With the growing adoption of smart speakers like Apple’s HomePod and Amazon’s Echo family, plus continued refinement of HomeKit, smart home products are becoming more and more popular. With that in mind, smart home accessories like lighting, sensors, smart locks, plugs, and more are bound to be popular gifts this holiday season.
For the Apple user in your life looking to turn their home into a smart home, here are some of 9to5Mac’s top picks in each category of accessories.
Ecobee HomeKit Thermostat
Apple’s HomeKit platform has become incredibly powerful over the last several years. Many accessory makers have started to adopt HomeKit, and while it’s still not as prevalent as Alexa, there are different options in each category of accessories, at different price points.
HomeKit-enabled accessories can be controlled in a few different ways. The easiest way is with Siri on any Siri-enabled device. This includes your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. HomePod is also an excellent way to control HomeKit accessories, and it continues to get more affordable. HomePod and Apple TV are also both excellent for serving as a home hub, enabling remote access for when you’re away from home.
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to start your HomeKit setup is with a collection of smart plugs. HomeKit smart plugs are an affordable way to give things like lamps and fans Siri control and access via the Home app on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.
There are two primary options to pick from when it comes to HomeKit smart plugs. My personal choice is the Wemo Mini Smart Plug, which supports HomeKit and Alexa and is relatively affordable. You’ll find more options in the list below, but the Wemo option has always served me best in terms of reliability and ease of use.
Another good option is the VOCOlinc Smart Power Strip (full review). This features three separate plugs, each of which act as separate accessories in HomeKit. If you have three accessories near each other that you want to give HomeKit capacities to, this is a streamlined way to do it.
Best HomeKit smart plugs:
- Wemo Mini Smart Plug
- VOCOLinc Smart Plug 2-pack
- Koogeek Smart Plug with HomeKit
- Eve Energy, also includes power metering
To take a smart home to the next level, the best way to do it is with a robust lighting setup. There are a few different ways to conquer this, and it primarily depends on whether you have the ability to swap light switches themselves.
Philips Hue is the easiest and most reliable way to add smart bulbs to your HomeKit setup. The easiest way to get started is with the Philips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit. This includes four A19 white bulbs as well as the necessary Hue bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi router. It gives you everything you need to get started at the process of transitioning to HomeKit lighting.
Once you have that starter kit, including the Hue bridge, you can buy individual and multi-packs of those same white bulbs. Philips does sell various other bulb designs, including different sizes, ones with color, and more. If you’re just getting started, the white bulb starter pack is my top recommendation, though.
There are other smart bulb options from different manufacturers. LIFX sells different sizes and colors of smart lighting, and LIFX bulbs don’t require a Wi-Fi bridge to work. I’ve had some issues with LIFX reliability because of this, though. In my experience, Philips Hue has the best reliability and performance if you go the smart bulb route.
Using Philips Hue and other smart bulbs come with a few drawbacks. First and foremost, if you accidentally use a “dumb” light switch to turn off a Hue light, it’ll go offline in the Home app. This can get annoying, especially if you regularly have guests or a partner who prefer to use light switches instead of voice control. You also have to manage both the Hue app and the Home app.
These problems can be solved by upgrading the light switches throughout your house. If you have the ability to do that, then the Lutron Caseta platform is the way to go. I’ve slowly been making the migration to Lutron myself after several years of exclusively using Philips Hue bulbs, and it makes for a far more robust smart home experience.
It’s a far better experience to pair the Lutron switches with dumb bulbs than it is to pair dumb switches with smart bulbs. You can use the Lutron switches to turn on and off the lights, control via HomeKit, and much more. The Lutron Caseta starter kit includes a smart switch with a dimmer, as well as the necessary Wi-Fi bridge. This is a great way to get started with Lutron HomeKit accessories.
You can also use Lutron switches to control ceiling fans throughout your house, giving you access to those fans via HomeKit as well.
Philips Hue and Lutron Caseta are the two big smart home names in terms of lighting. Hue bulbs are more flexible and better for renters, but Lutron Caseta switches are a more enjoyable experience overall.
