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Posts tagged with "homepod"

Deezer’s New HomePod Integration Supports Hi-Res Audio Playback

Source: Deezer.

Source: Deezer.

Late last year, music fans gained the ability to switch their default music service on the HomePod. Pandora was the first to offer the option last November and has now been joined by Deezer in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the UK, and the US.

Similar to other services, Deezer’s HomePod voice control functionality lets subscribers play albums, specific tracks and artists, as well as playlists using Siri. However, the most notable feature of Deezer’s HomePod integration announced by the company today is that its HiFi subscribers will be able to listen to hi-res audio using Apple’s smart speaker. Deezer’s Flow feature, which plays an endless playlist of subscribers’ favorite music, is also available.

The HomePod mini isn’t the best choice for hi-res audio playback, but this integration is an excellent option for Deezer users who have the original HomePod. As the only major streaming service without a hi-res alternative and with the original HomePod discontinued and rumors of a ‘new HiFi tier’ of Apple Music circulating, it will be interesting to see what Apple does in this area.


Apple’s Perplexing Home Strategy

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac, explains why Apple’s move to discontinue the original HomePod last Friday raises a number of questions about its home strategy and is cause for concern that extends beyond the HomePod itself:

Apple discontinuing HomePod isn’t impossible to understand, but the move does leave me with a number of questions for Apple. What’s the threshold for success for home products? What does Apple hope to achieve with home products? Why should customers trust Apple believes in its home products when it doesn’t lead the market? Why not just invest in AmazonSonos, and other smart home solutions that feel less like a hobby?

Hall puts his finger on something that’s been bothering me since news of the HomePod’s demise broke. In January, I reviewed the HomePod mini, and I love it; not because it’s the best-sounding speaker I’ve used, but because it fills a role that the larger, more expensive HomePod couldn’t fill in my home. However, the mini isn’t a replacement for the original HomePod. The smaller speaker can’t fill larger spaces like my living room the way the original HomePod can. Nor can the mini play the same role in my home entertainment setup.

As long as Apple continues to support the original HomePod, my multi-room audio and TV setup will be fine, but it’s also undeniably a dead end. It’s not as if I don’t have other options. There are plenty of good AirPlay 2 speakers available that I can eventually swap in, as Hall points out. However, coupled with the expensive, long-in-the-tooth Apple TV, I don’t have the confidence I once had in Apple’s home strategy, especially when it comes to audio and video entertainment, which feels especially strange to say when Apple Music and TV+ are so clearly important parts of the company’s service strategy. All of which led me to nod as I read Hall’s conclusion:

Remember when Mac users had similar concerns about pro machines in Apple’s lineup? Apple rightfully held a roundtable event with a small group of press to communicate its commitment to professional customers with the pending release of an iMac Pro and development on a next-generation Mac Pro.

That strategy was very effective at taking a step toward earning back the trust that was lost over time with Apple’s pro customers. Apple’s Friday night statement that it’s happy with the response to HomePod mini and no longer producing the original HomePod needs a lot of follow up.

Perhaps a spring media event will clear up some of the questions raised by the elimination of the HomePod. For now, though, Apple’s home strategy is more perplexing than ever.

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Apple Has Discontinued the Original HomePod

Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch broke the news late Friday that Apple has discontinued the original HomePod. In a statement to TechCrunch Apple said:

HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.

Already, the Space Gray HomePod is unavailable for delivery from Apple in the US, although you may be able to find one for pickup at your local Apple retail location.

The HomePod mini.

The HomePod mini.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my HomePod minis, and recognize the benefits of having more of them distributed throughout my home than I could afford to do with the original HomePod, I’ll miss it a lot. The mini is fundamentally more versatile than the original HomePod because of its size. However, despite sounding great for such a small speaker, its audio fidelity is no match for the larger model.

I hope this isn’t the end of Apple’s efforts in the high-end speaker market. Between the HomePod and the AirPods Max, the company has proven that it has the technical expertise to create superior speakers and headphones. This feels a lot like Apple is clearing the decks in advance of an event. Perhaps we’ll see an Apple soundbar paired with a new Apple TV or some other audio product before the end of the month.

