Apple Home quietly gets a much requested feature

Apple’s recent WWDC 2024 keynote barely mentioned its smart home platform, but Apple Home users have reason to celebrate an update discovered in the first iOS 18 beta: the option to choose a “Preferred Home Hub.” This new feature addresses the frustration of having smart home systems default to a Wi-Fi-connected HomePod when an Ethernet-connected Apple TV is available.

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Sharp-eyed Redditors on the HomeKit subreddit noticed the new option in the iOS 18 beta, allowing users to select their preferred Home hub rather than relying on Apple’s automatic selection. This discovery was met with enthusiasm, with users calling it “the most important feature update in the history of HomeKit” and expressing disbelief that “Apple actually listened.”

This update allows users to set their Apple Home automations to run over a hardwired Apple TV as the main Home hub instead of a Wi-Fi-based HomePod. Users widely acknowledge that this change will make the smart home platform run faster and more reliably.

An Apple Home Hub, such as a HomePod or Apple TV, enables users to create automations, control devices remotely, and process HomeKit Secure Video Cameras locally. For those with multiple hubs in large Apple Home setups, the inability to select which hub the system relies on has been a source of frustration. While Apple claims it chooses the best hub for the job, many users have experienced slowdowns and reduced reliability when the system defaults to older or Wi-Fi-connected models.

Personally, I often find my Apple Home running on a HomePod Mini in a far corner of my house instead of my hardwired Apple TV in the living room. When this happens, my automations run noticeably slower, and I frequently have trouble accessing my HomeKit cameras.

Before this update, the only way to force Apple Home to use a specific hub was to unplug all other hubs. However, once they were plugged back in, the system often reverted to its original configuration. While Home Hub functionality can be turned off on an Apple TV, it cannot be disabled on a HomePod.

With iOS 18, Apple Home users will finally gain the control they have long sought. For those eager to try this feature, developer betas are available now. However, keep in mind that you’ll need the beta on all your Home hubs for it to work, which might not be ideal for maintaining a smooth-running smart home.