Among the densely packed WWDC Keynote on Monday, Craig Federighi sped through the updates coming with iOS 13 this fall. Surprisingly, HomePod was not only given a mention but even received some major, long awaited updates. With iOS 13, HomePod will support multiple users, Apple’s Handoff feature, live radio, and sleep timers.
According to Apple:
“Together with Siri, HomePod can learn and recognize up to six different voices and create a personalized listening experience for everybody at home.”
The new multi-user support via voice recognition gives users the ability to have a more personalized experience with Apple Music streaming, as well as personalized support for personal requests to iMessage, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts.
Under the current iOS, the HomePod is limited to just one iCloud account upon setup, but also allows for any voice to make requests. Any family member can make changes to the iCloud account belonging to the person that happened to setup the device. That means either one of two things: either an entire family shares the same text messages, reminders, calendar events, and Apple Music account - all on one iCloud account, or it means only one member of an entire family can use HomePod to its fullest utility.
Thankfully, iOS 13’s multi-user support will allow up to six users to each make their own personal requests and track their own music interests to Apple Music.
Apple has rightfully taken criticism for the HomePod since its release in February 2018. Multi-user support is considered a must-have feature for any voice assistant device. The Google Home as been able to recognize up to six voices since April 2017, quickly followed by the Amazon Echo in October 2017. With this iOS 13 update alone, the HomePod will finally meet the minimum viable threshold of a household voice assistant.
“Whether you’re halfway through a call or listening to a song or podcast on your iPhone, you can easily hand it off to HomePod. Just hold your iOS device next to HomePod and whatever you’re listening to will continue to play seamlessly on HomePod.”
Handoff is currently known for its ability to maintain instances of apps between iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. For example, while using Safari on iPhone, opening your MacBook will display a tab next to the dock that opens the same instance of Safari from your iPhone, onto your MacBook.
Similarly, HomePod’s new Handoff feature will allow users to handoff any audio from their iPhone to their HomePod, simply by holding it close to the device.
iOS 13 will give HomePod the ability to tune into live radio stations. Through integrations with iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn, HomePod will have access to over 100,000 live radio stations.
Topping-off the collection of new features coming in the fall, users will have the ability to set sleep timers for whatever is playing on HomePod. After the specified amount of time, the audio will automatically cease playback.
HomePod’s iOS 13 updates are all extremely exciting, despite their general simplicity. It’s apparent that Apple doesn’t plan on giving HomePod major updates on a consistent schedule - and that’s fine. It is, however, pleasant to see Apple provide the basic features being asked for by the community. Historically, Apple has a tendency to ignore the simplest of features in their products whilst pursuing the big and bold ones. This fall, Apple is giving HomePod both bold updates such as Multi-user support and Handoff, as well as simple features like radio and sleep timers. I look forward to making my HomePod a more reliably used device in my home.