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This small iOS 18 change will make a huge difference in my smart home

Apple HomeKit users will soon have more control and customization power over their smart home life.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
HomePod Mini on desk
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As an Apple HomeKit user with an Apple TV 4K and a HomePod mini, I'm familiar with the many inconveniences of Apple Home's inability to select a preferred home hub. Both Apple devices can work as smart home hubs. Still, Apple employs an automatic hub management system that automatically switches between eligible home hubs in a residence depending on signal strength, power status, and current usage. This will finally change with iOS 18.

iOS 18 will allow Apple Home users to select their preferred home hub with HomeKit. This will give users more control and customization power to prioritize newer or more stable hubs to ensure better coverage and performance for smart home devices. 

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Apple HomeKit automatically selects the smart home hub, a feature contrary to what Apple expected it to do. While the company used this tactic to remove the burden of selecting a smart home hub from the user by prioritizing better connections and an always-powered device, the lack of manual control often leads to performance issues and limits customization. 

An Apple TV 4K serving as a home hub with wired ethernet has a stronger connection than a Wi-Fi-connected HomePod mini, making users more likely to prioritize the streaming device as a home hub rather than automatically switch to the HomePod.

Having two devices that can function as Apple home hubs in my home makes Apple's automatic switch method utterly frustrating. Manual control would let me choose my HomePod mini, which has more reliable connectivity and performance, as my smart home hub without fear that this would change at random. It would also let me set one of my Apple TV 4K as a backup hub when I notice performance issues with the HomePod mini, for example. 

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The new feature is now available for iOS 18 developer beta testing. iOS 18 is expected to roll into a public beta next month and become widely available for most iPhone users this fall.

Other updates coming for Apple Home this fall include live captions on Facetime, robot vacuum controls in the Home app, voice isolation on AirPods Pro, new Apple TV screensavers, guest access, and home electricity consumption.

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