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Apple HomePod Mini features you should know about: Every tip and trick we've found

Apple’s HomePod Mini is smaller and smarter than ever.

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The HomePod Mini next to the original HomePod. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

The recently released HomePod Mini is a smaller and less expensive version of the larger HomePod Apple released in early 2018. Apple recently announced plans to discontinue the HomePod and focus on the smaller, smarter model. The $99 (£99, AU$149) HomePod Mini is capable of controlling your HomeKit devices, streaming your favorite music or sending Intercom messages to the rest of your home. 

But there's so much more to the smart speaker than meets the ear. For example, you can ask your HomePod Mini to find your phone if you've misplaced it in your home. You can even use it to make or receive phone calls. 

Before you can start using all of the latest and greatest HomePod Mini features, however, you'll need to make sure it's running the latest software. Below I'll walk you through updating your HomePod Mini's software, followed by several tips and tricks that will help you master Apple's smart speaker.

How to update the Apple HomePod Mini

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Your HomePod Mini should automatically update its software without you doing anything, but it's a good idea to check once in a while. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Before you update the software on your HomePod Mini, double-check the software on your iPhone ($499 at Apple) is up to date in Settings > General > Software Update. We have more detailed instructions here, should you need a refresher. 

To update the software on your HomePod, open the Home app on your iOS device. Tap on the Home icon in the top left corner, then scroll down and tap Home Settings. Next, scroll down and tap Software Update. The app will check for any available updates, and if one is available, you'll be asked if you want to install it. If everything is up to date, you're good to go.  

All the Apple HomePod Mini features you should know

Despite lacking a dedicated app on your iOS device, or an interface on the HomePod Mini itself, there's quite a bit you can do with Apple's smart speaker. Below are some tips and tricks. 

Initial setup is a breeze

Seriously. It's as simple as plugging in the HomePod Mini, waiting a few seconds for it to boot up, then unlocking your iPhone and placing it next to the speaker. You'll see an alert on your iPhone letting you know a HomePod Mini that's ready to be set up is nearby, and then you'll be guided through the rest of the process. It's incredibly cool and incredibly easy.

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The Homepod mini is Apple's newest smart speaker.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Double-check the settings

From blocking explicit music to knowing when Siri is actually listening, you can access the HomePod Mini's settings by opening the Home app and long-pressing on the HomePod tile. Scroll down, past the now playing screen, and you'll find all of the settings you can adjust. Take a few minutes to tailor it to your liking. 

'Siri, call Mom' 

You can use the HomePod Mini to make or receive phone calls. Tell Siri to answer your phone, or ask it to place a call by using the contact's name. If you want to transfer a call from your phone to  now make phone calls through HomePod Mini.

Set Pandora default music app HomePod

Prefer Pandora over Apple Music? You're in luck. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Ditch Apple Music as the default music service

With the release of iOS 14, Apple added deeper integration for music apps and the HomePod Mini. More specifically, Apple now allows you to stream from third-party apps like Pandora, both as a secondary streaming option or as the default service.

Your streaming service of choice will have to update its iPhone or iPad ($265 at Amazon) app in order for you to add it to the Home app. Pandora is one such app that has done just that. Spotify, thus far, has not. 

With the latest version of Pandora installed on your phone, open the app and tap the Profile tab. Next, select the Settings gear, then tap the option labeled Connect with HomePod. Follow the prompts. 

Once you're done with that, you have two options. You can either leave Apple Music as the default service, and when you want to use Pandora you use a command like, "Hey, Siri, play '90s hip-hop on Pandora." 

Alternatively, you can set Pandora as the default service by opening the Home app and going to your home settings, select your profile under users and tap Default Service > Pandora. With that change made, any time you ask Siri to play a song on a HomePod Mini, it'll default to your Pandora account.

Spotify users, you're still in luck… kind of

If you use an app that hasn't been updated to work directly on the HomePod Mini, like Spotify, there's still a way to avoid using Apple Music on the HomePod. It's not the best workaround, but it's one nonetheless. 

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You can listen to your Intercom messages on your iPhone. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use the new Intercom feature

If you have multiple HomePods, you can use them as an intercom system throughout your home or apartment. As long as they're running the latest software, you don't have to do anything to set it up -- just say "Hey, Siri, intercom it's time to eat!" and a second or two later, a recording of your voice will play on all of your HomePods. There's more to it than that, so make sure to check out our full guide

Don't remember the name of a song? Ask for it by its lyrics

This one is pretty cool. You can ask Siri to play a song "that goes insert lyrics" and, as long as you have the right lyrics, Siri will begin playing that song. On occasion, it will get the song right even if you don't have the right lyrics. 

Handoff is magical for moving audio

Sending audio from your iPhone to your smart speaker and back again is easy with Apple's handoff feature. It works with HomePod or HomePod Mini when your device has Bluetooth turned on and is on the same Wi-Fi network as your smart home speakers.

Hover the phone close to the speaker and you'll feel haptic feedback and see a notification appear to let you know the audio is transferring to the HomePod. When you're ready to put the audio back on your phone, the process works in reverse. 

Where's my iPhone? 

That's all you need to ask Siri, who will then ask if you want to play a sound on the phone to help you find it. 

Create multiple timers

"Hey, Siri, start a timer for 15 minutes." Keep in mind you can't create two timers at the same time. You need to start one, wait for Siri to quit listening for commands, and then start the process again.

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Two HomePod Minis can be paired for stereo sound.

Chris Monroe/CNET

A second speaker means stereo sound

If you happen to own two HomePod speakers, you can connect them to play in stereo or stream the same audio to multiple speakers in different rooms. Here's how to create a stereo pair. Keep in mind you'll need two of the same type of HomePods. Heck, you can even use two of the bigger HomePods as a home theater replacement with your Apple TV ($160 at Best Buy); here's how.

Yes, the original HomePod can leave a ring

If you own an original HomePod, you've probably heard about this issue. But you can prevent the silicone band along its bottom from damaging your wood table, desk or shelf.

While the larger HomePod is headed into the sunset, Apple will still continue to support HomePod owners with updates, so it's a good idea to make sure you know all there is about iOS 14. If you're still trying to decide if Apple's smart speaker is right for you, here's our HomePod Mini review (spoiler: If you use an iPhone, you're going to love it).

With contribution from Molly Price.