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This is the most underrated new Apple Watch feature in watchOS 8

watchOS 8
(Image credit: Apple)

I like writing about the Apple Watch, and I like writing about smart home devices. It's not often I find cause to write about the two together, but watchOS 8 might've just changed that.

Among other useful updates like a much-improved messages experience and an added Find My Devices app, watchOS 8 introduces a redesigned HomeKit app. And in the few weeks since the full software went live, I've used HomeKit more than ever before.

For a long time, HomeKit lacked compared to the ever-growing skills of Alexa and Google Assistant. While I use Siri on my iPhone when I'm on the go or need help sending a text, Amazon's and Google's AI butlers proved more effective at home.

But Apple has upped its smart home efforts, releasing the fair-priced and strong-sounding HomePod mini last year, challenging the best Alexa speakers and best Google Home speakers with a version that lets people summon Siri.

HomeKit app on Apple Watch in watchOS 8

(Image credit: Future)

New hardware wasn't enough to convince me, though. I have enough of the best smart speakers already. While the company's gradual compatibility growth with smart home brands of all sizes somewhat piqued my interest, I still refrained.

But then watchOS 8 (along with some HomeKit improvements in iOS 15) promised to make my Apple Watch 6 the ultimate smart home controller. The revamped app puts the key controls all your eligible smart home devices a tap on your wrist away. It's all very James Bond, and I love it.

I started with one of the best smart light bulbs that works with HomeKit. It's a warm-hued Edison bulb from Sylvania I had laying around. I didn't want to make a Sylvania account or download yet another smart home app on my phone, so I opted for set up with HomeKit.

Within 5 minutes of taking the bulb out of its box, it was powered on, connected to my HomeKit profile and ready to be controlled from my wrist. I even made a TikTok about it (speaking of, have you followed Tom's Guide on TikTok yet?) to show off how simple watchOS 8's new HomeKit layout makes turning smart lights on and off.

@tomsguide

The #HomeKit app’s new design for #applewatch is a win 🥇 #apple #lights #smartlights #smarthome #tech #techtok #applewatchtips #hacks #foryou

♬ misery 4 u - Nick

If you have any of the best security cameras that work with HomeKit, you can see a small feed from them on wrist. I don't have any in my apartment currently, though I sense the Apple Watch 7's larger screen will make checking in on your cams more practical.

Some of the best Fitbit smartwatches, like the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3, already let you control your Alexa-compatible devices from your wrist with voice commands. The Apple Watch adds an effortless visual element, letting me tap a light on without using my voice. When I'm winding down at night and want some mood lighting, I don't necessarily want to talk to Siri. 

I still think HomeKit has a ways to go before catching up Alexa and Google Assistant. For now, I'm thinking of it as a complement to my existing IoT system, choosing a few of the best HomeKit devices to add to my space. But I wouldn't be doing this if not for the app's new look in watchOS 8 — here's hoping it sees continued improvements and this isn't a one-time upgrade. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.