Wednesday, January 24, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

HomePod to Arrive February 9

Apple:

HomePod delivers stunning audio quality wherever it’s placed — in any room in the house, playing any style of music. Using just your voice, it’s easy and fun to use, and works together with an Apple Music subscription for a breakthrough music experience, providing access to one of the world’s largest cloud music libraries. Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes. And with Siri, HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.

[…]

Coming this year in a free software update, users will be able to play music throughout the house with multi-room audio. If HomePod is in the kitchen, users can ask Siri to play jazz in the dining room, or play the same song in each room — perfectly in sync. If there’s more than one HomePod set up in the same room, the speakers can be set up as a stereo pair for an even more immersive sound experience.

John Gruber:

How does this handle multiple people in the same home? That seems like a big question to remain unanswered before folks start plunking down $349. This feels like if Apple had started selling the iPod back in 2001 without ever having explained how the click wheel worked or how you synced music to it from iTunes, and instead just said “Trust us, it’s great.”

Also: AirPlay 2 has been postponed until “later this year” — and AirPlay 2 is required for using two HomePods in stereo or multi-room audio. Both of those features were promised all the way back in June when HomePod was announced.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

HomePod is only mysterious if you’re still hoping it has secret features Apple hasn’t announced; reality is it’s just a straightforward, ‘boring’ product that does just what it says on the marketing page (and, 8 months later, still unable to ship with all features advertised)

(That’s not to say it’s bad, or anything. It’s just a modern take on the iPod Hi-Fi for a Siri world. It’s totally fine, not Earth-shattering)

Matt Birchler:

This is big, and weird. What if I’m an Android user and my spouse (iPhone user) is out of the House? Does the HomePod still work? Is the iOS device just needed for setup?

Ben Bajarin:

HomePod officially coming soon. Looking forward to trying it. Few thoughts from release:

1. Apple keeping the line pushing audio quality. It will sound fantastic but audio quality is not a mainstream value proposition

2. Big question on how fast it can improve via Siri services

Joe Cieplinski:

I’m not saying HomePod is a guaranteed success. Far from it. I’m just saying there’s a much bigger, more established market for great-sounding home stereo equipment than there is for “smart” home appliances. And in that world, $350 is a steal.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

If HomePod were a mesh-network AirPort replacement, I would be all over it. As it is, it’s just another outlet-taker-upper, and I’ve run out of outlets

Marco Arment:

Nothing about the HomePod release shows Apple’s confidence in it, which makes it hard for any of us to get excited about it.

Even the press photo is bland and soulless.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

(And hides the power cable one would have to snake around that shelf)

Michael Steeber:

With each iteration of the web page, the living room dissipates a little more. By launch, HomePod will be floating in the void, its Siri animation a tiny point of light in an endless abyss

Ryan Jones:

Classic Tim Cook launch.

1. late

2. missing key features

3. rushed

4. unorganized

Note I’m not saying ship prematurely. These are big unforced errors that sully a launch. Ship when ready, until then STFU so the launch narrative is clean and an excitement wave can form.

It makes no sense to be insanely secretive – so that “employees work is honored” with a big surprise launch–only to effectively leak it yourself. Except worse because you promise things you don’t later deliver. Very hypocritical.

I’m not being hyperbolic about a one-off issue, this is a 100% clear, established pattern. Whether it’s Tim or Phil or Craig or all, doesn’t matter. As Steve Jobs said, that’s the different between a janitor and an executive.

Michael Flux:

The most bizarre thing is that Tim Cook got to where he is by being an exceptional COO under SJ. For all his flaws he ran an extremely tight ship back then.

Last 2 years, every other feature is severely delayed or forgotten, and yet every other week a new interview with him.

Ben Brooks:

Apple gets a ton of undeserved shit for its ego. However this HomePod launch, I mean its deserved here. This launch seems to point to how much Apple cares about the device.

Marco Arment:

I can only think of two reasons why they announced the HomePod early, both of which are terrible:

1. They thought it was WAY closer to release than it was, a colossal failure of management.

2. They wanted to preempt sales of competitors, showing a severe lack of confidence.

Ryan Jones:

Notice this wording: It says HomePod has a direct connection to Apple Music, but does not have a direction connection to Siri. It needs an iPhone to relay Siri back-and-forth.

