Using Apple Watch to Control HomePod


This might seem like a strange post for a triathlon focussed blog, and no, I'm not suggesting you buy a really long cable and run with HomePod strapped to your back.  

However if you have a HomePod in your "pain cave" and want to control the music using Apple Watch while training on a turbo or treadmill perhaps this might come in handy.  Of course you can also use Siri directly with HomePod but this post isn't about that, and sometimes I just get tired of talking.

In addition while writing this it did help me provide some clarity to myself about just how music control on Apple Watch works which may come in handy on a run (providing clarity to myself is sort of a confusing concept, shouldn't I have already had the clarity before I provided it back to myself - where did it come from?  I need some clarity on that.)

One point to bear in mind - this is based on the current released version of Watch OS 4 (4.2.2), and there are some changes coming in Watch OS 4.3 which I am expecting to make this a little simpler.  I don't have a watch with 4.3 on yet (it's still in Beta), but as soon as I do I'll update this post.

Ok let's get straight to it

The first thing to realise is that Apple Watch has three ways of controlling music:

  1. Using the Music App
  2. Using the Now Playing screen
  3. Using Siri (but this post isn't about Siri - so I won't be covering that, but you know, just speak to your watch)

Let's take a look at the Music App First

The music app let's you play music that you have synced to your watch using the Watch app on iPhone, or music you can stream from your Library (i.e. music you have added to your library from Apple Music or by copying a music file into your library, from say a CD you have copied).

So to use this open the Music app and scroll to the music you want and select a track to play.  Note if you haven't added a track to your library, but it is available in Apple Music, you won't be able to play it this way, instead you can use Siri

At this point Apple Watch wants to know what to play this on and will ask you (unless you already have headphones of a speaker connected).  Tapping Connect a Device will bring up the bluetooth settings on the watch.

So you'll need to connect a bluetooth device to play those cool sounds...

But wait, HomePod isn't a bluetooth device!  So that won't work then.  Darn...

The Now Playing Screen

The now playing screen gives you control over whatever is playing on Apple Watch, OR (and this is important, so listen up) your iPhone.

"Now Playing" is unique - it doesn't appear in the list of installed apps, instead it just appears when something is playing, and it will appear in your dock automatically (even if you have the dock to show just favourites) so you can switch to it easily.  

When you view "Now Playing" you can tap the top left of the screen to switch between Apple Watch and iPhone and you can force press to select the bluetooth output (e.g. AirPods or other bluetooth speaker or headphones)

What you might expect here is an option for controlling what is playing on HomePod - but sadly not... So that isn't going to work either.... unless....we're you paying attention earlier?  Now Playing let's you control what is playing on iPhone too!

The answer - play music on iPhone and AirPlay to HomePod and then you can control the music with Apple Watch

So if we play music on iPhone and then AirPlay it to HomePod we will get to control it via Apple Watch - hurrah!  

You can Airplay from iPhone using the Music app, or Control Centre as normal (make sure you select the Airplay option and not the big HomePod platter which gives you control of the HomePod directly, rather than playing music to it from iPhone - phew!)

Ok so why not just say that at the start of this post?

Well it took me a while to get here and understand what was going on, so I wanted to share. and I have seen some confusion on Twitter about the issue, so I hope this helps.

Clearly though, this should be easier, and it would be helpful if you could control HomePod directly from Apple Watch or AirPlay to it.