As smart speakers go, you won’t find a better-sounding one than Apple’s HomePod. The smart home side of things might be a little undercooked but give it some music to play and it really sings. Just as well considering it costs the same as three-and-a-half Amazon Echos.
Since the HomePod went on sale back in February, Apple has added a few extra features and with the release of iOS 12 it’s now even more capable. But getting the most out it can be a bit daunting. If there’s no proper screen and everything’s controlled using your voice, how do you know exactly what it can and can’t do?
Well never fear, because Stuff is here to guide you through all the sneaky tricks of HomePod ownership. With these 25 tips you’ll have it justifying its lofty price tag in no time.
1. Seek out the settings
2. Bypass Siri
3. Keep things to yourself
4. Tell swearing to **** off
5. Make it a HomePodcast
6. Double up
Sure, it’s an expensive way to get stereo sound, but if you sleep on a bed of money, the release of AirPlay 2 means you can now pair up two HomePods.
As long as you have two in close proximity to each other and both are connected to the Home app on your iThing, it’ll ask if you want to create a stereo pair. And it’s worth it, because two most certainly sounds even better than one.
7. Go multiroom
If you’d rather keep your multiple HomePods separate, iOS 12 means they can now be used as a proper Sonos-style multiroom system.
Each HomePod you setup has a room name allocated to it, so all you need to do is say: “Hey Siri, move this song to the kitchen” or “Play this song everywhere” and you can have music wherever you go. You can also have different songs playing in different rooms and control the volume independently.
8. Make a wall of sound
9. Under the covers
10. Soothe the move from Spotify
To get the best out of your HomePod you’re going to need an Apple Music subscription. If you’re a former Spotify user, starting anew is going to take some getting used to, but there are ways to make the move as smooth as possible. For starters, you can transfer your playlists using an app such as Houdini (£2.99) or Songshift (£free).
The latter also has a £3.99 Pro version that keeps all your playlists synced across services. Apple Music doesn’t have a direct equivalent of Discover Weekly but there is a Best of the Week playlist, which is more like Spotify’s Release Radar. Still, it might just contain your new favourite band.
11. Or don’t leave at all
In our review of the HomePod we criticised its lack of support for anything but Apple Music – but there is an emergency workaround.
Open the Spotify app on your phone, play a song and hit the bit that says Devices Available at the bottom of the screen. Scroll down to where it says More Devices and use that menu to select the HomePod. You can do the same with any app that supports AirPlay.
Once this is done and you’ve got it singing from Spotify’s song sheet you can use Siri to play, pause, skip tracks and change the volume, you just can’t make specific song requests like you can when using Apple Music.
12. Mash up your genres
13. Teach Siri your tastes
14. Do you know the one that goes…
Know the words but not the name of the song? Just ask Siri to “Play the song that goes…”, recite the lyrics and the HomePod will dig through its lyric books looking for the tune you’re after.
Its hit rate is impressively high, correctly identifying everything from This Charming Man to Katy Perry’s Firework, although “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld” played The Future by the man himself rather than Nirvana’s Pennyroyal Tea. Oh, and don’t try singing the words instead, failure to recognise your warbling is only likely to offend.
15. Let your friends DJ
16. Mic up your Mac
17. Brush up on your trivia
18. Note to self…
19. Take a rain check
20. “Siri, phone home”
Your HomePod has always been able to send texts and WhatsApp messages but now it can make and receive calls too. When your phone rings, just say: “Hey Siri, answer that call” and it’ll route the audio through the HomePod, using its built-in microphones to relay your side of the convo. If you want to make one, just tell Siri to “Call Ainsley” or whoever you want to speak to.
Got nobody to talk to? Say “Play my voicemails” and Siri will play any new ones. If there aren’t any, you can listen to oldies instead, but you’d have to be really bored to do that.
21. Where did I leave my phone?
Apple’s Find My iPhone can be a lifesaver if your blower goes missing but if you just put it down at home and can’t remember where you left it, you can use your HomePod to help you find it.
Just say “Hey Siri, find my iPhone” and the HomePod will send an SOS call to your mislaid mobile, which will emit a distress signal to help you work out which sofa cushion it’s fallen behind. The real question is: why didn’t you just look there in the first place?
22. Multiply your timers
If you thought Amazon’s Echo was the most extravagant kitchen timer available, the HomePod can now cope with multiple countdowns, so using a £320 speaker to tell you when your oven chips are done surely has to take that honour.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit, so even the most bountiful banquet can be prepared using the HomePod to keep track of cooking times. Just try to remember which one’s for the sausage rolls and which is for the mini samosas, OK?
23. Take a Shortcut to Siri
The HomePod is excellent when it comes to playing music, but compared to other smart speakers its IQ rating is a few points lower.
Support for Siri shortcuts might help to change that slightly, meaning you can use your phone to record particular phrases that’ll trigger very specific actions every time you utter them to Apple’s voice assistant. You’re basically teaching an old dog new tricks, but being able to activate them via your HomePod should make using them second nature.