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Apple drops the iPad as a smart home hub in iOS 16

Thursday June 9, 2022. 01:32 PM , from Mac Central
Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. The company announced a raft of exciting new software features at its WWDC keynote, but promptly followed this up with a startlingly long list of devices that wouldn’t be able to get them. And now we learn that the intriguing new updates to HomeKit and the Home app are balanced by the caveat that iPads will no longer be able to serve as home hubs.

When setting up an Apple-based smart home, you can pick a central hub that will remain in the home at all times: this will receive commands, send out notifications, control automations and generally tell the other components what to do. In the past, the hub could be an Apple TV, a HomePod, or an iPad, but as of the launch of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 this fall, that list will be shortened by one.

As spotted and flagged by Tech Crtr on Twitter, the footnotes to Apple’s iOS 16 preview contain the following note:


Apple hasn’t offered any explanation for this change, although it isn’t massively surprising; the iPad was always the odd man out, given that people quite often take them out of the house and portability is a fundamental part of the appeal. Absent-mindedly slinging your iPad in a bag and taking it on the train could lead to automations failing to execute and your family being inconvenienced by having to turn on the lights manually–or worse, depending on how deep your smart home integration goes.

So now it’s Apple TV or HomePod only. The latter includes the HomePod mini, happily, given how few full-size HomePods Apple appears to have sold before discontinuing the model. Neither are historically known as bestsellers by Apple’s standards and perhaps this will nudge a few additional sales. Or perhaps it will harm interest in the HomeKit-based ecosystem.

It’s probably fair to say, overall, that Apple has yet to launch the definitive home hub product that takes pride of place in the living room. The HomePods are peripheral, while the Apple TV remains niche and often superfluous in a world of smart TVs and cheaper rival offerings. Maybe a HomePod with a screen is the answer we’re all waiting for.

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