HomePod: All You Need to Know About the Apple Speaker
Apple's smart speaker debuted a little later than originally planned, but it's now available for purchase in the US, UK, and Australia. The HomePod is less than seven inches tall and produces a rich and vibrant sound that is designed to follow you around the room. It can be bought in two colors, white or space gray, and competes with the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices in an increasingly crowded smart speaker arena. Here's what you need to know to get the best out of your Apple HomePod.
Setting Up Your HomePod
In order to set up your Apple HomePod, you need an iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) running iOS 11.2.5 or later. Bluetooth needs to be on, and your iOS device should be connected to your home WiFi. The Home app is also required. If you have previously deleted it, you can download it again for free from the App Store. Note that because of these requirements, the HomePod cannot be used with an Android device.
To get started:
- Plug in your HomePod and wait while it starts up. You should see a spinning white light on the top of the device.
- Unlock your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and hold it near the HomePod.
- Tap Set Up when prompted to so on the screen of your iOS device.
- Pick the room that you would like to associate with your HomePod.
- Enable Personal Requests and agree to the terms and conditions.
- Tap Transfer Settings to sync your data with the HomePod
- When everything is good to go, Siri will inform you that setup is complete and give you some examples of things you can do on your HomePod.
Controlling the HomePod
The HomePod's minimal design makes controlling the device a little less obvious than you might think, especially when you consider that there are no physical buttons. Yes, you can use your voice, but there are also a number of gestures that you can perform by touching the top of your Apple speaker. They include:
- Volume: Tap the + or - icon during playback to raise or lower the volume
- Play/Pause: Tap the top of the speaker once to pause or resume music
- Next Track: Double-tap the top of the HomePod to skip to the next track
- Previous Track: Triple-tap the top of the HomePod to go to back a track
- Cancel Alarms: Tap anywhere on the top of the HomePod to dismiss alarms
- Siri: Activate Siri by pressing and holding on the top of the HomePod
Siri and the HomePod
Paul Kafasis said that there are virtual assistants that happen to play music, and there are speakers, that happen to have virtual assistants. The HomePod is firmly in the latter category. It is an excellent speaker, but by most measures, Siri is just not as capable when compared to Alexa or the Google Assistant.
That said, the HomePod is still a useful smart assistant for many people, especially when the six far field microphones do such a good job at hearing your requests even while playing music at loud volumes. If you have never summoned Siri with your voice before, simply say "Hey Siri" and try some of the prompts in the categories below.
- Weather: How's the weather today? Will I need an umbrella? What's the high temperature tomorrow? Should I wear a coat today?
- Travel: What's the traffic like on my route to work? How long will it take to get to drive to Chicago? Is there a Chinese restaurant nearby?
- News & Sports: What's the news today? Give me the latest sports news. What was the score in the Cavaliers game? Did Manchester United win?
- Cooking: Set a timer for 30 minutes. How long is left on my timer? How many tablespoons in a cup? How many calories does a banana have?
- Trivia: Who is the prime minister of France? Who sings this song? What is the highest mountain in the world? What is 16 x 8? How do you spell hippopotamus?
- Messages: Send a message to John. Read my new messages. Send a message to John and Jane. Read my messages from Jane.
- Reminders: Remind me to take out the trash. Add cheese to my Grocery List. Do I have any overdue reminders? Mark take out the trash as complete.
- Notes: Create a new note. Create a new note called Things to Do in Denver. Add the ballet to my Things to Do in Denver note.
Apple Music on the HomePod
There's no denying that the HomePod was built with Apple Music in mind. You don't need an Apple Music subscription to use a HomePod, but you will likely want one if you want to take full advantage of hands-free voice commands on your Apple speaker.
The HomePod does not include a subscription to Apple Music. In the U.S., students can subscribe for $4.99 a month. The individual plan is $9.99 a month, but if you decide to pay annually, you can get 12 months for the price of 10. Lastly, the Family Plan allows you to share your music subscription with up to six family members for $14.99 a month.
As well as Apple Music, the HomePod can play music you have purchased from iTunes, music you have uploaded via iTunes Match, music from the free Beats 1 radio station, as well as podcasts from the Apple Podcasts app. You can ask Siri to play music by a specific artist, or simply say "play my music" to shuffle songs from your library. The HomePod can play songs on request from a specific musical genre, (e.g. "play some classical music"), or even create custom radio stations for you based on the music you like.
