Apple hires new HomePod software chief

Apple has hired a new engineer, Afrooz Family, to lead software efforts for its HomePod smart speaker, aiming to turn the product into a bigger hit.

HomePod mini features custom hardware, including the Apple S5 chip, and advanced software to deliver breakthrough sound using computational audio.
HomePod mini features custom hardware, including the Apple S5 chip, and advanced software to deliver breakthrough sound using computational audio.

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg News:

Family worked at Apple from 2012 to 2016 before leaving to co-found audio startup Syng with former Apple industrial designer Christopher Stringer. Family left the startup earlier this year after helping develop the company’s product, the Cell Alpha.

Jason Harrison, who had overseen HomePod software, left Apple last year for Airbnb Inc.

Syng… developed its speaker as a high-end alternative to the HomePod, coming in at $1,800. It provides what the startup calls “triphonic sound” — audio that comes from three different directions. But the device was a challenge to develop and manufacture, and its price makes it more of a niche product.

Family has plenty of experience with smart speakers. Prior to Syng, he was an audio engineer at Apple and worked on the original HomePod.

MacDailyNews Take: As usual, the issue is Siri. Apple’s personal assistant is even further handicapped than usual on HomePod with every third response being “I can’t do that on HomePod” or “If you ask Siri on your iPhone, I can tell you that.”

Go ahead, ask your HomePod or HomePod mini, “Het Siri, play me [artist]’s most popular song.” You’d expect Siri to be able to accomplish that much, at least, in 2021, wouldn’t you? But, Siri can’t even manage that simple request. Siri fails at a painfully obvious use case. Your HomePod will play a song by that artist, but not their most popular song, unless it’s by a lucky coincidence, happening at random, even though Apple Music has that data. Siri seems, as always, oblivious and incapable.

And, by the way, having one product called “HomePod mini” is stupid. It leads a potential customer to ask, “Well, where’s the real HomePod?” You know, for every “mini” Apple product there’s at least one big brother (Mac mini, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 13 mini).

“So, where’s the real HomePod?”
“Oh, that? “It failed.”

That’s not a huge confidence boost for “HomePod mini.” A prospective buyer might rightly wonder, “Hmm, for how long is Apple going to remain committed to this ‘mini’ product if its parent is already canceled?”

Hint to Apple: If that’s the only HomePod you currently have to offer, at least change its name. Duh.

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7 Comments

  1. I have two homevpods (not the mini). They work great but every now and then I get a stall, they pop and shut off. Annoying but it is relatively infrequent. Is it a hardware problem or can it be fixed by software? The sound is fantastic and Apple, if they can fix it, should go back to selling them. Sound is better than the mini (I own two mini’s as well).

    1. I had 2 homepods. They always hung up were not realiable . Gave one to my cousin in texas. Other one gathers dust cause i hate dealing with the hanging and rebooting. In my eyes total failure

  2. I have to HomePod minis stereo paired into original HomePod stereo paired. The HomePod mini sucks and nowhere near sounds is good as the original HomePod. Apple is lost when it comes to the Home.

  3. I bought mine back in August 2021. After a weeks worth of usage, I decided to unplug the damn thing. As MDN said, Siri is pretty much useless. That’s the reason why I unplugged it.

  4. Why can’t Apple build an excellent sound device that supports, augments, compliments the A-TV, CPUs and fits with the sound, visual and experiential paradigm?

    Go pro instead of pop.

    I will never buy this sno-ball.

  5. “I can’t do that on HomePod” or “If you ask Siri on your iPhone, I can tell you that.”

    As usual, MDN is not only spot on, also zeroing in on the CORE PROBLEM in a nanosecond.

    Nuff said…

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