Smart speakers are fast becoming a central feature in the living room
Smart speakers are fast becoming a central feature in the living room

Apple iOS 11.4 update launched, with brand new changes to AirPlay wireless audio technology

HomePod will also launch in a range of new countries

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 29 May 2018 16:26
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Apple has finally launched AirPlay 2, the next generation of its audio technology.

The long-awaited technology allows people to stream their music into different rooms around the house, and to pair up their HomePods so that they can be used in stereo.

And many countries will finally get to use the technology in its most obvious way: the HomePod. The smart speaker will be arriving in a range of countries in June.

Apple's AirPlay has long allowed people to listen to their music on their speakers from their phone – without any wires. But it has been limited in various ways, including the fact that one phone can only stream to one speaker.

AirPlay 2 will get rid of that restriction, allowing the phone to stream to multiple houses around the house all at once. It will also allow two HomePods to work together in stereo – a feature that was teased when they were released in February but hasn't been available until now.

To do that, Apple is introducing a whole range of new technology that might not be immediately obvious to users. The speakers will download the music long before it is played, for instance, so that there will be no obvious buffering if the internet slows down or temporarily cuts out.

That has led some products to be unable to support the new technology, including older Sonos products. The speakers need considerable processing power to be able to download that music ready to play it.

But it will be coming to a whole host of speakers, some of which have already been announced. Sonos users, for instance, should be getting the feature soon – and many more of the biggest speaker companies are releasing AirPlay 2 speakers.

The news comes almost exactly a week before WWDC, Apple's big conference for developers. There, Apple is expected to show off the next major update to iOS – version 12 – and it also marks a year since the HomePod was first announced.

And now the HomePod will be coming to other countries: Canada, France and Germany, on 18 June. It is already available in US, UK and Australia.

HomePods will need to be updated to use the new technology. That should happen automatically, but if you are keen to get hold of it sooner that can be done by going to the Home app, selecting your HomePod and then choosing software update.

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