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Apple Apple TV HomeKit HomePod

HomePod Review: AirPlay, Apple TV, and Additional Thoughts

This is part two of my HomePod Review. You can read the first part that covers the Sound, Siri, and Songs.

AirPlay and Bluetooth

The HomePod does not have any physical input mechanism. This means no line-in jack, and it cannot connect via USB. The only way to get audio to the HomePod is through AirPlay, Apple’s propriety protocol. Despite AirPlay being propriety, Apple does make it available for third-party companies to use for connecting to AirPlay-enabled devices.

The HomePod does have a Bluetooth 5.0 chipset inside it, but it cannot be used as a Bluetooth speaker. The Bluetooth is only used for the initial setup and communication between iOS devices for when the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” is used. It would be a nice addition if the HomePod could just be used as a Bluetooth speaker for non-AirPlay devices, but I do not foresee this as being a feature that Apple will include at any point. If there was no AirPlay, then it would be a no-brainer, but in a world with AirPlay it is not likely to occur because this provides an advantage for Apple allows them to control the ecosystem.

HomePod and Apple TV

One of the functions of the HomePod is to act as an AirPlay destination. One possible AirPlay source is the Apple TV. Most people, when they use their Apple TV, use the speakers on their TV or if their TV is capable, a sound bar.

There are those that do use an even more involved setup, like a receiver, and surround sound speaker system. Even with this setup being an option for many, it can be complicated to setup and maintain for some. Setting the HomePod as the audio output from an Apple TV is simple.

  1. Wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Begin playing some media.
  3. Swipe down on the Siri Remote Trackpad.
  4. Select the HomePod

 

That is all it takes to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. It does not take many steps and it is possible for anyone to be able to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. There is an alternative method. You can perform the following:

  1. Wake the Apple TV.
  2. Navigate to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Video and Audio”.
  4. Click on “Video and Audio”.
  5. Scroll down to audio output.
  6. Click on “Audio Output”.
  7. Select the HomePod you want to use an an output.

This second method allows you to set the HomePod as the audio source before you begin playing audio. You can also select the output while playing music as well. This can be done by selecting the device name in the upper left, clicking, and you will get a list of all of the AirPlay destinations, including the HomePod.

HomePod and Apple TV Issues

I did notice one thing that seems to be a bit strange and does not seem right, but I do not know if there is a fix for it. Whenever I set the HomePod as the AirPlay destination for my Apple TV, I always have to turn the volume way up on the HomePod in order to be able to hear anything. This really is not a big problem, but it does seem a bit odd. This only occurs when playing video and if the HomePod is set as the output for the Apple TV. Now, if I switched the HomePod to play music, even from the Apple TV, the sound would be super loud. Just like commercials used to get on television before rules were changed so the commercials could not be louder. I know why this occurs, it is because the HomePod is playing the music natively from the HomePod and is not getting the audio from another source. The whole situation just seems strange, considering that the HomePod is receiving audio and can intuit the source, it should be able to accommodate for that and have the audio be louder.

It could be that this is just due to the current limitations of AirPlay and may be changing when AirPlay 2 arrives. In particular, because AirPlay 2 will buffer audio as fast as you can provide it, so there may be some adjustments possible there. It is also possible that this may be an enhancement that may be coming to a future, and yet unknown, version of AirPlay.

Features to Come

When Apple announced the HomePod at WWDC 2017, they indicated that multiple HomePods could be used within a single room to make the sound even better. This would be available through a protocol called, AirPlay 2. AirPlay 2 has some significant benefits over AirPlay. The biggest of the benefits is “faster than real time” audio transmission. When AirPlay 2 is available on the HomePod, this means that you will be able to use AirPlay to send long form audio to the HomePod, and it will continue to play even if the original source is no longer in range.

A second feature that is available with AirPlay 2 is the ability to use multiple HomePods as a stereo pair. This would allow even better sound because the two HomePods can work in unison to produce the best sound for the room.

Also with AirPlay 2, you can control multiple HomePods from the same device and play different audio on each, or play the same audio on all of the speakers simultaneously. Again, because the HomePods would be communicating and the audio could be synchronized across all of the HomePods.

AirPlay 2 is expected to be released later this year. I am sure that Apple had hoped to have it released when the HomePod shipped, but that was not the case. AirPlay 2 will be available through a firmware update on the HomePod, let us look at how to update the HomePod next.

Updating the HomePod

Even though there have not been any updates to the HomePod, when there is an update, it will be a straight-forward task. To see the current firmware version and check for updates, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home App.
  2. Tap the Arrow icon in the upper left corner.
  3. Scroll down to Speakers.
  4. Tap on Software Update.

Here you will have one option, “Install Updates Automatically”. By default, this option is enabled. You can turn it off, if desired. When you bring up this screen it will check for any HomePod update. If there is no update, the current version and build will be shown. As of this writing the latest firmware is 11.2.5 (15D59). This is the version that the HomePod shipped with. If there is an update, you will have an option to update the firmware.

