iHome App Review: Half a HomeKit App

The best way to look at the iHome management app is as a necessary evil if you happen to have any iHome devices (primarily the iSP5 switch). If that is the case, you will need the iHome app to set up the switch and manage any firmware updates.

Beyond that, the app itself isn’t very useful as a HomeKit system manager.

iHome iOS App

The app is aware of your HomeKit rooms, zones, scenes and (to a limited extent) triggers. However, the only devices that appear in the app are power switching devices – it doesn’t recognize or display things like Hue lights, sensors, thermostats, etc.

iHome management app: device and room listings only show power control switches.

While the app ostensibly supports trigger and scene management, any scenes you have built in other apps that include non-switch devices will show those devices as a blank line in the scene editor. I would be very cautious about actually editing your scenes from within the iHome app as it is unclear what it will do with these non-switch devices.

For triggers, the iHome app supports basic time based HomeKit triggers and has support for Nest driven triggers. I don’t have a Nest device, so I wasn’t able to test or investigate the options for Nest integration, but for systems that use both HomeKit devices and Nest devices this feature might be appealing as it is the only manufacturer supported app I am aware of that would allow for integration between the two systems.

iHome Scenes and Triggers
iHome App Scenes and Trigger creation: As you can see, the app doesn’t display non-switch devices properly, with just blank rows for those devices in scenes you have created in other HomeKit apps.

The app also supports integration with the Wink platform, so you can add your iHome switches to your Wink setup either from within the iHome app, or from within the Wink app.

iHome Devices

The HomeKit compatible switches that iHome sells are nice, functional switches. At this time, the iSP5 is the only switch product available from iHome, but they have announced the iSP8 that will be released at some point this year. The iSP8 will also incorporate power consumption monitoring and tracking, and it will come with a physical remote control for the switch.

My main issue with the iHome iSP5 switches is that they don’t recover gracefully from network resets. Every time I reboot my router I’ve found that the iHome switches will disconnect from the router and won’t reconnect unless you power cycle the iHome switch manually, which typically means unplugging it and plugging it back in. Two of my switches are located behind the entertainment center bureau, so every time I need to reset these I have to pull the whole bureau out and reset them, which is a major pain.

That said, the switches have a nice form factor and are easy to set up. Relative to the other HomeKit switches I have tested to date they are generally a solid option.

Bottom Line

Once you use the iHome app to set up your iHome switches you won’t be using it again for any HomeKit system management, as it doesn’t support the majority of your HomeKit devices. I do recommend opening it up occasionally to check for firmware updates on the iHome switches, but if it wasn’t for that you could probably get away with deleting it from your phone after you set up the switches.

iDevices Connected App: Your HomeKit Scene Builder

Expanding on our reviews of HomeKit control apps, this post reviews the iDevices HomeKit control app for iOS.

The iDevices app falls into the category of manufacturer created apps for HomeKit management, as iDevices manufactures a handful of HomeKit compatible devices, including indoor and outdoor plug-in outlet switches, thermostats and cooking thermometers. Recently, Weber purchased the grilling and kitchen thermometer product line from iDevices, so it will be interesting to see where that goes in the future.

It is worth noting that, unlike many of the other manufacturer apps we will review, we have not yet tested any of iDevices actual devices or products, so this review will not include the brief device review section some of the other manufacturer app reviews have included.

iDevices Connected iOS App

iDevices iOS Room View
The room view in the iDevices app. From this view you can turn devices on or off, but you need to tap into the device to make more complex changes to its state.

The iDevices Connected app (iTunes link, iDevices website link) is one of my favorite manufacturer built HomeKit control apps. As noted in our review of the Elgato Eve iOS app, the Eve app is my go-to app for quick control of the system, but I always keep the iDevices app handy as well for more in-depth system configuration and management.

The main drawback to the iDevices app is that it takes more steps than is probably absolutely necessary to make changes to a device’s status. This is especially irritating when trying to adjust the color or brightness of a Hue device. In the Eve app, I am able to go to the room that contains the light, tap on the characteristic I want to change which causes that characteristic to expand inline in the room view, and adjust the characteristic as desired. In the iDevices app, from the room view I can turn the device on or off, but to edit other characteristics I need to tap into the device, and then tap into the characteristic I want to edit, which opens a view of the characteristic from which I can actually make the changes I want to make. While the total number of taps is about the same, the fact that the iDevices app has to load multiple additional views to complete this action slows the process down tremendously.

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Elgato Eve App: Good HomeKit Management Tool

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

eve app room view
The Eve app’s room view The background image here is an actual image of the office these devices are located in, but it isn’t annoying because the details are blurred out.

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).

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HomeKit + Wink Together

My primary goal with my SmartHome setup was to use HomeKit compatible devices, as my wife and I are both pretty invested in the Apple ecosystem: I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro sitting on a table with an iPad, an iPhone and a really old Mini I’m trying to install node.js on – you’ll hear more about that soon though.

Even if we weren’t make users, I think there is a lot about HomeKit that is very appealing to a consumer like me. In theory the way HomeKit works I can use any HomeKit compatible device with any HomeKit compatible app, and any device inside the HomeKit bubble can talk to every other device inside the bubble.

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Hue, me?

hueroom

The core of my SmartHome system are the Philips Hue lights. I started with a Hue Bridge, two Hue White bulbs (which are available in multiple form factors, including A19, E26, BR30 and PAR16), a Hue Go and a Hue Lightstrip and within a week of installing those I had replaced every light in our home with Hue lighting (except two cans in the kitchen that we are waiting to have the Hue replacements installed in and a halogen reading lamp I love and won’t give up, but do have on an iHome on/off switch and Leviton dimmer switch).

I absolutely love the Hue system. In addition to the lighting products mentioned previously, our setup now includes a handful of the Hue Color Bulbs, two Hue Blooms and soon two Hue Phoenix Downlights (cans). It was just frustrating to have some of the lights controllable by the Hue controls and others not, and now using physical switches just seems archaic. I even broke down and got another Hue Bridge and two white bulbs as a “Hue White Starter Kit” for the lamps in my office at work (setting up another bridge with the phone that controls my home Hue Bridge was more difficult than I expected, I’ll discuss that challenge in a future post).

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