Apple Finally Clears Up HomePod Sources

There has been a lot of speculation about what the HomePod will be able to play, notable regarding the iCloud Music Library. Apple has finally updated its HomePod specifications to list all sources that can be played on the HomePod:

  • Apple Music1
  • iTunes Music Purchases
  • iCloud Music Library with an Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription
  • Beats 1 Live Radio
  • Podcasts
  • AirPlay other content to HomePod from iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Mac

Note that, with the exception of AirPlay at the end of the list, these are all sources that you can control with Siri, the only way to control the HomePod other than by streaming over AirPlay. The lack of details about this led a lot of people to assume that you would not be able to stream music from your iCloud Music Library. As I wrote here, I thought this limitation would be because Siri has a lot of trouble playing music that’s not on Apple Music, or in the iTunes Store; I still am curious to see how reliable it is.

I would have expected the HomePod to be able to play your music library directly, without Siri or without streaming via AirPlay. It should be able to load your library and let you control it with the Remote app on an iOS device.

One interesting feature is peer-to-peer AirPlay, which means that an iOS device or a Mac can send music over AirPlay even if it’s not on the wi-fi network that the device uses.

26 thoughts on “Apple Finally Clears Up HomePod Sources

  1. I’m curious about security for playback. For example, the fellow in the apartment next door has an iPhone. Will he be able to start playing his music on my HomePod via peer-to-peer AirPlay without my permission?

    • Good question. Peer-to-peer wi-fi uses a combination of wi-fi and Bluetooth – like Handoff, Continuity, and AirDrop – so it’s limited to about ten meters, or 30 feet. So theoretically, one might be able to do that if one is close enough. Worth testing. I’ll let you know when I get mine. I’m in a house with no direct neighbors, but I can take my partner’s iPhone outside and see how far away it works.

  2. I’m curious about security for playback. For example, the fellow in the apartment next door has an iPhone. Will he be able to start playing his music on my HomePod via peer-to-peer AirPlay without my permission?

    • Good question. Peer-to-peer wi-fi uses a combination of wi-fi and Bluetooth – like Handoff, Continuity, and AirDrop – so it’s limited to about ten meters, or 30 feet. So theoretically, one might be able to do that if one is close enough. Worth testing. I’ll let you know when I get mine. I’m in a house with no direct neighbors, but I can take my partner’s iPhone outside and see how far away it works.

  3. So, if I’m an AM subscriber, is the only way to have the HP play AM is by asking Siri to do it? Will there be no method via the AM app on my iPhone to choose something myself and have it output via the HP (other than AirPlay)? Kind of like the way Sonos has Spotify Connect built in, so that the app acts more like a remote control for the speaker, but the music is actually getting sent down directly to the speaker from the internet (rather than being sent from the app/phone to the speaker).

    • No, you’ll also be able to play on a Mac or iOS device and stream to the HomePod. I would have expected the HomePod to work as you say, where it accesses your library, and you control it with, say, the Remote app. Maybe in a future upgrade.

      • With Siri leaving a lot to be desired, this troubles me. I would have thought Apple would have built-in direct play from day 1. Ugh.

  4. So, if I’m an AM subscriber, is the only way to have the HP play AM is by asking Siri to do it? Will there be no method via the AM app on my iPhone to choose something myself and have it output via the HP (other than AirPlay)? Kind of like the way Sonos has Spotify Connect built in, so that the app acts more like a remote control for the speaker, but the music is actually getting sent down directly to the speaker from the internet (rather than being sent from the app/phone to the speaker).

    • No, you’ll also be able to play on a Mac or iOS device and stream to the HomePod. I would have expected the HomePod to work as you say, where it accesses your library, and you control it with, say, the Remote app. Maybe in a future upgrade.

      • With Siri leaving a lot to be desired, this troubles me. I would have thought Apple would have built-in direct play from day 1. Ugh.

  5. Thus, lacking the requisite payment of monthly or annual vigorish, this device is a paper weight. How much does it weigh?

  6. Thus, lacking the requisite payment of monthly or annual vigorish, this device is a paper weight. How much does it weigh?

  7. Though it’s not in their statement, I would think you would also be able to Airplay to the HP from itunes on a PC. I do it now from my PC to Apple TV.

    • Yes, but I imagine that the list of PCs that support AirPlay isn’t very long. All Macs and iOS devices for many years support it.

        • I didn’t realize that. However, what I do see is that you can only use it from iTunes. You need third-party software to use it with other apps.

            • Thanks, that does look like a good product. I’m an Apple Music subscriber & I use itunes for my music management so airplay via itunes is all I need.

              Another big omission that I haven’t seen mentioned in this article or comments is that you can’t send music to it via Bluetooth…to me that’s criminal (not really but you know what I mean 🙂

  8. Though it’s not in their statement, I would think you would also be able to Airplay to the HP from itunes on a PC. I do it now from my PC to Apple TV.

    • Yes, but I imagine that the list of PCs that support AirPlay isn’t very long. All Macs and iOS devices for many years support it.

        • I didn’t realize that. However, what I do see is that you can only use it from iTunes. You need third-party software to use it with other apps.

            • Thanks, that does look like a good product. I’m an Apple Music subscriber & I use itunes for my music management so airplay via itunes is all I need.

              Another big omission that I haven’t seen mentioned in this article or comments is that you can’t send music to it via Bluetooth…to me that’s criminal (not really but you know what I mean 🙂

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