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Last Wednesday, subscribers saw this…
Things Nobody Told You #20: Tips and tricks to make the most of your HomePod and HomePod mini.
Apple currently markets one smart speaker, the HomePod mini. It only needs the second word in its name to differentiate it from the original, bigger HomePod, released in February 2018. The HomePod is still the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy.
The mini followed in November 2020 so is still the new kid on the block. It is highly affordable—at $99, it seemed shockingly affordable for Apple.
Here are some of the tricks to make the most of both speakers.
Hey, Siri, what song is this? Sometimes there’ll be a song in a playlist that you don’t know. Just ask and Siri will tell you details of what’s playing.
Tell Siri what you like, and what you don’t When a song’s playing, let Siri know if it’s something you like and Siri will recommend more stuff like it in the future.
Be specific with Siri If you want to hear a song and it’s not the version you want, you can just ask for another one. For instance, if you choose The Man Who Sold the World, you’ll hear Nirvana. Ask for another version and it’ll be David Bowie’s that pops up.
Hey, Siri, what’s that song that goes… Can’t remember the name but you know a lyric says “I got sunshine in my pocket”? No problem, Siri will find “Can’t Stop the Feeling” for you.
Use Control Center If you don’t want to ask Siri what’s playing, swipe down on the iPhone screen and it’ll show what’s playing. You may need to configure Control Center and your iPhone and HomePod need to be on the same wifi network.
Turn off Siri Sometimes you don’t want to feel that anyone is listening. For instance, and you may guess I speak from experience here, say you are speaking on national radio and you say something like, “Hey, seriously,” and the next 20 seconds of broadcast are interrupted by “Aha?” “Can I help you?” “There’s nothing playing here” and more as the speaker desperately tried to persuade me not to ignore it. When it was next time to broadcast, I said, “Hey, Siri, stop listening.”
Turn Siri back on Obviously a voice command won’t do that because Siri isn’t listening. So, just tap the top of the HomePod or mini and say, “Hey, Siri, start listening.”
Pause playback on the HomePod Tap the HomePod or HomePod mini to pause or restart playback. Quicker than asking Siri to pause the music if, say, you’re trying to hear someone talking to you over the music.
Multiple timers This has been around for a while but when iOS 14.7 lands, due any day now, you’ll be able to control timers on the iPhone’s Home app, too. You can read just why this is so brilliant, here, but essentially it’s because if you have multiple timers running, when one ends it’s hard to ask Siri which timer just finished—Siri really tries to live in the moment, you see.
Which Siri do you need? One of the cleverest things about Siri is Apple knows which device you’re talking to. Although sometimes you may see the Siri logo flash briefly on your nearby iPhone when you say the wake words, it will then disappear and the system will defer to the HomePod. There’s an exception to this: if you happen to be moving your Apple Watch at the moment you say “Hey, Siri,” then Apple assumes it’s your Watch you’re talking to.
Intercom is cool Once you’ve set this up through the Home app, you have an intercom. It means that you can say, “Hey, Siri, tell everyone it’s time for dinner,” and relevant HomePods, HomePods mini, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and more will all speak the message. It’s smart enough to know which bit is the message and which your command.
Keep your HomePod updated To do this, you need the latest iOS update. Once you’ve checked you have that, open the Home app, tap the house icon in the top left, then choose Home Settings. There you’ll find Software Update and the app can check if there’s a newer version of HomePod software and offer to install it. Since this is where new features come from, it’s worth doing.
One More Thing
Readers of Dwight Silverman’s excellent Release Notes newsletter will know he includes a photo of his cats to show off smartphone photography capabilities. I’m going to do the same, here, each week. Not with his cats, you understand. So, first off, here’s an example of how Portrait Mode on the iPhone 12 Pro Max can fuzz the background simply to make it less distracting (though my dog’s favorite orange ball is still visible), while leaving a dog’s furry snout and paws in perfect focus. This is something which can defeat smartphones, leaving either paws or ears defocused as the camera tries to separate subject from background.
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