By Dan Moren
July 19, 2021 11:38 AM PT
HomePod 14.7 improves timer control, but doesn’t go nearly far enough
Amongst Apple’s latest spate of updates today is HomePod 14.7, which brings as its biggest feature the ability to view and control timers set on the HomePod from the Home app. Which all HomePod owners can probably agree merits a big “finally“.
Now, when you tap and hold on your HomePod to bring up the media controls, and then scroll up, past all the alarms you’ve ever set, you can find a list of your current timers—including their names, if they have one—as well as current time remaining, plus the ability to pause, resume, or cancel. You can also create new timers via the Home app.
This is all, frankly, great. It’s been one of my most wished-for features.
Unfortunately, it’s both too late and much too little.
For one thing, why are the timers forced to be buried all the way below the alarms? I use timers way more than I use alarms; I should at least be able to rearrange them to put alarms closer to the top.
And for that matter, why are the timers not surfaced anywhere else in the UI? I have a HomePod in my kitchen, but if I go to the Kitchen room in the Home app when my timer is running, why does seeing the current time remaining require tapping and holding on the HomePod, and then scrolling down? Apple’s done better about picking out relevant details, like information from sensors, and presenting them at the top of the interface. Timers should be there too.
While we’re on the subject, how come my different HomePods still aren’t aware of timers set on other HomePods? If I ask my office HomePod about a timer I set in the kitchen, it sure would be handy for it to tell me that I’ve got two minutes left for my tea to steep, instead of the very unhelpful “there are no timers set.” I’d like to see any current running timers on my iPhone lock screen and my Apple Watch too, to be honest. It’s a far cry from a unified home system.
Perhaps most annoyingly, when a timer is going off it no longer appears in the Home app interface, meaning that to stop a timer, you still have to shout at Siri, even if you’re halfway across the house. This is just a bizarre choice.
In short, months after Apple discontinued the HomePod and focused its sights on the HomePod mini, the company still doesn’t seem to have a clear vision for how exactly consumers use smart home tech. It continues to view the HomePods primarily as places where people play music, as evidenced by opening the HomePod in the Home app: 97 percent of the interface is music, with “Alarms” juuuust peeking out at the bottom so you know that there’s other stuff you can do.
Rumors of a homeOS appearing at WWDC were dashed, but here’s hoping that amongst Apple’s fall announcements is a revitalized and, well, better home system. Glad as I am that HomePod 14.7 improves timers, it just puts in stark relief how frustrating Apple’s home strategy—or, more accurately, lack thereof—is.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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