The HomePod is enjoying a bit of a resurgence now that Apple has slashed the price by $50, and I suspect a lot of you are wondering what you can do with Apple’s essentially buttonless smart speaker.
Let’s get this out of the way: No, it still doesn’t do as many things as your average Alexa-powered speaker. It can, however, do a heck of a lot more than it could do at launch thanks to a couple of big patches Apple rolled out last year—though many features aren’t obvious. Follow the tips below, and you’ll find that HomePod can feel like a member of the family, after all.
A quick note: You’ll need to set up Personal Requests to use some of these features. Once you’ve set up your HomePod, open to the Home app on your iPhone and then press the house icon in the upper left. In the menu that pops up, you’ll see your name under People. Press it. In the new menu, you’ll see a toggle for Personal Requests toward the bottom. By default it’ll say Off. Press it, and then switch on Personal Requests in the new menu. You’re good to go!
Update your HomePod
Your HomePod will need to be up to date for all this stuff to work. First, open the Home app on your iPhone. Then click the house icon in the upper left-hand corner. In the new menu, scroll down to Software Update under Speakers & TVs and press it. Install Updates Automatically should already be toggled, but if it isn’t, switch it to green.
Find your iPhone
Misplaced your iPhone in the morning rush? Your HomePod can help you find it. Just say, “Hey, Siri, where’s my iPhone?” Siri will then say, “Should I try to make it play a sound?” Say yes, and you’ll hear a ping from your phone if it’s nearby.
Have HomePod tell you the news
I often use this when I’m getting dressed in the morning. Say, “Hey, Siri, tell me the news from NPR,” and Siri will start broadcasting a quick rundown of the day’s news. Siri also reports news from CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, and the BBC.
Find songs by lyrics
If you know the lyrics to a song—i.e., you haven’t misheard them—you can feed them to Siri and she’ll tell you the name of the tune. So if I say, “Hey, Siri, what’s the song that goes, ‘And if you ask me how I’m feeling, don’t tell me you’re too blind to see,’” she’ll tell me “It’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ by Rick Astley.” If you then follow up with, “Hey, Siri, can you play that song,” it’ll start immediately.
Provided you’ve set up Personal Requests, your HomePod can now make personal calls. It works best if you have the numbers and names set up in your Favorites on your iPhone. So if I say, “Hey, Siri, call Mom,” Siri will say, “Just to confirm, you’d like to call Mom Johnson.” If I say yes, she’ll start making the call. Siri will also respond if you ask her to dial a specific number.
During a regular iPhone call, you can also hand off the call to the HomePod so it acts as a speaker. In the regular iPhone call interface, press Audio, and then press the name of your HomePod. The call will immediately switch over.
Set alarms and timers
Honestly, I probably use my HomePod for this more than anything else. It’s essentially my alarm clock. To set an alarm, say, “Hey, Siri, wake up in five hours” or “Hey, Siri, wake me up at 6:30 a.m.” For timers, you can say, “Hey, Siri, set a timer for 15 minutes,” and off she’ll go. You can even have multiple alarms and timers going at the same time, and you can also shut them all off with a single phrase: “Hey, Siri, turn off all my alarms or timers.”
Translate words and phrases into foreign languages
The HomePod is a great translator. Just ask Siri, “How do I say ‘I love you’ in Japanese?” and she’ll give you an answer. Apple’s voice assistant can translate complex phrases from a wide range of commonly spoken languages, and I find it’s a good way to learn how to pronounce words if I’ve only seen them on a page. Just be prepared for some limitations. If you ask her how to say “I love you” in Icelandic, she’s not going to be able to help out.
Stream from Spotify to your HomePod
You can’t ask Siri to play music from Spotify on the HomePod—which is a massive bummer if you’re more committed to Spotify than Apple Music—but it’s still possible to play music from the competing service through HomePod.
Fist, open the Spotify app on your iPhone. Once you have a song playing, press the “Devices Available” icon in the lower left (which looks like a monitor and iPod stacked on top of each other). In the Connect to a device menu that pops up, press More Devices. You should see your HomePod listed in the resulting menu. Select it, and the music will immediately start playing. You can also control the volume with your iPhone’s volume controls.
