tech: Apple Home long-term frustrations and vital tricks

I’ve been trying to be all Apple Homekit for the last three years and it has gone so, so. Some things work, but some of the time is how I would summarize it. Still, I miss it when we go to a hotel and I can’t just say, “Siri turn off the lights”.

TL;dr Summary

Setup, Updates (and Reset) are clumsy and different by the manufacturer. These devices are pretty cranky particularly when you move them from one house to another. The setup is also confusing because some have dedicated applications and then you hit some button to send the configuration over to Apple Home while others are “headless”, you just use Apple Home. All in all, Apple does not manage setup very well and leaves it to each vendor and the result is pretty much chaos. Each vendor tries to keep you in their world and the worst case, they import all the Apple devices into their proprietary applications, so can end up with automation and controls everywhere. The main thing is that all this stuff relies on QR codes which are buried on the devices, so you have to have your file of these things in the times that you need to reset things.

Devices disappear and are not responsive a lot. This is frustrating when a device (looking at you Onvia and WeMo) disappears from the Apple Home and becomes unresponsive even when nothing changes. The peer-to-peer system breaks down quite a bit with 40 devices in the home (there are 12 Apple HomePod Mini’s alone). I suspect that all this contention causes problems and also the WiFi stacks of many of these are just bad.

Thread and Matter Devices are 60% working. Something happened with iOS 17 and the other releases at the same time. Today, I can get only one of my Thread devices (The Sleekpoint AirVersa) to run, the Aqara FP2 Presence Sensor and the Kasa TP-125M seems to work now but was hard to install (see below) because it is confusing how you use the Apple Home application vs their dedicated applications. You have to use both because Apple Home does not support firmware updates and when Apple Home breaks, the diagnostic is to look at the proprietary application. The other two, Onvia Smart Plug and the new Aqara Thread Contact Sensor just seem to install but then become unresponsive

Apple Airplay 2 does not play reliably across speakers and Siri does not know where devices are. This used to work well, but in the latest iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, this has gotten flaky. Also with the latest release, you can’t say “Siri turn on the lights”, it looks like the idea that it knows what room you are in doesn’t work. You can watch the lights flash as they process and nothing happens. With Airplay 2, it seems to work OK with one or two devices, but if you want say every HomePod to play, one or two will consistently not be found. If you click on the Mac, the button just returns unchecked. Same with the iPhone.

Lack of Diagnostics and the need to reboot every device and reset all of them. The biggest problem is that this is a big peer-to-peer network with no diagnostics. The Eve application is probably the best at this, but a complex home setup is a nightmare to set up and more importantly to figure out what is wrong. Also with a peer-to-peer network, trying to debug the controller means you have to every room and power cycle every HomePod and Apple TV to get to restart which is not fun. The typical diagnostic which is to factory reset every Apple Home device (every light, every switch, every HomePod) is just not practical when you have 20+ light bulbs and 40+ devices.

Home: Apple Home Devices and Codes

To get this thing to work. Sometimes you have to reboot the Apple HomePod in Control. Go to Home > Home Settings > Home Hubs and Bridges and reboot the one. 

Note that I’ve had times when no hubs are responding. Be patient and it will come back sometimes. This can be frustrating. I’m pretty sure that with 14 devices what is happening is that some devices are missing, but since there are no diagnostic tools that I can find, it makes it hard to know what is connecting to what and why. I do use UniFi and can see all the devices and they all have IP addresses, but it seems like there is a higher-level problem.

As an aside, this happens a lot with Bonjour and Discovery in the old days. As an example, today, I can’t find our HP ColorJet with our Macs, but it works fine with the iPhone. Go figure.

But here is a list of products and also notes on how to reset and use them, it’s a mis-mash of proprietary applications and using Apple Home which makes it confusing.

Apple HomePod Not Responding Intermittently

And suddenly the HomePod would stop responding. Sigh. It recovers after 30 minutes. I finally just took all 12 HomePods down to start again. It is so frustrating to have this happen.

