HomePod stereo pairing and the underlying AirPlay 2 technology that powers it have now re-appeared in the developer betas of iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4 (that arrived earlier today) following their unexpected removal from the previous iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 updates.
Additionally, the Messages in iCloud feature is back in developer beta 1 of iOS 11.4.
Both the iOS 11.4 developer beta (build number 15F5037c) and the tvOS 11.4 developer beta (build number 15L5536c) include references to AirPlay 2. If you own an Apple TV, you’ll notice that your set-top box is automatically listed in the Home app, courtesy of AirPlay 2.
Multi-room and device control with AirPlay 2
As you are probably aware, AirPlay 2 brings reduced latency, multi-room audio, simultaneous multi-device audio control and other improvements. As mentioned, AirPlay 2 is required for the promised ability to pair two HomePods for better sound.
Apple removed AirPlay 2 support from iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas in February without explanation, only to bring them back in subsequent releases. The feature didn’t make the cut for final release, however.
According to early testers, stereo support for two HomePods is included in iOS 11.4 but people with multiple HomePods won’t be able to test this until a HomePod beta arrives.
The same goes for Messages in iCloud, a feature Apple previewed during WWDC 2017.
In iOS 11.4, a splash screen for Messages in iCloud appears when opening the Messages app for the first time and there’s a new Messages toggle in Settings → iCloud.
With Messages in iCloud, your iOS device stores the complete Messages database in iCloud and keeps the most recent messages on your device. This helps improve performance, reduce on-device storage consumption and make iCloud backups faster and smaller.
Hopefully, both AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud stick around through final release this time.