What's the Point of Apple's iPad Smart Home Docking Accessory?

It’s more for Apple’s benefit than yours

  • Rumors say Apple is working on an iPad docking station for home automation.
  • Apple’s HomeKit offer is still far behind Amazon and Google. 
  • The Apple-backed Matter will help standardize the smart home.
The Google Nest Home Hub.


Apple is rumored to be readying a dock accessory that will turn the iPad into a home-automation hub. But the iPad is already a home-automation hub—for now. 

Serial Apple rumor whisperer Mark Gurman says that Apple is working on a dedicated home-hub device and a dock accessory that lets you use the iPad as a hub for home automation. The iPad can already act as a home hub all by itself, but in the coming iPadOS 16 update, Apple will remove this ability. Add this to the new Matter home automation standard, which Apple helped to create, and things are getting pretty exciting for anyone who hates to get up to turn off their lights. 

"Apple's competitors already have similar options, like Amazon with their Echo Show, so it makes sense that this is the direction they are going in. Apple HomeKit may currently be the least popular smart home offering alongside Google Home and Amazon Alexa," Tyler Adams of smart home company Dumb Switches told Lifewire via email."However, since Google Home and Amazon Alexa allow many more third-party devices to pair with their technology, it opens up more privacy risks."

Playing Catchup

Apple's home automation offer has been somewhat spotty. In terms of privacy, it is far beyond other smart-home vendors. Amazon regularly gives video from installed Ring devices to law enforcement without user permission, and Google is, well, an advertising company interested in gathering as much data as possible about individuals. 

Apple, on the other hand, offers HomeKit Secure Video, which mitigates the privacy and security problems caused by putting internet-connected video cameras into your home. 

Amazon Echo Show 10.


But for everything else, Apple is behind. Its strict MiFi rules, required for making accessories for Apple products, make it harder for third-party hardware makers to comply. And until iOS 16, its Home app frankly sucked, and even in iOS 16, it's not exactly great. 

"Although the iPad has always had the ability to control smart devices such as lights and door locks, Apple's home automation game is still faltering," Jeroen van Gils of wireless technology company LiFi, told Lifewire via email. "There are several reasons for this. First, Apple's HomeKit platform is not compatible with many popular smart home devices. Second, Apple has been slow to add new features to HomeKit, such as voice control and web-based access."

Apple, then, is playing catch-up in this sector. Its previous attempts have been half-hearted and overpriced, like the original (and now discontinued) HomePod speaker, and whatever it does, the effort is hampered by Siri, which is still not as fast as Google or Amazon's virtual assistants. 


The answer to this is Matter, a standard for smart-home tech, to which Apple is a major contributor. All Matter-certified home-automation devices are interoperable, meaning that it doesn’t matter whether you control them from your Amazon Echo, your Google Nest hub, or your so-far-non-existent Apple home hub.

This is good news for users because we can just buy anything and know it will work, good news for gadget makers because they won’t have to support various protocols, and good for hub makers, especially Apple, because it will no longer be shut out of the majority of the market. And because Apple is one of the big creators of the standard, Matter includes the privacy benefits of Apple’s own platform. 

Amazon Echo Show 10.



This brings us back to the report of Apple’s new hub. According to Gurman, Apple is working on a standalone hub, which will have speakers and a screen, and a separate docking station for an iPad, achieving much the same. 

The problem with using an iPad as a home hub controller is that it isn’t always in the home. If you take your iPad with you and then decide you want to check that you switched off the heating when you’re at the office, tough. You’ve removed the brain from your home-automation setup. That’s why stationery items, like a HomePod speaker or AppleTV box, are better suited to the job. 

In a way, Apple’s possible new product sounds like an updated HomePod speaker combined with an iPad charging dock. Presumably, the dock part would take care of home-hubbing, while the iPad could present a convenient touch-screen UI for after you get frustrated trying to do things solely via Siri. 

Still, it sounds like a stretch, and unless Apple makes it cheap, people can just buy Nests or Rings instead. After all, with Matter, they should all work together anyway.

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