After quite a bit of delay, the much-vaunted Apple HomePod - the company's first smart speaker, and its first purely audio product in over a decade - is finally here. And it's easily the best-sounding speaker (of its kind and its price) we've so far come across.
Coupled with some rather clever Siri commands and intuitive curation by Apple Music (a subscription is mandatory if you want the best HomePod experience), Apple's speaker has impressed us with its music-playing skills.
We spent a couple of snowed-in days getting to know our new musical butler even further so, if you've a new HomePod installed in your home, read on for some handy tips to explore the extent of its skills and all the things you ask Siri to do.
1. Rename your HomePod
Let's kick things off by personalising your HomePod experience. You can't rename Siri, but you can give your HomePod its own unique name. Fire up the Home app, long-press on your HomePod icon, then tap Details - here you'll find a whole list of settings for your HomePod and Siri. The first one to change is your HomePod's name and location - this will come in handy if you decide to get multiple 'Pods.
2. Personalise Siri
Don't like the sound of Siri's voice? Firstly: how rude. Secondly: stay on the Details page to change how Apple's AI sounds - you can choose between male or female voices, and pick an American, Australian or British accent for Siri.
3. Mute Siri
Don't want Siri listening in during a formal family dinner (or don't want anyone else controlling the music)? Simply say "Hey Siri, stop listening" and the HomePod will mute itself. To turn voice-control back on, tap the top of the HomePod and say "Hey Siri, start listening".
Or, to do it manually: dip into the Details page in the Home app, and toggle off/on the Listen for "Hey Siri" option.
4. Sign out of HomePod / reassign a new Apple ID to HomePod
Need to reset the HomePod or change the Apple ID associated with it? There are two ways to do this. The first is through the Home app: scroll down to the Details page and tap 'Remove Accessory'.
Alternatively, if the person whose Apple ID was used to set up HomePod isn't around, you can do it manually. Unplug the HomePod, then plug it back in. Tap the top of the HomePod and keep holding down until the white light turns red and Siri tells you to keep holding until it beeps. After you hear three beeps, you'll know it's been reset.
After that, the HomePod is ready to be set up with a new user.
"Hey Siri" + Apple Music
5. "Hey Siri, play a song"
Siri and HomePod are at their best when playing music from Apple Music, so the more you use them, the more they will learn the music you like. If you're already an Apple Music subscriber, simply ask it to play a song and it will play an artist or song you already know and like.
6. Use Listening History (or don't)
Unlike your iPhone's Siri (which only responds to your voice), HomePod's Siri will let anyone talk to it and request music. So if you don’t want your partner's, friends' or children’s questionable music tastes messing up the For You recommendations in Apple Music, toggle the 'Use Listening History' option off in the Home app's Details section. This way, any music played through HomePod will be kept separate from your carefully curated Apple Music profile.
7. Add a song to a playlist
You can't create new playlists on HomePod, but you can ask it to add a song that's playing to one of your existing Apple Music playlists. You'll have to delete any songs in-app, too.
8. Playing the right song
You don't always have to say the exact song title and artist name to get the song you want. Siri is intelligent enough to know that if you ask for "that Run-DMC and Aerosmith song", it knows you want Walk This Way (1986). Similarly, if you ask it to play I Will Always Love You and it starts playing the Whitney Houston power ballad, tell it to play a different version and it'll switch to playing the original 1973 Dolly Parton version. Clever.
9. Play Podcast episodes
You don't have to stick to music - you can also ask HomePod to play podcasts through the native iOS Podcasts app. There is a caveat: while you can select a specific podcast, it will only play the most recent episode from it.
10. HomePod's playback history
In the Recently Played section in Apple Music (under the For You tab, and on iTunes), you can see a list of all the tracks and stations played through the HomePod. Caveats: it's mixed in with any song you play on Apple Music separately, and it won't list all the songs when it played a certain genre, artist or personalised station.
Some useful Siri commands for HomePod:
11. "Hey Siri, play something I like" - will play songs from a personalised radio station based on your Apple Music listening preferences and songs/artists you've favourited.
12. "Hey Siri, play something different" - didn't like the first selection? Siri will play a different artist or genre, but one that's still based on the music you like.
13. "Hey Siri, play The Breeders' latest album" - useful when you can't remember the name of albums but know there's a new one out.
14. "Hey Siri, tell me something about this artist" - will regale you with the first few lines of the artist's Wikipedia entry.
15. "Hey Siri, I like this band/song" - Siri will take note and recommend more like it in future.
16. "Hey Siri, play one of Wednesday's album/Wednesday's playlists" - Apple Music's For You section recommends new playlists and albums every day based on your music preferences, so ask Siri to play one of them through HomePod.
17. "Hey Siri, what song is this?" - don't know what song it's playing? Just ask.
18. "Hey Siri, what was that last song?/What was the name of the last song you played?" - didn't catch that last song? Just ask Siri what it was (you can't go back further than one song).
