I love to write on the Apple Watch, and I love to write on smart home devices. It’s not often that I find a reason to write about the two together, but watchOS 8 might just have changed that.
Among other useful updates like a much improved messaging experience and an added Find My Devices app, watchOS 8 introduces a redesigned HomeKit app. And in the few weeks since the full software went live, I’ve used HomeKit more than ever.
For a long time, HomeKit has lacked compared to the ever-growing skills of Alexa and Google Assistant. While I use Siri on my iPhone when I’m on the go or need help texting, AI butlers from Amazon and Google have proven to be more effective at home.
But Apple has stepped up its smart home efforts, launching the reasonably priced, powerful-sounding HomePod mini last year, challenging the best Alexa speakers and the best Google Home speakers with a version that allows people to invoke Siri.
The new material wasn’t enough to convince me, however. I have enough of the best smart speakers already. While the gradual growth in the company’s compatibility with smart home brands of all sizes piqued my interest somewhat, I still abstained.
But watchOS 8 (with some HomeKit improvements in iOS 15) promised to make my Apple Watch 6 the ultimate smart home controller. The revamped app puts the key to controlling all of your eligible smart home devices right at your fingertips. It’s very James Bond, and I love it.
I started with one of the best smart bulbs that works with HomeKit. It was an Edison bulb with warm Sylvania shades that I had dragged. I didn’t want to create a Sylvania account or download another smart home app to my phone, so I went with the HomeKit setup.
Within 5 minutes of taking the bulb out of its box, it was on, connected to my HomeKit profile, and ready to be controlled from my wrist. I even did a TikTok on this (speaking of, did you Tom’s Guide tracking on TikTok again?) to show how well watchOS 8’s new HomeKit layout turns smart lights on and off.
The new #HomeKit app design for #applewatch is a victory 🥇 #apple #lights #smartlights #smarthome #tech #techtok #applewatchtips #hacks #foryou
If you have one of the best security cameras that work with HomeKit, you might see a little stream of it on your wrist. I don’t have one in my apartment right now, although I feel the Apple Watch 7’s larger screen will make recording your cameras more convenient.
Some of the best Fitbit smartwatches, like the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3, already let you control your Alexa-enabled devices from your wrist with voice commands. The Apple Watch adds an effortless visual element, allowing me to turn on a light without using my voice. When I’m relaxing at night and want mood lighting, I don’t necessarily want to talk to Siri.
I still think HomeKit has a long way to go before it catches up with Alexa and Google Assistant. For now, I see it as an addition to my existing IoT system, picking out some of the best HomeKit devices to add to my space. But I wouldn’t do it without the new look of the app in watchOS 8 – hopefully it sees continuous improvements and it’s not a one-time upgrade.