Apple today released iOS 11.4 which includes AirPlay 2 multi-room audio, support for HomePod stereo pairs, and Messages in iCloud. This update also includes bug fixes and improvements.

AirPlay 2
• Control your home audio system and AirPlay 2-enabled speakers throughout your house
• Play music at the same time on multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in your house, all in sync
• Control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers from Control Center, the Lock screen, or AirPlay controls within apps on your iPhone or iPad
• Use your voice to control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers with Siri from your iPhone or iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV
• Take a call or play a game on your iPhone or iPad without interrupting playback on your AirPlay 2-enabled speakers

Messages in iCloud
• Store your messages, photos, and other attachments in iCloud and free up space on your devices
• All your messages appear when you sign into a new device with the same iMessage account
• When you delete messages and conversations they are instantly removed from all your devices
• To turn on Messages in iCloud, enable Messages in iCloud settings (Settings > [your name] > iCloud)
• Your conversations continue to be end-to-end encrypted

Other improvements and fixes
• Enables teachers to assign their students reading activities in iBooks using the Schoolwork app
• Fixes an issue where certain character sequences could cause Messages to crash
• Addresses a Messages issue that could cause some messages to appear out of order
• Addresses an issue that could prevent logging in or accessing files on Google Drive, Google Docs and Gmail in Safari
• Fixes an issue that could prevent data syncing in Health
• Fixes an issue that could prevent users from changing what apps can access Health data
• Resolves an issue that could cause an app to appear in an incorrect location on the Home screen
• Fixes an issue where CarPlay audio could become distorted
• Fixes an issue where selecting music from your iPhone could fail when playing music over Bluetooth or when connected to USB on some vehicles

HomePod stereo pair
• This update supports setting up your HomePod stereo pair using your iPhone or iPad
• HomePod pair automatically senses its location in the room and balances the sound based on the speakers’ locations
• Advanced beamforming provides wider soundstage than traditional stereo pair
• HomePod will automatically update to support stereo pairs, unless auto updates are disabled in the Home app

HomePod now delivers an even more immersive listening experience throughout the home with support for HomePod stereo pairs and a new multi-room audio system in iOS 11.4.

This free software update introduces the most advanced, easy to use, wireless multi-room audio system using AirPlay 2 to play music in any room from any room, move music from one room to another or play the same song everywhere using an iOS device, HomePod, Apple TV or by asking Siri. HomePod is available in the US, UK and Australia and arrives in Canada, France and Germany starting June 18.

HomePod combines Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software to set a new audio quality standard for a small speaker, delivering high-fidelity sound and a wide soundstage. Featuring a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, a custom array of seven beamforming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics with incredible directional control and powerful technologies built right in, HomePod is able to preserve the richness and intent of the original recordings.

With two HomePod speakers set up as a stereo pair, this soundstage gets even wider, delivering room-filling sound that is more spacious than a traditional stereo pair from a speaker that’s just under 7-inches tall. Using spatial awareness to sense their location in the room, each HomePod automatically adjusts the audio to sound great wherever it is placed and sound great together, using an Apple-designed wireless peer-to-peer direct link to communicate with each other and play music completely in sync.

With an A8 chip in each speaker, each HomePod is able to play its own audio channel — left or right — while separating out both the ambient and direct energy. This innovative stereo sound provides a wide, almost three dimensional soundstage for an incredible listening experience anywhere in the room. A HomePod stereo pair creates room filling sound with greater bass extension, resulting in a deeper, more accurate reproduction of low frequencies.

Setting up a stereo pair is simple. When a second HomePod is set up in the same room, the user is prompted whether they would like to form a stereo pair, and in just a matter of minutes, the room is filled with amazing audio. Even though these two speakers act as one, each HomePod communicates with each other so that only one speaker responds to Siri requests.

AirPlay 2 and Multi-Room Audio

AirPlay 2 enables the most advanced, wireless multi-room audio system, creating an effortless way for people to stream music or podcasts anywhere in the home to different devices, all in-sync. While listening to music, it’s as easy as selecting or unselecting where the music is playing in Control Center, or users can ask Siri to play music in any room, a group of rooms, or everywhere in the home. For HomePod, AirPlay 2 features are automatically supported and music can be streamed around the house without the need to manually group speakers.

AirPlay 2 controls are available across iOS within any app and in Control Center for quick access to what’s playing in every room, on every speaker. Apple Music subscribers can also ask Siri to play different songs in different rooms or the same song everywhere, without ever leaving the room. Just like iPhone and iPad, HomePod will be able to communicate with other AirPlay 2-enabled speakers when they become available, so Siri can control music playing on speakers from Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos.

Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has a deep knowledge of music and understands personal preferences and tastes. With personal requests turned on for HomePod, Siri can send a message, add reminders and notes and check calendar appointments.2 Siri can set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.

To learn more ways to get the most out of iOS 11.4, users can visit the Tips app on iPhone or iPad. For details on how to update HomePod, visit Apple Support.

Pricing and Availability

HomePod is available in white and space gray for $349 (US) in the US, UK and Australia and will be available in Canada, France and Germany beginning Monday, June 18. HomePod will be available in Apple Stores, apple.com, the Apple Store app and at select Apple Authorized Resellers.

HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later. Stereo and multi-room audio are available with iOS 11.4.

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

MacDailyNews Take: It’s snappy and it’s finally here – even Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2! Happy downloading!