Apple HomePod owners, starting today, will be able to use the newly announced “Intercom” feature to send messages between their HomePod smart speakers. The feature, which arrives via a software update, brings this and several other new features to Apple’s smart speakers, including those introduced at Apple’s event last week where the company debuted its $99 HomePod mini.
Of these, Intercom is the most notable update, as it helps the HomePod catch up to rival smart speakers, like those from Apple and Google, which have offered similar broadcast messaging systems for years.
But in Apple’s case, Intercom doesn’t just send a user’s voice message — like “dinner’s ready!” or “time to go!” — across the family’s HomePod speakers. It’s also meant to work across Apple’s device ecosystem, by adding support for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even AirPods and CarPlay.
This could be a competitive advantage for HomePod, particularly because Amazon — which leads the U.S. market with its affordable Echo devices — no longer has its own smartphone business.
However, Apple says Intercom’s expanded support for other devices isn’t being rolled out today. Instead, it will arrive through further software updates later this year.
To use Intercom, HomePod owners with multiple devices can say things like:
“Hey Siri, Intercom, Has anyone seen my glasses?”
“Hey Siri, tell everyone, Dinner is ready.”
“Hey Siri, Intercom to the kitchen, Has the game started?”
And to reply, users can say something like “Hey Siri, reply, Yes.”
In addition to the new support for Intercom, the software update also introduces deeper integration with Apple Maps and iPhone, the ability to set and stop timers and alarms from any HomePod, the ability to continue listening to a podcast with multiuser support, and more.
The deeper integration means HomePod owners can now ask Siri for information about traffic conditions, as well as nearby restaurants and businesses. A Siri suggestion will then automatically appears in Maps on your iPhone so the route is available as soon as you get in the car.
HomePod owners can also now ask Siri to search the web, which then sends results to the iPhone.
Two other new features will arrive later this year, including the ability to connect one HomePod (or more) to Apple TV 4K for stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos for movies, TV, games and more.
The other upcoming feature, called Personal Update, will soon let you ask Siri “what’s my update” or “play my update,” to get all the info you need to start your day, including news, weather, calendar events, and any reminders.