Phillips Hue (Reset in Hue App, do not use Matter connection)

The control is from the Hue applications. You have to manually sync the names note that it looks for the first part of the string to name things. So if you try to sync. It thinks it’s a new hub and you get duplicated everywhere. Also, these are Zigbee devices and have to be close enough to work so you need to put the hub pretty close and most importantly if you have to have enough lights next to each other via mesh, but I was able to get it to go across into the garage which is pretty good.

The problem is Hue like these these other apps have their own management layer and go to sync. Eufy works the best. There’s no sync at all. For instance, both Hue and Apple have automation. And they are totally different and confusing. Also, sometimes the bulbs are just not responsive. You relaly have to power cycle them which is really too bad, but resetting the whole thing seems like the only solution.

Also, it supports matter but it’s super confusing and doesn’t have all the features, so I just leave it with Hue only. Note that there are times when some Hue devices are not responding and others are available. Also, the delay to change can be very long. Overall, it’s sort of a D experience, that is fine for a techie but not for someone who just wants the lights to work.

The other confusing thing is naming, it is never clear if you should use the room name with the light or not. Hue does have this sync with Apple Home and I find that if I name them with the room name, then it seems to know what room to put them in.

The control is from the Hue applications. You have to manually sync the names note that it looks for the first part of the string to name things. So if you try to sync. It thinks it’s a new hub and you get duplicated an everywhere. 

The problem is Hue like these these other apps has its own management layer and goes to sync. Eufy works the best. There’s sync at all. For instance both Hue and Apple have automations. And they are totally different confusing. 

Also it supports matter but it’s super confusing and doesn’t have all the features of the regular Homekit connection, so probably you should just stay with Homekit for now

First Alert OneLink Fire and Smoke (Reset in App, use 2.4GHz only)

Originally, this was the single most frustrating device I’ve ever used, it would just refuse to connect to Apple Home. The most important thing is that this that the phone that you use to set it up must be 2.4GHz only network. However in 2023, they really improved alot, so it does setup reliably which is a relief. Of course, its sort of impossible to know if it will really work because you can’t really test it, it just always reports available though which is somewhat comforting.

Also like all the devices using Apple Home, you cannot just move it from one home to another. You have to do a full reset by pressing top button five times and remove from Onelink app to make it work. As with all these devices, the official troubleshooting guide is useless.

Install with Onelink app which auto syncs and adds the WiFi. Make sure you are on 2.4GHz or it will fail. Believe me I’ve tried. As an aside, you can try to delete it from one home and move it to another and it appears to install, but the Alarm shows “no response”. This is another case where things sort of work and having only one diagnostic messages (the 404 of Apple Home is “no response”) is really frustrating 

Also, you can try to run a test from the Onelink application, but this doesn’t seem to work. Also setup requires a bluetooth connection so need to be near the device with the app

Note that Apple Home doesn’t do much with these sensors, you just get a smoke or CO2 detection and this is shown in the upper title bar. You don’t really see a full device.

This device must be 2.4GHz only. Reset by pressing top button five times and remove from Onelink app. Install with Onelink app which auto syncs and adds the WiFi. Make sure you are on 2.4GHz or it will fail

Cannot move to a new home. Needs a full reset. Home installs but gets no response. It does include Includes Siri questions. Testing from app doesn’t work at first and note the sound is loud. Use Bluetooth so need to be near the device with the app to test it (if it were to every work)

Very little data in Apple home except smoke or co2 detection. Use Eve app to diagnose. Shows good even though Apple home app reports unreachable, so that’s frustrating.

Eve Room (power flaky), Reset with pinhole

I found that the Eve application is the place to go to diagnose Apple Home. But, even if it shows good in the Eve App, the Apple Home app will still report it as unreachable. For the Eve devices, the Eve Outdoor seems to work well, but the Eve Room seems pretty flaky, the micro-usb connector seems to not work well and the 2.4GHz connection doesn’t work well either as even with strong WiFi it will show not connected. Note that this is for the older Eve Room, the new Eve Room 3 has thread.

