HomeKit makes Ikea’s cheap buttons and motion sensors much more powerful

Ikea’s new $9.99 / €7.99 / £6 Trådfri Shortcut Buttons and existing $14.99 / €12.95 / £12 Trådfri Motion Sensors recently gained HomeKit support to the delight of many Apple device owners. Importantly, the addition is cumulative for the most part, allowing the Ikea devices to function with the best features of Ikea Home Smart while layering on the best of Apple.

I’ve been testing both Ikea Home Smart devices for the past few days and while setup is predictably buggy, when they’re up and running it’s glorious, especially for the price.

Motion sensors designed to work with HomeKit aren’t cheap. They range in price from $21 to $57 according to this roundup from iMore. The popular Motion sensor from Philips Hue, for example, is more capable but costs $40, or almost three times as much as Ikea’s sensor, and both require hub devices to communicate with HomeKit. The Hue Bridge costs $59.99 while the Ikea Gateway costs $29.99, although these are often discounted in bundles with compatible lights and switches. An Apple home hub is also required, which can be a HomePod, Apple TV, or iPad.

There isn’t another product quite like Ikea’s Shortcut Buttons in the HomeKit world, so it’s hard to compare pricing. Some people will repurpose the four buttons on a $24.99 Hue dimmer switch to perform HomeKit automations, but it’s not really the same, and Aqara buttons are hard to find. Ikea designed its Shortcut Buttons to operate a single scene and that’s all.

Ikea Shortcut Button

The Ikea Shortcut Buttons are meant to be scattered around the home as dedicated controllers for individual or groups of devices. Place one next to the bed to shut off all the lights, for example, without having to yell at a smart assistant or launch an app. Place another in the kitchen to play your favorite Spotify playlist on the Sonos speaker.

The magnetic buttons include a metal mounting bracket that can be screwed into a wall or attached with the double-sided tape found in the box for a less permanent option. They also ship with six stickers: three printed with icons representing nighttime, lights, and morning, and three blanks for you to illustrate yourself.

Ikea's Shortcut Buttons starting a scene.

Ikea demonstrating a Shortcut Button starting a scene to The Verge in 2019.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

The Shortcut Button can be assigned operations in both the Ikea Home Smart and Apple Home apps with cumulative results. It’s a bit confusing (and potentially conflicting), but combining the Ikea and Apple worlds makes the Shortcut Buttons much more powerful.

I defined a “Good Night” Shortcut Button in the Apple Home app that I placed on a shelf above my bed. A regular press turns off seven smart lights (a mix of Ikea and Hue) and four Sonos speakers. A long press turns on a decorative filament night light in the bedroom at 10 percent brightness. To achieve these results, I had to assign a “scene” to the Shortcut Button in the Ikea Home Smart app and also assign “actions” in the Apple Home app.

When using the Shortcut Buttons only with Ikea’s Home Smart app, you are limited to a single scene assigned to a single button press. But Ikea’s deeper Sonos integration exposes all of my Sonos speakers to the Shortcut Button, not just the newer AirPlay 2 speakers recognized by HomeKit. HomeKit improves upon Ikea Home Smart by detecting both a short press and a long press of the Shortcut Buttons. Apple also gives you the option of writing if / then / else shortcuts (confusing, I know) that can be assigned to the short and long presses instead, giving you four possible control options from a single Shortcut Button. (Here’s a useful thread explaining the steps started by u/armadawars on the HomeKit subreddit.)

Ikea Scene assignment for “Good Night” button.

Apple Action assignments for “Good Night” button.

So far, I’ve kept things simple. I have a scene called “Top music off” in the Home Smart app that I’ve assigned to the aforementioned “Good Night” Shortcut Button. This allows me to shut off any Sonos speakers that might be playing in, or around, my bedroom. In Apple’s Home app, I also assigned a mix of seven Philips Hue and Ikea lights to turn off with a single press of the “Good Night” Shortcut Button. I then assigned a long press to turn on the Ikea filament bulb.

I have a second Shortcut Button in my living room currently set up to control my TV and mood lighting in the Apple Home app. A short press turns on my 2020 LG OLED TV and two lights to a predefined color and brightness. A long press turns everything back off. And just because I can, I also assigned a scene to the button in the Ikea Home Smart app that starts playing a Christmas playlist on the kitchen Sonos anytime it’s pressed. It’s dumb, and my family hates it, but it makes me so damn happy.

Ikea Motion Sensor

I would have driven myself mad setting up the Ikea Trådfri Motion Sensor in HomeKit had I not first read this tip on Reddit.

Despite my Trådfri Gateway being upgraded to firmware 1.13.21 and seeing both of my existing motion sensors in the Apple Home app and the sensors tripping Ikea lights when motion was detected, neither was detecting motion according to HomeKit. To solve that, first I had to remove the motion sensor from the Gateway (four clicks on the pairing button), delete the old rooms hosting the sensors from the Ikea Home Smart app, and then re-add the sensor (two clicks holding it next to the Gateway) where it was assigned a new default room. Only then did I see motion activity detected in Apple’s Home app, allowing me to control HomeKit devices with the sensor.

The pantry sensor paired to Ikea lightbulb.

The pantry light and sensor in Apple Home.

As with the Shortcut Buttons, automations linked to the Ikea Motion Sensor in both the Ikea and Apple Home apps are cumulative. In my walk-in pantry, I paired an Ikea lightbulb directly to an Ikea Motion Sensor (press the link button on the Motion Sensor while holding it next to the Ikea bulb for about 10 seconds) and then set up an automation in the Apple Home app to turn on a strip of Hue lights above my kitchen cabinet, but only at night. The Ikea pantry light shuts off automatically after three minutes.

Letting Ikea control the light, not HomeKit.

Pantry motion kicks off a secondary event in kitchen.

That three-minute reset built into the Ikea Motion sensor can cause conflicts with HomeKit automations. The Apple Home app lets you to assign automations to both motion and the lack of motion. It can also take a secondary action after a set period of time. For example, in the Apple Home app, I can tell the Ikea Motion Sensor to light a Hue bulb in the pantry instead, and then shut it off after one minute. However, it can’t be tripped again for another two minutes due to the three-minute sleep time, leaving me to rummage around the pantry in the dark.

Other motion sensors have much shorter reset periods, even as low as 20 seconds, which makes them much better suited for controlling lighting. Others also include temperature sensors, opening the door for even more creative automations. The Ikea Motion Sensor is basic by comparison with a price to match.

Ikea’s Motion Sensors and Shortcut Buttons are so inexpensive and useful that they’re easy to recommend, especially for homes with a mix of Ikea and Apple products already. While the Motion Sensors are available just about everywhere, the new Shortcut Buttons have only started rolling out and still can’t be found in the US. Both HomeKit devices make the smart home accessible to everyone without apps or voice commands, limited only by the smart devices you own, your ability to write HomeKit shortcuts, and your patience with fiddly smart home tech.