I tried out Apple’s new HomePod features. Here’s what I learned

HomePod speakers in white and space gray

AirPlay 2 makes HomePod a more competitive smart speaker, and a more user-friendly one.

AirPlay 2 is available for all iOS devices and HomePod (no news on Mac support yet).

HomePod, the breakthrough wireless speaker from Apple, now delivers an even more immersive listening experience throughout the home with support for HomePod stereo pairs and a new multi-room audio system in iOS 11.4. This could be especially useful if you stream audio from an Apple TV, as a HomePod duo would provide a decent soundtrack to movies from iTunes.

There are also a number of third party manufacturers on board for AirPlay 2, meaning you'll be able to use Siri to control music on speakers from some top names, including, Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos. Airplay 2 also helps HomePod get along with other manufacturers' speakers (like those from Sonos) to play music through all speakers in a home at the same time. That means one HomePod in a room plays the right-channel content while the second HomePod plays the left-channel content at the same time.

The update to iOS 11.4 brings with it a few notable new features. With iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4 out today, users can finally get the full AirPlay 2 experience.

Anyway, as it turns out, there is a much more important feature in iOS 11.4 than AirPlay 2 stereo pairing.

Messages in iCloud moves all those messages-including attachments and photos shared in those messages-from Apple devices to iCloud. The update also brings iMessage in the Cloud - you can have iMessages read to you from any of your Apple devices and deleting a message from one will delete it on all others.

As always, before updating your iOS device, we recommend backing up your data.

iOS 11.4 is now available for the iPhone and iPad.

HomePod will automatically update to support stereo pairs, unless auto updates are disabled in the Home app.

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