Apple Releases HomePod Software 16.3 and tvOS 16.3
Apple’s release machine took a brief break before unveiling HomePod Software 16.3 and tvOS 16.3 (see “Apple Releases iOS 16.3, iPadOS 16.3, and macOS 13.2 Ventura with Hardware Security Key Support,” 23 January 2023). Those remaining two updates are now available, and while they are usually afterthoughts—and tvOS 16.3 remains one—HomePod Software 16.3 is actually quite interesting.
HomePods and Apple TVs generally update on their own, and I see no reason to prevent that. If you’re excited about one of the new features in HomePod Software 16.3, you could give it a nudge to make sure you get it right away.
HomePod Software 16.3
Although it’s unsurprising that HomePod Software 16.3 would include support for the just-released second-generation HomePod (see “Second-Generation HomePod Supports Spatial Audio, Temperature/Humidity Monitoring, and Sound Recognition,” 18 January 2023), it also has improvements that owners of the first-generation HomePod or HomePod mini will also appreciate.
For instance, Apple updated the volume controls on the first-generation HomePod to give you more granular adjustments at lower volumes. Both full-size HomePods benefit from new audio tuning that optimizes spoken content like podcasts for greater clarity.
The remaining changes are focused on smart home interactions and Siri:
- You can now take advantage of temperature and humidity sensing in the HomePod mini and second-generation HomePod to trigger Home automations.
- Remastered ambient sounds are more immersive, and you can now add them to scenes, automations, and alarms in the Home app.
- Find My on HomePod now enables you to ask Siri for the location of friends and family who share their locations with you.
- You can set up recurring Home automations using just your voice. I haven’t had a chance to test this, but I recommend double-checking the results in the Home app.
- HomePods will now play a Siri confirmation tone to indicate when smart home requests are completed for accessories that may not visibly show a change or are located in a different room. Currently, Siri confirms such actions with a voice response.
There are several ways to kickstart HomePod updates. I found that tapping the ••• button in the upper right of the iOS Home app and then selecting Home Settings > Software Update caused all three of our HomePods to start downloading the update. I presume it would have installed on its own, but I gave it a push by pressing a HomePod tile in the Home app, selecting Accessory Details, scrolling down (or tapping the gear icon) to reveal the necessary controls, and then tapping Update.
Not a lot to see here, folks. With regard to tvOS 16.3, Apple merely says that it “includes general performance and stability improvements.” It also includes fixes for 10 security vulnerabilities. Let it install on its own.
Apple TV 4K, generations 2 and 3 will now support ARC and eARC.
My understanding of this is that you can now run audio from your TV or other devices connected to other HDMI ports of your TV to HomePods or AirPods through an Apple TV. For this to work, your Apple TV would need to be connected to an HDMI port on the TV that supports ARC or eARC.
A bit of background from a layman who has recently modernized his home theater setup in his living room (me):
Normally HDMI is one-way connection transmitting video and audio from a source (streming device, Blu-ray player, cable box, etc.) to a TV. However, with moderately high-grade cables and connections to ports enabled for ARC (Audio Return Channel) or eARC (enhanced ARC), audio can be sent from the TV to the external device (usually an audio-video receiver (AVR) or sounder with the AVR then outputing the sound to its connected speakers. The difference between ARC and eARC is that eARC handles a greater variey of audio codecs.
So, this update enables newer Apple TV’s to take on the role of the AVR for audio devices that can connect to it.
Note [added after the inital post]: The support document only mentions HomePods, not AirPods. However, I see no reason why AirPods, added as temporary devices, would not work.
I applied the update to my HomePod Mini about 20 minutes ago , it appears to be still enabling the temperature sensor. When I ask Siri “What’s the temperature in here?” It replies “I’m still getting that set up Please try again in a few minutes.”
An hour later, it actually responed with the temperature information. When I asked about humidity, it also responded. I happen to have a cheap clock that shows room temperture and humidity within a foot of the HomePod. The numbers that Siri reported were within 2 units of the numbers on the clock.
I noticed my updating the homepod (1st gen) which is paired to another, one showed 16.3 while the other showed updating (16.2). I showed updating for atleast 25 mins… and until I backed out of the Home app and returned, I wasn’t sure it was complete. Took actually over 45 mins to update two Homepods (1st gen).
I tested my setting for living room lights (a WEMO plug) and Siri turned them on BUT without a verbal confirmation as it used to. This time, a dull tone, boop. I know this is stated in the notes but why does Apple change this without leaving previous option? Alteast my “Hey Siri, good night” setting has Siri turn off all the lights and say “Good night!”…
My Homepod Mini updated last night. With the Home app on my iPad I checked if the sensors (temperature & humidity) were displayed for the room but no sign of them. Then I realised that the iPad was on 16.2. After updating it to 16.3 the sensors appeared in the Home app:
PS It’s mid-summer here in Sydney and we measure temperature in Celsius!
There is an issue with the Home app on both iOS 16.3 and iPadOS 16.3, sensor data from the HomePod mini don’t always show up but if you ask Siri, you get the information.
And now there’s a HomePod Software 16.3.1 that just fixes unspecified bugs.
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