One hour with Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker

“There’s finally good news for those eagerly awaiting Apple’s take on the smart speaker: HomePod will be available for $349 on February 9 (pre-orders launch this Friday, January 26), and it is well worth your consideration,” Madeline Buxton writes for Refinery29. “This morning, Refinery29 had a chance to sit down with the new speaker… I was impressed.”

“To start, HomePod looks good — really good. Both the black and white versions are sleek and, thankfully, at 6.8 inches high, surprisingly smaller in person than they appear in photos. The device is comparable in size to the Sonos One, and is much smaller than its rectangular Google competitor, Google Home Max,” Buxton writes. “It blends in so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice it when I walked into the room.”

Apple's all-new HomePod
Apple’s all-new HomePod

 
“HomePod also delivers where it counts: The sound. When I listened to the speaker next to Google Home Max, the latest Amazon Echo, and Sonos One, the vocals were consistently crisper and clearer on HomePod. The pluck of guitar strings pops, and bass notes have the robust thump-thump you want from them,” Buxton writes. “You can get Siri’s attention when you want to change the volume or switch songs without screaming at her — just a gentle ‘hey, Siri’ will do.”

“However, there are some areas where HomePod is limiting,” Buxton writes. “Only the person who sets up HomePod on their iCloud account will be able to send texts, set up reminders, and get calendar notifications via voice commands. Google Home and Amazon Echo, meanwhile, can recognize different voices and provide personalized content accordingly.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hopefully, Apple will add the ability to recognize different people ASAP, but for now, in a family or group of roommates, that won’t be “our” HomePod, it’ll be Joe’s or Jane’s HomePod, a subset of whose features we’re allowed to use.

Buxton notes, “If you do set up personal notifications on HomePod, these will only be available when you are on the network, so you don’t need to worry about your texts being read aloud at home when you are at work. If you don’t want them read aloud when you’re home, you can go into your HomeKit settings and turn off the notifications.”

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s iOS 11.3 beta delivers AirPlay 2 with multi-room playback – January 25, 2018
How Apple is positioning the HomePod and why – January 24, 2018
How I got talked into buying an Apple HomePod despite my reservations – January 24, 2018
Tim Cook says audio quality puts HomePod ahead of ‘squeaky-sounding’ competition – January 24, 2018
Apple to ship crippled, incomplete HomePod months late – January 23, 2018
Apple’s HomePod arrives February 9th, available to order this Friday, January 26th – January 23, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook paid close to $102 million for fiscal 2017 – December 28, 2017
Apple’s Phil Schiller: We feel bad about the HomePod delay – December 8, 2017
Echo Dot was Amazon’s Black Friday – Cyber Monday bestseller as Apple’s delayed HomePod waits for 2018 release date – November 28, 2017
Apple’s late, delayed, limited HomePod is looking more and more like something I don’t want – November 27, 2017
Why Apple’s HomePod is three years behind Amazon’s Echo – November 21, 2017
Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple – November 20, 2017
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook: The ‘operations genius’ who never has enough products to sell at launch – October 23, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017

29 Comments

  1. We all know that of course this Homepod will have excellent sound. Apple wouldn’t release it with subpar audio. The major concern however, is that many obvious features will not either be there or enabled at launch. So if you can live with the wait (assuming they will update with these features eventually) and don’t mind shelling out $350 + tax, go for it.

    1. I don’t necessarily think you should be concerned about the missing features, and Apple is smart to get the HomePod out now rather than waiting even longer. As it is, it will function on its own without any real issues. (Although the inability to recognize different voices doesn’t seem correct, it’s already been mentioned by Phil or Tim that it does this? Siri can already do this and the AppleTV already supports multiple accounts.)

      Support for stereo mode requires two HomePods and that market will be extremely limited at first anyway. Most people interested in that will more than likely just buy one to see (hear) how well it works and then possibly get the second to get full stereo separation. But because the device is designed to fill a room with sound, most people will be pleasantly surprised how well it sounds without the need for a second unit.

      And then there’s the multi-device playback support, a la AirPlay 2. This is a “chicken or egg” problem. There aren’t any devices that support AirPlay 2 yet, which is required to enable multi-room support from iOS devices. And when it is released, there will only be 2 devices that support playback for this feature; the AppleTV and the HomePod. So, until AirPlay 2 is ready, it’s a useless feature on the HomePod.

      (Side note… I hope AirPlay 2 finally gives us the ability to stream music to ANY device that supports it including iPads, iPhones, etc. For instance, if I have my iPhone connected to a speaker, why can’t I use it as an AirPlay speaker from my Mac? …I actually know why, but I’m hoping the changes made to the iOS audio architecture to support AirPlay 2 finally allows for multiple audio out streams.)

      1. Yes, we should not be concerned at ponying up $350+tax when the features aren’t all there. After all, Apple delights its customers by requiring full payment today for full features next month. Or maybe the month after that.

