Best smart home platform: Alexa or HomeKit?

One of the common questions I get is people asking about HomeKit vs. Amazon Alexa. All of these people have iPhones, but they are starting to dabble in the smart home market, so it can be confusing to see the Home app, but then see “works with Alexa” when browsing on Amazon.com. Once you get invested in a platform, it can be difficult and costly to change. So what’s the best smart home platform to get started with in 2020?

HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.

Cost

It’s no secret that Amazon gives out their Alexa enabled products. I own five Echo Dots that we use for Apple Music playback in a few rooms in our house. I think I’ve spent less than $75 total for them thanks to various discounts Amazon has offered over the years. While they don’t sound near as good as HomePod, they are also a fraction of the cost. Even during Christmas time deals over at 9to5Toys, the best price I saw was $180 for Apple’s smart speaker. HomePod needs to expand into smaller products. If you are looking for the least expensive way to control your smart home via your voice, it’s hard to ignore Alexa.

Compatibility

Alexa is the default smart home platform for manufacturers. It’s the easiest to implement, and it has a large user base. For the vast majority of smart home products, they will support Alexa and Google Assistant, and then HomeKit can sometimes be a third option. If you want a platform that is supported by most products, then Alexa will be your choice. With Amazon’s ownership of Ring, they have a vast product catalog.

A good example here is that Ring offers such products as floodlights with cameras built in and video door bells. On the other hand, there are very few doorbells that work with HomeKit available to purchase, and just one of them works with HomeKit Secure Video. abode is launching a camera this year that will work with HomeKit and double as a doorbell.

While HomeKit is no slouch when it comes to supported devices, Alexa is at the top of the list.

Reliability

Reliability is something that’s going to be subjective. As with anything Wi-Fi driven, your device makeup, the layout of your home, and placement of devices can determine how reliable they are. I’ve got twenty-five devices that would be considered “smart home” products and almost all of them support HomeKit and Alexa. I’ve got them configured with various automations and room layouts, and I’ve found HomeKit to be head and shoulders above Alexa when it comes to reliability. I’ve found that devices that are still working with HomeKit will be “unresponsive” with Alexa. Sometimes rebooting the device will fix it, but other times I’ll have to completely remove it and re-add it via the Alexa app.

While Siri gets a bad reputation in a lot of areas, I’ve found that HomeKit is an area where it excels. In my experience, Siri on iPhone and HomePod has been almost 100% reliable.

In my time using both HomeKit and Alexa for many months, HomeKit is a more reliable and less finicky ecosystem.

Security

Ring Doorbell

I saved the most important category for last, and I think if you are still on the fence about the best smart home platform in 2020, then it should come back to security. From a technical perspective, I am not going to pretend like I am an expert about knowing why Alexa is more or less secure than HomeKit.

What I do know is that if you are considering cameras as part of your smart home platform, I would avoid Alexa at all costs. We learned a few weeks ago that Ring fired employees for accessing customers’ cameras. The very fact that they have access to camera footage should be reason enough to avoid using them.

With HomeKit Secure Video, not even Apple can access your footage. The cameras encrypt footage to your iCloud account so only you and your family can access it. As we put more and more cameras inside and outside of our homes, I do not trust any company with access to them. The bottom line is that if you value privacy and security, HomeKit and HomeKit Secure Video is your only choice for smart home cameras.

Last year, Apple also launched HomeKit router integration.

HomeKit router integration will firewall off all smart home accessories to isolate them from each other, so if one got compromised it couldn’t snoop on your wider network. Users will be able to manage these new security features through the Home app on iPhone and iPad. HomeKit router functionality is only “announced” and we have yet to see any company ship compatible firmware to actually enable the features.

Wrap-up on the best smart home platform

If you are starting on your smart home journey, it’s essential to understand the basics. While there are dozens of vendors who make these products, three leading platforms exist, Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. While most products support Alexa, I think that HomeKit is the best platform to build with because of security and reliability.

Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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