Leaks suggest iOS 17 could make your iPhone way more useful in the home

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2023 event is happening soon (June 5, 2023) and like clockwork, the leaks are popping up. The rumors this time suggest iOS 17 will have a new lock screen that will turn your iPhone into a sort of smart display.

What gives this rumor more credence than others is the fact it comes from notable industry insider Mark Gurman from Bloomberg. He claims in a recent report that Apple is looking for a way to “make iPhones more useful when they’re [sitting] on a person’s desk or nightstand.” The tech is reportedly based on the customizable lock screen from iOS 16 which allows “users “to see small snippets of information”. 

Beyond that, not much else is known. Gurman’s anonymous sources state the iOS 17 features function similar to Amazon’s Echo Show displays and it’ll utilize a “dark background with bright text” similar to the Apple Watch's Nightstand Mode.

Smart home expansion

It's been known for a while now the company has been working on growing the smart home side of its business. All the way back in January of this year, rumors were floating around stating the tech giant is planning to launch a low-end iPad as the company’s first official smart home controller. Gurman’s report states it’s been “designed to control things like thermostats” and house lights, as well as “show video”.

It's hard to say whether or not Apple wants the iPhone to play a bigger role in its smart home plans. Sure, a smart display is useful for displaying basic information, but there has to be more to it than that. And we can't help but wonder how this will affect the Matter standard

The protocol is in dire need of some support, after all. Matter 1.1 recently launched, and what was supposed to be a major upgrade, but without more device-type support, it's a little underwhelming. Looking at Gurman’s leaks, there isn’t a single word about Matter, which is rather concerning.

Either way, mum's the word for now.  Gurman states that “an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on [the company's] plans for iOS 17.”

A peek at the future

As for the rest of the report, it mostly consists of previously seen leaks like watchOS 10 getting widgets as part of a major revamp and the world premiere of the company’s VR headset. Some of the more interesting tidbits, however, include “significant changes to the iPhone’s Wallet app” plus an AirPlay upgrade “to make it easier for users to beam [content] to devices they don’t own.” Apparently, Apple spoke to some hotels “that offer TVs and speakers” to make the latter possible.

Be sure to stay tuned for our coverage of WWDC 2023. We do expect to see the official reveal of iOS 17.

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Matter’s first update won’t light up your smart home, but the next one might

The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) is rolling out the first major update to the Matter standard. Well, it's supposed to be a major update, but it's more like a minor patch.

Matter 1.1, as it’s called, won't add any new new device types to the support list, nor will there be any major changes to the individual platforms like Apple HomeKit. The CSA, instead, is making three relatively small changes affecting both companies and users alike, and those changes mostly affect the former. 

Change number one is it is now easier for smart home manufacturers to get started with Matter. The standard’s specifications reportedly have been made clearer allowing for “better guidance” in growing “support for new device types.” The CSA has also made it easier for developers to certify their products so they can get into the hands of customers faster. 

Finally, Matter 1.1 will be fixing a bug affecting Intermittently Connected Devices or ICD, which are “typically battery-powered” gadgets like motion sensors and door locks. Moving forward, it will be less likely an ICD “will be reported as offline” whenever a user or platform interacts with it. But, as far we understand the CSA, the bug isn’t completely gone. The error can still happen.

And that’s pretty much it for Matter 1.1. Two developer-centric changes and one for the users that doesn’t solve the problem at all. It just lowers the chance of the error occurring.

Analysis: the hype is gone

This update is disappointing, to say the least. It’s been seven months since Matter officially launched, and it’s pretty safe to say the hype surrounding the standard has effectively died. Roll out, too, has been slow. Google, for example, has only recently added Matter support to its Google Home app on iOS. And it took Amazon nearly four months to finally roll out Matter to its Echo lineup

Plus, multi-admin control is still a problem, according to The Verge. It isn’t easy to switch your gadget from one platform to another if it’s already connected to one, for instance. And that's something that doesn’t make any sense because the whole point of Matter – its reason for existence – is to have better interoperability between smart home platforms.

It appears the CSA is allowing smart home brands to update their individual platforms at their own discretion. The question is: when are they going to be updating? In all honesty, who knows?

The CSA states it’s going to remain committed to its goal of a “twice-yearly release cycle” for future updates. It’s currently working on “the next version of Matter”, bringing in “new features and device type support.” We contacted the CSA for more information on Matter 1.2, as we’ll call it. This story will be updated at a later time.

If you want to know what works with the standard, check out TechRadar’s list of the smart home devices that play nice with Matter.

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New, optional Home Screen redesign tool discovered in second iOS 16.2 beta

Evidence found within the second iOS 16.2 beta points to Apple working on further streamlining the user interface (UI) on iPhones and iPads via a new mode.

Called Custom Accessibility Mode, it was first discovered by 9to5 Mac. The second iOS 16.2 beta is currently available for download through the Apple Developer Program, but you can’t use the new mode at this time as it’s unavailable to users. This could mean the feature is far away from release or it’s something Apple is merely trying out. Either way, it’s a sign the company remains committed to working on accessibility features for its user base.

