Taking HomeKit outdoors: Hands-on with the iDevices Outdoor Switch

When most of us think of Apple's HomeKit home automation framework, we think about controlling devices inside the home. Sure, you may have some outdoor lights that are within range of your Wi-Fi network that you've added, but for the most part a lot of outdoor electric accessories are still controlled the old-fashioned way: with a manual switch. iDevices is shipping the new Outdoor Switch (US$75.62 through Amazon Affiliate Link) to open the great outdoors to HomeKit automation.

Design

As you'd expect from an electrical device that must work in all weather conditions, the Outdoor Switch is armored in thick polycarbonate, has a silicone-covered external switch for manual use, and has a cable with extensive stress relief and a watertight design. 

The Outdoor Switch is meant to be plugged into a outdoor circuit that's protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor (GFCI) -- that's a device that can sense any short circuits and immediately shut off the circuit. Most outdoor plugs installed in the past 35 years or so are on a GFCI-protected circuit.

The Outdoor Switch comes with two grounded outlets on the bottom of the device. These two outlets cannot be controlled independently of each other, but are useful if you have two devices that you wish to turn on simultaneously. A handy screw mount makes securely mounting the Outdoor Switch near your outdoor plug easy.

Function

I tested the iDevices Outdoor Switch on a GFCI-protected outdoor outlet on my back patio. That outlet is a bit odd, as it's set up in such a way that it's sideways...but fortunately the short cord on the Outdoor Switch is just long enough to turn the box 90 degrees and have the outlets facing in the desired downward direction. 

The iDevices Outdoor Switch. 

The iDevices Outdoor Switch. 

Like most other HomeKit devices, the iDevices Outdoor Switch is fast and easy to set up. After plugging it in and waiting for the pairing signal (the horizontal stripe you see in the photo above flashes blue), I launched the Apple Home app (iDevices also has its own proprietary app), found the device, and then used the iPhone camera to scan the pairing code.

There was a firmware update available once I had the Outdoor Switch on the network; that required me to download and install the iDevices app. I wish Apple would make it possible to install all firmware updates for all devices from the Home app...

As with many of the iDevices switches, the Outdoor Switch can show you exactly how many Watts of power you're using, what the average daily use is (in hours), and how much you've spent to power whatever it is you're controlling. For example, if I plugged in an outdoor fountain and some lights for the pergola over our back patio, it would be interesting to see how much it cost to run the little pump and light the LED lights.

Conclusion

It's great to see that iDevices created a switch that can be used in an outside environment, as many people have outdoor lights, speakers, and other items that they'd love to operate safely by voice or with a tap on their iPhone or iPad. The Outdoor Switch is built to take on the weather and survive.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★