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How HomePod works with Apple Music, iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, AirPlay, and FLAC files

Since my hands on with the HomePod, I've gotten a number of questions about how the HomePod deals with streaming from Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, AirPlay sources like your Mac, and if iTunes Match works at all in this crazy new world.

Here's how everything is supposed to work.

If you do not subscribe to Apple Music or iTunes Match, here's what you get

If you buy HomePod and do not have a subscription to either of Apple's streaming services — Apple Music or iTunes Match — you'll be able to use the following audio-based features.

Siri requests

You can ask Siri to play the following:

  • Any podcast or episode from Apple's iTunes podcast directory
  • The news
  • Any song, album, or audiobook purchased through your Apple ID associated with the device (which you can change at any time in the Home app)
  • Beats 1 and other live radio stations

You'll also be able to use Siri to play, pause, skip songs, and the like. And all the other Siri features advertised (HomeKit, timers, weather, traffic, etc) work, too.

Stream other audio via AirPlay

Even though HomePod doesn't ship with AirPlay 2, it can still receive audio from any device that can AirPlay. That includes your Macs, Apple TV, iPhones, and iPads, along with any third-party apps that support the feature (including work-arounds for Android and things like AirSonos).

I want to reiterate, because I've seen a number of people passing around conflicting information: You can stream any audio (including anything from your iTunes library on your Mac) to HomePod via the original AirPlay protocol.

When AirPlay 2 launches, you'll be able to stream that audio to multiple AirPlay-compatible speakers, but the AirPlay 2 protocol is not required to stream audio from your Mac or other sources.

What does this all mean in practice if you're not an Apple Music subscriber? Essentially, you'll just have to use one of your devices to AirPlay content to your HomePod instead of using Siri to request it. You'll miss out on a lot of the Siri-specific music features, but it's not the end of the world if you're primarily interested in HomePod as a speaker and for its better privacy implementations than other smart speakers.

If you only subscribe to iTunes Match

If you only subscribe to iTunes Match, you'll have full access to your iCloud Music Library (any songs you've uploaded or matched).

Siri requests

You can ask Siri to play the following:

  • Any song, album, or playlist from iCloud Music Library
  • Any podcast or episode from Apple's iTunes podcast directory
  • The news
  • Any song, album, or audiobook purchased through your Apple ID associated with the device (which you can change at any time in the Home app)
  • Beats 1 and other live radio stations

You'll also be able to use Siri to play, pause, skip songs, and the like. And all the other Siri features advertised (HomeKit, timers, weather, traffic, etc) work, too.

Stream other audio via AirPlay

Like non-subscribers, you'll still be able to AirPlay any song from your Mac, iPhone, or iPad via iTunes or a compatible third-party app.

If you subscribe to Apple Music

Congratulations! If you subscribe to Apple Music, you have access to pretty much all the audio controls that Apple offers for HomePod. That includes…

Siri requests

Any Siri command that works with Apple Music works on HomePod, including asking for specific songs, asking to play music from a certain genre or band, off the charts, programmatic radio, and more. (If you want a more in-depth overview, I'd check Apple's Apple TV support page (opens in new tab), as the commands are nigh-similar.)

Additionally, Apple Music subscribers will be able to access any track or playlist from their iCloud Music Library by requesting it from Siri by asking "play my music," or "play my music from [x]."

You can also ask Siri to play the following:

  • Any podcast or episode from Apple's iTunes podcast directory
  • The news
  • Any song, album, or audiobook purchased through your Apple ID associated with the device (which you can change at any time in the Home app)
  • Beats 1 and other live radio stations

And you'll be able to use Siri to play, pause, skip songs, and the like; all the other Siri features advertised (HomeKit, timers, weather, traffic, etc) work, too.

AirPlay

As with non-subscribers, any device or app that supports AirPlay can send that audio to HomePod — you just won't be able to request that connection with your voice.

Why does Apple support FLAC for HomePod when iTunes doesn't stream FLAC files?

Simply put: Because you can AirPlay FLAC (or Lossless, WAV, or AIFF) files from any device to your HomePod.

(This isn't a secret hint that Apple's about to start supporting FLAC streaming. Sorry, folks.)

Does Apple support Bluetooth streaming for HomePod?

Despite Apple listing Bluetooth 5.0 as part of HomePod's specifications, I haven't heard anything that would lead me to believe it can be used as a Bluetooth speaker — AirPlay only. To my knowledge, Bluetooth 5.0 is in there to aid in the setup process, but again, I don't yet have confirmation on this so can't state definitively.

Other questions?

Let me know below or on Twitter and I'll try to answer them.