Simplified UI

The purpose of Custom Accessibility Mode, according to the report, is to make the iPhones and iPads more “user-friendly” for people who find their interfaces too complex. The mode could allow people to change the layout of the UI to either a Grid or List-style formation. Text and app icons can be made much larger on the Home Screen, plus it appears you can enable quick access to certain SOS features, like the Emergency Services Button. 

A password can be set up to stop other people who use the same device from changing the settings, according to 9to5 Mac. And tapping the side or Home button three times can enable and disable Custom Accessibility Mode.

Looking at the images of the mode in action, it drastically simplifies the design of apps and the Home Screen to focus on making things large. The lock screen turns into one big button with “Hold Down to Enter” in the center. Apps have massive icons that take up most of the screen and the bottom dock is gone. 

The official release notes don't detail the other features, only focusing on the fixes in the beta. For a preview of the other features, you have to go to Twitter where people are leaking them. A new Health widget will remind users to take their medication. New animations in the Music app resize the song image to indicate if it’s playing or paused.

In a recent Power On newsletter, Apple insider Mark Gurman said to expect the official release of iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 sometime in mid-December. There, users can their hands on the long-awaited Freeform app as well as the next rendition of Stage Manager. Gurman also hints at the release date of iOS 16.3 being within the first quarter of 2023. 

Accessibility is key

As mentioned earlier, Apple has been working on iPhone accessibility features for a while now. May 2021 saw the introduction of SignTime, a service allowing the hearing impaired to communicate using sign language through a web browser, and new background sounds for neurodiverse users. And earlier this year, we saw the first appearance of Door Detection to help low-vision users locate the entrance of a building.

But there’s one feature we’re eagerly waiting for: Emergency SOS via Satellite, a tool to get people in contact with emergency services if outside of cellular and Wi-Fi range. A recent Apple Support post indicates Emergency SOS is launching very soon. Be sure to read our coverage to learn more

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Home Widget brings a feature that I hoped would come in iOS 16

During the first few months of the pandemic in 2020 when the UK was in lockdown, I decided to finally follow through with some plans for the house to help make some appliances easier to manage.

The first easy win in this was smart lights. Over a weekend, I replaced every light that we used across the house with a smart one that would be available to manage over Apple's Home app, or Amazon's Alexa as a way to command the lights in the living room.

But while Apple's Home app, in which you can manage all of your lights and other smart home appliances, was easy enough to use, it's never had widgets, which has always baffled me.

Widgets first arrived in iOS 14 back in 2020, but it's taken an innovative app called Home Widget to lessen my annoyance with the lack of a Home one. Now, I've got a bunch of widgets on my home screen for my lights, without opening a single app.

Let there be (smart) light

Home Widget app in iOS

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Available for free, alongside an in-app purchase of $ 8.99 / £8.99 / AU$ 10.99 to let you create an unlimited amount of widgets, the app will monitor every smart appliance that's connected to your iPhone, and these will show in the app.

After this, you can create different panels for the lights or other appliances in your home, alongside choosing the colors, icons, and more.

Once you're done, you can place them on your iPhone or iPad home screen. Pressing one of these will either switch on or off what you've selected, without having to go into an app like Apple's Home.

Yes, this may sound very obvious to those who don't have smart lights in their home that manage them through an iPhone, but after two years of using the Home app, it's always felt off that a tentpole iOS feature that Apple has been showcasing since 2020, is nowhere to be found in its own Home app.

But Home Widget does it well, especially in how easy it is to manage your widgets. There's also a nice touch of the app showing all the widgets you've made on its launch screen, in a Tetris layout.

The app recently updated to 1.2, which brings support for HomeKit cameras, battery sensors, the color of your lights, and more.

Regardless of whether Apple brings widgets to its Home app in the future, perhaps at WWDC 2022, Home Widget is already a favorite and scratches a big itch that I've had for my house for two years.

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The top-rated Wyze home security camera drops to a record-low price at Amazon

Beef up your home security with this fantastic deal that we've just spotted at Amazon. For a limited time, you can get the top-rated Wyze Cam Spotlight on sale for just $ 39.77 (was $ 52.96). That's the lowest price we've ever seen and a fantastic deal for an outdoor smart security camera.

Today's best home security camera deal

Wyze Cam Spotlight: $ 52.96 $ 39.77 at Amazon
Save $ 13.19 –
We’ve just spotted the top-rated Wyze Cam Spotlight on sale for a record-low price of $ 39.77. The weather-resistant outdoor security camera features a spotlight that automatically comes on when motion is detected and includes two-way audio, a siren, and night vision.

The top-rated Wyze Cam is an outdoor security camera that features a spotlight. This automatically comes on when motion is detected and sends alerts to your phone through the compatible app. The weather-resistant camera includes two-way audio so you can hear and speak with visitors, and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free control. You're also getting night vision and a siren button that you can use to scare off unwanted guests.

The Wyze Cam is rarely discounted, and we don't know how long Amazon will have the home security camera at this price, so we'd snap up this deal now before it's too late.

More security camera deals

You can find more home security sales with the best cheap home security camera deals that are currently available.

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