What Is the Apple Home App and How Do You Use It?

Get the best out of Apple HomeKit and the iPhone Home app

The Apple Home app lets you control HomeKit accessories from an iPhone (or iPad). HomeKit accessories are things such as lights, thermostats, and locks that you deploy around your home. Apple’s HomeKit software framework enables you to connect, manage, and automate these HomeKit accessories from the Home app.

Buy and Add HomeKit Compatible Devices

When you purchase home automation accessories, look for the “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge. This indicates that you can connect and control the accessory with your Home app. Devices that work with HomeKit include speakers, lights, switches, outlets, thermostats, windows, fans, air conditioners, humidifiers, air purifiers, sensors, security devices, locks, cameras, doorbells, garage doors, and sprinklers, among others. (To learn more about HomeKit, see Everything You Need to Know About Apple HomeKit.)

3 screenshots from Apple Home app on iPhone: (left) Main Home screen, showing device status squares, (center) Add accessory, with camera scan option, (right) Living Room detail screen, showing two lamps and a HomePod

To add a device, open your Home app and tap + in the upper right corner, then tap Add accessory. Point your iPhone (or iPad) camera at the HomeKit setup code, which is typically either on the accessory, on the accessory’s box, or on included documentation.

Some devices require an additional bridge in order to work with HomeKit. For example, to connect and control the widely available and popular Philips Hue lights, you need the Philips Hue Bridge. The bridge connects to your network with an Ethernet cable and accepts HomeKit commands, which it then relays to connect Philips Hue devices.

In some cases, you use a manufacturer’s app to add an accessory. Once you’ve added a Hue light bulb in the Hue app, for example, the app syncs information about the light with the Home app.

View and Control HomeKit Accessory Devices

Once a device is connected, you can view favorite device information in a square representing each accessory on the main Home app screen. The square displays the name of the device, along with some basic status information, depending on the type of device. A connected light, for example, might show a portion of the device name, the device type (e.g., a color or white light), and the current device status (e.g., "On" or "Off"). A connected thermostat might display the current temperature range setting (e.g., 69–75 degrees), while a connected lock might show the lock name, location, and status (e.g., "Locked" or "Unlocked").

3 screenshots from iPhone Home app: (left) thermostat adjustment controls, (center) lamp brightness at 100%, (right) color selector circle for lamp

Tap on the displayed square in the Home app to access additional controls. Tap a thermostat, then adjust the temperature control range. Tap a light, then adjust a slider to control brightness, adjust color, or other settings. A tap on the app status in the Home app can also toggle the status of some devices: Tap on a lock, for example, to either lock or unlock the device.

Group Accessories Into Rooms

The Home app allows you to create Rooms, then place devices into Rooms. You may then apply a command to every item in the room. For example, you might add four different lights into a Room named "Living Room." Or, you might identify that you have lights, outlets, and a fan in your home office.

Control Several HomeKit Devices with Scenes

A scene allows you to control several devices at once, even if those devices are in different rooms. For example, a scene might turn some lights on, turn other lights off, lock the front door, and adjust the thermostat to a specified setting. A "Movie" scene might turn off some lights, dim others, turn on the power to a sound system, and turn off a ceiling fan, all with one command. (Learn more about rooms and scenes in Getting Started with Apple HomeKit Devices.)

3 iPhone Home app screenshots: (left) new scene options, with 4 suggested scenes shown, (center) Good Night scene details, to turn everything off, (right) Bedtime custom scene that turns some lights off, and others on

Home and Siri Commands

After you configure your devices, rooms, and scenes within the Home app, you may also choose to use Siri to control each of these with voice commands. For example, you might say, "Hey, Siri, turn on the living room lights" in order to turn on every light within the "Room" you named "Living Room." This saves time since you’d otherwise have to individually issue commands to turn off (or on) each and every device in the room separately.

You can also make adjustments to sets of Home accessories. Say "Hey, Siri, dim the living room lights to 50%" to reduce the brightness of every light in your living room. Or, "Hey, Siri, Bedtime scene" to trigger a pre-defined set of actions that might, for example, turn off your living room lights and turn on your bedroom and bathroom lights.

Home App Automation

Automation allows you to program certain things to occur automatically. For example, you might set your porch light to turn on at sunset and then turn off at sunrise. You need to give the app access to your location to allow it to calculate and adjust the sunset/sunrise time throughout the year. But once configured, you have a porch light that always turns on at night with no additional action on your part.

Automation can be configured to trigger based on several events, including when people leave, when people arrive, at a specific time of day, when a sensor detects something, or when something occurs to an accessory (e.g., you turn a specific light on).

3 iPhone Home app screenshots: (left) Main automation screen, showing 2 automations, (center) New automation options, based on people arriving/leaving, time, accessory control, or sensor, (right) Sunrise automation detail to turn on porch light

Remote Control with the Home App and Home Hub

Add a Home hub and you can control many accessories remotely from your Home app. A HomePod, Apple TV 4K, or Apple TV (4th generation) can serve as a home hub. (An iPad can serve as well, but a HomePod or Apple TV is more likely to be plugged in and powered than an iPad.) Of these devices, the HomePod may be the simplest to set up: Use the phone that you used to configure your HomeKit devices when you set up your HomePod. HomeKit then lets you control your devices remotely via the Home Pod since they’re all connected to the same Apple ID and iCloud account.

With a home hub connected and configured, you can use the Home app to remotely turn lights on (or off), monitor the weather, manage HomePod timers, or adjust the thermostat. Depending on your security choices and settings, you also may be able to remotely control door locks. The Home app on your iPhone connects to the HomePod, which then lets you control connected and powered HomeKit accessories.

3 iPhone screenshots: (left) Eve Degree weatherstation chart of temperature, humidity, and air pressure over time, (center) Philips Hue scene lighting default options (e.g., Savanna sunset, Arctic aurora, etc.); (right) HomeKit & Siri settings in Philips Hue app (shows Lights, Accessories, Rooms, Scenes, and Advanced menus)

Use Both the Home App and Third-Party Apps

Often, you need to install the manufacturer’s app to get the most out of an accessory, since it typically offers additional data and/or controls. For example, in the Home app, the Eve Degree connected weather station device displays the current temperature and humidity. However, the Eve for HomeKit app tracks and displays temperature, humidity, and air pressure data over time. Similarly, the Philips Hue app offers several preset lighting configurations, as well as the ability to apply lighting settings to devices in a room quickly. The app also serves as a way to update Hue device firmware.

Third-party apps often sync data with the Home app. You can use the Hue app to add a new light and add that light to your "Living Room" setup. The app can sync those settings with your HomeKit configuration, so that the light appears in the correct Room and with the correct status in the Home app, as well.

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