Apple’s HomePod smart speaker is getting some new capabilities thanks to a software update that’s available today as part of iOS 14.1. These were announced during the company’s event earlier this month, and some of the features — especially the intercom function — go a long way in helping the HomePod catch up with Amazon Echo and Google / Nest speakers.
Intercom lets you record a message on one HomePod and send it to another (or several others) in your house. This is something you can already do with an Echo, but later this year, Apple is going beyond what those other smart speakers can do by expanding intercom to include your iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple Watch, and CarPlay. So you’ll be able to record a message from pretty much anywhere and relay it to the people you live with. But again, that part’s not coming until later; for now, it’s just HomePod-to-HomePod intercom.
Today’s update includes more than intercom, though. If you ask Siri for traffic conditions or nearby points of interest, you’ll now see a Siri Suggestion when you get into the car and open Map, making that information more easily accessible through CarPlay. You can now set multiple named timers and stop them from a different HomePod in another room. And the HomePod’s multi-user support now works for Podcasts, so voice recognition will make sure the right episode plays when someone says “Hey Siri, continue my podcast.” And last, you can tell Siri on the HomePod to search the web for something and forward those results along to your iPhone.
More HomePod features will arrive before the end of 2020. In addition to the expanded intercom functionality, you’ll be able to ask for your personal update, and Siri will go through the news, weather, your calendar appointments, and so on. That’s another thing that will help the HomePod stay at par with other smart speakers. And you’ll be able to use the full-size HomePod — not the mini, sadly — as a home theater speaker for Apple TV 4K with support for 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos audio. I’m very curious to hear how that sounds with two HomePods paired together.