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Eve Systems Announces That Its New Eve Energy Smart Plug and Eve Weather HomeKit Devices Will Support Thread

Source: Eve Systems.

Source: Eve Systems.

Ever since I got a glimpse of what Thread could mean to home automation by pairing a Nanoleaf A19 bulb with a HomePod mini, I’ve been excited about the technology’s future. We’re still in the early days of adoption by device manufacturers. However, today, Eve Systems announced a significant expansion of its Thread-compatible lineup of HomeKit products, giving the technology a substantial boost.

Eve had already added Thread to its window and door sensors and EU-compatible smart plugs. Today, however, the company said that US and UK-compatible versions of its Eve Energy smart plugs would be coming soon and that it will also release a weather sensor called Eve Weather. Eve is also updating its existing $99.95 Eve Aqua outdoor sprinkler controller to add Thread via a firmware update.

Thread, which I covered in-depth as part of my HomePod mini review is a wireless communication protocol that has the advantage of extended range, longer battery life, and security. Devices that implement it don’t require a separate hub either because devices like the HomePod mini act as a border router coordinating communications among devices and the Internet.

Source: Eve Systems.

Source: Eve Systems.

The new Eve Energy smart plug will be available in the US on April 6th and the UK on May 4th according to The Verge and will cost $39.95 in the US. In addition to working with Apple’s HomeKit technology, Eve Energy benefits from having a constant power source, which allows it to act as a border router like the HomePod mini, further extending the reach of Thread devices throughout your home.

Eve Weather, which has an IPX3 water resistance rating, tracks the outdoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. The device will cost $69.95 and be available in the US and Canada beginning on March 26th.

I’m glad to see more Thread-enabled products hitting the market. The promise of Thread has been difficult to test with so few devices available, but with the products announced by Eve Systems today and Nanoleaf’s existing lighting products, I expect that we’ll soon have a better idea of whether the promise lives up to the hype.


Apple Releases OS Updates with Better Music Hand Off for HomePod mini, Improvements to QR Code Scanning and Bluetooth Settings, the Unity Watch Face, and More

Today, Apple released iOS and iPadOS 14.4, HomePod 14.4, watchOS 7.3, which introduce a limited collection of new features along with the usual bug fixes.

On the iPhone and iPad, the Camera app can now scan smaller QR codes, which is handy for those tiny codes that are often used on product labels. The Bluetooth section of Settings has been updated with an option to identify the type of device connected to your iPhone, so it knows when headphones are connected for the purpose of sending audio notifications.

HomePod 14.4 adds a few new features that work in concert with the iPhone’s U1 chip. There is new visual, audible, and haptic feedback when music is handed off from an iPhone to a HomePod mini. The update also provides personalized listening suggestions when an iPhone is placed near a HomePod mini that isn’t currently playing audio. Media playback controls also appear automatically when an iPhone is nearby without having to unlock it first.

I have done some very preliminary testing of the new HomePod mini features and like them a lot. The haptic feedback is a quick slightly sustained vibration that lets you know that the music is being transferred. The animation that slides into view from the top of the screen includes a terrific little animation too. Bring your iPhone close to your HomePod mini again, and a button appears offering to transfer playback back to the iPhone. It’s a good example of how small changes together can make a big difference in the quality of the user experience.

The Apple Watch Unity watch face is part of watchOS 7.3.

The Apple Watch Unity watch face is part of watchOS 7.3.

As we reported earlier today, watchOS 7.3 includes the new Unity watch face. The colors of the face are inspired by the Pan-African flag and its shapes change throughout the day as you move. The ECG app has been added in Japan, Mayotte, the Philippines, and Thailand for Apple Watch Series 4 and later. Irregular heart rhythm notifications are now available in those same countries, plus Taiwan too. Apple’s release notes also mention the new Time to Walk feature in the Workout app, but that actually shipped yesterday with a server-side update.


