iOS 11.4 is here, and it brings with it a few highly anticipated features for Apple’s HomePod speaker, including the ability to create a stereo pair of two HomePods and support for Apple’s new multi-room AirPlay 2 standard. Here’s how to get everything all set up:
Before you get to the fun part, you’ll have to first make sure everything has been updated to iOS 11.4. To update your phone, you’ll need to head over to the Settings app → General → Software Update. As for the HomePod, it should automatically look for and install the update at midnight, but you can check that it’s been updated or force the install yourself by heading over to the Home app. There, you’ll be able to see if there’s a HomePod update available, download and install the update, and manage other features for your HomePod. And in a neat option, the Home app can automatically detect if you’ve got multiple HomePods, and download and install the update for all of them in one shot.
Once you’ve got all your updates installed, Multi-room audio should just work right out of the box. To use it, simply head over to your music app of choice on iOS and start playing music over AirPlay, and then select one of your HomePod devices. Now, with iOS 11.4, instead of just playing to a single source, AirPlay 2 compatible speakers will appear in the AirPlay pop-up with a small checkbox next to them, allowing you to toggle multiple speakers to all play the same song from your iPhone. This part will work for the HomePod, and presumably any other AirPlay 2 speakers you’ll get farther down the line.
You’ll need Apple Music to make the most of multi-room audio with HomePods
But with HomePods, there’s an extra level of multi-room audio that you’ll be able to do, where you can have each speaker play independent audio streams over Wi-Fi without having to use AirPlay at all. For now, this feature is limited to the HomePod, and specifically limited to Apple Music subscribers (although, hopefully the Apple TV will also get some sort of similar ability further down the line when it eventually gets updated to AirPlay 2.) To take advantage of that feature, head to the same AirPlay menu as before — which can be accessed from the AirPlay icon in most music apps, or the music widget, and then scroll down below the topmost locally playing track on the iPhone to select one of your HomePod devices. There, you’ll be able to select an Apple Music track to use as a source, and play that track to other AirPlay 2 speakers using the same checkbox system as when you were playing from your iPhone directly.
If you’re planning on keeping your two HomePods together in one room, though, there’s also the option to group them together as a stereo pair.
Stereo pairing your HomePods will cause them to be treated as a single device
To create a stereo pair — which treats the two HomePods as one, discrete unit for AirPlay and Siri purposes — head on back over to the Home app, select one of your two HomePods, head into the settings for it, and hit “Create Stereo Pair…” Next, you’ll have the option to select your second HomePod to create the pair with. Once selected, you’ll be taken to a second screen to confirm that you’ve got the left and right channels chosen properly — tapping on each HomePod will cause it to light up with a chime to make sure it’s set up right, and you can easily swap them with another tap — after which you’ll be good to go. When paired, the left HomePod will become the “main” device, handling microphone duties for Siri requests (which probably won’t matter since both speakers will be in the same room in this case.)
The grouped HomePod will show up in Apple Music, iTunes, AirPlay, and everywhere else as a single pair, which will play whatever content you stream to it in stereo audio. The same limitations of multi-room AirPlay will apply with a stereo-paired HomePod as with a single one, where you’ll still need Apple Music to make the most of the set up. Lastly — and I haven’t been able to fully confirm this, due to not having a third HomePod around — but you’ll still presumably be able to use the paired stereo HomePod set with multi-room AirPlay 2 audio as well, should you wish.
To ungroup the stereo pair and have your two speakers function independently again, head back over to the Home app, select your paired HomePods, and scroll down to hit the “Ungroup accessories” button. You’ll be able to re-pair them at any time by following the steps above.