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Posts tagged with "homepod"

HomePod Leaving Residue on Some Wooden Furniture

John Voorhees' HomePod ring; the device now sits on a coaster.

John Voorhees’ HomePod ring; the device now sits on a coaster.

Nearly a week after its launch, HomePod owners are discovering that in some cases, the device leaves a white ring in its place when stored on wood furniture. John Chase of The Wirecutter reports:

An unhappy discovery after we placed a HomePod on an oiled butcher-block countertop and later on a wooden side table was that it left a defined white ring in the surface. Other reviewers and owners (such as Pocket-lint, and folks on Twitter) have reported the same issue, which an Apple representative has confirmed. Apple says “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface,” and if they don’t fade on their own, you can basically just go refinish the furniture—the exact advice Apple gave in an email to Wirecutter was to “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.”…In other testing, we have seen no visible damage when using it on glass, granite countertop, nice MDF, polyurethane-sealed wood, and cheap IKEA bookcases.

Among the MacStories team, Federico and John have both encountered this issue, while I have not. Serenity Caldwell of iMore explains the inconsistency:

Not all whole-wood table finishes are alike: Certain wood oil treatments include drying agents that have organic compounds present in them — compounds that could potentially interact with the silicone in Apple’s base.

It appears that for those who will face this problem, it doesn’t take more than a couple days for the white ring to become at least faintly visible. If you’re not seeing anything after several days of HomePod use, it’s likely that your furniture will be fine, but if you’re concerned, using a coaster seems like the best low-budget fix at this point.

Update: Also per Serenity Caldwell, Apple has now put together an official support document, dubbed “Cleaning and taking care of HomePod.” It provides official details regarding HomePod and wooden surfaces:

It is not unusual for any speaker with a vibration-dampening silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces. The marks can be caused by oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface, and will often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface. If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.

The new document also addresses the matter of cleaning HomePod – only with a dry cloth, or, if necessary, a slightly damp one – and informs users to keep HomePod away from liquids and heat sources.


A Promising Work in Progress: Initial Thoughts on HomePod

At the start, you should know two things about me: HomePod is the first smart speaker I’ve ever owned, and I’m all-in on the Apple ecosystem.

These facts make me the HomePod’s perfect customer, and they will surely color my comments. I’m guessing if I had more experience with other smart speakers, or I didn’t own nearly every modern Apple product, my thoughts on HomePod would be different. That said, here are my early impressions.

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An In-Depth, Technical Analysis of the HomePod Concludes It’s a Bona Fide Audiophile Speaker

Given Apple’s emphasis on the audio quality of the HomePod, the lack of technical reviews from audiophile publications at launch struck me as odd. That’s why I was intrigued when I saw this tweet last night from Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing:

The review, by Reddit user WinterCharm in the audiophile subreddit, is an in-depth, technical analysis of the HomePod that includes a side-by-side comparison with a pair of KEF X300A high-end bookshelf speakers that sell for $1000 at retail. There’s a lot here that is beyond my limited understanding of audio equipment and testing, but the conclusion of WinterCharm’s hours of analysis is crystal clear:

I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

Judging from the comments to the post, WinterCharm isn’t the only audiophile excited about the HomePod and eager to try two as a stereo pair when that feature is released in a future software update.


Loup Ventures’ HomePod Siri Tests

Loup Ventures, a US-based venture capital firm, ran a series of Siri tests on the HomePod to evaluate the assistant’s capabilities on Apple’s new speaker. After 782 queries, Siri understood 99% of questions but only answered 52% of them correctly – meaning, Siri on the HomePod failed to answer one out of two questions. I’d love to see a full data set of the questions asked by Loup Ventures, but, overall, it doesn’t surprise me that the Google Assistant running on the Google Home speaker was the most accurate in every category.

While Apple has clearly a lot of work ahead for Siri on the HomePod (this was the consensus of all the reviews, too), it also appears that Siri simply performs worse than other assistants because it doesn’t support certain domains. Here’s Gene Munster (whom you may remember for his Apple TV set predictions), writing on the Loup Ventures blog:

Adding domains will quickly improve Siri’s score. Some domains like navigation, calendar, email, and calling are simply not supported. These questions were met with, “I can’t ___ on HomePod.” Also, in any case that iPhone-based Siri would bring up Google search results, HomePod would reply, “I can’t get the answer to that on HomePod,” which forces you to use your phone or give up on the question altogether. Removing navigation, calling, email, and calendar-related queries from our question set yields a 67% correct response, a jump from overall of 52.3% correct. This means added support for these domains would bring HomePod performance above that of Alexa (64%) and Cortana (57%), though still shy of Google Home (81%). We know Siri has the ability to correctly answer a whole range of queries that HomePod cannot, evidenced by our note here. Apple’s limiting of HomePod’s domains should change over time, at which point we expect the speaker to be vastly more useful and integrated with your other Apple devices.

