Here’s How to Hear Ambient Sounds on Your HomePod as iOS 13.2 Software Update Returns

Homepod Siri Credit: Apple
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Earlier this week, Apple released the last remaining iOS 13 update for its devices in the form of iOS 13.2 for the HomePod smart speaker, but unfortunately no sooner did the update roll out than reports appeared that it was bricking a lot of HomePods, forcing Apple to pull the update to avoid rendering everyone’s smart speakers unusable.

Fortunately, whatever the problem was, it doesn’t seem to have taken too long to sort out, as Apple released iOS 13.2.1 for the HomePod last night, which of course promises to actually deliver all of the features from the earlier HomePod iOS 13.2 update without turning your speaker into an expensive paperweight.

How to Install It

Downloading and installing the update should be relatively painless now that it’s been fixed, and if you have automatic updates turned on your HomePod will eventually find it and go out and fetch it by itself.

If you’d like to be more proactive, however, you can find the update via the Home app on your iPhone or iPad.

Go into the main settings section of the Home app by tapping on the house icon in the top left corner, and then scroll down to Software Update and tap on it to begin the process, which otherwise works much like updating any other iOS device.

Note that once you’ve initiated the update, you don’t need to keep the Home app open on your iPhone or iPad, or even keep it nearby. The update itself is handled directly by the HomePod over its own Wi-Fi connection; your iPhone or iPad is only used to trigger the process.

What’s New

Installing the iOS 13.2.1 update on your HomePod may seem somewhat anticlimactic. Since it’s primarily a voice-activated speaker, you’ll see virtually no changes in the iPhone/iPad Home app interface, as most of the new features are triggered either by voice or gesture.

For example, iOS 13.2.1 on the HomePod offers handoff support that will allow whatever is playing on your iPhone to be transferred to the HomePod — and vice-versa — but there’s no setting for this.

Instead, you simply bring your iPhone near the smart speaker and it magically happens, and it’s not the same as simply using AirPlay to stream your iPhone audio to your HomePod — in this case the HomePod actually takes over the audio playback entirely, freeing up your iPhone to do other things.

Of course, it only works with things the HomePod can play directly by itself, like Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, or tracks in your own iCloud Music Library (even if you just subscribe to iTunes Match and not Apple Music).

How to Use Ambient Sounds

Another feature you’ll have to actually ask for is the new ambient sounds. These can’t be triggered from your iPhone, but only using your voice by asking Siri to “play sounds.”

By default, the request to “play sounds” will simply pick one at random — there appear to be seven different ones available right now.

Although Siri is somewhat evasive about telling you what they all are, and it’s certainly possible Apple could add more later, but for now it will at least tell you what it’s playing after you make the request. You can also ask Siri to “play the next one” if you want to hear another random selection.

The seven ambient sounds we’ve found so far are fireplace, ocean, forest, rain, night, stream, and white noise. Once you know the name of a sound, you can also call it up by name if you want to specifically hear it, although in most cases you’ll have to specify that it’s an ambient sound by saying something like “Play forest from ambient sounds,” otherwise Siri will assume you want to listen to music and try and find a song or album that matches that name. “Play white noise” is the only one that seems to consistently work by itself.

There’s a Sleep Timer Too

The new HomePod update also adds a sleep timer, and like the other timer features on the HomePod, this is also something you’ll need to call up using Siri — there are no settings for it within the iPhone/iPad Home app.

The sleep timer can be used with ambient sounds or with any other audio that happens to be playing, and will simply stop the playback at the end of the timer.

You can call it up by telling Siri to “set a sleep timer” and then telling it how long you want it set for, either as a conversational question-and-answer dialogue (saying “Hey Siri, set a sleep timer” will have Siri ask for how long) or all in a single phase (“Hey Siri, set a sleep timer for one hour.”).

You can similarly cancel a sleep timer via SIri (”Hey Siri, cancel my sleep timer”). For obvious reasons, you can only set a single sleep timer.

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