HomeKit is Apple’s platform for smart home gadgets, and it comes baked into every iPhone and iPad that the company sells. To take advantage of it, just download Apple’s free Home app, then pair it with your HomeKit-compatible smart home gadgets
. It doesn’t matter if it’s lights, locks, plugs, cameras, thermostats, sensors, shades or whatever — the Home app can handle all of it in one place, and you’ll be able to control things using Siri voice commands, too.
So which HomeKit gadgets should you get? There’s a growing list of options, but we’re here to help you winnow it down to the best of the best. Here are our top picks for HomeKit households, all based on years of tests at the CNET Smart Home.
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Apple TV 4K
Best HomeKit Hub
You can pair Apple HomeKit gadgets with your iPhone as soon as you set them up, but if you want to control them when you’re away from home, then you’ll need a HomeKit hub. The idea is that the hub works a little like a bouncer for your home’s Wi-Fi network. When you try and control a smart lock from Apple’s Home app while you’re at work, for instance, the hub’s job is to check your ID before letting you in.
Apple doesn’t offer a standalone HomeKit hub, and instead, forces you to choose between three high-priced Apple gadgets that can all do the job: The HomePod smart speaker, a third-gen-or-better Apple TV, or a dedicated, always-on iPad.
At $300, the HomePod is still too expensive for what it is. Meanwhile, the iPad route is clunky and won’t add any extra utility to your home. That’s why I’d go with the Apple TV — preferably the Apple TV 4K, which CNET’s David Katzmaier hails as the best streamer available today. At $180, it doesn’t come cheap, but none of these HomeKit hubs do. And, in addition to serving as an excellent streamer, you’ll be able to pull up the video feed from compatible HomeKit cameras on your TV with a quick voice command into the remote.
August Smart Lock Pro
Best HomeKit-compatible Smart Lock
For $279, your August Smart Lock Pro purchase nets you the lock itself, plus the plug-in Wi-Fi hub that you need in order to sync with HomeKit and an open/closed sensor for your door, too. It boasts tons of useful integrations beyond HomeKit compatibility, too, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest, IFTTT and optional Z-Wave support.
Read more: The best smart locks of 2019
It’s certainly not an inexpensive smart lock, but it’s the best one for HomeKit households that we’ve tested to date. I say wait for a sale and then pounce.
You’ve got lots of interesting options if you’re in the market for a smart thermostat, including a couple that support Siri control via Apple HomeKit. Of these, we like Ecobee’s thermostats the best. At $250, the Ecobee4 is the newest, but it really only adds in a built-in Alexa speaker to the experience. That’s not the biggest draw if you’re anchoring your smart home to Apple HomeKit and centering around Siri for voice controls.
Read more: The best smart thermostats of 2019
That’s why I think it’s a smarter move to stick with one of Ecobee’s previous-generation, less-expensive thermostats. They all work just as well with Apple HomeKit and they support Ecobee’s nifty temperature sensors, too. The Ecobee3 is listed as sold out on the Ecobee website, but the Ecobee3 Lite is still available for $169 or less. That’s the right price for HomeKit-compatible climate control.
At $180, the Logitech Circle 2 can be used indoors or out, and it proved reliable and responsive when we tested it out with Apple HomeKit. The wired design means that you’ll need to keep it close to an outlet, but I actually prefer that over something with batteries that can run dead at inopportune times. And hey, a battery-powered version is available for an extra $20 if that’s your preference.
Read more: The best smart home security cameras of 2019
Once you find a spot for it and set it up, you’ll be able to view the feed straight from the Home app (or, if you’ve got an Apple TV, right on your TV). The Circle 2 offers night vision for when it’s dark out, plus two-way audio. You also get a free 24-hour event-based backlog of clips, plus the option to extend that clip history to 14 or 31 days for a $4 or $10 monthly fee (subscribers also get access to a motion alert zone feature). My favorite part, however, might be the variety of accessories Logitech sells to help you mount it in clever places. All of that adds up to a great little camera that costs less than popular competitors like Netgear Arlo.
It’s counter-intuitive, maybe, but Philips Hue is best when you skip the colors and focus in on the Hue White bulbs, which put out smart, dimmable light at a yellowy 2,700 K. That’s because Hue’s best quality isn’t the colors at all, but rather, the strength of its best-in-class platform, which works with everything, pairs extremely well with Apple HomeKit and comes packed with useful features.
