Apple’s Rumored ‘Home Accessory’ Device Portends More Accessible Smart Homes

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Once more unto the Apple rumor breach.

I occasionally get asked by readers and my friends and peers in the tech media why I don’t engage more with the Apple rumor mill, a machine rife with story fodder for those who watch the company closely. It’s true the Apple rumor beat is lucrative in terms of content and eyeballs, but the plain truth is accessibility and assistive technologies is very rarely a beat conducive to juicy “sources said” reporting. But I do read 9to5 Mac and MacRumors, two of the foremost publications of Apple news, as well as the preeminent Apple scoopster in Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Every once in a while, one (or more) of the stories posted on these sites will be thought-provoking enough to write about from a disability perspective.

In fact, one such instance occurred earlier this week when I posted about the new “Tao to Provision” mechanism for adding new cards to Apple Pay in iOS 18. As I wrote, tapping one’s card(s) to the back of their iPhone is a much more accessible method to add it to the Wallet app than needing to manually enter the printed data on the card itself.

Inspiration has struck again today, as I happened across a piece on MacRumors by contributor Aaron Perris about a purported discovery in what he described as “Apple’s backend code” that Apple is working on a new home-based device that complements the Apple TV set-top box and the HomePod speakers. Perris reports the recently unearthed code “references a device with the identifier ‘HomeAccessory17,1,’ which is a new identifier category.” He adds the name is similar to the HomePod’s “AudioAccessory” identifier and runs a variant of tvOS powered by the presumably forthcoming A18 chip. The silicon is of particular import because, per Perris, an A18 chip could drive Apple Intelligence.

What makes this mysterious device so intriguing is it appears Apple finally is releasing something to compete with kitchen-based smart home devices like Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub. From an accessibility perspective, this is not a trivial development. As someone who’s been entrenched in the Apple ecosystem for centuries, the glaring omission in my HomeKit-dominated setup is the lack of an Echo Show-like product from Apple. Especially in the kitchen, where we have a HomePod mini currently, it would be much more accessible to have a relatively large screen through which to control, say, the doorbell and garage cameras, as well as obviously access media like music and podcasts. The HomePod obviously is capable of handling audio content, but the salient point is more about video. Instead of having to carry my phone with me in my pocket or set it on the counter in case the doorbell rings, Apple’s new device could show me the camera feed when it rings. Even impromptu FaceTime calls would be better. In a practical sense, this new device’s screen would be appreciably larger than even my gargantuan iPhone Pro Max; it also would save me from having to reach for my phone, fiddle with Face ID, and tap on the notification. In short, the presence of a kitchen-based device would save me a lot of headache in terms of visual and motor skills—especially in an instance as time sensitive as somebody knocking on the front door to deliver something.

More broadly, it’s not far-fetched to presume this still-unannounced will be as accessible as any other Apple product. I’ve had past experience using the aforementioned Echo Show and, given my affinity for Nest products, the Google Nest Hub. Both were okay; I enjoyed having native integration to our Nest gear instead of hacking it, but they nonetheless felt disjointed from my primary devices. I choose to use Apple products for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are ecosystem and accessibility. As serviceable as the Google Home Hub is for adjusting my thermostat and locking my front door, it isn’t made by Apple. It isn’t compatible with HomeKit. Put another way, it’s for these reasons why I prefer Apple TV for entertainment despite the fact I appreciate Google TV’s native integration with Nest and the content recommendations.

Paris goes on to write there also are mentions of as-yet-unreleased Apple TV models, reiterating earlier reports stating Apple is seemingly readying upgraded hardware for potential release later this year. The company last launched a new Apple TV in October 2022. That model, which I have hooked up to my living room TV right now, features an A15 Bionic chip and, in my case, 128GB storage and an Ethernet port.

Should the rumor become reality and Apple indeed does show off this new “HomePod with a screen” device, I will be extremely hyped for it. It’s the missing—and arguably long overdue—piece of my HomeKit puzzle, one that will lend even more credence to the notion that smart home technology is more meaningful than sheerly being convenient.

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