There are a few different options when it comes to HomeKit-enabled security cameras, but one stands out above the others right now. Logitech’s Circle 2 not only supports HomeKit integration, but it also supports HomeKit Secure Video. This takes the HomeKit integration to the next level.
With standard HomeKit support, you can view security camera feeds directly in the Home app on iOS, macOS, and iPadOS. But when you add HomeKit Secure Video, things get significantly better. HomeKit Secure Video allows users to securely record and store footage from security cameras in the Home app on iOS through iCloud.
When the Home app detects motion, it will start recording and save that footage directly to your iCloud account. Recorded video is available to view for 10 days through the Home app. HomeKit Secure Video requires a 200GB or 2TB iCloud storage plan — though the recorded video doesn’t count toward your data limits.
The Logitech Circle 2 is also incredibly versatile, with Logitech selling several different mounts and weatherproof accessories. Combine that with the HomeKit and HomeKit Secure Video support, and it’s a great experience overall. Make sure you get the wired Logitech Circle 2, as the wireless version does not support HomeKit.
While the Logitech Circle 2 is my top pick, there are other HomeKit-enabled cameras on the market. Note that these don’t support HomeKit Secure Video, which means recordings are handled through the manufacturers’ apps and subscription services.
Best HomeKit security cameras:
One of the more practical and useful HomeKit accessories is a smart thermostat. Using a smart thermostat makes it easy to control temperature, adjust schedules, and more. This could lead to you saving money every month on your energy bill and being overall more conscious about your energy use.
My personal pick for a smart thermostat is the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control. As I wrote in my full review, Ecobee combines a sleek design with support for HomeKit and built-in Alexa. Ecobee also includes a new Smart Sensor that you can place in your house to track hyperlocal temperature, motion, and more.
If you’re looking to save a bit, the Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat is still a great choice. You miss out on the included room sensor (though you can buy one separately), as well as the higher-quality display, but it’s nearly half the price and still supports HomeKit.
Smart locks can also have practical implications by helping you further secure your home and keep with with things while you’re out of town. There are a few different things to consider.
If you can change your physical lock, the best way to go is with a smart lock that also has a keypad on the outside. The best option here is the Yale Assure Lock SL, which packs a keypad on the outside and HomeKit integration, as well as a sleek physical design.
There are also several options that simply fit over your existing lock. The August Home Smart Lock Pro is one of the best options for this. It easily attaches to your existing deadbolt and works with most cylinder deadbolts for easy installation.
Smart TVs and AirPlay
One category I did not expect to include in a HomeKit gift guide is smart TVs. This year, we’ve seen various TVs be released with HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support. With HomeKit support, you can add and control AirPlay 2-enabled smart TVs directly from the Home app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
This means you can turn your TV on or off, control volume, and manage playback directly from the Home app. Automation support also includes the ability remotely switch inputs, which is very useful.
So what are the best TVs with AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support? There are a few different options available, at varying price points. One of the most affordable ways is through Vizio’s SmartCast-enabled TVs. Vizio has released HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support to SmartCast TVs from as far back as 2016, and one of our favorite picks is the M-Series Quantum.
Meanwhile, Samsung also offers AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support in various different models of its TVs. Perhaps most notably, this Samsung 43-inch 4K Smart LED TV packs HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support at a sub-$300 price point. One of the biggest benefits here is that in addition to HomeKit and AirPlay 2, you also get Apple’s TV app for Apple TV+ and Apple TV Channels like HBO and Showtime.
At the higher end of the market, LG has started rolling out HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support to select 2019 TV models. LG’s 2019 OLED ThinQ AI and Nanocell ThinQ AI TVs are adding support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit integration. One highlight here is the LG C9 series, which packs OLED, HomeKit, AirPlay 2, and includes a free year of Disney+ with purchase.