Add reminders and calendar items
Siri can add reminders via voice commands as easily as she can through the iPhone. So if I say, “Hey, Siri, remind me to order pizza at 5 p.m.,” Siri will say, “O.K., I added “order pizza” to Reminders for today at 5 p.m.” Unfortunately, reminders themselves will only show up on your iPhone. You can add items to your calendar in much the same way.
Control HomePod’s volume through your iPhone
You can control the HomePod’s volume with voice commands, which is cool but not precise. Fortunately, you can also control it with your iPhone.
At the simplest, if you already have a song playing on your HomePod, you’ll see the controls pop up in a widget on your iPhone’s lock screen. Alternatively, in Control Center, press the tile for the song that’s playing. A new menu will pop up that lets you control it through there. (If you’ve recently played a song on your iPhone, the song on the HomePod will show up in a widget underneath that song.)
Tell Siri which songs you like
If you like a song that’s playing, you can say, “Hey, Siri, I like this,” and Siri will factor the song into your recommendations. (Alternatively, you can say, “Hey, Siri, I don’t like this.)
You can also tell Siri to add music to a specific playlist.
Restrict network access to your HomePod
Unfortunately, Siri isn’t smart enough to tell different voices apart, but you can make sure your neighbor doesn’t use to start playing music.
Go to the Home app on your iPhone, and then press the icon that looks like a house in the upper left. In the new menu, scroll down to the heading that says Speakers & TVs and press Allow Speaker & TV Access. You’ll see options to allow Everyone to access it, Anyone on the Same Network, or Only People Sharing This Home. Choose what’s best. If you really want to be hardcore, there’s an option to set a password as well.
Enjoy stereo sound with two HomePods
If you have two HomePods, you can sync them so both of them act as the left and right speakers of a traditional speaker system. When you’re setting up a new HomePod and you assign it to the same room as an existing HomePod, you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn them into a stereo pair. Say yes and you’re done.
Keep others from messing with your recommendations
If your HomePod is shared in a household, there’s a good chance that friends or family members with different tastes can mess up your personalized Apple Music playlists. This same setting allows friends on Apple Music to see music that you’ve recently listened to. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to turn that off.
Open the Home app, then hold your finger down on the icon for the HomePod for a few seconds. Click Settings in the bottom right of the new menu that pops up. In the next menu, untoggle the setting that says Use Listening History under the Music & Podcasts section. And you’re done.
Keep explicit content from being played on your HomePod
This is especially helpful if you have kids. It’s basically the same step as above, but you’re just pressing a different toggle.
Open the Home app, then hold your finger down on the icon for the HomePod for a few seconds. Click Settings in the bottom right of the new menu that pops up. In the next menu, untoggle the setting that says Allow Explicit Content under the Music & Podcasts section. And you’re done.
Set up multi-room audio with your HomePod
If you have several HomePods, you can also set them up so they play the same music in multiple rooms of the house. Once you’ve set up all the HomePods on your account and placed them, you can say things like, “Hey, Siri, play Chopin on every speaker” and every HomePod will start cranking out mazurkas. Alternatively, you can tell Siri to only play the music through specific speakers, such as “the Living Room.”
You can also manually adjust multi-room HomePod support by going to Control Center and long-pressing the tile for the song that’s playing. In the menu that pops up, you can select which HomePods should be playing the music and you can adjust their volumes. It’s surprisingly simple.
Protect your furniture from the dreaded white ring
I can say from experience that the white silicone pad under the HomePod does, in fact, leave a white ring on some surfaces. To protect these services, put a coaster or something underneath the speaker. Some companies even make specialized coasters if you want to go nuts, and we’ve got a few whimsical solutions of our own.
Leif is a San Francisco-based tech journalist. He's a big fan of fantasy RPGs, and you can find his previous work on IGN, Rolling Stone, VICE, PC Gamer, Playboy, Mac|Life, TechRadar, and numerous other publications.