Until very recently you could use your iPad as a smart home hub, but Apple took that feature away in iPadOS 16. Now it seems we have an explanation: Apple is reportedly working on a low-end iPad-style device that's designed specifically as a smart home hub, rather like the Nest Home Hub or the Echo Show 15.
According to Bloomberg, this isn't a go-anywhere device: it's designed to be wall-mounted or stuck to your fridge with magnets. And it'll be more like a HomePod/Apple TV than an iPad, with a focus on home automation and entertainment.
What to expect from Apple's home hub
Bloomberg's describing something that sounds awfully similar to Facebook/Meta's ill-fated Portal, a smart screen where you can control your music, stream video, FaceTime your family and get status updates from your various smart home devices. Given that any iPad can already do those things, albeit with another device acting as the hub, that suggests Apple is working on something smaller with a lower price tag.
Can Apple succeed where Portal failed? I think it can. The biggest downside to Portal was its manufacturer: given Facebook's track record on privacy, the prospect of Mark Zuckerberg putting a camera and mic in your home was a step too far for many. Including me. And the first generation was half-baked, so by the time the second-generation model came out Portal had missed its moment. I doubt Apple would make the same mistakes.
Bloomberg has previously reported that Apple's home hub would be a cross between a HomePod and an Apple TV, and that Apple is also considering a product that would combine HomePod smart speaker, a FaceTime camera and an Apple TV in a single device. This hub doesn't appear to be that device, if such a thing even exists.
The home hub is reportedly planned for a 2024 release, and no product name has been revealed as yet. HomePad, anyone?