some reason my door/window sensor still calls itself a “Door” and displays the door icon in the status line even though I’ve changed the “Used For” parameter to the large four-paned window icon in the accessory settings view.
Despite these nit-picks, at this time the Eve app is my go-to app for controlling my HomeKit setup. Eve’s app wins on speed to execution, the time elapsed from when I first open the app to when my desired modification is executed, and that is probably the most important variable in a HomeKit control app for day-to-day use.
I do use other apps for building and managing scenes and triggers though, which I will discuss in future reviews (specifically, iDevices for Scene management and Home for triggers).
There is also an iPad version of the Eve app, which isn’t significantly different than the iPhone version. It does take advantage of the iPad’s larger display size to maintain the room list view on screen at all times with the room list on the left and the contents of the room displayed to the right.
The door/window sensor looks nice (much more aesthetically pleasing than competitive products), installs easily and is relatively inexpensive. However, at this time it doesn’t support HomeKit triggers, which renders a sensor fairly useless as a component in your SmartHome system. I bought one to try it out and installed it on a large window in my living room, intending to trigger a scene that turns off my thermostat if the window is opened, but without trigger support I can’t do that. As others have pointed out in reviews in the iTunes App Store, pretty much everything you would want to do with a door or window sensor as part of a SmartHome system isn’t possible without triggers.
Elgato has promised an app and firmware update soon that will provide trigger support for the devices as well as trigger configuration support in their app. I contacted their support team to find out when I could expect that update recently. The response I received didn’t commit to a release date but did state that developers are working on it and that it will hopefully be soon.
The Eve outdoor weather station is OK. It provides temperature, humidity and air pressure. You can export the data from the app and view basic graphs of it in the app with minimal manipulation of the graphs available (changing view timeframes, comparing the current data to the previous hour/day/week/month). I only have the Eve outdoor station (I don’t currently own one of the corresponding Eve Room indoor sensors), but I also have the netatmo weather station that is sold packaged with an indoor device and I like the netatmo weather experience better overall even though it isn’t HomeKit compatible (although there is a Homebridge plug-in that works fairly well, I don’t have a stable Homebridge host working yet). Netatmo’s app is able to focus on weather related features only and is a bit more robust in that regard, and it also has a web interface and nice iPad app. Netatmo also has a rain gauge that can be added to the weather station to provide an additional data point (precipitation) and will be releasing a wind gauge component for the weather station soon.
My hope is that the upcoming firmware updates will add support for triggers based on characteristics of the weather station, the indoor room sensor and the door/window sensor. With access to triggers from the window sensor, an indoor room sensor (which I would consider adding to my system if triggers become available based the sensor’s data points) and the weather station on my porch I think I can put together some pretty powerful control scripts for my HVAC (which uses an ecobee3 thermostat, also HomeKit compatible and therefore accessible to scenes I can trigger via HomeKit).
At this time, I highly recommend the Eve iOS app. The devices are fun and nice looking, but without triggers they aren’t very useful as much more than toys.
That said, Eve support has reassured me that the upcoming firmware updates to support triggers will be compatible with previously bought and installed devices, so you should feel confident buying the hardware at this time and knowing it will at some point in the near future provide real functionality in the form of HomeKit scene triggers.