Apple’s much-delayed HomePod is finally available for pre-order in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It will hit the stores on February 9. When Apple announced the availability of the smart speaker earlier this week, it also provided more details on HomePod’s features — features which it did not talk about when it first unveiled the speaker at WWDC 2017.
Given Apple’s nick of paying attention to the details, the HomePod comes with many little but handy features that you will not find in smart speakers from Google or Amazon. Being a smart speaker, HomePod comes with the usual set of features that you will find in other smart speakers like asking Siri on the HomePod to play music, set up reminders or calendar events, check up on the weather, and more. However, there are plenty of other features that HomePod packs which distinguish it from the competition. These are features that you are likely unaware of.
So, if you plan on buying a HomePod or are in two minds about buying one, make sure to go through our list of the little known HomePod features below.
While Apple has provided plenty of details about the speaker set up inside the HomePod, it has not detailed the connectivity features it packs. However, it has been revealed that HomePod comes with Bluetooth 5.0. At the moment, HomePod cannot be connected to a non-iOS device but whenever Apple decides to make that possible, the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 means you will get better connectivity and higher bitrate for streaming songs.
Similarly, with the release of iOS 11.3, Apple will be introducing AirPlay 2 support to the OS. The HomePod will also gain support for AirPlay 2 with a future software update which will allow one to stream the same song to multiple HomePods in different rooms of their house at the same time.
HomePod comes with native integration with Apple Music. So to make the most out of the speaker and to playback songs easily on it, you need to have an Apple Music subscription. However, if for some reason, you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, you would still be able to playback those songs on the HomePod that you had purchased directly from the iTunes Store. Do note that this does not mean that HomePod will be able to automatically stream all songs present in your iTunes library. It is only limited to those songs which were purchased from the iTunes store.
The Siri-powered smart speaker is smart enough to automatically tune the music output depending on the room and where it is placed. The HomePod separates music into direct and ambient sound, with the direct sound beamed into the middle of the room. The ambient sound is diffused into left and right channels and then bounced off the walls. This ensures that irrespective of where you place your HomePod, it offers the best sound quality possible. And since the speaker comes with an accelerometer, it knows when it has been moved thereby allowing it to readjust the sound output again according to the room.
Despite packing an A8 chip, six array of microphones, a high-excursion woofer, and more, the HomePod is very power efficient. Apple says that the HomePod “consumes less power than an average LED household light bulb” while it is playing music. Considering how common this scenario is going to be, it is actually impressive to see the HomePod consume so little power. The intelligent power management features in HomePod are also capable of shutting down certain parts of the speaker in low power mode to help improve its power efficiency.
The HomePod can act as a speakerphone for calls that you receive on your iPhone thanks to Hand-off and Continuity features that Apple first debuted with iOS 10. This means that you can use your HomePod to take incoming calls without having to bother about where your iPhone is and picking up the call from that. And since the HomePod has better speakers, the voice quality will also be much better.
Apple has included a six-microphone array on the HomePod. These microphones are strategically placed inside the speaker and allow them to pick up the “Hey Siri” keyword even if you say it from across the room. Even more impressive, the microphone can recognize the “Hey Siri” keyword even when the HomePod is blasting music at full volume. And this is without you having to shout at the top of your lungs.
Since the HomePod will be linked to your iCloud account, it will also be able to read any new notifications that arrive on your iPhone. Again, this is a great feature to have if you intend to keep a HomePod in your room as then you will not have to bother checking your iPhone everytime it chimes for a new notification. Even more impressive is the fact that the HomePod will only read out your new notifications if you are in close proximity to the speaker. So, if you are not at home, the HomePod will not read out your notifications thereby avoiding any risk of privacy breach.
The HomePod lacks multi-user support but it does know how to respect the privacy of its primary owner. If you are not at home, other members in your family will be able to use the HomePod to listen to music, ask Siri questions, but they won’t be able to set reminders or check up on your calendar events.
The initial set up process of HomePod will be similar to AirPods. This means that you will be able to set up your HomePod by simply bringing your iPhone in close proximity to it. This would lead to a pop up on your iPhone from where you can then proceed to set up the Siri-powered smart speaker. This is in stark contrast to Google Home and Amazon’s Echo speakers which have a more involved and complex setup process.
An interesting thing to note here is that you need to have two-factor authentication and Keychain enabled for your iCloud account before you can set up HomePod.
Don’t be fooled by the size of the HomePod. Despite its relatively small size, the speaker is packed to the brim with speakers, microphones, and even a high-excursion woofer which comes with a custom amplifier designed by Apple. That woofer helps the HomePod in delivering a surprising amount of bass which you will not find in other speakers in the same or even slightly higher price range.
Are you looking forward to ordering Apple HomePod? Which feature of the smart speaker has smitten you over? Or you find the feature lacking in features compared to other smart speakers in the market?