        Don’t worry about high-end uses (stereo using two pods). No-one uses that anyway. And you can’t really expect that when you’re paying $700 for two speakers. It’s just not fair to expect Apple on the day of delivery to provide such a premium service to premium customers paying premium prices.

        Google is the lady of perpetual beta. Not Apple. Apple should just get the product out, even if it’s not fully finished. That’s served them well with maps, Apple watch and MacOS and iOS updates.

        The real problem is not with Apple. It’s with consumers who are too stupid not to buy their products when they’re not quite finished and at higher prices than the competition. Let them buy stuff from competitors – Apple can do without them.

        1. First of all, this has NOTHING to do with expecting people to pay Apple a premium price for a product that doesn’t have the features they want. DON’T BUY IT! Regardless of the product and its current set of features, why would you EVER pay for something that doesn’t do what YOU need or want it to do? And why would you risk emotional distress being “concerned” about it? The only reason for concern is if you bought it HOPING it gets something later. That’s called, making a lousy purchasing decision. It doesn’t matter what a company says or promises, if you buy it and it doesn’t have something you need, you’re the dumb consumer for wasting your money on something you can’t use – yet.

          Second, are you really saying that EVERYONE should be made to wait just because you can’t buy two to form stereo sound? Is it too difficult for you to stomach that someone might be able get one before you? That just makes you a spoiled whiney ass who wants what everyone else has and you can’t have it, no one should.

          Sorry, but like myself, there are probably a lot of people who can in fact use the HomePod without stereo mode, without multi-room playback, and without multi-user voice recognition and don’t need those features!

          So, yeah… I disagree with people who have an all-or-nothing attitude, especially when it selfishly concerns their needs. The hardware and core functionality are ready, Apple is absolutely correct to release it now rather than make EVERYONE wait longer.

          Side note
          ==========
          I have several AirPlay speakers (via AirPort Expresses) all throughout my house, so I am in fact interested in multi-room playback and can currently do that from my iMac. And, I must agree, it would be nice to have that feature on the HomePod. But you know what, even if/when the HomePod gets that feature, IT WILL NOT WORK WITH MY SETUP.

          None of my speakers are AirPlay 2 compatible and that is a requirement for multi-room playback from an iOS device that supports it. In fact, there aren’t any other AirPlay 2 compatible speakers in the world at the moment. So even Apple shipped the HomePod as promised, you would be paying for a premium product at a premium price and could only HOPE that 3rd speaker OEMs update their products with AirPlay 2.

          Fortunately, the HomePod is backward compatible, so it will appear on my iMac as just another AirPlay speaker.

    1. Look, Pipeline is already got his plate full with unfinished products and promises, plus he must have a full schedule visiting environmentally friendly minnow farms and demonstrating how to hoe a furrow to cross dressers in Zamunda. Lets not overload his circuits, OK?

    2. The cost wouldn’t be any different. Siri is a side benefit of what’s needed to make the HomePod a great audio device. All the engineering is with the audio stuff; drivers, mic array, auto placement/configuration, audio separation, sound beaming, AirPlay 2 (streaming/syncing), etc., not the “basic” iOS stuff including Siri.

      Furthermore, don’t you own a smartphone, tablet, PC, smartTV? They all have the potential to “spy” on you. Just don’t enable Siri or turn it off if you’re that paranoid.

    1. I believe that’s incorrect.
      Apple’s website says it plays these audio formats:
      HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, and FLAC

      That’s lot more than iTunes purchased format.

  2. Mission One for the Pop music world: Release a song that has the phrase “Hey Siri” spoke or sung by many different people. After the “Hey Siri”, give some f-ing bizarre command that will cut all the lights in a house or change the thermostat.

    1. First of all, that won’t work with the HomePod due to noise cancellation… anything that comes from the device itself is negated/cancelled in order to hear an external(your registered) voice.

      Second, there are hundreds of millions of iOS device that already respond to “Hey Siri” If it’s not an issue now, it won’t be later. Phil has demonstrated this on stage several times now by saying “Hey Siri” to room filled with iOS devices.

      1. If Continuity is implemented (a reasonable next step), a use case may occur where before playing/transferring the song on the HomePod you have it playing on your iPad or iPhone. HomePod’s noise cancellation may not be effective in that scenario.

  3. Limited multiuser account/voice support is not cool for a product that is meant for a household….. its a big drawback.
    So who will home pod belong to in the house hold? Or each individual at home is supposed to have their own homepod? Which is a ridiculous suggestion.

    If Goog and Amazon can provide multi user/voice capabilty.. why should Apple, the most powerful tech company out there, not provide this cabability.

    Sorry but this, to me, sounds like a deal breaker.
    I would like to hear from Apple as to why the neglected this critical aspect.

    Apple you have named it Homepod… Not MyPod !

      1. I didn’t down vote you, but several things…

        1. People who want this to be a “home assistant” are going to be very disappointed. Given all the engineering that went into the speaker system and audio processing and the fact that Siri’s expertise on it is in musicology and that knowledge comes from Apple Music, Apple clearly designed this device with music being first and foremost. I have also read that the HomePod does recognize individual voices but it is used for musical tastes/playback – voices are attached to individual accounts via Family Sharing (Apple Music data only).