I learned that if the Eve Room goes to lower power mode, the only way to get it to work is to use the pin hole reset on the back and start all over. The Weather is a similar device but it doesn’t have power and so it is only battery powered, I just got it so don’t know how long the battery will last.

The other product we have is the Eve Water Guard which is a newer device. It has a Thread border router and is powered. The sensing uses a long cable which is really nice. We will probably use some version of this to look for water intrusion from the doors around the house.

The history only works in the Eve application for the Room and Weather sensing and you have to hit refresh to get it to download the information. I haven’t found a way to export it yet.

Aqara (non-Matter devices needs Aqara App)

We have the older M1S hub which support Apple Home over WiFi and then has a Zigbee radio for older Aqara products. We have the Aqara Door and Window sensor and the Aqara water leak sensor. Install with Aqara app first, then get next to the device as it uses Bluetooth. You will need to scan the Apple Home code after you get it to work. The Aqara app automatically chains to the Apple Home setup.

The Aqara application itself has got of alot of widgets, there are dashboards, there are automations and everything else which is pretty confusing. Note that a Reset needed to move to another house. And this was a disaster. 

Since I had already bound a contact sensor despite the reset it remembers it. And also the leak sensor. I have no idea where it. Note that it throws you back into the choose a home dialog which is confusing so continue to add it. And you need to wait don’t click!  It will show a binding device and then it says added.

When you do the setup it will see the hub but won’t connect even when you wait 10 minutes. Note that the confusing thing is that it actually shows up as a regular hub and also as a matter hub. Generally you don’t want the matter things. It’s super confusing. When it is done it says successful binding and you add to it to the room. Confusingly this is called a bridge in apple speak. And it definitely a long time so don’t give up. 

Also you need to remove it from the apple home as well go to the sensor and choose remove bridge. Or in home settings in home hubs and bridges. The remove is not instant and there’s no feedback it just disappears after a while. 

Now you have to add to the Aqara rooms. The water sensor works but the contact sensor says it’s offline. But when I opened and closed the window it suddenly worked argh! The blue light does flash by the way. Note that the two sensors will appear but will be in default room so you need to move them.

Note the Aqara app has this confusing concept of a dashboard with cards. There’s no sensible default. Just add all and you will see a bunch of user interface widgets that I haven’t mastered.

Aqara FP2 Presense Sensor 

The FP2 presence sensor does work though as it has matter and doesn’t need an aqua hub. Remove it is easy. And then hold the reset button for 10 seconds and it resets the network. The silly thing is that the code is behind the device and when adding you can’t switch away so you have to write it down or get from another iDevice. You definitely want a backed up Apple notes with all the codes. The numbers are underneath as well argh! What a pain, but it does work well.

Aqara door and window sensor p2 (matter/thread)

This thing has an owners manual and on the side is the matter code. And it does not work. It paired but doesn’t ever respond. Sigh. 

We have two of them. You might  want to label make them. Matter 3286-491-2895 and 1309-032-2663. Note that with matter. The setup is a daisy chain. So if you setup with Apple home. Then you generate a new code to setup with say Google. (If you want Multiple systems to use the same sensor, the confusing thing is you don’t use the “root” code and have to know what the base system is. 

To setup with apple home. Go to the home and choose add accessory. If you standing next to it, it will show the name. Choose add and then there’s no QR code so choose more and then you will see the sensor and be asked to type in the name. As usual have another device handy to read it as apple home setup is blocking. 

Then it takes about a minute to add. It asks you what room and the icon. Then it just sits there for five minutes connecting. I’m not sure what it is doing but don’t exit!

I tried all that and it says no response. Sigh. 

Aqara Camera Hub G3

We also have two older Aqara Camera Hub G3 which are HD cameras and also provide the Zigbee translation. I’ve found both to be more expensive and bigger than the Eufy. They do require first setup in the Aqara application and then you connect them to Apple Home. The nice thing is that like the Eufy below, these are subscription free, so you just tie them into Homekit and it works.

