Before we get started, let’s clear something up. If you’re a Spotify subscriber, you can easily play music through Apple’s HomePod ($349). You just won’t be able to say, “Hey Siri, play Childish Gambino through Spotify,” though you can tell the assistant to pause, change the volume, and skip tracks while using the third party service.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to know Apple’s new smart speaker, which is now available across the globe.
Setup is a breeze
After you plug HomePod in, setup is very easy. Simply hold your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad near the speaker and a setup screen will appear. Follow the onscreen instructions, and after a few minutes you’ll be up and running. You don’t need any extra apps, and you don’t need to jump through settings.
The nice thing is the settings of your iOS device, such as Wi-Fi settings, Siri preferences, Apple ID, and more will be automatically copied to the HomePod. For a seamless experience, make sure you’re updated to iOS 11.2.5 and have Bluetooth turned on.
If you do run into trouble during setup, open the Home app and tap the plus (+) button to add an accessory. The Home app is also where you can go to change settings, such as HomePod’s name, room assignment, and more.
Since its announcement, Apple has touted HomePod’s ability to adjust its sound using spatial awareness. The feature is designed to give homeowners and renters an equal experience, providing optimal sound no matter where the speaker is placed.
According to Apple, the technology inside the HomePod first creates a model of the room it’s in, then it creates a virtual array of sound beams. After that, the HomePod assigns different parts of the music to its internals for increased clarity and bass.
What users should hear is a distinction between vocals, instruments, and other sounds. All of this happens without any intervention from the user. Simply place the HomePod on a desk and let it do its thing. If you happen to move HomePod to a different location, it’ll automatically readjust.
Several ways to control it
You can control HomePod a few different ways, using your voice, smartphone, or the touch controls found at the top. Using voice controls is the easiest and most convenient way. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri, set the volume to 75 percent.” You can also pause and resume playback, skip tracks, and more.
Touch controls are a little more complex, requiring users to learn a few different gestures. To activate Siri, for example, you have to touch and hold the top of HomePod. To go to a previous track, triple-tap on top of HomePod.
Of course, you can pause, skip a track, and change the volume directly through your phone. It just depends on what’s most convenient for you.
Turn off this feature
The unfortunate thing about the HomePod is it doesn’t support multiple users. That means if you setup the “Personal Requests” feature, anybody within range of the HomePod will have access to your iMessages, Notes and Reminders. For obvious reasons, you should turn this feature off until the HomePod becomes more sophisticated. You don’t want anybody in your household snooping on your messages, no matter how harmless they may be.
It works with Apple TV
The HomePod connects to a myriad of Apple devices via AirPlay, including the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It will also connect to the Apple TV, turning the HomePod into a makeshift soundbar. The feature is a beautiful example of how harmoniously Apple devices work together. Connecting the HomePod to your Apple TV will add a new dynamic to the movies and TV shows you watch.
Use it to control your home
Like the Echo and Google Home, Apple’s HomePod can be used to control accessories that support HomeKit, including lights, thermostats, and more. Once everything is connected through the Home app, you can instruct Siri to change the temperature or turn off the lights.
Siri is limited
Siri is capable of performing simple tasks, such as setting alarms and reading the latest news. You can also get weather forecasts and, as mentioned above, control your smart home. But the digital assistant is still limited compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Siri can’t tell you what appointments you have coming up, and it can’t make phones calls. At launch, Siri simply can’t compete against the vast number of skills possessed by Alexa. And it’s nowhere near as intelligent as Google Assistant, incapable of answering follow-up questions.
As we’ve said before, the HomePod remains unfinished, despite it being available to purchase. AirPlay 2, for example, has yet to launch, and there’s currently no way to pair two HomePods at once. Multi-room audio support has yet to launch, too, underlining just how far behind Apple’s speaker is compared to the competition.