Sunday, 11 February 2018

Playing Around with the HomePod - My Thoughts, Suggestions, and Podcasts

Notes on the HomePod from an Accessibility and User Perspective


This post will be added to as I play more with the HomePod which I’ve now had since Feb 9 2018 when it became available.


Thoughts and Suggestions


Great to see a sound played on HomePod when speaker first turned on.


After setting up the HomePod with the pop-up dialog, there is then no indication to then go to the Home app, Rooms, HomePod to complete configuration of the HomePod.  At least , nothing was spoken by VoiceOver on my iPhone 8 plus.  Initially my iPhone was about 30CMS away from HomePod (pop-up not triggered), wasn’t until I put iPhone on HomePod that pop-up came up to start 

setting up the speaker.


I was quite surprised when HomePod announced “VoiceOver on”.  I really should stop being surprised by Apple’s inbuilt accessibility after all this time, and the fact that if your iPhone is running Voiceover, the HomePod will turn it on automatically: very very nice.


Two accessibility modes available for the HomePod in the Accessibility settings within the Home app under Details for HomePod - VoiceOver and Touch Accommodations.


The touch surface on the HomePod reacts promptly when dragging finger across controls using VoiceOver, particularly when playing music.


VoiceOver settings within the Home app for HomePod, does not have the basic instructions for using VoiceOver.  I.e. a tip for dragging finger around screen to read rather than swiping would have been beneficial.


Two change the speech rate of VoiceOver for the HomePod, go to Home app, Room, HomePod, Details, Accessibility, VoiceOver, and adjust speech rate.


When HomePod static, like the fact that there is just the Pause (Play) control on the touch surface.


When playing music, very easy to drag or directly touch using VoiceOver from left to right (orientation of HomePod with power chord facing away) Decrease volume, middle Pause/Play, and right Increase volume.


When playing music, tap or drag finger to Pause/Play button in the middle so that its in focus as far as VoiceOver is concerned, then perform the following gestures:

1 finger double tap - start and stop media.

1 finger double tap and hold - bring up Siri.

1 finger triple tap - go to next track.

1 finger quad tap (4 times) - previous track.


Find it odd that you can’t AirpLay directly from music on the Apple Watch to HomePod, only via the Now Playing screen controlling what the iPhone is playing to HomePod.


Being able to toggle VoiceOver on or off via Siri on the HomePod was useful.  I.e. Hey Siri “turn on VoiceOver” or “turn off VoiceOver.”


Sending a iMessage  worked as expected.  However, once or twice HomePod announced that my iOS connected device needed to be on the same network which it was.


When I asked about the weather, HomePod reported a few times that my Location need to be turned on (which it was), this has only happened once.


Transferring a current call to HomePod via Audio button worked well without any issues.  I.e. Hide keypad for other controls such as Mute to become visible.  This pop-up dialog box that appears after choosing Audio button seems to only stay on the screen for a short time, had to work fast to locate HomePod.

Really like the call hang up on the HomePod when on a call.


To control media playing on iPhone and HomePod, bring up Control Centre, 3D Touch on Media Controls, you will have title of track iPhone and title of track NameOfHomePod, select either source to control the media playing such as Rewind, Pause/Play, Fast Forward, Volume etc.


Using Airfoil to send audio from Mac to HomePod and other AirPlay, Google Home/Mini, and Chromecast speakers works extremely well.


When using Reminders on the HomePod, the Reminder notification only comes up on the iPhone and not the HomePod itself.  This would have been handy.  However, to get around this and perhaps use Reminders as a multiple timer reminder when cooking, set “Speak All Notifications” to on in VoiceOver settings on iPhone, this way, when a Reminder pops up it will speak automatically.


Asking Hey Siri “to stop listening” works as expected, prompts you to confirm yes or no, then announces to reactivate Siri, touch the top of the HomePod.  For VoiceOver users, 1 finger double tap and hold on the Play button which will bring up Siri, then say “start listening” and this will turn back on Hey Siri functionality.


I find the Timer sound and the alarm sound are very similar.  Looking forward to being able to choose own alarm sounds.



Oddly when checking the status of an alarm that is set to repeat for the week, the status is read backwards: i.e. Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, and Monday.


Sending music via Airplay from iPhone to HomePod worked well.  I.e. benefit of this for VoiceOver users is that you can have audio going out to the HomePod and have VoiceOver remain on your local device: the iPhone.  Controlling HomePod via Apple Watch when AirPlaying from iPhone was brilliant.


When asking to play a podcast on the HomePod, you do not have to be subscribed to the podcast within the Podcasts app on your iPhone.


Setting an Alarm and Checking current alarms worked as expected.  Really nice gentle alarm when using it either via the HomePod itself or via the Home app when setting up repeat alarms.


Other iOS devices keep grabbing the Hey Siri trigger word for HomePod, have had to move all of them out of the same room where HomePod is located.


The fabric chord that pluggs in to the HomePod can (but not advisable) be removed with a bit of force, and put back in again with more force.  If you damage the chord you will be up for replacement cost and of course if you damage the HomePod (the internal connecter), without Apple Care you are looking at $279 US to fix the HomePod.  So I guess in other words, leave it alone.


Certainly don’t have to yell at HomePod for Siri to listen - just talk in a normal voice.  Oddly, when the music is at 100%, and I give Siri a command, I can’t quite hear myself speak but Siri picks it up fine.


I think the HomePod is a music speaker first (which sounds really really nice), and a smart speaker second (Siri).


Would like to see:

*Siri have multiple timers.

*Play audio books from iTunes library.

*Play iBooks from iTunes library.


For a 1.0 release of a product really happy.


My Podcasts on the HomePod

 Setting Up and Playing with the HomePod 

How to Use the HomePod as a Speaker Phone

HomePod Demo - Playing Around with Podcasts



 HomePod demo - Controlling iPhone and HomePod media from the iOS Control Panel/Media Controls


 How to Stop and Start Siri Listening to “Hey Siri” on HomePod


Apple’s Support page for Using HomePod with VoiceOver

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