While playing, you can ask Siri to turn up the volume, repeat this song, shuffle tracks in an album, or skip to the next song. You can also ask for information about a current or recently played song as well as find out more information about an artist or track you are listening to.
Podcasts on the HomePod
Are you a podcast fan? If so, you'll be delighted to hear that the HomePod can play your favorite podcasts by connecting to the Apple Podcasts app. Podcast support works in a very similar way to Apple Music. For instance, you can say, "Hey Siri, play This American Life" to start listening to a podcast. You can ask Siri to pause, skip ahead 10 seconds, jump back 30 seconds or even subscribe to new podcasts with commands like, "Hey Siri, subscribe to Podsave America."
All the actions you take with Siri on the HomePod will be synced and reflected in the Apple Podcasts app on your iPhone or iPad, and vice versa. At this time, there is no Siri voice support for third-party podcast apps like Overcast or PocketCasts.
How to Play Spotify on the HomePod
Unfortunately, there is no native support for Spotify. You can't summon Siri on the HomePod and ask her to play your workout playlist on Spotify. However, Spotify subscribers do still have the option to stream their favorite music through the HomePod if they use AirPlay. Here's how it works:
- Open the Spotify app on your Apple device
- Tap the AirPlay icon
- Choose the HomePod from the list of available devices
- Start playing the music you want to listen to
Siri cannot be used to start playing music from Spotify, but you can use it to pause, resume and skip tracks, as well as control volume. If you are a Pandora or Amazon Music subscriber, you can also take advantage of AirPlay to listen to your music on a HomePod speaker. Similarly, if you listen to podcasts on an app like Overcast or PocketCasts, you can stream your podcasts to your Apple speaker the same way.
HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
Use HomePod for Phone Calls
Wouldn't it be great to use your HomePod for phone calls? You can't initiate phone calls directly from the HomePod, but you can transfer the audio to your Apple speaker and take advantage of the HomePod's far field microphones when you make or receive a call that you began on your iPhone. Here's what you need to know.
- On the call screen, tap the Audio button
- Select HomePod
- Continue your call using the HomePod as a speakerphone
To switch back to your phone, tap the Audio button on your iPhone and select iPhone. To end a call, tap the top of the HomePod or tap the end call button on your iPhone.
Connect Your Apple TV to the HomePod
If you want to make the HomePod part of your home theater setup, you absolutely can, but only if you have an Apple TV. The HomePod has no line in jack and can't be connected to your TV via Bluetooth. You have to use an AirPlay and an Apple TV. Once connected, any audio from your Apple TV is sent to your HomePod speaker. Follow the steps below to connect your HomePod to an Apple TV.
- Make sure that your HomePod is turned on
- Select the Settings app on your Apple TV
- Select Video and Audio, and then Audio Output
- Choose your HomePod from the list of speakers
Smart Home Accessories & the HomePod
If you've ever wanted to control devices in your home with the power of your voice, then the HomePod can help with that, so long as you pair it with compatible accessories. Apple created a smart home communication protocol called HomeKit. In order for your HomePod to turn on your lights or adjust the temperature in your house, you first need to have light bulbs or thermostats that are compatible with HomeKit.
In the U.S. you can get smart door locks, wall plugs, security cameras, sensors, buttons, switches and more. If you're not sure if your smart home device is compatible, check with the manufacturer. All kinds of smart accessories are available with HomeKit support, but availability can vary by country. Your local Apple Store will have a good selection to browse through, but online retailers like Amazon has a good selection of compatible HomeKit accessories.
Once you have what you need, you connect your accessory via the Home app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and from here you can use Siri on the HomePod to control all of the smart accessories you have in your house.
Reset Your HomePod
If your HomePod ever becomes unresponsive, or you decide to sell it or give it away to a friend or family member, you will probably want the option to reset it. Apple has a couple of ways to do that. You can remove it from the Home app on your iOS device, or follow the manual reset instructions below.
- Unplug the HomePod from the wall and then plug it back in again.
- As the device restarts, press and hold the top of the HomePod and maintain that finger pressure as the light turns red and Siri warns you that that the device is about to reset.
- Keep your finger pressed on the top of the HomePod throughout the process until you hear three beeps that confirm that the reset is complete.
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© 2018 Jonathan Wylie