The HomePod and HomePod mini are Apple’s smart speakers, taking on the Amazon Echo, Google Home and various other AI-equipped music-and-more players.
Like the incredibly popular Echo, both HomePod models can play music and perform various useful functions, such as tell you about the track that’s playing, set timers, search for and relay information found on the web, read your text messages, set calendar appointments, and a lot more.
In this article we explain exactly what the HomePod and the HomePod mini can do, and what they can’t do. We also discuss the new features that arrive on the HomePod with each new version of iOS and the new features that have arrived over the months and years previously.
One of the great things about the HomePod is the fact that Apple keeps regularly updating the software and adding new features. As a result Apple’s smart speaker has a lot more going for it than it did at launch back in 2018. In this article we run through everything the HomePod can do thanks to the subsequent updates it’s seen.
The latest update to HomePod arrived with iOS 16.3 in January 2023 and introduced a number of new feature, more information below. That update followed the launch of a brand new 2nd-generation HomePod which replaced the original HomePod which Apple discontinued in 2021. See: HomePod vs HomePod mini to see how the two models compare.
The HomePod and HomePod mini can do the following:
- Play music from Apple Music and use various Siri commands to play certain songs, albums, artists or music genres or get information about the artist, or to ‘play other songs like this’.
- Play any music you have bought from iTunes Music Store.
- Play any music in your iCloud Music Library if you have an Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription.
- Play music from third-party music services that you have a subscription with. You can change your default music service to Pandora or Deezer on the HomePod and control playback using Siri. You can use AirPlay to stream Spotify and Amazon Music to your HomePod from your iPhone, but to date those services aren’t able to be controlled on the device via Siri. Apple has put measures in place that will allow Spotify and Amazon to be the default third party music apps on HomePod, but those companies are yet to make on-HomePod playback possible.
- Listen to Apple Music Radio and other radio stations via TuneIn and other services.
- Handoff music from your iPhone to the HomePod, and vice versa, so you can continue to listen.
- Play anything via your iPhone using AirPlay on an iPhone, iPad or Mac to stream it to the HomePod.
- Play podcasts from Apple Podcasts.
- Get a Podcast powered news summary by asking Siri to ‘give me the news’.
- Play ambient sounds (remastered in 16.3)
- Play music directly from your iPhone without connecting to a WiFi network (we explain how to do that here).
- Stereo options became available with a software update in June 2018, so you can pair multiple HomePods to create a stereo pair, or even create a multi-room audio system. Unfortunately stereo pairing only works with identical HomePods, so you can’t pair a mini and a HomePod, or even a HomePod 2nd-gen with a HomePod 1st-gen. There’s no set up required–just place two HomePod speakers in the same room to pair them up.
- HomePods and other Apple gadgets can be used as an Intercom so you can communicate with people around the house.
- Thanks to a built-in sensor, HomePod and HomePod mini can tell you the temperature and humidity of the room. (New in 16.3)
- A sound recognition feature in the HomePod 2nd-gen enables it to recognise if a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is activated.
- Control your HomeKit gadgets. HomePod also works with Matter, the new smart home connectivity standard, extending compatibility with smarthome gadgets. Thread is also supported. For more about what Matter and Thread are and why they are important read our guide to Thread and Matter.
- Set up automations so that a single command can trigger a series of events. E.g. say Good Night and have Siri pick up the command on your HomePod and turn the TV and lights off and close the curtains. Read: Things you can ask Siri on the HomePod. You can set up recurring Home automations just using your voice.
- Work with HomeKit Secure Video to identify people.
- You can use the Find My service to find a misplaced iPhone or even locate friends or family (with their permission) just by asking Siri on the HomePod.
- You can make and receive phone calls on a HomePod.
- Read and reply to your Messages.
- Recognise the voices of up to six family members.
- Set timers and alarms.
- Let you know what the traffic will be like for your journey.
- Let you know what the weather will be like.
- Get local cinema times.
- Provide information that could be obtained from searching the internet, such as opening hours for your local grocery store.
- Translate. For example, you could ask: “Hey Siri, how do you say Good Evening in German” for example and it will tell you.
- Spelling. Similarly, if you are not sure how to spell a word, you can ask Siri on the HomePod to spell it for you.
There are some differences as to how the HomePod mini and HomePod perform as a speaker with the full-sized HomePod offering more advanced components and technology that enable it to produce better sound. Read more about how the HomePod mini and HomePod compare here: HomePod mini vs HomePod.