More after the break
19. Control HomePod from the Control Center
Want to know what's playing on the HomePod or change volume without asking Siri all the time? Apple Music on your iPhone won't automatically show you what's playing on the HomePod, but you can make it work once set up. Firstly, make sure the 'Include in Favourites' option is turned on in the Details section of Home app, so you'll be able to access the HomePod through your iPhone's Control Center.
Whenever you want to check HomePod's music on your iPhone, first make sure your phone is connected to the same wi-fi as the HomePod, then pull up Control Center, long-press the Music controls and you'll find two bubbles pop up: top one for your iPhone's Apple Music, the bottom one for HomePod.
Tap the HomePod bubble to see what's playing, and to change volume and skip tracks manually.
20. Control HomePod using Apple Music app
You can play Apple Music songs separately on your iPhone while HomePod is playing (weird, but true). But to control HomePod's playback further, simply use the Control Center method above to pull up the HomePod control bubble.
Then tap the album/artist info and you'll get transported into the Apple Music app, where you can manually select songs to send to HomePod. Closing the Apple Music app after this won't stop music playing on the HomePod.
21. Tap HomePod to control music
You don't always have to ask Siri to control music playback - you can simply tap the top of the HomePod instead. Tap the top once to pause, tap again to play, and tap twice to skip to the next track.
22. Turn on Siri response tone
Wherever you place the HomePod, you might not have a clear line of sight to see the swirling lights of the animated waveform that indicate Siri has heard you. You can instead opt for the HomePod making a noise to show that Siri has heard your request. Go to the Details page in the Home app to toggle that option on or off.
23. Turn off Siri lights
Don't like the animated waveform that comes on when Siri listens and responds? You can turn it off in the Details page, too.
Stream via AirPlay
24. Play BBC radio stations (and more)
One of the biggest omissions from HomePod is that it won't play BBC radio stations if you ask it to. It can only play Beats 1 radio. For all other radio stations, you'll have to stream via AirPlay instead. As long as your phone is on the same wi-fi as the HomePod, fire up the BBC iPlayer Radio app (other radio apps are available), pick and play a station, tap the AirPlay icon and select HomePod from the pop-up menu.
25. Play music from laptop/computer to HomePod
You can play any music from your laptop or computer through the HomePod. In any MacBook, open System Preferences, head to Sound settings, and in the Output tab, choose 'HomePod - AirPlay' as the device for sound output. (If the option doesn't show up, make sure you're on the same wi-fi as the HomePod).
26. Play and control Spotify
Are you a staunch Spotify user? Sadly Spotify isn't fully supported by HomePod, but there are ways around this if you use AirPlay streaming.
Play a song on your Spotify app, and then tap 'Devices Available' (make sure your phone is connected to the same wi-fi). Select 'More Devices - AirPlay & Bluetooth', where you'll be able to pick HomePod from the menu. After that, you can use Siri to ask HomePod to pause, play, change volume and even ask what song is playing on Spotify.
27. Sync Apple TV to HomePod
You can use the HomePod as a TV speaker - but only if you have an Apple TV already. It's not the perfect TV audio solution (not least because there'll be an element of lag since you're using AirPlay to stream audio, and we'd ideally like two HomePods for a stereo set up), but it's bound to be an upgrade from your TV's own speakers. To do this, go to your Apple TV's Audio Output settings, and select your HomePod.
28. Set an alarm or a timer
You can ask Siri to set a specific alarm or set a timer - perfect for when you're cooking or are in a rush. You can even ask how much time is left on the timer. The only downside is that you can't ask HomePod to set multiple alarms by voice - you'll have to do that through the Alarms section in the Home app instead.
29. Create a Note or Reminder
Say "Hey Siri, remind me to buy milk" and it'll pop up in your iOS Reminders app. You can create lots of little notes to yourself, too, when inspiration for that novel you've always wanted to write strikes at odd hours.
30. HomeKit and 'scenes'
Is your house kitted out with smart lights, smart heating, smart locks and smart more? As long as they're compatible with Apple HomeKit, you can ask Siri (via HomePod) to control all elements of your smart home. You can also set up 'scenes' (a chain of commands that say, turns on your lights and heating when you return home) in the Home app, which can be triggered by certain phrases when talking to Siri.
31. "Hey Siri - no, not that one"
Worried that all your Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Watch) will activate every time you say "Hey Siri" when they're in the same room as the HomePod? Apple has clearly thought about this too, as HomePod's Siri takes precedence over all other Siris. This means the HomePod will always hear you when you ask it to skip songs or start a new playlist. This can be a bit of a mixed blessing, as we've found that our iPhone's Siri is far more powerful and nuanced when dealing with everything apart from music - such as answering questions or even telling jokes.
Alternatively, you can mute Siri on the HomePod to use Siri on your iPhone or Watch in the same room, if you must.