HomePod tips and tricks

Your HomePod can do more than pump out mu­sic. More than you may re­al­ize. Michael Si­mon and Ja­son Cross re­port

Macworld - - FEATURE -

Ap­ple’s HomePod is pri­mar­ily a mu­sic play­back ma­chine. And it’s got Siri, which means it can do ob­vi­ous things like set timers, take notes, and tell you what the weather is go­ing to be to­mor­row. But it can do more. It’s no Echo or Google Home in its flex­i­bil­ity, but HomePod has a few neat tricks up its... um... power cord. Here are some of the things you might not know it can do.

1. Pre­cisely con­trol the vol­ume

You know you can say “turn the vol­ume up” or “vol­ume down”, but you can be ex­act if you want to. Try say­ing “turn the vol­ume to 65 per­cent”.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to mu­sic tracks. “Skip forward” and “next track” are ob­vi­ous com­mands, but to can also say, “Skip forward 42 sec­onds” to get past the bor­ing in­tro or zoom straight to the cho­rus.

2. Re­mem­ber a tune you’ve for­got­ten

Don’t re­mem­ber One Foot in the Grave is the name of Beck’s first al­bum? No prob­lem, you can sim­ply say, “Play Beck’s first al­bum” to hear it. Or if you want to hear a song that es­capes you, try be­ing generic. For ex­am­ple, “Play that Run DMC song with Aero­smith” will cue up Walk This Way.

3. Lis­ten by Ac­tiv­ity, Mood, or Genre

Ap­ple Mu­sic main­tains cu­rated playlists or­ga­nized by ac­tiv­i­ties and moods. It’s a great way to discover new mu­sic and queue up tracks that fit what you’re do­ing in your home. Try say­ing, “Play some car­dio mu­sic” or “Play chill mu­sic”.

Okay, so maybe you knew you could do that. But did you know you could use these in com­bi­na­tion? Try “Play lively in­die mu­sic,” for ex­am­ple. Here’s a list of ac­tiv­i­ties and moods to get you started:

• Bed­time

• Break Up

• Car­dio

• Cook­ing

• Danc­ing

• Din­ner Party

• Med­i­tat­ing

• Party

• Study­ing

• Wak­ing Up

• Af­fec­tion­ate

• Blue

• Chill

• Lively

• Safe for Kids

• Sooth­ing

• Un­wind

• Up­beat

• Warm

• Whim­si­cal

• Al­ter­na­tive

• Blues

• Clas­sic Rock

• Clas­si­cal

• Country

• Dance

• Elec­tronic

• Hard Rock

• Hip-Hop

• In­die

• Jazz

• Kids

• Latino

• Metal

• Oldies

• Pop

• R&B

• Reg­gae

• Rock

• Soul

• World

There are lots of sub­gen­res of mu­sic, too, such as k-pop, Chicago blues, smooth jazz, and zy­deco.

4. Turn Ex­plicit Con­tent on or off

Have chil­dren in the house? Maybe you don’t want them to be able to play songs with a bunch of in­ap­pro­pri­ate words in them. You can turn ex­plicit con­tent on or off in the Home app. Here’s how:

• Open the Home app

• Se­lect your HomePod in the Favourite Accessories list

• Long-press or 3D touch on it

• Tap De­tails

• Scroll down to Mu­sic & Pod­casts

• Tog­gle Al­low Ex­plicit Con­tent

5. Res­cue your mu­sic rec­om­men­da­tions

It’s an­noy­ing that HomePod doesn’t rec­og­nize dif­fer­ent voices. Even if you turned off Per­sonal Re­quests, your fam­ily mem­bers can still in­ad­ver­tently mess up your mu­sic rec­om­men­da­tions. For­tu­nately, you can turn off mu­sic rec­om­men­da­tions on your HomePod, so

the songs played there won’t af­fect the ‘For You’ rec­om­men­da­tions on your Ap­ple Mu­sic ac­count. It’s not ideal, but it may be your best op­tion.