Although pricey, the Apple TV is still a great choice for HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support. The Apple TV 4K starts at $179. Meanwhile, the fourth-generation Apple TV is slightly more affordable, but you miss out on 4K HDR quality. The Apple TV runs Apple’s tvOS operating system, which means you get access to a variety of streaming apps, as well as Apple Arcade support and more.
What about AirPlay 2 speakers? In addition to Apple’s HomePod, various other AirPlay 2 speakers have popped up on the market this year. The Sonos One SL is an intriguing option. It lacks voice control support, but it does support AirPlay 2 for deep integration with the Apple ecosystem.
The Libratone Zipp (full review) is a portable AirPlay 2 speaker with up to 12 hours of battery life. The Sonos Move (full review) is also a portable AirPlay 2 speaker, though it’s significantly more expensive.
As time progresses, we expect more TV and speaker makers to add AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support. For now, these are some of the best options that are available this holiday season.
So, what if you’re shopping for someone who already has the basis of smart home with lighting, thermostats, and locks? Well, there are a several niche HomeKit accessories that are sure to make great gifts this year.
Eve makes several notable HomeKit-enabled accessories that can help take a smart home to the next level. For instance, the Eve Degree is a connected weather station that tracks things like temperature, humidity, and air pressure. The Eve Room is an indoor air quality monitor with support for tracking VOC, or volatile organic compounds.
Speaking of weather stations, the Netatmo Weather Station is something that’s on my list this year (full review). This modular system combines indoor and outdoor sensors that deeply integrate HomeKit. You can view things like temperature, humidity, CO2, and overall air quality detector.
Something I’ve recently added to my HomeKit array is the VOCOlinc Smart WiFi Diffuser (full review). This is a nifty essential oil diffuser that integrates with HomeKit. In HomeKit you can control the mood light of the accessory, as well as the diffusion itself.
Another thing that’s on my list this year is a HomeKit capable sprinkler system. The most intriguing option for me is the Ranchio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller. With HomeKit integration, you can schedule and monitor your sprinklers in the Home app from anywhere.
A similar but not quite as capable option is in the Eve Aqua. This allows you to activate a sprinkler via HomeKit, but it’s designed for single sprinkler or hose, rather than a full sprinkler system like the Ranchio. The Fibaro Flood Sensor is also a great choice for staying alert about leaks, freezes, and temperature.
We already dove deep into smart lighting, but another category to consider is HomeKit accent lighting. One of my favorite options is the Nanoleaf Aurora. This is a light panel system that can respond to audio, touch interaction, and much more.
Philips Hue also makes a stunning collection of outdoor lights (full review). They’re pricey, but if you’re looking to brighten up your yard, this is one of the best ways to do it. Speaking of Philips Hue, I’m a big fan of the Philips Hue Go, which is a portable table lamp that integrates HomeKit support. A similar option is the Eve Flare (full review).
Last but not least, light strips. There are numerous different HomeKit-enabled light strips on the market, including options from Philips and Eve both. These options tend to be rather expensive, though. My personal pick for a HomeKit light strip comes from VOCOlinc (full review). VOCOlinc’s option is more affordable than the competition, and includes support for colors, extensions, and more.
All of the products mentioned so far support Apple’s HomeKit platform, but all of them also support Amazon’s Alexa platform. If you’re shopping for someone this holiday season who isn’t fully ingrained in the Apple ecosystem, and perhaps already has Alexa-enabled speakers in their home, there’s nothing wrong with diving deeper into Amazon’s ecosystem. Plus, now that Alexa supports Apple Music, it plays just a bit nicer with the Apple ecosystem.
Something I’m personally interested in this holiday season is the Echo Show 5. This is Amazon’s compact smart display that supports Alexa and offers access to different apps and streaming services. There’s also the new Echo Dot with a clock, which takes the traditional Echo Dot design and adds an easy-to-see clock to the outside.
More Alexa products:
- Echo Wall Clock – $29.99
- Echo – $99.99
- Echo Auto – $49.99
- Echo Dot – $29.99
- Echo Plus – $149.99
- Amazon Smart Plug – $24.99
More 9to5Mac Gift Guides
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