Matt Bonney:

I may end up eating these words, but: in my opinion, this is the worst part of the HomePod. Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Sonos are not reliant on having a specific phone.

Maynard Handley:

Most people are not willing to pay 100x (or even 5x) for better sound quality. Are they willing to pay 20% more? I think yes.

Joe Cieplinski:

I have no idea if Apple’s strategy of doubling-down on speaker quality will succeed, but I know trying to beat Amazon or Google at the voice stuff alone will fail. You have to play to your strengths.

Eric Blair:

I’m more excited about AirPlay 2 than the actual HomePod, so I’m rather disappointed right now.

Dan Moren:

My biggest HomePod question is: If I use the iCloud Music Library with iTunes Match, can the HomePod play music from my music? Because press release sure makes it sound like an Apple Music subscription is going to be integral…

Benjamin Mayo:

If you add music to your home iTunes library that was not acquired through a purchase, HomePod will not be able to access it. It appears HomePod doesn’t have Home Sharing, which would enable that kind of feature.

Nick Heer:

Perhaps the reason I’m so skeptical of this launch is that the HomePod was not demonstrated onstage when it was announced. Its features were described publicly; after the keynote, journalists were given small, limited demos. That’s the extent of public information on this product. I’m especially curious to know if it will be demoed at all in Apple’s retail stores — and how.

The HomePod could be a good — even great — product. But it’s not confidence-inspiring for Apple to set a public deadline, miss it, then launch the product with key features missing and almost no demonstrated capabilities of it performing as expected.

Michael Sagmeister:

I know people keep comparing it to initial AirPods reaction — but AirPods was priced competitively, does a lot of things better than similar products, and has no huge downsides.

This HomePod launch is as if AirPods had cost $100 more and only played Apple Music.

James O’Leary:

You need to be an Apple Music user who cares a ton about sound quality, but only for music, and you don’t want sound from multiple speakers, and you want to pay 3x for voice assistant that’s been treading water for years, and you want to rely on your phone to use apps. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Matt Birchler:

I plan on ordering a HomePod and using it myself when it comes out, but the whole rollout strategy and target market segment has me baffled on this product.

Josh McConnell:

“We think one thing that was missing from this market was a quality audio experience, a very immersive audio experience,” Cook said. “Music deserves that kind of quality as opposed to some kind of squeaky sound.”

Previously: HomePod Delayed.

Update (2018-01-25): Mitchel Broussard:

The sale offers two Sonos Ones for the same price as Apple’s $349 HomePod, and is debuting on the same day that customers will be able to pre-order the HomePod in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. With two Sonos Ones, users can have a stereo pair of speakers to enhance sound, or play music across multiple rooms -- two features HomePod will not have at launch.

Update (2018-01-26): Benjamin Mayo:

These drawbacks dilute the original concept that Apple laid out at WWDC and the 1.0 will not fulfil the vision of a true smart Sonos replacement. I’m sure there’s an interesting behind-the-scenes story on why AirPlay 2 has caused them so many internal setbacks. It’s embarrassing to announce a product, then delay it, then release with a stripped down offering of features from what they originally sold people on.

My guess is that when Apple made the decision to delay HomePod into early 2018, they thought that the multi-room AirPlay 2 stack would be ready to go with just a few more weeks of work. It has since transpired that it is actually going to take months to finish it up, and a product manager made the call to ship the HomePod as is, without these features.

Matt Birchler:

If the HomePod is just a nice speaker and we shouldn’t be worried about the smart things it does/doesn’t do, then why did Apple pre-announce this by 8 months? And why announce it at a developer conference? This is a computer with a voice interface and nice speakers.

Madeline Buxton:

Fortunately, 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.

It’s also nice that regardless of where you are in the room, HomePod’s sound quality stays strong. That’s due in part to HomePod’s ability to automatically tune to the size of the room you’re in, without you needing to do any additional setup. You don’t have to carry your phone around the room, covering all its dimensions to ensure the best sound, like you do when setting up some other speakers. 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.

John Gruber:

The difference between HomePod and Amazon Echo isn’t that they’re in different product categories. They’re in the same category. No one other than a gadget reviewer is going to put both a HomePod and Echo in their kitchen. They’re going to have one. It is, most certainly, a competition.