This is also a zigbee device. One nice thing is the Aqara app allows Android users to see it. It is hard to find but it is in Home Management and you can invite members. This isn’t true for eufy there is mobilizer and on Android eufy doesn’t allow you to hear anything in the latest release so we are trying this.

The setup is a little convoluted. Basically if you power it on and press the button in front for 10 seconds. You then create an Aqara account and add accessory. You choose the device and then it says ready. Then you pick the WiFi. This thing supports 2.4 and 5 but I just used 2.4. A QR code comes up and you show it to the camera so that it can find WiFi. This is amazingly fast. Like 20 seconds. Then you are asked to enter it into the Aqara home. Then it does binding to your account. Now if you wait a second it will ask if you want it in your Apple home. Say yes and then underneath is the QR code to scan. Finally it will add the camera and you select stream and other options. 

To add more members you go to home management and then invite. If they are not Aqara yet it generates a link you send. 

Aqara G4 Smart Wireless Video Doorbell

And we have the Aqara G4 Smart Wireless Video Doorbell which has also worked pretty well, the setup is that it has lots of batteries and it can connect to an existing 2 wire doorbell, so it will ring the internal chime. The main confusion here is that the doorbel ringer inside the house gets setup first and you install it into the Aqara application, then you connect it to the Apple Home. Only then do you connect up the doorbell. It’s huge but it has been pretty reliable.

Eufy cameras

In some ways the most straightforward and we have the ultracheap Indoor Cam E220 which is a pan and tilt camera as well as just the basic non-moveable camera call the Indoor Cam C120. You set up by holding the reset and it tells you to start. The setup is pretty easy, you first install with the Eufy application and then you install into Apple Home with a menu itemYou delete from the eufy app and Apple home separately. Like the others it’s easy to move in a home. But if you move to another home it’s delete from current in both eufy and Apple and then reset. Sigh. 

In general, the Eufy works well if you are iPhone only, but we had to get the Aqara G3 because the Android application for Eufy does not process let you use the microphone, but they are literaly 1/4 the price.

TP-Link Kasa

We have KP-125M Kasa Smartplug with Matter in WiFi. It has energy monitoring but it does use WiFi, so theoretically less reliable than using Thread.

When you setup in Kasa it doesn’t need the Matter code and just hooks up. Instead you should setup with Apple home first. Then you can do another pairing to get another. And then you can run the Kasa app which you need to do firmware updates. 

To reset it by holding the reset button for 10 seconds and it will flash orange and blue. To start again 

When you choose add make use you’ve copied the matter code. This now works!

As another exmaple for a week or so the cameras wouild not show live video and now they do. No one seems to know what is really going on, but I suspect that you need to reboot the Apple Device which is the main connection, but there are no diagnostics

Sleekpoint Airversa Purelle air purifier

This thing worked so well for 10 months then fell off the network. I’m pretty sure this was when. There are two problems. First airversa and Nordvpn don’t get along. If you have the vpn running neither the .com site nor the Sleekpoint app work. Second problem is that to reset you hold the share button down 

And then it uses BLE to connect but it defaults to the last home added. So if you have multiple homes. You have to create a home admin from another Id with only one home. That person has to login to an iPhone. (What a mess) and then you can add it. Sigh. 

If you can get the right default home then add it to the Sleekpoint app and then it goes through the home dialog and adds it to the threads network. This is also where you can do firmware updates. 

Wemo (plugs not worth the trouble).

This is a troublesome plug. Is probably just because of it being WiFi. But the furthest one needs a reset. You long press to full reset it until it rapidly blinks. Then slow blinks and then enter the matter code. I find that even with strong 2.4GHz WiFi it will fall of the network and require a full reset, so not realy worth the trouble.

Satechi (plugs not work the trouble)

This one is a real pain. And like the Wemo one of the first I bought. It loses WiFi a lot. Make sure to be on 2.4 with WPA2. Press and hold the leftmost button until the red blinks. You will need the satoshi app for firmware updates. And after an update I had to complete reset the device and add again which was terrible.

I’m Rich & Co.

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