Wednesday, January 18, 2023

HomePod (2nd Generation)

Apple (Hacker News, Reddit, 2):

Packed with Apple innovations and Siri intelligence, HomePod offers advanced computational audio for a groundbreaking listening experience, including support for immersive Spatial Audio tracks. With convenient new ways to manage everyday tasks and control the smart home, users can now create smart home automations using Siri, get notified when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in their home, and check temperature and humidity in a room — all hands-free.


HomePod easily pairs with Apple TV 4K for a powerful home theater experience, and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) support on Apple TV 4K enables customers to make HomePod the audio system for all devices connected to the TV. Plus, with Siri on HomePod, users can control what’s playing on their Apple TV hands-free.

Joe Rossignol:

The new HomePod is 6.6-inches tall and weighs 5.1 pounds, compared to 6.8-inches and 5.5 pounds for the first-generation model, while both models are 5.6 inches wide. The new HomePod also has two fewer tweeters and microphones compared to the original model. The original HomePod was equipped with the A8 chip from the iPhone 6, while the new model has the S7 chip from the Apple Watch Series 7.

A new sensor in the HomePod can measure temperature and humidity in indoor environments, and this feature is also being enabled on the existing HomePod mini.

I wonder whether this will be able to replace dedicated temperature monitoring solutions such as Wireless Sensor Tags (which have worked well for me but are clunky to set up) and Temp Stick (more expensive than HomePod mini, requires batteries).

The HomePod price is down from $349 to $299. The main issues with the original seem to have been reliability and Siri, and it’s not clear whether those have improved. There’s still no Home Sharing or direct input via Bluetooth audio or a cable.

Joe Rossignol:

The second-generation HomePod introduced today will offer a Sound Recognition feature that allows the speaker to detect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm sounds and send a notification to the user’s iPhone if either of those sounds are identified.


Update (2023-01-18): Daniel Jalkut:

The Apple video for the new HomePod makes it appear as though Siri would respond to you in something less than a full second. Could we be so lucky, or is this just fanciful advertising?

Casey Liss:

How the hell does that work? The TV acts as an eARC receiver, and then rebroadcasts via… AirPlay?… to the HomePod(s)?

Colin Cornaby:

Still grumpy the new HomePod doesn’t have any sort of aux connector.

Peter Steinberger:

Same flakey AirPlay though?

Nick Heer:

Apple announced a new HomePod model today, which it insists on referring to as the “HomePod” instead of a “HomePod Mini Max”. You might think I am being stupid — and I am — but this thing is closer to the Mini on the inside despite looking like the original model on the outside.


Ok now let me attach two more HomePods for a surround experience

Dave B:

The worst part about those watch CPUs is that they haven’t advanced in years.

Update (2023-01-19): Dave Mark:

New Apple video: “Introducing the all-new HomePod

Be aware that you CAN’T pair a new HomePod with an OG HomePod. 😐

Update (2023-01-25): Aaron Pearce:

Received my first support email about the HomePod temperature/humidity sensors not showing in my apps. Thanks Apple for blocking them from third parties.

Update (2023-01-27): John Gruber:

I first wish to note how deftly this announcement is written. Joz’s quote alludes, ever so slightly, to the fact that Apple is not merely updating the HomePod with a new model, but bringing it back after a long absence. But anyone who hasn’t been paying close attention would never notice that.


The conventional wisdom was strongly on the side that the problem with the original HomePod was its price — $350 originally, reduced to $300 in April 2019. Even I succumbed to that price-centric thinking in my brief item noting its discontinuation. I am now convinced that was wrong, though. I got it right back in 2018, when I wrote “HomePod’s Priorities”[…]


I suspect that reliability was the problem with the original models — some sort of design or engineering flaw that sent Apple back to the drawing board years before they expected to need a 2nd-generation model. HomePod Minis are great for what they are, but they’re no replacement for the full-size models in terms of room-filling sound quality.

M.G. Siegler:

Is it a significantly upgraded version at a better price? Nah, not really. It’s slightly smaller and slightly lighter. But that’s mainly because Apple has also reduced the number of tweeters and microphones in the device. Yes, it has an upgraded processor. But it’s a processor found in the Apple Watch (the S7) instead of the iPhone-focused chip found in the previous version (the A8). It has a slightly upgraded screen. But also a downgraded WiFi chip? It can tell the temperature, but the HomePod mini can also now do that. There’s a new ‘Midnight’ color, which as everyone knows, is just marketing for a very similar black/gray to the original model. It’s $299, which is the same price the original was discounted to after it failed to sell well at $349.

It’s just… weird.

Update (2023-02-03): Joe Rossignol:

Apple’s VP of hardware engineering Matthew Costello and product marketing employee Alice Chan recently spoke with Men’s Journal and TechCrunch about the new second-generation HomePod in wide-ranging interviews about the smart speaker.


Apple discontinued the original full-size HomePod in March 2021 after multiple reports indicated that sales of the speaker were lackluster, but Chan told Men’s Journal that Apple has since “heard more interest than ever for the acoustics of a richer larger speaker,” leading the company to release another larger HomePod.

Update (2023-02-13): Marco Arment:

It baffles me that reviewers said they couldn’t really hear a difference.

I don’t blame non-audio people for not being able to describe the difference very well, but I don’t know how someone could A/B-test them and not notice a clear difference.

My guess is that anyone who says they don’t notice a difference didn’t really set up an A/B test.

Even my informal, relatively uncontrolled kitchen-counter test reveals clear, obvious differences.