The difference is in the priorities behind the devices.

Serenity Caldwell:

On the HomePod, every part of a choral harmony sounds just as clear as the lead vocalist — no easy feet for a single 6.8-inch speaker. Harmonies do sound beautiful on the Sonos One, but blend more into a single musical phrase; you can’t isolate the singers in your mind as well as you can through the HomePod.

[…]

And while the HomePod is currently limited to a single iCloud user, there are some very smart improvements built in to protect what Apple calls “Personal Requests” — handoff of phone calls, querying calendar events, and sending messages. HomePod is synced with a single iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch when you first set it up; if you choose to sync your iCloud account with that HomePod, it will only respond to personal requests while that device is on your home Wi-Fi. Take the device off Wi-Fi or leave the home, and HomePod will continue to be able to play music, report traffic, and give you weather data — but if someone asks it to send a message to your wife, it’ll refuse until your device is back online.

[…]

As someone who cares deeply about the Mac, I’m not thrilled with this development, even if I understand its root cause. Yes, the iPhone and iPad are closer to representing our actual physical locations and movements, and that allows for smart security decisions. But cutting Mac users out of the joy of HomePod simply because they choose to use a different smartphone or tablet isn’t the best usability decision.

Update (2018-01-27): John Gruber:

Shouldn’t it work with iCloud Music Library? I get that it might not be able to access songs that only exist as MP3 files on your Mac, but if you have iCloud Music Library, it seems obvious that HomePod ought to be able to access them, no?

Kirk McElhearn:

Siri isn’t that smart. You can already see that now; if you try to play music from your iCloud Music Library that isn’t in Apple’s databases, it often fails.

Todd Ditchendorf:

Biggest problem with the “but HomePod is all about audio quality” argument is that there’s no good reason why Siri shouldn’t also be as good or better than the AMZN or GOOG offerings.  had a head start with Siri,  has more money, & a job at  carries at least as much cachet.

Update (2018-01-28): Dan Masters:

If HomePod is meant to be a speaker first, why does it “require compatible Apple devices”? Apple Music is on Android, right?

Forget the voice assistant angle – this is the wasted opportunity. (Halo effect, anyone?)

And why doesn’t it have a line in or act as a Bluetooth receiver?

John Gruber:

I have heard from a friend seeded with HomePod that it does work with tracks that are not Apple Music or purchased from the iTunes Store if you have iCloud Music Library enabled.

/r/audiophile/ likes it.

Nilay Patel:

All of these HomePod early listens are fundamentally flawed: none of these devices support the same services, so they’re all playing differently compressed music. Trying to figure out how to get around that.

Update (2018-01-29): Avery Hartmans:

Here are seven major things Apple’s new HomePod can’t do[…]

Update (2018-01-31): Bob Ankosko interviews Phil Schiller (via MacRumors).

Update (2018-02-05): David Pogue:

In the meantime, it’s pretty obvious that the HomePod sounds better than any other smart speaker —but its limited smarts make it attractive only to Apple Music subscribers.

6 Comments

"If you add music to your home iTunes library that was not acquired through a purchase, HomePod will not be able to access it. It appears HomePod doesn’t have Home Sharing, which would enable that kind of feature."

So it's utterly useless for playing the media that I own and have on my computer. Well, that's $350 I won't be spending.

Well, at least someone has supposedly tested it (https://medium.com/@LanceUlanoff/up-close-with-apple-homepod-siris-expensive-new-home-22f1ee0e682).

The whole article looks like an Apple PR statement, though.

The original HomePod presentation was the first time I stopped watching an Apple keynote before it ended. I wasn't too interested in this to begin with, but not being able to play local iTunes music is a complete dealbreaker.

I have an Alexa. It's very useful, but also creepy. This is one of these situations where Apple's focus on privacy would be a big selling point for me. But at this point, I don't have an iPhone anymore. It's unfortunate that Apple ties sales of this new platform to ownership of an existing platform.

[…] Previously: HomePod to Arrive February 9. […]

[…] Previously: The Apple Music and HomePod Strategy, HomePod to Arrive February 9. […]

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