New HomePod 14.4 beta includes HomePod mini's fancy U1 Handoff feature

Homepod Mini
Homepod Mini (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has released a new HomePod software beta, version 14.4.
  • The update includes the HomePod mini U1-powered Handoff feature Apple announced earlier this year.

Apple released iOS 14.4 beta 1 yesterday and quietly pushed out a HomePod 14.4 beta 1 to go with it. The HomePod beta program isn't open to developers – Apple seeds the betas to select users. And one of them shared details of the update to Reddit.

According to u/kyemaloy14, the new beta adds the U1-powered Handoff feature that Apple announced alongside HomePod mini earlier this year. That means that anyone putting an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 series handset near a HomePod mini with the beta installed will see a new interface, complete with haptic feedback that varies depending on proximity to the speaker.

Homepod Mini 144 Handoff Interface

Homepod Mini 144 Handoff Interface (Image credit: u/kyemaloy14)

Here's how it's described on Reddit.

Starts the process when you're like... 12" away from the HomePod? When it works correctly. First beta is pretty buggy and may not be the best one to explainBasically when your phone gets 12" away from the HomePod the banner shows and any minuscule phone movements result in haptic feedback which gets stronger as you move towards the HomePod. If you move away it gets weaker, get too far away and it stops and the banner goes away.Get closer and closer and the haptics will get stronger until it's so close that you must purposely be doing it and want to engage in handoff, at which point the banner expands into the full platter shown in the last photo

There's no telling when we can expect Apple to make iOS 14.4 and HomePod software version 14.4 available to the public, but I can't imagine it will be soon. The beta releases themselves were a surprise to many, coming so close to Christmas. Apple generally closes shop over the Christmas period, suggesting this will be the last beta of 2020.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.