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Apple HomePod to get a major new feature, the new HomePod mini will lack

HomePod isn’t the most loved Apple product ever made, but there are signs the Siri-powered smart speaker could still reach its potential.

The company has confirmed (via The Verge) that the voice-controlled speaker will soon support Dolby Atmos and 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio when used with an Apple TV 4K.

The update, coming in iOS 14.2 and tvOS 14.2, will enable Apple TV 4K owners to set the HomePod as their permanent TV speaker. Until now, users had to reselect the HomePod every time they wished to use it for TV, via the AirPlay 2 streaming tech.

Apple does say the use of Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 channel surround sound will work with a single HomePod speaker, but the feature will work better with a pair of speakers paired for stereo sound.

Related: Apple HomePod mini vs HomePod

Unfortunately, this update will not be available on the brand new HomePod mini, which Apple announced during the iPhone 12 event this week. The HomePod mini also lacks the spatial awareness technology on the original.

Meanwhile, the introduction of the HomePod Mini also gives the existing model a boost too. HomePod will also support the new Intercom tech debuted by Apple earlier this week. The feature, which is similar to the Alexa Drop In and Google Assistant Broadcast, enables users to exchange voice messages across HomePod speakers, as well as iOS devices, the Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay.

Related: Best smart speakers 

Apple used the example of a man informing the family he was bringing pizza home, from his car. His AirPods-wearing hungry daughter receives the message and sends one in return. It’s compatible with HomePod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods. The latter could be useful if you’re struggling to get through to the kids!

Apple says all messages sent from one HomePod to another, using the built in microphones, will automatically play on another in a different room, a different zone in the house, or all speakers throughout the home. Apple says that users will need to specify where they want the intercom message delivered.

HomePod Mini is out next month for £99, whereas the existing HomePod remains at £279.

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