Your Apple HomePod just became an intercom and got these new features
Siri gets smarter and new Intercom feature goes live, but Dolby Atmos isn't here yet
As Apple prepares to put the new HomePod Mini on sale in November, it is giving its original HomePod some much-needed love, and a host of new features.
We know that Dolby Atmos support will be coming to the HomePod soon, but home cinema fans will have to wait a bit longer for that. Today, it's all about Apple's new iOS 14.1 update for the iPhone, and HomePod Software 14.1.
Arguably the biggest new feature for smart home fans is Intercom, which Apple announced at the launch of the HomePod Mini and iPhone 12 earlier in October. Helping Apple catch up with smart speakers by Amazon and Google, Intercom lets you ask Siri to make an audio announcement through every HomePod in your home.
You can send this recorded announcement to every HomePod at once, or to a single HomePod in a specific room or zone of your home. This puts the HomePod and Siri on par with Amazon's Echo speakers and Alexa, but later this year Apple will update Intercom to work across the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay.
Once that second update has rolled out, you will be able to record a message with Siri on any of those devices, or in your car through CarPlay, then have that message play on any HomePod in your home.
Other updates available with iOS 14.1 today include how Siri can be asked to stop alarms, timers and media across all of your HomePod speakers. There is also now voice recognition support for Apple's Podcasts app, so when someone asks your HomePod to play a podcast, it knows it is asking and will therefore start their next unplayed episode.
Also new is how Siri better integrates between your HomePod and iPhone. If you ask Siri on the HomePod about information about a location, that location will appear as a Siri suggestion when you next open the Maps app on your iPhone. Similarly, web search requests made to the HomePod can be sent to your iPhone.
Finally, the 14.1 update seeks to fix issues when stereo pairs of HomePod play music out of sync, improve reliability when using Siri to control multiple HomePods, and improved Siri performance.
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