        2. (This is based on the perspective of #1 above) What you consider a critical feature and a deal breaker, others, in practice, might consider extremely annoying. If you’re trying to listen to music on the HomePod, do you really want 3 other members of your household constantly interrupting your music to ask it to do something? Do you think other members in your household want the private messages read aloud to the whole family? There’s a reason somethings are private and should remain so. However, I agree, if the main point of the device is to act as a household assistant, then it should be able to cater requests to specific individuals – and that may come later.

        3. Comparing what features Google or Amazon include in their products is not a valid comparison to make. Those companies are after one thing and one thing only, getting their devices into as many hands as possible. Their business models requires a huge user base in order to remain sustainable. Apple’s business model for the HomePod is to give Apple Music users a unique experience listening to their music. They don’t need marketshare, both the device and the service were designed to be profitable on their own. Bringing the two together adds to the individual value of each. That’s how all of Apple’s devices and platforms are designed.

        1. Your first point was very informative. I was not aware that the VA capabilities were limited from ‘normal’ Siri but increased in the music knowledge area.

          The second point however is the problem. Smart speakers tend to lean towards being a Home device where others can also make use of it, not a single user device. I understand your point about other members possibly interrupting your music. Consider then that no one else can use the device when you are not available to choose the music from your music library for them. Using interruption as a reason for not allowing multiple users would imply there is no common courtesy by family members.

          1. This misunderstanding is probably MDN’s fault for editing the way they did, but…

            “Only the person who sets up HomePod on their iCloud account will be able to send texts, set up reminders, and get calendar notifications via voice commands”

            Is missing the first segment, the actual sentence is…

            “Secondly, although everyone in your apartment will be able to use the speaker, only the person who sets up HomePod on their iCloud account will be able to send texts, set up reminders, and add notes via voice commands.”

            When I said, “do you really want 3 other members of your household constantly interrupting your music”, what I meant was people’s constant desire/need to check for notifications and messages. It wasn’t for “normal” use and general queries.

            ========
            Side note… I swear I read an article where either Tim or Phil mentioned that depending on the person asking for music to be played, the HomePod will cater playback and choices based on their own musical tastes and libraries. For that to happen it has to be able to recognize individual voices and attach that voice to a specific iTunes or Apple Music account.

            Wish I could find that. Oh well. I guess we’ll find out when the reviews start flying in.

        2. Michael..thanks for your input

          Regarding point 1: I was unaware of that it can personalize ‘music’ based on voice recognition .. thats very good !

          Re point 2: messages, reminders and notifications eyc are already there , except they are only availible for the account holder .. so the intruption issue is already there! Though from what i understand they can be turned off selectively.
          So why not allow these functionalities for the rest of the household. Specially that they can be turned off if desired so.
          Also unwanted privet messages/notifications/ etc wont be played back to strangers since they can only be triggered by the voice they belong to.
          As it stands…if my wife sets up the unit she is the only one who can have these interactions.. regardless of who is using the pod in the household. ( Also How does this limitation effect home automation settings ?)
          Yet if multi account functionality was supported through voice recognition… if i called on the homepod it would dial in to my account and setting, if my wife called on pod it would dial into her settings and so on. ‘The device would have equal functionality for everyone at the household ‘.
          There would never be a situation where the pod is flooded with everyones settings and preferances.. since it will work with one account at a time.. the account of the person the voice command came from.

          Re 3- Lets forget data mining by the competition and focus just on functionality. This is a home assitant as well as speaker……it needs to be compatitive in the assistant area too. The compatition has achieved something that brings more convenient and flexible functionality ..which is proof that its doable ‘ multi account functionslity through voice recognition ‘ … why should Apple not match or surpass !

          Like Siri… it was 1st and brought some unique functionality.. the competition in a matter of couple years leapfrogged it to a point where most people prefer their AI ..Which draws attention away from Apple and brings focus to competitions technology and services.
          That is in now way benifitial to Apple !

          Bottom line .. i think as a household product it has to offer equal functionality to everyone in the household.

    1. This may be a problem stemming from how Apple handles accounts on devices (1:1) in contrast to Google and Amazon which allow multiple accounts to be accessed, albeit separately, on each device via user profiles that can be managed centrally.

      1. X Thanks for your input….. never the less i think its an unacceptable limitation for a ‘Home’ device.
        Why cant it dial into a different accounts by recognizing the voice of the user? Log in and out of accounts based on voice association.
        If their account system/ model has a flaw/limitation it should be addressed ….Apple should have found a way to go around this issue.

        Siri is behind other Assitants..
        and now this.. only one user will have access to their account and settings.
        Come on Apple.. its a premium product at a premum price.. ….. it cant have limmitations at such fundimental level .
        It is a Home device, not a personal device.

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