Apple regularly adds new features to the HomePod and HomePod mini, these updates can be installed automatically, but if you want to check that your HomePod is up to date follow the steps below. We run through the new features that arrived with each version of Apple’s HomePod software below.
Apple HomePod (2nd generation, 2023)
Apple HomePod mini
How to update the software on HomePod
To get the latest version of the HomePod mini software you need to follow these steps:
- Open the Home app on your iPhone.
- Assuming an there is an update you will see ‘Update is Available’. If you don’t see an update tap on the icon in the top right corner (or in older versions of iOS tap on the House icon in the top left).
- Tap on Home Settings.
- Scroll to Software Update. It may say Automatic, in which case you don’t need to do anything as your accessories will update automatically.
- If not, tap on Software Update and wait while it checks for updates.
- If there is an update available click on Details.
- Click on Download and Install.
- Agree to the T&Cs.
- The update will download.
You can choose to install updates automatically here by tapping on the slider beside Automatic Updates > HomePod, so that it is green.
We offer more advice about how to install a HomePod update here: HomePod software: how to update and get new features.
We also have the best HomePod deals right now if you want to save money on Apple’s smart speaker.
New HomePod features
Apple regularly updates the HomePod software and adds new features. You can find out what new features arrived with each update below:
New HomePod features in 16.3
- HomePod 16.3 activates the temperature and humidity sensor in the HomePod mini for measuring the climate of the room
- Remastered ambient sounds are more immersive and can now be added to scenes, automations, and alarms in the Home app.
- Find My on HomePod now enables you to ask Siri for the location of friends and family, if they have shared it with you.
- Recurring Home automations can be set up using just your voice.
- Siri confirmation tone will now play to indicate when smart home requests are completed for accessories that may not visibly show a change or are located in a different room.
- Audio tuning optimizes spoken content such as podcasts for even greater clarity on HomePod (2nd generation) and HomePod (1st generation).
- Updated volume controls on HomePod (1st generation) give you more granular adjustments at lower volumes.
New HomePod features in 16.1
- In version 16.1 HomePods gained support for Matter, the new smart home connectivity standard that enables a wide variety of smart home accessories to work together across ecosystems.
New HomePod features in 15.2
- Software version 15.2 added support for Apple Music Voice Plan, a cheaper subscription tier for Apple Music.
- Location Services and Sound Check settings.
- Per user Allow Explicit Content setting.
- Per user Listening History settings.
New HomePod features in 15.1
- Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos support on HomePod.
- Lossless playback with Apple Music.
New HomePod features in 15
iOS 15 in September 2021 included the following HomePod updates:
- Use HomePod Mini as a speaker for your Apple TV 4K.
- Control Apple TV via Siri on HomePod mini.
- Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video combined with an Apple TV 4K or HomePod Mini an alert you when a package is delivered.
New HomePod features in 14.4
Apple updated the software for the HomePod and HomePod mini in January 2021.
New features are primarily aimed at users of the HomePod mini:
- Proximity effects: If you have a mobile phone with a U1 chip (i.e. iPhone 11 or iPhone 12), you will be able to experience a new effect when songs are transferred to the HomePod mini.
- Song suggestions: You will also get suggestions of songs you can listen to when you are near the speaker.
Read about the other updates that arrived in January 2021: New software for HomePod, Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPad
New HomePod features in 14.3
When iOS 14.3 arrived it just bought some bug fixes.
New HomePod features in 14.2
iOS 14.2 arrived in November 2020 and bought the following HomePod features:
- Stream Dolby Atmos from Apple TV: the iOS 14.2 software update added the ability for a HomePod to stream Dolby Atmos audio from a Apple TV 4K. It will also be able to stream 5.1 and 7.1 audio from the Apple TV.
- Make HomePod default source for Apple TV: Apple TV owners can now set the HomePod as the default sound option – so it will no longer to necessary to reselect it as an AirPlay device every time.
- Use HomePods as an Intercom: Apple had introduced a new feature that it discussed at the introduction of the HomePod mini. Intercom now works with the HomePod mini and the original HomePod. The speakers (along with other Apple products AirPods) can be used as an intercom so you can broadcast messages around the home. Assuming you have more than one HomePod or HomePod mini in your home you can record a message on one smart speaker and have it broadcast to other Apple speakers and AirPods in your home. You’ll also be able to send Intercom messages from the car (via CarPlay), via your AirPods, and even from your Apple Watch. Find out how to use Intercom on HomePod, AirPods, iPhone and other products.
Read about the other updates that arrived on 5 November 2020: Apple updates iPhone, iPad, HomePod, Apple TV and Watch.
