Apple Home Hubs

“What’s an Apple Home Hub?”

We’re asked this quite regularly, usually by clients confused by the many devices being branded as “hubs”.

An Apple Home Hub acts as a central “control server” for other HomeKit devices, and gives you remote access over them. It’s also the unit running your automations and other smart home processes on Apple Home. Basically, if your intention is only to use Apple Home when you’re at home, you don’t need an Apple Home Hub. But if you have intentions for more functions, such as remote controls, automations, and camera recording support, you’ll need an Apple Home Hub.

For example, HomeKit Secure Video features a facial recognition function. This facial recognition is running locally on your Apple Home Hub – not sent to external servers for processing and AI processing. This means that the facial recognition isn’t as good as, say, Google Photos, but that’s the tradeoff you make for having your data locally processed as opposed to running in the cloud.

The hub can be any of this:

📺Apple TV – possibility of a wired Ethernet connection, which theoretically makes it more stable
🔈HomePod mini – onboard Siri gives it great room-contextual, more natural voice commands
📱iPad – workable but it has to be left at home and can’t run out of battery; we don’t recommend this as the response times are not as good.

Generally, we recommend the HomePod Mini because of Siri. While the wired connection of the Apple TV is theoretically better, we find that most people don’t have a wire anyway, and the current state of wifi technologies mean a very stable connection.

What about Google Hub?

Google Nest Hub isn’t a hub in the sense of the word we’re using! The Google Nest Hub is a screen and speaker you can control your smart home with, but it doesn’t function as a server or gateway. Google doesn’t have an equivalent of the Apple Home Hub. Why doesn’t Google Home need a hub? Google’s automations and processes are handled by the cloud!

If I have an Apple Home Hub, do I still need an Aqara Hub?

The answer is yes, if you’re using other Aqara devices, like smart switches. Once again, it’s a different definition of “hub”. Aqara Hubs act more like ‘routers’ broadcasting a Zigbee signal for your other Aqara devices to connect to.

You’ll need an Aqara hub to connect all your Aqara devices and integrate them into your smart home. You’ll need the Apple Home Hub to set the Aqara devices onto Apple Home (for full features).

The different Hub definitions

So, here, we have three devices with “hub” in its name, but they’re different in functionality. To make it clear, the definition of hub just means a central place. We’ll try our best to make the distinct difference here:

Google Nest Hub – A central location you can control your home

Aqara Hub – A central wireless node to connect other devices

Apple Home Hub – A central ‘server’ running your HomeKit automations, features, and other Apple smart home processes.

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