Apple’s HomePod is getting a bit smarter thanks to a new software update.
Apple rolled out iOS 12 on Monday, the latest update to its operating system for iPhones and iPads. The update – which is free and available for download now for anyone with an iPhone 5S or later – includes a few key updates to HomePod, Apple’s $US349 smart speaker.
When HomePod made its debut earlier this year, it didn’t exactly win over critics with its smarts. While the speaker sounds great,the version of Siri inside HomePod isn’t as “smart” as competitors like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
But the new updates to HomePod, while subtle, should make it easier to use and more useful for most people.
Here’s everything that’s new with HomePod.
You can ask Siri to play a specific song, even if you only know a few of the lyrics.
Apple added a new feature to help you out in those instances where you can’t remember the name of a song.
Now, you can say, “Hey Siri, play the song that goes…” followed by the lyrics. Apple says Siri should be able to recognise the song, even if you don’t know the title, artist, or band.
You can finally make and receive phone calls on HomePod.
For me, one of the biggest shortcomings of HomePod when it came out was the inability to make and receive phone calls on the device. While you could use the HomePod as a speaker phone, you were required to use your iPhone to begin and end a call.
But Apple has fixed that with iOS 12. Now, incoming calls will be automatically routed to your HomePod, and you can ask Siri to pick up the phone. To make a call, you can ask Siri to call one of your contacts, or dial a specific phone number.
There are three extra features that will likely come in handy, too:
- If you miss a call, you can ask Siri who just called you
- You can hand off the call from HomePod back to your iPhone
- Anyone on your network can hand off a call from their iPhone to your HomePod
You can now set multiple ‘named’ timers on your HomePod.
HomePod will now support multiple named timers at once, like one for cookies, one for pizza, and one for your laundry. Apple says you can set “as many as you need,” so it appears that there’s no limit on the number of timers you can have going at one time.
In other kitchen-related features, Siri on the HomePod also now knows several nutrition facts, like the amount of calories in red wine or the amount of fat in a burger.
HomePod can now help you find your lost iPhone.
If you lose your phone in the couch cushions, your HomePod can now help you find it – all you have to do is ask Siri where your phone is, and the HomePod will ping your device.
This also works for any other Apple device connected to your iCloud account, including iPads or MacBooks.
HomePod works with Siri Shortcuts, a new feature in iOS 12.
Apple added a new iPhone app with iOS 12: Siri Shortcuts, which uses Siri to simplify your life. With Siri Shortcuts, you can create customised shortcuts to things you do every day, which can be accessed with the tap of a button.
The good news for HomePod owners is that you can activate Siri Shortcuts on your HomePod, too. If you create a custom shortcut, you can ask for Siri to perform it using HomePod.
Here’s how Apple describes one possible use case:
“For example, create a Shortcut to order your favourite coffee drink each morning. Or something more complex such as a good morning scene, where your coffee is ordered, your window shades lift, lights turn on, and Siri tells you about your first meeting of the day – all with one simple command.”
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