Two Months with the HomePod mini: More Than Meets the Eye

As a smaller, affordable smart speaker tightly integrated with Apple services, the HomePod mini is a compelling product for many people. The mini is little enough to work just about anywhere in most homes. At $99, the device’s price tag also fits more budgets and makes multiple HomePod minis a far more realistic option than multiple original HomePods ever were. Of course, the mini comes with tradeoffs compared to its larger, more expensive sibling, which I’ll get into, but for many people, it’s a terrific alternative.

As compelling as the HomePod mini is as a speaker, though, its potential as a smart device reaches beyond the original HomePod in ways that have far greater implications for Apple’s place in customers’ homes. Part of the story is the mini’s ability to serve as a border router for Thread-compatible smart devices, forming a low-power, mesh network that can operate independently of your Wi-Fi setup. The other part of the story is the way the mini extends Siri throughout your home. Apple’s smart assistant still has room to improve. However, the promise of a ubiquitous audio interface to Apple services, apps, HomeKit devices, and the Internet is more compelling than ever as Siri-enabled devices proliferate.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been testing a pair of HomePod minis that Apple sent me. That pair joined my original HomePods and another pair of minis that I added to the setup to get a sense of what having a whole-home audio system with Siri always within earshot would be like. The result is a more flexible system that outshines its individual parts and should improve over time as the HomeKit device market evolves.

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HomePod mini Review Roundup

Several reviews of Apple’s new HomePod mini were published today. The mini, which I covered following Apple’s October event, is considerably smaller and less expensive than the original HomePod. Although we learned a lot about the mini in October, today’s reviews are the first to judge the sound quality of the mini.

Marques Brownlee was impressed with the quality of the HomePod mini’s audio for such a small speaker. Brownlee points out that there are less expensive smart speakers available, ones that support more smart home products, and smart assistants that he thinks are better. However, for a seamless, integrated experience with Apple’s products and great sound, he concludes the HomePod mini is a good choice.

At The Verge, Dan Seifert takes the HomePod mini through its paces too. He concludes:

At $100, compared to the original HomePod’s $350 launch price, the mini is priced low enough that you can envision buying more than one and spreading them throughout your home. It does most of the things you expect a smart speaker to do and sounds good when doing them. If you’re already fully bought into Apple’s ecosystem, including services, it’s hard to fault the HomePod mini’s price or capabilities. It also provides an escape from some of the privacy concerns and baggage that come with the Echo or Nest smart speakers, including the increasingly common ads that show up in Alexa’s responses.

However, Seifert also feels that Apple’s HomePod mini is behind the offerings available from Amazon and Google both in terms of smarts and sound quality.

Engadget’s Nathan Ingraham has a similar, although slightly more positive, takeaway:

The HomePod mini is a lot easier to recommend than the original was back in 2018. It’s significantly cheaper than the first HomePod, which automatically means more people will consider it. And it’s also a lot more capable than the original was in 2018, with more of the features you’d expect from a smart speaker. And, like the Nest Audio, it sounds very good for the price, making it a solid value for $100.

Brian Heater at TechCrunch concludes that the HomePod mini is a surprisingly good speaker for the price and size, noting about the audio:

It’s full and clear and impressively powerful for its size. Obviously that goes double if you opt for a stereo pair. Pairing is painless, out of the box. Just set up two devices for the same room of your home and it will ask you whether you want to pair them.

Jim Dalrymple at The Loop came away impressed after testing the HomePod mini, both in terms of its sound quality and ability to handle Siri requests:

I love the HomePod mini. It’s useful in accessing my personal information like lists, notes, and calendars, and it allows me the flexibility to play music wherever I want.

The sound quality of the music is really good for such a small speaker—or any speaker. HomePod mini fits almost anywhere you want to put it, and it looks great.

For more unboxing and hands-on videos, there are also videos available from Justine Ezarik:

and Rene Ritchie:

After reading and watching these reviews, I remain excited to try the HomePod mini. I have a bunch of HomeKit devices and have enjoyed the convenience of using Siri with the original HomePod, but it was too expensive to add them to every room in my house and also more speaker than necessary for many rooms. My hope is that the mini will fill in those gaps extending music to more of our home and bringing Siri into earshot in more circumstances.


