Guide to the Homepod

Yes, you can use it with Spo­tify, writes Michael Si­mon

Macworld - - Contents -

Homepod (£319 from fave.co/2rrvnwv) may be the first new Ap­ple de­vice since Ap­ple Watch nearly three years ago, but for many of us, it’s not the oh-my-god-i-need-to­have-it gad­get we wanted it to be. Un­less you’re specif­i­cally look­ing for a way to play Ap­ple Mu­sic in your house, you’re prob­a­bly on the fence about whether to buy one. If that’s the case, here are 11 things you might want to con­sider be­fore plac­ing your or­der.

1. You’ll need IOS 11.2.5

Be­fore you con­sider buy­ing a Homepod, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper hard­ware:

• iphone 5s or later

• ipad Pro (all mod­els)

• ipad (5th gen­er­a­tion)

• ipad Air or later

• ipad mini 2 or later

• ipod touch (6th gen­er­a­tion)

If you are an An­droid user who loves Ap­ple Mu­sic, you’re out of luck un­less you want to buy an ipod touch (£199 from fave.co/2nor­jbr) with your Homepod.

2. The coolest Siri fea­tures re­quire an Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tion

Ap­ple has touted Homepod as “the ul­ti­mate mu­sic author­ity”, but there’s a catch: You need an Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tion (£9.99 per month for an in­di­vid­ual membership, £14.99 per month for a fam­ily, and £4.99 for a stu­dent) to get the most out of it. And it’s not just for its bound­less li­brary ei­ther. With­out an Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tion, you won’t be able to con­trol your mu­sic with Siri, per­son­al­ize your mu­sic selections, or even ask it to play a spe­cific song.

3. You can use it to play Spo­tify songs

While you won’t get any of the voice con­trol fea­tures baked into Ap­ple Mu­sic, you can tech­ni­cally use your Homepod to play songs from Spo­tify, Ama­zon Mu­sic, or any other ser­vice. Se­lect Homepod as an Air­play speaker from your phone or ipad as long as both de­vices are on the same

Wi-fi net­work (sadly, it won’t work as a Blue­tooth speaker). Whether that’s worth £319 is up to you.

4. Mes­sages tied to main user

When you set up Homepod, like any other Ap­ple de­vice, you’ll be asked to en­ter your icloud ad­dress. Choose wisely, be­cause this is the main ac­count that the Homepod will be hooked up to. That means any mes­sages you send, notes you take, or re­minders you set will be tied to this ac­count, not to men­tion the main Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tion. Since Homepod is a house­hold de­vice, there might be some dis­cus­sions over which per­son is deemed the ‘head’ of Homepod.

5. Homepod has touch con­trols

Homepod’s top screen isn’t just a fancy way to see Siri in ac­tion, it’s also a way to con­trol the Homepod it­self. If you don’t want to talk to it every time you want to raise the vol­ume or change tracks, here are the ways you can phys­i­cally con­trol it:

Tap: Play/pause

Dou­ble-tap: Next track Triple-tap: Pre­vi­ous track

Tap or hold plus: Vol­ume up

Tap or hold mi­nus: Vol­ume down Touch and hold: Sum­mon Siri

6. Pri­vacy is a ma­jor sell­ing point

An un­sung fea­ture of Ap­ple’s Homepod is pri­vacy, es­pe­cially for peo­ple who are wary of let­ting al­ways-on Wi-fi-con­nected mi­cro­phones into their homes. Like Google Home and Ama­zon Echo, Ap­ple prom­ises that Homepod only starts lis­ten­ing af­ter you wake it with, “Hey Siri”, but pri­vacy on Homepod goes be­yond that. For one, your con­ver­sa­tions are en­crypted, and they’re also anony­mous, mean­ing that any­thing that gets sent to Ap­ple’s servers for pro­cess­ing won’t be tied to an icloud ac­count. That’s not the case with Google Home or Ama­zon Echo. Plus, if the main user whose icloud ac­count is tied to Homepod isn’t home (or rather, isn’t con­nected to the home Wi-fi net­work), Homepod won’t de­liver per­sonal no­ti­fi­ca­tions, so texts and re­minders won’t be shared with other peo­ple in your home.

7. Homepod can’t dis­tin­guish be­tween voices

On our phones, Ap­ple iden­ti­fies spe­cific wave­forms to rec­og­nize your voice and keep other peo­ple from ac­ci­den­tally sum­mon­ing Siri. That’s not the case with Homepod. Any­one in your home will be able to ac­ti­vate it by say­ing “Hey Siri” to get an­swers to gen­eral knowl­edge ques­tions, news, sports re­sults, and even stream mu­sic from their own phones to Homepod. But if you’re wor­ried about your mes­sages be­ing read when­ever your friends come to visit, out next fact will ease your mind.

8. You can stop Siri from lis­ten­ing

While there’s tech­ni­cally not a mute but­ton on the top of Homepod, you will be able to stop Siri from

ac­ti­vat­ing when­ever it hears its wake phrase. You will be able to turn off Siri on Homepod by say­ing, “Hey Siri, Stop lis­ten­ing”. Then you’ll only need to tap and hold the top screen to turn it back on again.

9. Homepod is very power ef­fi­cient

Even though it’s tech­ni­cally al­ways on, Homepod uses very lit­tle power when it’s plugged into an out­let. When not in use, it draws an av­er­age of 1.71W when con­nected to a stan­dard 115V out­let. Equally im­pres­sive is the 8.74W of power it con­sumes when play­ing mu­sic. That’s less than a stan­dard LED light bulb, which typ­i­cally draws around 9.5W.

10. Siri on Homepod will de­fer to your iphone

When you ask Siri a ques­tion and your phone is within earshot, Homepod won’t re­spond. Ac­cord­ing to Dig­i­tal Trends, “The as­sis­tant is smart enough to know when you’re call­ing for it when your phone is in your hand, and the Homepod will not an­swer.”

11. Homepod doesn’t do cal­en­dar no­ti­fi­ca­tions

One of the best uses for an Ama­zon Echo or Google Home is the daily brief­ing, where it will pro­vide a brief over­view of your day. It seems un­likely that Homepod will be able do that since Ap­ple hasn’t given it ac­cess to the icloud Cal­en­dar no­ti­fi­ca­tions. That’s likely due to pri­vacy rea­sons and could change in the fu­ture, but for now you’ll still need to use your phone to check your ap­point­ments.

You can play Spo­tify songs with Homepod, but not the cool way

Un­less you buy a sec­ond Homepod, only one user will be in con­trol

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