These are the 16 commands you'll use most with your HomePod

Here are some of the commands people will want to use most often with Apple's HomePod.

Apple, HomePod, iOS, Siri, smart speakers, home intelligence, how to
Michael Simon/IDG

I thought it might be time to share some of the commands I think most people will want to use most often with Apple’s HomePod.

Making streaming music great again

All these commands begin with the phrase, “Hey Siri,” so you might say, “Hey Siri, play Ray LaMontagne.” I’ve left the prefix out in the commands below, but please remember to say “Hey Siri” first.

I’ll make no secret that both myself and my non-techy (former music teacher) partner think the HomePod is one of the best small home audio systems we’ve come across.

We’ve been using it a lot — and I’d argue that the quality of music playback is capable of resurrecting some users' interest in music the same way the iPod once did. We've also seen no evidence of the recent much-discussed "white circle of hype" claims.

Without further ado, here are the controls you need to know:

Basic playback controls

The essential music playback commands you’ll use most often are: “Play,” “Pause,” “Fast forward,” and “Skip track.” You can also ask Siri for specific songs/playlists or music by named artists.

Volume control

Controlling volume on HomePod merits its own section. There are multiple ways to do this:

  • Use the Plus and Minus buttons on top of the device.
  • Use Control Center on an iOS device: Tap the small icon in the top right of the music control square in Control Center to access more complex controls. Scroll down, and you’ll find your HomePod. Tap its icon, and a volume slider will appear in its box.
  • Ask Siri: Find out what the volume is by asking “What volume is this?” Raise and lower volume by saying those words, or by asking it to set volume to a percentage figure. So, you might say, “Set volume to 30 percent.” You can also choose volume by using increments, sich as turn “volume to 10.” (Ten is maximum.) If you ask for maximum volume, Siri annoyingly warns you the music will be loud and asks if you are sure. I find the latter feature so irritating sometimes I just turn the music up to annoy Siri, before realizing Siri doesn’t care.

Music controls

When you hear a song you particularly like, you can ask Siri to “Play more songs like this,” or “Play the whole album,” or even “Make a station from this song.”

Up next

You (and your guests) can also add songs by title to your Up Next playlist; just say “Add California Soul by Marlene Shaw to Up Next.” This makes it a good way to share songs with family and friends.

Smart music

You can also ask Siri to play music by moods, genres, and time periods: “Play something upbeat,” “Play something relaxing,” “Play some hardcore music,” “Play music like Black Flag,” “Who wrote this song?” or “Play music from the ‘90s”.

Pop quiz

It’s sometimes fun to ask Siri to play songs based on historical charts, so you might ask it to “Play the top song from November 1988.” You can also ask questions such as “Who played guitar on this song?”

Never again

If you feel the same as I do about David Gray, then you’ll like this feature. When HomePod plays you something you really never want to hear again, you can ask it to “never play this song again.” This also works for Bono and Coldplay.

What’s playing?

You can find out more about what’s playing. “What is playing?” will tell you who the artist is and the song. You can also ask for more information about the artist: “Tell me more about [name of artist].” Siri will access Wikipedia to get you some info.

The like button

When you play Apple Music tracks, you can tell the system when you like a song. Just say, “I like this song.” This improves what the system knows about you, so you get better recommendations. You can also request tracks be added to your library or added to your (named) playlist.

Weather report

All these questions will fetch you weather data: “What’s the weather today?” “Will I need an umbrella today?” and “What’s the weather in Lisbon, Portugal?”

Handy in the kitchen

Siri is really good at making quick conversions for you. You can ask how many kilograms are in a stone, how much 100 Euros is in U.S. dollars, or how many cups are in a liter, for example. I find these tools particularly useful when cooking.

Radio and podcasts

HomePod doesn’t play radio. I think that’s an oversight. Other than three canned news channels, you can’t choose a news provider you trust and it means you can’t listen to talk radio on your system. Hopefully this will change, but you can ask Siri to play news, play Beats One and play podcasts. You can also ask it to play business and sports news headlines.

This sporting life

You can ask about the scores for specific sporting matches, or you can ask for information about specific players or future fixtures. “When is Arsenal’s next match?” for example.

Curiosity machine

You can ask Siri to get you answers to general knowledge questions. “Who was the prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1947?” “What time is it in Recife?” “What’s the highest mountain in California?” “What does floccinaucinihilipilification mean?”

Switch Siri off

You may want to disable Siri. To do so, say “Disable Hey Siri.” To turn it back on, just long-press on the top of HomePod, or toggle Siri back on in the Home app.

What else can you do?

Whenever you want to find a few new tricks for HomePod, ask Siri, “What can you do?”

What I'm not saying

Eagle-eyed readers will note that I’ve not included any of the personal services tasks HomePod can do for you.

That’s because all of these services sync with only one user account, which means all the texts your son sends to his chums will be sent (and received) via your iPhone. I’ve not included these because I don’t think that is quite good/private enough for most users in shared environments.

In future, I would like to see Apple create a more modular way to enable these features on a case-by-case basis, and add support for multiple users when it comes to messaging, for example.

Are you using a HomePod? Plan to get one? What are your favourite features? Please let me know.

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