Switching Your Default HomePod Music Service to Pandora

Yesterday, Pandora updated its iOS app, allowing it to serve as your default music streaming service on the HomePod. The setup isn’t entirely obvious, but it’s not difficult either, and it’s available in iOS and iPadOS 14.1 and 14.2. Here’s how it works.

Apple first revealed that the HomePod would support third-party music streaming services at WWDC without any explanation of how that would work. However, with the release of Pandora’s update, we now know that the process involves a combination of the third-party app’s settings and Apple’s Home app.

Other third-party music services are sure to follow Pandora’s lead, so even if you’re not a Pandora user, it’s instructive to see how it has implemented HomePod integration. In the Pandora app, tap on the Profile tab, select the gear icon in the top, righthand corner of the screen, and then tap ‘Connect to HomePod’ and then ‘Use in Home’ when prompted. Once you complete these steps, you can ask Siri to play music ‘on Pandora’ from your HomePod.

Tap 'Use in Home' to add Pandora as a HomePod playback option.

Tap ‘Use in Home’ to add Pandora as a HomePod playback option.

If you want to take things a step further, you can make Pandora your default music service in the Home app. Open Home, and go to Home Settings, which you can reach by tapping the house button at the top of your iPhone or iPad’s screen. Next, tap your profile picture. Here, you’ll see your personal Home settings. If you set things up correctly in Pandora, it will be listed under the Media section of your Home Settings. Tapping on the Pandora entry allows you to toggle Update Listening History on or off and remove Pandora from the Home app. If you have multiple people assigned to your home, only the primary user can manage music streaming services.

Setting up Pandora as my default music streaming service. Note that a bug in iOS 14.2 fails to display app icons properly at times.

Setting up Pandora as my default music streaming service. Note that a bug in iOS 14.2 fails to display app icons properly at times.

To set Pandora as your HomePod’s default music streaming service, tap ‘Preferred Service,’ which is directly below the Media section.1 Here, you’ll find a list of each service available to be set as your default. Pick Pandora, close Home Settings, and you’re finished. Instead of having to request that Siri play music ‘on Pandora,’ all requests to play music will play using Pandora’s service unless you specify a different service. Once Pandora has been added to Home, it remains available on your HomPod, even after its app is deleted from all your devices.

Apple Music and other services will still be available from your HomePod after you switch default services. However, you’ll have to specify the playback service you want to use, even if you’re asking Siri to play a playlist specific to Apple Music or one you created in your Apple Music library. For example, with Pandora set as your default service, to switch to Apple Music, you need to use a command like “Hey Siri, play Taylor Swift on Apple Music.’

Using Pandora as my default music streaming service for my HomePods.

Using Pandora as my default music streaming service for my HomePods.

Switching to a different music streaming provider worked seamlessly in my testing. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious where to go to find the settings to switch services in the Home app. I suspect a lot of users will look in their HomePod’s settings or the top level of Home Settings, where you go to manage hubs and other categories of HomeKit devices. Still, once you know where to look, the process is simple and a welcome alternative for users who prefer different music streaming services.


  1. In iOS and iPadOS 14.2, the Home app uses the terminology ‘Default Service’ instead of ‘Preferred Service.’ ↩︎

Hands-On with the HomePod’s New Intercom Feature, Alarms, and Siri Tricks

With yesterday’s releases of iOS 14.1 and HomePod Software Version 14.1, which could really use a catchier name, Apple has introduced several new features announced last week at its iPhone 12 and HomePod mini event. Most readers are probably already familiar with what’s in the updates based on our iPhone 12 and HomePod mini overviews, so I thought I’d update my HomePods and devices to provide some hands-on thoughts about the changes.

Most of the new features are related to the HomePod. Although proximity-based features are exclusive to the HomePod mini, which features Apple’s U1 Ultra Wideband chip, some of the other functionality revealed last week is available on all HomePod models.

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