An upgraded architecture for Apple’s Home smart home system, one that would potentially make device-packed networks faster and more reliable, is coming back to iOS soon after a failed launch late last year.
Apple originally pushed a Home app update in iOS 16.2, one that, separate from the OS itself, offered “improved performance and reliability of the accessories in your home.” The upgrade required that every single Apple device connected to the home—iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, MacBooks, HomePods, and Apple TVs—updates to the latest OS version or not have access. A number of people who clicked all those Settings icons and waited through reboots ended up with unresponsive devices, slow responses to commands and scene changes, and devices stuck in a “Configuring” stage.
Apple later pulled the Home architecture upgrade from 16.2, gave Home owners advice on how to regain control of their Home, and reportedly added the problems to an internal list of major hardware and software issues, seen by Apple, Apple Store, and Authorized Service Providers. The visual refresh given to the Home app was still in place, providing easier access to multiple devices and rooms from the home screen and adding widgets to the lock screen. But those who didn’t jump to upgrade (and complete it) were held back. Apple listed the “Upgrade to the new Home architecture” as “temporarily removed” but noted it would “return soon.”
“Soon” seems to be around the corner. MacRumors claims to have confirmed that the Home architecture upgrade will return in iOS 16.4, a beta of which could arrive as early as this week.
Interestingly, part of the evidence, which MacRumors credits to Nicolás Álvarez, comes from the open GitHub code base of “Project CHIP,” i.e., the Matter smart home standard. Deep into the branch labeled “darwin” (the Unix core of iOS, MacOS, and other Apple systems), there is an “availability.yaml” file that seemingly sets which versions of the OS are required for accessing some part of Matter interoperability. Commits two weeks ago by “bzbarsky-apple” appeared to set iOS 16.4 as the version required for access to a number of APIs, along with macOS 13.3, tvOS 16.4, and watchOS 9.4.
Also notable is that Apple’s language around the architecture largely eschews “HomeKit” in favor of just “Home.” Given Apple’s buy-in to Matter and the origins of the release code, it suggests a general shift in branding and a larger underlying change to how Home manages and attaches devices to your network.
If the new Home architecture does arrive in iOS 16.4, iOS users can upgrade by opening the Home app, heading into the “More” section, then “Home Settings,” and selecting Software Update. Then you, and all of us, will see if it’s indeed “new, more reliable, and more efficient.”