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New HomePod 14.4 beta includes HomePod mini’s fancy U1 Handoff feature

What you need to know

  • Apple has released a new HomePod software beta, version 14.4.
  • The update includes the HomePod mini U1-powered Handoff feature Apple announced earlier this year.

Haptics and on-screen prompts make for a better Handoff experience.

Apple released iOS 14.4 beta 1 yesterday and quietly pushed out a HomePod 14.4 beta 1 to go with it. The HomePod beta program isn’t open to developers – Apple seeds the betas to select users. And one of them shared details of the update to Reddit.

According to u/kyemaloy14, the new beta adds the U1-powered Handoff feature that Apple announced alongside HomePod mini earlier this year. That means that anyone putting an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 series handset near a HomePod mini with the beta installed will see a new interface, complete with haptic feedback that varies depending on proximity to the speaker.

Here’s how it’s described on Reddit.

Starts the process when you’re like… 12″ away from the HomePod? When it works correctly. First beta is pretty buggy and may not be the best one to explain

Basically when your phone gets 12″ away from the HomePod the banner shows and any minuscule phone movements result in haptic feedback which gets stronger as you move towards the HomePod. If you move away it gets weaker, get too far away and it stops and the banner goes away.

Get closer and closer and the haptics will get stronger until it’s so close that you must purposely be doing it and want to engage in handoff, at which point the banner expands into the full platter shown in the last photo

There’s no telling when we can expect Apple to make iOS 14.4 and HomePod software version 14.4 available to the public, but I can’t imagine it will be soon. The beta releases themselves were a surprise to many, coming so close to Christmas. Apple generally closes shop over the Christmas period, suggesting this will be the last beta of 2020.

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