How to play relaxing, ambient sounds with your HomePod

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HomePod, Siri, music
What could be more relaxing than this?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Stressed? On edge? Struggling to block out the annoying construction work down the street? Or do you just hate silence, and the way it reminds you that your life is tick-ticking away? Then you need some room-filling ambient sounds.

How about a nice, relaxing rainstorm to help you fall asleep? Or some white noise to fill the space left by your grownup children when they left you behind to start their own lives? If you have a HomePod running iOS 13.2 or later, your smart speaker stands ready to help blank out the soul-bleeding silence of your empty life. You just need to ask.

Apple seeks tariff waivers for key product lines

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A future Apple Watch might be able to alert you that you’re breathing poison.
Apple wants relief from Trump's tariffs on Apple Watch and other products imported from China.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Apple requested exemptions for the import taxes it must pay when bringing many of its products from China. Currently, the Trump administration levies these on Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac and more.

These tariffs went into place in September as Apple got caught up in President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

Apple pulls iOS 13.2 update that bricked some HomePods [Updated]

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HomePod Volume Controls closeup
You might want to think twice about rushing to update your HomePod.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

For some HomePod owners, the latest software update really was a killer upgrade. Loads of irritated people say the update bricked their HomePods.

New HomePod features like voice recognition for multiple users and the ability to send messages and make calls might sound awesome. But having your smart speaker go belly up sucks out loud. If you previously turned on automatic HomePod updates, you might want to flip the switch and wait until Apple gets to the bottom of the problem.

Update: Apple pulled Monday’s HomePod update after owners reported unresponsive devices. If you managed to successfully update your HomePod, you should be careful. An updated Apple support document warns that you should not reset your smart speaker for any reason. You also should not attempt to remove your HomePod from the Home app.

Apple steps up smart home fight against Amazon and Google

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The HomePod -- a beautiful body with the brain of an idiot.
Apple wants to make a bigger mark on your home.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple is ramping up its smart home efforts in a bid to better compete against Amazon and Google, according to a new report.

Cupertino is said to be hiring for a team that will be focused on revamping HomeKit software and devices. It also wants to encourage more third-party manufacturers to support its platform.

Apple AR is already here, and you’re probably wearing it right now [Opinion]

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Apple AR already surrounds us.
Apple’s AR already surrounds us.
Photo: Drew Graham/Unsplash

“Apple is all-in on augmented reality. But where will it lead?” That’s a pretty standard view of Apple’s experiments with visual AR, aka overlaying virtual objects onto the real world, via the iPhone’s camera and screen.

But Apple is already providing a fully immersive AR overlay onto the real world, to millions of users — only it isn’t using a screen. AirPods are augmented reality. They are also a part of a new computing paradigm that Apple snuck into the world without telling anybody. This paradigm currently consists of AirPods, iPhone, Apple Watch and the HomePod. And it is as discreet and low-key as it is important.

HomePod will get smarter (and more chill) this fall

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HomePod speaker
HomePod is getting some nifty new features.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple didn’t mention HomePod during yesterday’s iPhone 11 event — but it certainly didn’t forget about it, either.

Following the keynote, Apple quietly updated HomePod’s webpage. In doing so, it added exciting details about improvements being lined up for Apple’s smart speaker this fall.