The HomePod Finally Has a Third-Party Music App but No, It's Not Spotify

Illustration for article titled The HomePod Finally Has a Third-Party Music App but No, Its Not Spotify
Photo: Adam Clark Estes/Gizmodo

Earlier this year, Apple very subtly teased that third-party music services would be coming to the HomePod. Well folks, that time has come. The HomePod (and the new HomePod Mini) will now let you use another music service other than Apple Music. No, it’s not Spotify—it’s Pandora.

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In an app update pushed out yesterday, Pandora noted that users could now enjoy “music and podcasts on your Apple HomePod” via Siri. To get it working, all you have to do is update the app on an iOS device, go to profile, settings, select “Connect with HomePod” and then select “Use in Home.” You can also add the phrase “on Pandora” when asking Siri to play music. So for instance, “Hey Siri, play Despacito feat. Daddy Yankee by Luis Fonsi on Pandora.”

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Technically, AirPlay 2 has let you play music from other services on the HomePod for a while now. The only thing is you have to take the extra two seconds to select your speaker from the relevant app, and it sort of discourages you from using Siri—which is supposedly one of the reasons why you’d want a HomePod in the first place. Supposedly. However, this update now lets HomePod users set Pandora as their default music service. To do that, you have to tap on the “home” icon, select “home settings, tap your avatar, and then you can tell Apple Music to hit the curb.

For now, Pandora is the first and only third-party music service that’s added official HomePod support. However, during last month’s iPhone event, Amazon Music and iHeart Radio were also highlighted as services that would be coming to Apple’s smart speakers. So it wouldn’t be surprising if we hear about Amazon Music or iHeart Radio integration sometime before or around Nov. 6, when preorders for the HomePod Mini are set to begin.

The big question is if, or when, Spotify will come to the HomePod. The service was notably absent from Apple’s presentation, though theoretically, the dev kit is available and Spotify could decide to make itself HomePod-compatible whenever it wanted. That said, Spotify also has some beef with Apple, and it took a long time before a Spotify app was available on the Apple Watch. (You still can’t stream Spotify to the Apple Watch, though it appears that after two years, Spotify finally began testing that capability a few weeks ago.) While the absence of streaming hasn’t slowed Apple Watch sales, it’s something that many, many people griped about in the watch’s early days. The lack of Spotify—even with an AirPlay 2 workaround—is something that’s likely a sore point with the HomePod too. This is especially true when you consider there’s a whole lot of speakers out there that you can get Spotify on, including Amazon Echo devices, the new Google Nest Audio, and the Sonos Move.

Regardless, adding third-party music services is a step toward making the HomePod a more useful smart speaker. Along that vein, Apple also recently noted that the HomePod will be gaining some new home theater features, including Dolby Atmos support via the Apple TV. Now, if Apple could do something about Siri, that’d be the icing on the cake.

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Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

I’ve been using Pandora for over a decade. I keep thinking about switching, but never do. I just like the ease of making a Pandora channel and having it suggest music for me. I recently exported my thumbs up to a playlist for Apple Music and I literally have over a thousand.

Apple Music just gave me another free month and eh... I’m just not impressed? Like I said, I don’t want to pick music, I just want it given to me. I know there are a lot of playlists to choose from, and stations, but. Well, here are my two complaints from the past few weeks:

1) Setting Playlists as favorites just adds them to your regular Playlists list. Gross. I need separation.
2) You can’t favorite stations? What in the world? Why do I have to search for a station every time I want to listen to it? What kind of crap UI is that?

Also I have Sonos speakers right now and the Apple Music part in the app is beyond terrible. I don’t know who is responsible for making that work but it is really, really bad. I have to AirPlay Apple Music to the Sonos, which defeats the purpose of an independent speaker that I bought it for.

I haven’t tried Spotify much, I don’t know if it’s any better with the complaints I have with Apple Music. Needless to say I won’t be subscribing to Apple Music after my free month expires, and I’ll stick with Pandora.

tldr; uh, I use Pandora so if I got a HomePod this is cool?