Apple and Amazon Adopt Opposing Strategies as Smart Home War Heats Up

Apple has been in the smart home market for over two years, having introduced its HomeKit framework in the fall of 2014 alongside iOS 8, but HomeKit has been slow to get off the ground because of the company's strict requirements.

Amazon, meanwhile, entered the smart home market somewhat later with its Alexa-enabled Echo in-home speaker officially launching in the summer of 2015, but Amazon's Echo already supports a wider range of products.

The difference between the two? Open and closed development, as explored by Reuters in a new article that details the different approaches that Amazon and Apple have taken when developing their smart home offerings.

Apple maintains strict control over its HomeKit platform, with a heavy focus on security and simplicity. Manufacturers who want to create a HomeKit product are required to use special HomeKit chips priced up to $2, along with specific WiFi and Bluetooth chips.

elgato_eve_line1

Bluetooth-enabled HomeKit products from Elgato

HomeKit devices have to be made in factories certified by Apple, and then have to be sent to Cupertino for rigorous testing, a process that can take three to five months and must be conducted in secret.

Amazon's process for smart home products that work with Alexa is much simpler, taking a matter of days to complete. Smart home companies simply need to write code and send it for Amazon to review -- that's it. No special chips, no secure factories, and no specific oversight. Companies can send a product to a third-party lab for testing to earn a specific "Works with Alexa" label, a process that is completed "within 10 days."

amazon-echo

Amazon's Alexa-enabled Echo

As Reuters points out, while HomeKit doesn't work with as many products, it supports Bluetooth, is much more secure, and has a quicker setup process. Security, which Amazon can't promise, is a key differentiator between the two companies and a factor that could ultimately entice more consumers in the long run. A non-hackable smart home product like a door lock or a camera provides more peace of mind than quick compatibility.

Amazon acknowledges that unlike Apple, it can't guarantee the security of third-party devices. A company spokeswoman did note that sensitive commands like unlocking doors have an extra layer of security such as a voice-controlled PIN.

Reuters spoke with several HomeKit manufacturers, and all were satisfied with Apple's approach. "It makes for a better user experience," said Incipio senior engineer Ahmed Abdallah, speaking about HomeKit's ability to work offline. "They found issues with our product before we released it that we didn't find in our testing," said Nanoleaf CEO Gimmy Chu.

Amazon's simpler certification process has led to over 250 smart home products being certified to work with Alexa, while Apple has certified approximately 100 devices. Alexa-enabled devices have also been selling rapidly, with an estimated 10 million sales over the holiday season, while Apple's HomeKit sales are less clear.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said the company is leading the industry by being the first to integrate home automation into a major platform with iOS 10. "The number of HomeKit-compatible accessories continues to grow rapidly with many exciting solutions announced just this month," she said.

Apple is rumored to be ramping up its smart home efforts through a smart home hub that's similar to the Amazon Echo, with built-in Siri capabilities, a speaker, and a microphone, allowing it to be used for controlling smart home accessories.

For more detail on the lengths that Apple goes to in order to ensure that its HomeKit products are secure, make sure to read the full analysis over at Reuters.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
42 months ago
We have both and home kit never gets used.

Apple clearly missed the boat on this.

People want convenience and the masses have spoken.

Amazon echo and Alexa are a hit.

Like Steve Jobs once said "it just works"
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
42 months ago

Apple can try to justify Homekit all they want but the fact is that, currently, the Amazon device is much more versatile. Amazon has developed the Echo to the point where anyone can use it easily and it controls just about everything. Sorry Apple, your blowing it on this one.

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.

I care whether someone can unlock my doors. I also care whether my devices become part of a bot net. I also care whether an IoT device becomes a hole in my overall network security. Alexa will not be part of my home.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
42 months ago

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.

Security extends much further than that. Would you be bothered if an exploit in your light lead to being able to open your door?

For me, the best security is none of these devices right now. The market as a whole is underwhelming and overpriced. On top of that, having listening devices on 24/7 in my house, especially from companies that love data farming? No way.

I mean, I don't much care if others want to use this stuff or how. I'm a fan of choice. I'm also a fan of not choosing.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
42 months ago
As with Mac OS vs Windows and iOS vs Android, Apple will lose this one. Consumers as a body don't seem to be willing to pay a premium for integration and security. This quote is a perfect example:

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.

Really? I don't even think he believes that. And I certainly care if someone wants to unlock my front door, open my garage, or even prank me by turning on my stereo at 3 in the morning. I'd argue that nowhere is security more critical than in your own home.

Kinda like saying you don't mind people bugging your phone because you don't think you have anything to hide.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
42 months ago
The HomeKit landscape is a sad and overpriced wasteland.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
42 months ago
Apple can try to justify Homekit all they want but the fact is that, currently, the Amazon device is much more versatile. Amazon has developed the Echo to the point where anyone can use it easily and it controls just about everything. Sorry Apple, your blowing it on this one.