New HomePod features in 14.1
The HomePod 14.1 software added support for HomePod mini and new Siri and Intercom features.
New HomePod features in iOS 14
- Choose a third-party music streaming service.
- Better integration with HomeKit.
iOS 14 added a number of new features to the HomePod including the option to choose a third-party music streaming service, such as Spotify, as your default, and improved integration with the Apple TV and HomeKit.
It was already possible to play music from Spotify on the HomePod, but this had to be done via AirPlay. We explain how to listen to Spotify on HomePod here.
The new feature means that Spotify and other services such as Pandora will work with HomePod so you will be able to set them as your default music service and use Siri to control playback, rather than stream the music to the speaker via your iPhone. Users will also be able to replace Apple Books for audiobooks options such as Kindle.
The new software will also bring better integration with HomeKit (Apple’s software framework for controlling household appliances). For example, if someone rings your doorbell and you have a HomeKit camera you will get an announcement on the HomePod that will tell you who is at the door, based on the Faces you have attributed to people in your Photos.
New HomePod features in iOS 13
It was expected that the HomePod would gain a number of new features with the arrival of iOS 13 in September 2019, however, these new features weren’t available for launch. Instead, some arrived in mid October 2019, while others arrived later that month.
Initially one new feature arrived:
- It is possible to ask Siri on the HomePod to play a radio station. This means that it is no longer necessary to stream radio from an iPhone to a HomePod using AirPlay (which would run down your iPhone battery).
When iOS 13.2 arrived on 28 October 2019, the HomePod gained the following features:
- The HomePod can recognise your voice and only reveal private information to you. One of the problems with the HomePod is that, bring tied to a particular Apple ID, it is able to read and reply to Messages and add and cancel Calendar appointments. This is a useful feature, let down by the fact that anyone could speak to Siri on your HomePod to access this information. It’s possible to disallow such access in HomePod settings, but it’s not a great solution. That’s why it’s great news that in iOS 13 your HomePod knows who is speaking.
- Related to this, there is now multi-user support, so that more than one person’s Apple ID can be tied to a HomePod.
- You’ll be able to use the Handoff feature to transfer what you are listening to on your iPhone to the HomePod. For example, when you enter your house after your commute home you’ll be able to ‘Handoff’ the track currently playing to the HomePod.
- There is also better integration with the Shortcuts app in iOS 13, for better automation within ‘Scenes’.
When iOS 13.3 arrived on 10 December it bought the following features and improvements:
- Improves the ability of HomePod to recognize voice profiles
- Family members can enable/disable personal requests
- Fixes an issue that could prevent music playback from resuming on a stereo pair after a phone call
New HomePod features in iOS 12
- Users able to place phone calls directly from the HomePod (previously users had to make or take a call on an iPhone and then hand it over to the HomePod).
- Users able to listen to voicemails on the HomePod.
- The HomePod works with Find My iPhone so users can use it to request that a sound is played on a lost iPhone (or any other Apple device you have set up for the service).
- Ability to set more than one timer. One of the most frustrating omissions from the HomePod at launch was that it wasn’t possible to set more than one timer – as you might have if you were cooking dinner, for example. Apple’s fixed that with the iOS 12 update.
- Change the WiFi network the HomePod is connected to. At launch the HomePod would automatically join the WiFi network that your iPhone is using. After the iOS 12 update getting the HomePod to switch to another network – perhaps because the one it’s on is too weak – became easier.
- iOS 12 also bought improved language support for more countries.
- The HomePod is able to relay the audio from group FaceTime calls.
You can search for songs by Lyrics. So, if you don’t know a song’s name, you could just say: “Hey Siri, play the song that goes …” And quote the lyric that you know.
- You can trigger Siri Shortcuts via the HomePod. This makes a big difference to how HomePod works with your Home Automation accessories, as you will be able to set off chains of events with a single command. For example, if you said “goodnight” Siri could automatically turn off the lights, turn down the heating, and close the blinds (if you have the right HomeKit accessories).
New HomePod features in iOS 11
- When HomePod first launched it wasn’t able to access your calendar, but that functionality arrived with the iOS 11.4 update. Since that update it has been possible to add events to your calendar.
- Multi-room & stereo audio support also arrived in iOS 11.4. Should you be lucky enough to own two HomePods this feature allows you to play music in stereo or to have HomePod speakers playing the same music in separate rooms. Here’s how to set up a stereo pair of HomePods.
Want to update the software on your HomePod, here’s how.
For more information read: HomePod tips and how to use HomePod.
Also read: What to ask Siri on HomePod and our round up of HomePod with screen rumours.