With Apple recently releasing and shipping the latest version of their full-sized HomePod (HomePod 2), I figured this would be a good time to share how my family has been using our two HomePods over the last few years.
What is the HomePod?
I assume most people know what the HomePod is by now, but for those who don’t…HomePod is Apple’s version of the smart home speaker. It can play music from the cloud, listen for and act on voice commands and it also serves as a HomeKit hub for home automation if you are invested Apple’s ecosystem and use HomeKit enabled devices. The woofer, beam-forming tweeters and microphones are housed in a single “speaker unit” that makes up the HomePod. Apple released the original full-sized HomePod in January of 2018 with a hight of 6.8” and a width of 5.6.” Then in November 2020, Apple released the HomePod mini, with a hight of 3.3” and a width of 3.9.”
How Has My Family Been Using HomePod?
Our first HomePod was the original full-sized HomePod. We put this HomePod in our kitchen which is also open to our family room. So it can be used to play music for either room and can hear voice commands from both rooms as well. In the kitchen we use the HomePod on a daily basis as a kitchen timer. Being able to verbally start a timer in the kitchen while you are in the middle of preparing a meal is really handy as your hands may not be in a state where you can simply use you hands to manually start a timer on your phone or another physical device.
We also use the HomePod to play music. If we are in the kitchen cooking dinner it’s nice to just issue a voice command and have your favorite type of music or favorite artist just start playing on the speaker. Because we have the full-sized HomePod it is large enough to fill both the kitchen and our living room with sound.
Another primary use of our kitchen HomePod is to use voice commands to control the HomeKit enabled lights in our kitchen and living room. If we are in the living room watching TV the kitchen light really needs to be dimmed so that the TV screen doesn’t get glare. So we setup a HomeKit scene called “Kitchen Dark” that dims the lights in the kitchen down enough that we can watch TV but leaves enough light so that you can go into the kitchen for a snack or a drink and still see what you are doing.
Enter HomePod Mini
A few years ago when the HomePod mini was released we bought one for our master bedroom. The mini has a couple of really handy use cases in our bedroom. First, I like to listen to a daily news podcast every morning as I’m getting ready for work (pre-COVID I used to listen during my drive into work, but that still isn’t happening much these days). But rather than open my iPhone, navigate to the podcast I want to play and then AirPlay the podcast to the HomePod I setup a Shortcut automation that does everything…all I have to do is press the icon I created on my iPhone’s Home Screen for the Shortcut and the latest episode of my podcast starts playing on the HomePod mini in our master bedroom.
Another prime use of the HomePod mini in our bedroom is to issue a voice command when we are getting ready for bed to put all of the HomeKit enabled lights in our house in overnight mode. This turns off most light and dims lights in stairways.
The final use case for our HomePods is actually home security. We have a bunch of HomeKit enabled sensors and security cameras that I have hooked up to automations that alert us if someone is walking around our house late at night or trying to open one of our doors or windows. Rather than have a jarring alarm siren go off I am able to choose a less annoying way to gently but assuredly wake us up in the event we have a security issue during the night.
When I first bought the HomePod I really wasn’t sure how much I was going to use it, but I figured I would give it shot. Turns out, once you have such a versatile device in a central location in your home you find all kinds of uses for it that you didn’t think about. Even my family who are not the automation tech nerd that I am found it rather useful to be able to just issue a voice command to do things like set timers, play music and configure lights. There are a lot of other features that these HomePods have that I didn’t even mention, mostly because they aren’t heavily used by our family. But maybe these unmentioned featured are something you and your family would use. So if you have ever been curious about HomePod I would encourage you to pick one up and just experiment. With the HomePod mini coming in at $99 it is a pretty small investment for something that opens up a pretty wide range of home automation options.