• Open the Home app

• Se­lect your HomePod in the Favourite Accessories list

• Long-press or 3D touch on it

• Tap De­tails

• Scroll down to Mu­sic & Pod­casts

• Tog­gle Use Lis­ten­ing His­tory

6. Use HomePod as a speak­er­phone

You can’t use Siri to start a phone call with HomePod. That’s an­noy­ing. But you can use

HomePod as a very so­phis­ti­cated speak­er­phone. It’s not the most el­e­gant so­lu­tion, but when you’re in a call or about to ac­cept one, sim­ply tap the ‘au­dio’ but­ton and choose HomePod as the source. It’s the same as you would do to use a Blue­tooth head­set.

7. Change Siri’s voice

Siri’s voice is fe­male by de­fault, but you can change the ac­cent and the gen­der in­side the Home app. Just head over to the Siri Voice tab and you can se­lect a new ac­cent (Amer­i­can, Aus­tralian, Bri­tish)

or change the gen­der from fe­male to male. For fur­ther de­tails see page 114.

8. Find a good place to eat

Siri on HomePod is miss­ing a lot of what makes Alexa and Google As­sis­tant so good on those other home speak­ers. But it’s sur­pris­ingly help­ful in one area: restau­rant re­views. Just ask Siri to “Find a good pizza place near me”, or “What’s the best sushi restau­rant in Tun­bridge Wells”, and it will oblige, even telling you far away it is from your home and how many starts it gets in Yelp.

9. Add a song to a playlist

While you can’t cre­ate new playlists on HomePod, you can add songs to ones that al­ready ex­ist. Just ask Siri to “Add this song to my Run­ning playlist”, and it will ap­pear on all of your de­vices. How­ever, if you want to delete a song you’ll need to head to Ap­ple Mu­sic on your de­vice to do it.

10. Check on the timer

One of the few tasks Siri does well on HomePod (aside from play­ing mu­sic) is set­ting timers. But af­ter you set it, you don’t have to wait un­til it goes off. Just ask, “Hey Siri, how much time is left on my timer”, and it will tell you.

11. Turn on VoiceOver and Touch Ac­com­mo­da­tions

Just like iOS, HomePod has built-in fea­tures that will read the touch­pad con­trols aloud for peo­ple

with im­paired vi­sion or tweak the sen­si­tiv­ity. To turn it on, head over to the Home app and se­lect the Ac­ces­si­bil­ity tab. In­side you’ll two op­tions for Voice Over and Touch Ac­com­mo­da­tions. There are a few set­tings in­side each, in­clud­ing speak­ing rate, hold du­ra­tion, and tap as­sis­tance.

12. Limit the vol­ume

Just like iTunes and Ap­ple Mu­sic, HomePod in­cludes a fea­ture that will nor­mal­ize the vol­ume across songs to avoid in­con­sis­tent lev­els when lis­ten­ing to a playlist. Just go to the HomePod set­tings in the Home app and turn the Sound Check tog­gle green.

13. Pick up where you left off

When­ever you stop play­ing a song on HomePod it’s not ac­tu­ally off, it’s just paused. So when you want to start play­ing mu­sic again, just say, “Hey Siri, play,” and it will be­gin play­ing from the point where you stopped it last time.

14. Find out what’s play­ing on the ra­dio

When you ask Siri to the name of the song that’s play­ing, it will tell you, as well as the artists, al­bum, re­lease date, and lots of other in­for­ma­tion about it. How­ever, when you ask it to iden­tify a song that’s play­ing on another source, it’ll tell you that it’s only able to ID songs it’s play­ing. That’s not en­tirely true. In­stead of ask­ing, “Hey Siri, what song is this”,

say, “Hey Siri, Shazam this”, and it will lis­ten to what­ever’s play­ing and tell its name.

15. Add a tone to Siri

Siri on HomePod is re­mark­able good at hearing com­mands, but if you want to know that Siri has re­sponded, you can add an au­di­ble tone just like on your iPhone. In­side the Home app there’s a tog­gle for ‘Sound when us­ing Siri’, which will play a bass note when it starts lis­ten­ing.

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