Read more: The complete guide to Philips Hue
To take advantage, you’ll need to get a Philips Hue starter kit that comes with the essential Hue Bridge — and the two-bulb Hue White starter kit, currently available on Amazon for just $55, is your most affordable way in. And yes, you can always add color-changing bulbs to your setup later (preferably when they go on sale).
If great-looking colors are what you want the most from your smart lights, go with Lifx, an Australian startup that’s grown into a pretty major player in the smart lighting space over the past several years. Like Philips Hue, its bulbs work with just about everything, Apple HomeKit included, but they also put out brighter, better-looking colors. On top of that, Lifx bulbs use Wi-Fi to communicate, so they don’t need a hub.
Lifx makes lots of different bulbs, floodlights, light strips, and even tiles for your wall, all of which you can program, control and schedule to your heart’s content using the excellent Lifx app. I like the Lifx Mini, which costs less than the comparable Hue bulb at $35 each. Bonus shoutout to the Lifx Z light strip, which can put out multiple colors at once. Hue’s light strip still can’t do that.
They aren’t for everyone, but if you’re putting together a flashy-looking game room or decorating a kids room, perhaps, then consider Nanoleaf’s color-changing LED wall panels. The nine-panel starter kit comes as either triangles or second-gen squares — both cost about $200, but I prefer the square-shaped Nanoleaf Canvas panels due to the addition of touch-sensitivity and the fact that you have more room to expand your setup should you decide to get crazy with the things.
The panels use Wi-Fi to connect with your router (and with HomeKit), so they don’t need a hub. Once they’re set up, you’ll be able to switch between hundreds of user-created animated presets, including ones that use the on-board mic to sync color-changes with whatever music you’re listening to or whatever game you’re playing. In addition to supporting Siri voice controls, they also work with Alexa, Google and IFTTT.
Bonus points for the optional Nanoleaf Remote, a 12-sided, motion-sensitive dodecahedron that you can use to trigger Nanoleaf scenes or HomeKit automations just by rotating different sides to the top. The cost for that gizmo: $50.
Smart switches are another good option if you’re looking to automate the lights in your home — particularly for spots where a single switch controls several bulbs at once. You’ve got several options that work with HomeKit, but our favorite by far is the Lutron Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch.
Why Lutron? For starters, Lutron’s been in the business of dimmer switches for decades, and it’s a smart home stalwart, too. Its well-featured switches work with everything, they support three-way setups, and they look appropriately distinctive without being gaudy. Along with with a wide variety of light switches, the Caseta platform also offers specialty switches for things like ceiling fans and Sonos speakers, as well as luxurious Serena smart shades. All of it communicates with the Lutron Bridge using Lutron’s proprietary Clear Connect wireless standard, which is one of the speediest and most reliable standards we’ve tested at the CNET Smart Home.
That’s a long-winded way of saying these are really, really good smart light switches. Right now, you can get one on Amazon with the Lutron Bridge and a bonus Pico remote that you can dock in the wall as a second switch, or carry around with you for a total cost of $78. That’s a fantastic deal.
Just want a plug that you can turn on and off with Siri commands? Go with the WeMo Mini, which you can get for less than $30 each. It was actually the first device to sync with HomeKit via software protocol as opposed to an on-board MFi chipset, so it’s clear that WeMo values a smooth, up-to-date connection with Apple’s cloud. A subsidiary of Belkin, WeMo also has a good history of responding quickly to platform issues and potential vulnerabilities via regular firmware updates.
Read more: The best smart plugs and switches of 2019
The downside with WeMo is that the app is a little buggier than I’d like, with occasional lag and pairing issues. But, having used WeMo products pretty regularly for the past five years or so, I haven’t seen any of that same lag when it comes to automations, voice controls, or integrations with third-party services like IFTTT. And, once you’ve synced it up with HomeKit, you’ll be using the Home app, not the WeMo app. Bottom line: If you’ve got a lamp, a coffeemaker, a desk fan or anything else you’d like to automate that needs to be plugged in, the WeMo Mini is a great pick.