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Sending Replacement AirPods With Unreleased Firmware, Rendering Them Unusable

Wednesday April 8, 2020 9:23 am PDT by Juli Clover
Customers who require a replacement AirPod from Apple have in some cases been receiving an AirPod running 2D3 firmware, which is not a version of the AirPods firmware that's been publicly released. As described on the MacRumors forum and Reddit (via iMore), customers who get an AirPod with the 2D3 firmware are unable to pair it with the existing unreplaced AirPod, leaving the AirPods unable...

Facebook Launches 'Tuned' Messaging App for Couples

Wednesday April 8, 2020 4:50 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Facebook has quietly released Tuned, a new messaging app designed to provide a "private space" for couples to connect, reports The Information. Designed by NPE, an experimental group within the company that was established last year, the app encourages couples to share messages, notes, cards, voice memos, photos and Spotify songs with each other, thereby creating a "digital scrapbook" of...

'Leaked' Images Allegedly Show iPhone 12 With Smaller Notch, Rear Camera Redesign, and Home Screen Widgets

Tuesday April 7, 2020 4:28 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Two images shared on social media this morning are currently stoking speculation about possible hardware redesigns coming to the iPhone 12 and the potential introduction of Home screen widgets in iOS 14. Shared by Twitter user Fudge (choco_bit), the images depict a front and rear graphical representation of a smartphone with interface elements on the screen, suggesting it came out of a...

LG Begins Rolling Out 2020 NanoCell TVs With AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, Pricing Starts at $599

Thursday April 9, 2020 7:32 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
LG today announced pricing and availability for its 2020 NanoCell TVs with AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support in the United States. The first 4K models are rolling out now, with pricing starting at $599 for a 55-inch model. The entire 4K lineup will be released by September, including up to an 86-inch model for $3,299. 8K models will also be rolling out in May and June, including 65-inch and...

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.4.1 With Fix for FaceTime Bug

Tuesday April 7, 2020 10:06 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 13.4.1, minor updates that come two weeks after the release of iOS and iPadOS 13.4, major updates that introduced iCloud Folder Sharing, a new Mail toolbar, trackpad support for the iPad, and more. The iOS and ‌iPadOS‌ 13.4.1 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General...

Leaker Claims New 13-inch MacBook Pro Coming as Soon as Next Month

Monday April 6, 2020 2:56 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple will announce a new 13-inch MacBook Pro in May with the codename J223, according to a rumor shared by YouTuber and leaker Jon Prosser. Note: it’s a refresh to the current 13” So the bigger 14” display upgrade is a big possibility— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 4, 2020 Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said Apple plans to release new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models with scissor keyboards ...

Apple Reportedly Targeting WWDC for Over-Ear Headphones Launch, New 'AirPods X' Later in the Year

Tuesday April 7, 2020 7:00 am PDT by Eric Slivka
Rumors of Apple-branded over-ear headphones have been circulating for quite some time, while more recent rumors have mentioned an "AirPods Pro Lite" that could also be in the works, and Twitter leaker Jon Prosser's recent foray into Apple rumors provides a bit more detail on what we might able to expect for these products. Current Beats Studio3 Wireless and BeatsX On the over-ear side,...

2020 iPad Pro Confirmed to Lack a U1 Ultra Wideband Chip

Tuesday April 7, 2020 7:52 am PDT by Eric Slivka
Last week, we laid out evidence suggesting that the just-released iPad Pro models do not contain a U1 Ultra Wideband chip, including the lack of any mention of the chip in tech specs or Apple's press materials, the absence of software support for U1 features, and more. Most tellingly, iFixit was unable to find the chip or related antennas in the device. Daring Fireball's John Gruber has follo...

Apple Shares Assembly and Use Instructions for New Face Shields, Shipping 1 Million Per Week to Medical Workers

Tuesday April 7, 2020 8:54 am PDT by Eric Slivka
Following this weekend's news from Tim Cook that Apple is working with its supply chain to produce a million face shields per week for medical workers, the company has shared a support document outlining how to assemble and adjust the shields. The document includes a series of images and animations showing how the simple three-piece product can be assembled for either a regular fit or with...

HBO GO and HBO NOW Will No Longer Be Available on 2nd and 3rd Gen Apple TVs Starting April 30

Wednesday April 8, 2020 7:05 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
HBO today announced that its HBO GO and HBO NOW streaming services will no longer be available on second-generation and third-generation Apple TV models starting April 30, 2020. In a support document on its website, HBO says this change is being made "in order to provide the best streaming experience":In order to provide the best streaming experience, we need to make some changes to our...