Home Assistant users running macOS as their primary OS have an incredible advantage over their Windows using counterparts: a native Home Assistant app. As readers frequently ask about a native Windows app for Home Assistant, I want to answer it once and for all: This is why there isn’t a Home Assistant companion app for Windows.
I don’t blame you in the slightest for wanting a Windows companion app. The native Home Assistant app for macOS is a great little tool. Not only can you interact with the Home Assistant dashboard, but it also sends information about your device to Home Assistant. It can easily tell whenever you are active and thus allows you to turn a Mac into a presence sensor. Using this functionality, you can create an automation to keep the desk light on. Or you could use the information to create an On-Air sign whenever you are in a Zoom meeting.
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- The macOS companion app uses iOS/iPadOS code
- No such thing for Windows
The macOS companion app uses iOS/iPadOS code
The Apple ecosystem has one feature that currently nothing comes close to equalling: integration. For example, AirPods only have to be paired to one device and all of your Apple devices will be able to use them without having to pair them first. Or, you can take a photo using your iPhone and have it instantly accessible on macOS.
It is not just consumer products that Apple tightly integrates, but also developer tools. Despite the current iPad Pros and MacBooks using the same silicon, it is not possible to install iPad apps on a MacBook or vice-versa. What there is, however, is Mac Catalyst. This tool allows developers to turn their iPadOS apps in to macOS apps with ease. And that is precisely what the development team of the Home Assistant companion app for macOS did. That app is a slightly tweaked iPadOS app.
No such thing for Windows
There is no way of easily porting an iPadOS app, or even an Android app for that matter, to Windows. For Windows, the development team would likely have to start from scratch. It would add another platform with many more variables to consider than the Apple equivalent. Just think about all the CPU and GPU combinations on Windows and compare it to the limited hardware Apple uses.
I am in no way siding with the Apple on the way they keep their hardware in their walled garden. I use an Android phone and a Windows laptop. But it is undeniable that it is easier for devs to create a consistent experience across their devices. If there’s one thing Windows is not, it’s consistent.
The best alternative to a native app for Windows
In my opinion, there is currently only one way you should be accessing Home Assistant on Windows: by installing the progressive web app. Progressive web apps (PWAs) are installable on your operating system, giving them a native look and feel. You can install PWAs using most modern browsers, with Firefox being the major exception.
If all you need is access to a limited amount of integrated devices, you should definitely take a look at the recently ported HA Menu. There are also multiple ways of gathering data from a Windows machine in Home Assistant. The HASS Workstation Service and IOT Link come to mind for that.
What about the Android app running on Windows?
One of the big features Microsoft promised for Windows 11 was the ability to run Android. But because they ultimately decided to ship a beta product as the final release, the Android subsystem is still in testing and will not be making its way in to a stable release anytime soon. On a sidenote, if you are considering upgrading to Windows 11, I recommend waiting. I’m using it because my new notebook (a Lenovo Legion 7 Slim, which I can recommend) came with it preinstalled, and it leaves much to be desired.
You might be thinking that the Home Assistant companion app for Android on Windows could rival the macOS app. After all, it collects an astounding amount of sensor data when running on a smartphone. Unfortunately, that will not be the case. The Android Subsystem for Windows runs a VM, and apps running on it won’t have full access to bare metal. It is therefore unlikely to pick up whether an app such as Teams or Zoom is using the camera or not. Furthermore, it also remains to be seen how much data the app will be able to collect. There is a possibility that it won’t have access to basic information, such as the battery percentage.
About Liam Alexander Colman
Liam Alexander Colman has been using Home Assistant for various projects for quite some time. What started off with a Raspberry Pi quickly became three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-blown server. I now use Unraid as my operating system, and Home Assistant happily runs in a Docker container. My personal setup includes many Zigbee devices as well as integrations with existing products such as my Android TV box. Read on to find out more on how I got started with Home Assistant.