Kirk McElhearn:

I was surprised to find that the second generation HomePod sounds much better than the original model. It’s still expensive, at $299, but its ability to play spatial audio — enhanced if you have two HomePods in a stereo pair — makes it a compelling device for people who want to discover this new type of audio.

I’m still disappointed that neither HomePod supports Home Sharing. Without that, I would need an ongoing iTunes Match subscription or a dedicated AirPlay broadcaster device just to play music that I already own (but didn’t buy from Apple).

Update (2023-02-14): Quinn Nelson:

Quinn reviews the confusing, flawed, but rather compelling 2nd-generation HomePod in this audiophile-focused review.

He finds that the temperature readings on the full-sized HomePod are way off, says Siri is more consistent than with the original HomePod, and sees less latency with AirPlay.

Update (2023-02-16): Jason Snell:

I’d say that both the new and old HomePods sound really good. If a (bizarrely generous) burglar broke into the house of someone who had old HomePods and swapped them out for new models, they probably wouldn’t notice.


My biggest disappointment with the new HomePod is that it’s too much like its predecessor. The touch-sensitive top panel is easy to brush accidentally and can’t be seen easily if the speaker is placed up high—which I suppose is okay since the little light show it plays when it’s listening to a Siri command or playing music is completely pointless. Worse, the volume up/down controls (which were already hard to see on the original model since they didn’t light up until you touched the surface) now don’t light up at all, making changing the volume via touch a frustrating guessing game at times. Apple would’ve been better off dumping the “screen” and just putting a few physical buttons up top.

And then there’s Siri and AirPlay, which should be the highlights of all of these products—and instead are their greatest liability. When the wind is blowing right, and the moon is in the right part of the sky, Siri can be solid, responding to your questions quickly and playing music with ease. When it falls over, it’s incredibly frustrating, and it still falls over far more often than it should.

Update (2023-03-02): See also: The Talk Show.

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Also the first generation HomePod had 802.11ac while the new second generation HomePod only has 802.11n. This is a big regression in terms of wifi support.

Had an original iPod hifi. Sounded great, looked nice. Abandoned on account of thirty-pin connector, IIRC within a year of purchase.

Had an original HomePod. Sounded great, looked nice. Abandoned on account of ??? a few months after I finally purchased one.

Nope. Never again, Apple Audio products.

Interesting that both the Sound Recognition feature and the Temperature/Humidity monitoring will also be coming to the existing Homepod Mini with the next software drop, seems like there was actually an operational temp/humidity sensor embedded as speculated at release/tear-down.

At $299 I unfortunately think these are DOA, or destined to be a low-volume niche product at best.

They could better justify the price if it had a sound-in line so that you can use two as a stereo pair on a TV with things other than Apple TV, competing against high-end soundbars. But this would be “inelegant”.

Or they could price them at $200 where I believe a lot more people would be willing to buy and gift them.

What does this fix that the original failed at?

I had the 1st-gen HomePod. Sounded great.

As a musician, though, its wifi track-start latency was intolerable.

When using software to write and play a score or edit tracks and mix or transcribe from a recording on the computer, you have to stop and start short sections of the music over and over again.

After starting the music, the software showed the score or wave or tracks advancing before the sound came out of the HomePod. By the time the sound started, the part I wanted to hear was over; pre-roll elbow room wasn't available all the time and also intolerable for dozens of consecutive repeats.

For non-musicians, this isn't a problem since listeners don't care if the track doesn't start right away as long it plays without interruption.

All it needed was a little 1/8" audio jack on the bottom and mundane circuit inside. It wouldn't have sullied the look and no one except musicians would know about it.

The same logic that puts a headphone jack on Apple laptops also applies to the HomePod. If people don't need the jack in the HomePod, they also don't need the jack on a laptop, yet Apple includes them even though laptops have bluetooth and internal speakers.

I had to use my XLR monitors for sound, but it'd be nice to sometimes plug my laptop into the HomePod and work on transcribing etc.

It's ironic that Apple used to brag about making stuff for creative work.

I'd pay $50-$75 more for a HomePod with an audio jack. I gave Apple this feedback but they probably think the market is too small, even though Apple recently re-added seldom-used features to its premium products, like the memory card reader in MacBook Pros.

The new HomePod's Thread wifi and Matter protocol might help with other problems the 1st-gen had, like falling off wifi and needing factory resets to get it to rejoin. What a nightmare it was. I gave it away.

Granted, I installed numerous 1st-gen HomePod and HomePod minis for non-musicians who seemed to like them.

Apple, please add an audio jack.

I think apple has a pretty good grasp of the market for various peripherals through sales data from their Apple Stores. I thought the original HomePod was them looking at sales of the Devialet Phantom and thinking "Hmmm... let's capture som of that"

But, whatever the thinking behind the original HomePod, it didn't go as planned. I'm with @vintner on this, what has changed to justify this product? Why do Apple think they'll succeed this time around?

It's the same, except we know Apple might drop it like a wet rag a couple of years down the line. Maybe sales of higher end speakers are steadily rising in the Apple Stores?

Keep the Mini. Introduce "Siri Input", in the style of Amazon Echo Input (a small USB-C-powered slab with mics, sensors, and 3.5/aux out).

Drop the full-sized HomePod. It won't work, because Siri. Also, now, because Wi-Fi 4. WTF???!!! No chance now of Home Sharing, offline operation over your local network.

I don't see how this beats a used Airport Express ($50), a DIY speaker kit pair from Parts Express (such as the "C Note" set for $140), and a cheap but great Chinese amp (Aiyima A07 $65). Basically two "wireless" speakers for the price of one HomePod, and the sound probably blows the HomePod away. It's also pretty much future proof.

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