Updated January 29 2018: Added confirmation on iCloud Music Library over Siri for Apple Music and iTunes Match subscribers.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

14 Comments
  • I’m purchasing a HomePod for my daughter, yet she doesn’t want to have WiFi in her home. She has wired internet through Ethernet, a MacBook, Apple TV and an iPhone though. I’ve read where the HomePod can do “peer-to-peer” connections. Would she absolutely need a WiFi network to at least use AirPlay with the HomePod?
  • Good question! WIll look into this and get back to you
  • Is there a reason why she wants peer to peer instead? I believe a peer to peer is going to use the same radios (frequencies) if that’s what the concern is.
  • Believe it or not, she read somewhere that WiFi signals can be eventually damaging in the long run. (I’ve tried to tell her that the data coming from the cell towers to her iPhone is probably worse — if ANY radio-wave does cause any harm.) Also, I argue, that you probably get more “damage” after one good, long day in the Sun.
  • Interesting to read that you can stream from Mac since the Apple page did not list any Mac in the “compatibility” section. Is this not what they mean by compatibility?
  • hm... siri is already able to stream songs named „untitled_1_five00000“ from itunes match via voice command. besides - how many songs named like that could somebody have in itunes until their music library becomes an indecipherable mess? it‘s not like itunes groups songs according to their folder, so you gotta name your stuff after you got more than one „untitled“ songs anyway. and why would anybody expect siri to know which song you want to listen to, if you don‘t know it‘s name yourself? in my experience, people use playlists as a workaround for that. but if siri can’t comprehend individually named songs, it would by the same logic not be able to comprehend individually or hard to parse named playlists, would it? so, the homepod doesn‘t do playlists in apple music as well? apart from that... it‘s called itunes „match“ - what about the songs that got matched with songs in the itunes store apple knows the metadata of? to me, all of this sounds like lame excuses for wanting to push people to apple music - or like a half-baked product. probably both. anyway, if it doesn‘t support stand-alone itunes match, i‘m afraid this thing is of no use for me. there‘s no benefit in a smart-speaker when you have to stream your music from a device that already got siri - it just becomes a rather high priced, immobile wireless speaker that only supports airplay. kind of like an iPod hifi 2.0, only without analogue/toslink input. i hope they open it up after it becomes some moderate success, like they did with the ipod. but it‘s going to be much harder to have success with the homepod as it lacks the unique selling points the ipod got back then. btw., i didn‘t know that ios devices can play back flac by default. great news.
  • Here's my use-case scenario and question: I have a Mac, iPhone, and iPad. On my Mac and iPhone, my iTunes collection is all ripped from CDs in lossless ALAC format. I haven't gotten around to transferring those files to my iPad, but I am also an Apple Music subscriber which comes with iCloud Music Library, so the tracks in my lossless collection are uploaded to that, but in 256Kbps quality as iCloud Music Library normally works. I would want to stream my iTunes collection to the HomePod in lossless format, but also be able to access Apple Music tracks through it as well. It's my understanding reading this that I can't use Siri voice commands to access the lossless versions stored on my Mac or iPhone, because that would pull the music from either the Apple Music catalog or iCloud Music Library. Instead, I would have to set up an Airplay stream from either my Mac or iPhone, and not have Siri functions available to me for those tracks. Am I understanding this correctly? This would be a lot simpler if iCloud Music Library could upload full CD-quality file formats, or if Apple Music was a lossless stream.
  • From what I’ve understood, you are absolutely correct (a fallow Apple Lossless user for my entire CD collection on my Mac). Honestly I can’t hear the difference between the same albums from ALAC or 256 AAC via Apple Music. It just made me happy to do it the moment ALAC was originally released.
  • Serenity, Thanks for all the HomePod articles. In this latest one, you mention "Any song, album, or audiobook purchased through your Apple ID associated with the device". Does this imply that only one Apple ID can be associated with the HomePod at one time? Like some long-time Apple users, I have one Apple ID for iCloud, etc, and another for iTunes and App Store. My Homekit devices are associated with my main (iCloud, Keychain, etc) Apple ID. If HomePod only understands one Apple ID at a time, I wouldn't be able to command both Apple Music and Homekit. Can you clarify? Many thanks!
  • I'm confused. I called Apple support yesterday and the rep told me I cannot airplay music I've not purchased through Apple. I explained that I have a large iTunes library, mostly ripped from CD. I was told only the purchased music could be played through HomePod.
    I also asked about playing music that had been "matched" through iTunes Match (though I don't currently have this). I was told HomePod would not play matched titles, only those purchased. In fairness, the rep did not seem to have a very good understanding of the iTunes match program.
  • jahall721 The Apple rep you spoke to was one of the clueless ones. I’ve encountered many of these over the years so you’re not alone.
    As has already been stated, you will be able to play ALL your music via AirPlay to the HomePod exactly the same as you would to any other AirPlay capable receiver/speaker
  • Hmm... See Serenity's bullet point 3 above. She clearly says the songs must have been purchased through one's Apple ID.
  • Hi, I am trying to find out if HomePod plays internet radio directly like Alexa/tunein or whether I have to airplay from my iPhone? For me, voice controlled internet radio directly available from the device is the ‘killer app.’ Thank you.
  • I live in Canada but am spending Winter in US and bought a Homepod. I have Apple Music and iTunes Match. It works with Match so I can play my library from iCloud. I cannot access Apple Music on Homepod but can on my iPhone, and can airplay to Homepod from iPhone. I have 2 Apple ID's, one for iTunes and 1 for iCloud, and wondering if that can be a problem?