(Pocket-lint) - Apple’s HomePod is here and will be in stores on Friday. But there’s been a lot of confusion about what you can and can’t do with Apple’s new super speaker. No matter, because we’re here to clear up the confusion. Let’s get clarifying!
Siri can do a lot on the HomePod, but you’re restricted in the audio you can use with the device (you need to AirPlay almost anything that isn’t Apple Music, iTunes-related or Podcasts, basically) while it can’t distinguish between different people in your household like Google Assistant on Google Home – so you may want to lock down access to “personal requests” - which you can do in setup.
Music with HomePod
Firstly, you can AirPlay anything from iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Mac.
HomePod appears as an extra option in the AirPlay menu of the Apple Music on your iOS device.
You can ask Siri on HomePod to play from Apple Music, anything from your iCloud Music Library, iTunes Music purchases and if you have an iTunes Match subscription.
HomePod will automatically pick up your Apple Music account (if you have one) via your Apple ID.
You can’t ask Siri to play you a radio station like BBC Radio 1, but you can ask it to play you Beats 1 radio from Apple Music. Again, you can AirPlay radio from another device.
You can’t use the HomePod with Bluetooth devices even though the unit does have Bluetooth 5.0 for the initial pairing with devices.
HomePod can sense where it is in the room – say a corner – and adjusts its sound using the built-in microphones. This happens every time you move HomePod as there’s a built-in accelerometer to detect movement.
You can ask Siri on HomePod to change the volume, stop, play, skip, forward 30 seconds or go back a track just as you would on iPhone.
Calls and messaging on HomePod
You can’t make calls with Siri on the HomePod.
You can, however, use HomePod as a speaker phone – but you need to make or receive the call on your iPhone and hand the call off in the Phone app. So you can talk as a family, for example.
To end a call, tap the top of HomePod. Or, using the audio controls in the phone app you can transfer a call back to your iPhone at any time as with any other speaker phone.
HomePod can read your texts, be used to create iOS reminders or notes. These are all synchronised with iCloud and your other iOS and macOS devices.
So you can say to HomePod commands like:
- Hey Siri, create a note Books to Read.
- Hey Siri, add Columns of Fire to my Books to Read note.
- Hey Siri, what’s on my grocery list?
- Hey Siri, add broccoli to the grocery list.
You can also use Siri on HomePod with third-party messaging apps thanks to SiriKit, including WhatsApp, Skype for iPhone, WeChat and Viber.
Example messaging commands for Siri on HomePod:
- Hey Siri, text Anita ‘Dinner will be ready when you get home.’
- Hey Siri, read my messages.
- Hey Siri, WhatsApp message Amanda ‘Good morning.’
HomePod, the Home app and HomeKit
HomePod will automatically pick up your HomeKit devices via your iCloud account so you can control them using Siri on the device. It will also pick up any other iCloud settings it needs, such as Wi-Fi networks from your iPhone or iPad.
You can enable or disable personal requests in the Home app – this means that you can stop people asking Siri to read your texts, create reminders or notes and so on.
HomePod shows in the iOS Home app where you can fine control the HomePod from your iOS device. You can provide parental controls, turn your Apple Music listening history on and off or change Apple Music account.
You can fine-control Siri in the Home app and even disable “Hey Siri” should you really want to.
You can use Siri for complete HomeKit control and here are some example commands:
- Hey Siri, turn on the lights.
- Hey Siri, make it a little warmer.
- Hey Siri, warm the house to 20 degrees.
- Hey Siri, lock the front door.
- Hey Siri, dim the dining room lights to 50 percent.
- Hey Siri, make it brighter in here.
- Hey Siri, turn on the coffee maker.
- Hey Siri, is the front door locked?
- Hey Siri, is there someone in the living room?
- Hey Siri, are the lights on in the master bedroom?
- Hey Siri, what’s the temperature in the living room?
You can also use HomePod with scenes specified in the Home app and give it commands such as:
- Hey Siri, I’m home.
- Hey Siri, I’m heading out.
- Hey Siri, good morning.
- Hey Siri, it’s movie night.
HomePod touch surface
You can use the top of the HomePod to invoke Siri (touch and hold) or pause/play music. Again, it will end a current call if you’re using it as a speaker phone.
You can double-tap the surface to skip or triple-tap to go back.
You can also change the volume on top of the HomePod.
Other Siri smarts
HomePod is automatically detected by iOS 11 devices and it will pop-up just like AirPods and other devices with Apple’s W1 wireless chip like Beats Studio Solo3 Wireless.
Siri can’t yet distinguish between different people in your home like Google Home, that’s why you can turn off personal requests in the Home app and you’re asked whether you want to enable them when you first set up HomePod.
You can set a beeping alarm but you can’t have music alarms. You can set one timer at a time but not multiple timers as you can with Alexa, for example.
You can ask Siri on HomePod for the news, weather, trivia, unit conversions, traffic, sports information and more just as you can on iPhone.
- Hey Siri, what’s in the news?
- Hey Siri, what is the weather like this weekend?
- Hey Siri, how many grams in a kilogram?
- Hey Siri, play the sports news.
- Hey Siri, how do you spell Chihuahua?
- Hey Siri, where is the nearest cinema?
- Hey Siri, when do Manchester United play next?
- Hey Siri, set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Hey Siri, do I need an umbrella today?
What you will be able to do with HomePod
Later in the year you will be able to have two HomePods in a stereo pair with deeper bass and a “stereo experience like you’ve never heard before” according to Apple. This will be enabled via a software update.
Via the upcoming AirPlay 2, you will be able to multi-room with HomePod, just as you will with other AirPlay 2-enabled devices. You can play the same music everywhere or ask Siri to play music in a particular room. “Hey Siri, play jazz in the kitchen”.
HomePod will also be able to control any other AirPlay 2 speaker. Again this is all coming in a future software update.
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