Adding new supported domains would make Siri’s intelligence comparable to Alexa (at least according to these tests), but Apple shouldn’t strive for a honorable second place. Siri should be just as intelligent (if not more) than the Google Assistant on every platform. I wonder, though, if this can be achieved in the short term given Siri’s fragmentation problems and limited third-party integrations.


HomePod Review Roundup

Initial orders of Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker will arrive on doorsteps and in Apple stores beginning Friday in the US, UK, and Australia. Today, reviews were published by several media outlets that have had about a week to test the HomePod. Apple also invited several journalists for a tour of its audio labs in Cupertino with Phil Schiller, hardware VP Kate Bergeron, and senior director of audio design and engineering Gary Greaves.

The consensus of the first wave of reviews is that the HomePod sounds fantastic. Apple has brought its engineering expertise and computing power to bear in a way that reviewers say produces remarkable sound for the HomePod’s size and price.

However, Siri’s limitations and the lack of support for third-party music streaming services also mean that the HomePod’s voice assistant features lag behind those of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. As a result, the HomePod’s appeal will likely be limited to people who already subscribe to Apple Music, use iOS devices, and care about high-quality audio.

Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch:

Apple’s HomePod is easily the best sounding mainstream smart speaker ever. It’s got better separation and bass response than anything else in its size and boasts a nuance and subtlety of sound that pays off the 7 years Apple has been working on it.

As a smart speaker, it offers best-in-class voice recognition, vastly outstripping the ability of other smart speakers to hear you trying to trigger a command at a distance or while music is playing, but its overall flexibility is limited by the limited command sets that the Siri protocol offers.

Buy a HomePod if you already have Apple Music or you want to have it and you’re in the market for a single incredibly over-designed and radically impressive speaker that will give you really great sound with basically no tuning, fussing, measuring or tweaking.

Nilay Patel sums up what that means for everyone else:

The Apple engineers I talked to were very proud of how the HomePod sounds, and for good reason: Apple’s audio engineering team did something really clever and new with the HomePod, and it really works. I’m not sure there’s anything out there that sounds better for the price, or even several times the price.

Unfortunately, Apple’s audio engineering team wasn’t in charge of just putting out a speaker. It was in charge of the audio components of a smart speaker, one that simply isn’t as smart as its competitors.

That’s really the crux of it: the HomePod sounds incredible, but not so world-bendingly amazing that you should switch away from Spotify, or accept Siri’s frustrating limitations as compared to Alexa.

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Full Breakdown of Audio That HomePod Can and Can’t Play

We know the HomePod works great with Apple Music, but for those who aren’t Apple Music subscribers, what audio content can the HomePod still play for them – with Siri support, and without?

Serenity Caldwell has put together a comprehensive guide for iMore that answers that question in exacting detail, filling in the gaps left by Apple’s official marketing disclosures.

For iTunes Match subscribers, it’s good news.


Apple Shares First Series of HomePod Ads

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Apple today shared its first series of HomePod ads on its official YouTube channel, titled Bass, Beat, Distortion, and Equalizer.
The music-focused ads are each set to their own song, including Ain’t I by Lizzo, DNA by Kendrick Lamar, Holy Water by Hembree, and All Night by Big Boi. Apple continues to position the HomePod as a “breakthrough speaker” first and “intelligent home assistant” second in the description of each video.

If there was any doubt on how Apple is trying to position the HomePod, these ads have no mention – visual or otherwise – of Siri functionalities at all. They’re just about music. (Personally, I love the style and animations.)

As someone who actually believes in the utility of smart speakers, I’m curious to see how this strategy will play out for Apple this year, and if they’re going to air “lifestyle” HomePod + Siri commercials at some point (as they did many times before).


HomePod First Impressions Roundup

In advance of HomePod pre-orders, which began earlier today, Apple invited a handful of writers to hear the HomePod in action. Apple’s smart speaker was met with universal praise for its sound quality but also, some skepticism.

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HomePod Supports User Presence at Home for Personal Notifications

Refinery29’s Madeline Buxton has spent one hour testing a HomePod ahead of preorders going live tomorrow, and, like others noted at WWDC ‘17, she came away impressed with the small footprint of the device and its audio quality compared to other smart speakers.

This bit from her story is interesting:

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 get calendar notifications via voice commands. Google Home and Amazon Echo, meanwhile, can recognize different voices and provide personalized content accordingly. (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.)

To my knowledge, this is the first time we hear that HomePod does indeed support calendar notifications (which aren’t mentioned on Apple’s HomePod webpage). As Benjamin Mayo notes, details on how personalized calendar alerts would work are still unclear.

Update: Refinery29 has updated their story to clarify that HomePod will not support calendar notifications.

In addition, I assume that the ability to detect when the HomePod’s owner is at home is powered by the new user presence feature added to HomeKit in iOS 11. Even without a HomePod, iOS 11 lets you set up HomeKit automations with conditions that determine whether you or someone else is at home. The HomePod, as a HomeKit hub, will likely take advantage of the same API, which, in my experience with HomeKit automation in our apartment, has worked well since my girlfriend and I updated to iOS 11 on all our devices in September.