The Physical Specs

When you look at speakers that generate good sound, it is entirely possible that the speaker would be quite large. If you happen to only look at photos of the HomePod it is possible that you might presume that the actual device is quite large. However, the HomePod is actually rather small. Specifically, it is 6.8 inches tall, and is only 5.6 inches around. Even with its diminutive size is shockingly heavy at 5.5 pounds.

When you remove the HomePod from its box, it is a lot heavier than you might think. Even though five and half pounds may not seem like much, and in reality it is not, it is a bit heavier than expected. This should not be an issue for most, since in most cases the HomePod will remain in a single place during its usage, but it is something to be cognizant of.

There is a single cable for the HomePod, that is the power cord. Unlike most other consumer devices, the cord on the HomePod is actually wrapped in a cloth. This is so the HomePod is more aesthetically pleasing and can be more easily hidden.

Feature Requests

Even with the HomePod having great sound, there is still one big feature that would be nice to have, which could be handled via software. That feature is the ability to tune the amount of bass. I love my Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, and while Beats tend to be heavy on the bass, the amount of bass coming out of the HomePod is a bit much for some songs.

You can reduce some of the bass by using the “Sound Check” feature within the HomePod settings, but this feature only makes all of the songs have the same volume, as per this Apple Support article. This can help a bit, but having finer control over the bass would be nice. I do not think that having a full blown equalizer would be beneficial, since the HomePod is dynamically tuning itself based upon the room and the song. This means that any equalizer settings that you would manually set would likely ruin, and not enhance, the sound being generated.

Trigger Phrase

I completely understand and recognize the fact that Siri is a brand that Apple wants to keep consistent across all of its products. In doing so, if you say the trigger word, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, as well as any HomePods will all hear you. Each of the devices will then have a “discussion” and one of the devices will be the one that responds to you. Which one responds is based upon a couple of different factors; how recently you used the device, and which ones are within range. Given the far-field voice recognition capabilities of the HomePod, it is likely to win more often.

While using the same trigger phrase created a consistent experience and makes it easier for those accustom to using Siri on their iOS devices, having all of your devices make sound when you say “Hey Siri”, can be bothersome. What I would like to see is the HomePod get its own trigger phrase, or at least an option for a different trigger phrase.

It could be something like “Hey HomePod”, or “Hey Speaker”, or “Hey Assistant”, or something similar. could even be based upon the current location of the HomePod. For instance, if your HomePod is in the living room, you could say something like “Hey Living Room, play this song.”

I understand that this could ultimately cause confusion for users and result in a non-optimal experience, it would provide an option for those users who decide to enable it to be able to target a specific device.

Even though I would like to see this, I honestly do not see Apple creating a distinct phrase for the HomePod, mostly because it would bifurcate the “Siri” platform. Even though it might do so, it would be better than having four different devices going off all at once when I want to ask the HomePod to do something.

Beta Request

Apple is constantly working on new features for the HomePod. It would be nice to have the HomePod be on the same version as iOS betas. The HomePod is a brand new product, so it is possible that Apple will allow the HomePod to be on beta versions. There is one potential problem with having a HomePod on a beta. It is the same issue with the Apple TV 4K.

There is no user accessible port, so if a beta installation were to fail, the only people who would be able to repair the device is Apple themselves. Apple has been pretty good with the updates, but the HomePod is the newest device and there could be some edge cases where things do not work as expected. It is entirely possible that this is already going to happen with the next version of iOS, but we are not at that point yet.

The Future of HomePod

Even though the HomePod has recently been released, there is no issue with thinking about its future. When Apple announced the HomePod back in June of 2017, they indicated that indicated that multi-speaker AirPlay would be released at the release of the HomePod.

With the HomePod having an A8 Processor, it is likely that the A8 will be the base for iOS for at least a couple more years. It is also possible that the HomePod will still be updated to the latest version of iOS even if iPhone 6/6 Plus/iPod Touch with A8 are no longer supported on the latest version of iOS.

I hope Apple is looking to make a smaller version of the HomePod, even if it does not fill a room with sound as the current HomePod does. A smaller HomePod would be great for places like kitchens, offices or other areas where sound is needed, but it does not necessarily need to be room filling, or places where the current HomePod is a bit too overpowering. The advantage to having a smart assistant in every room is one that could come in quite useful for many.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the HomePod does not have multiple speaker support, the HomePod is still a great speaker on its own. It is not the cheapest speaker on the market, but it also attempts to solve an issue that many other speakers do not; filling an entire room with sound and have it sound great in every part of the room. The HomePod accomplishes this with ease.

When I first got the HomePod I moved it from room to room, but it has now found its home in the master bedroom where I consume most of my media. This has had a couple of different consequences. The first is now that the HomePod creates great sound, I want to use it with everything. I already use it all the time with the Apple TV. I use the Apple TV to consume most of my media, so connecting it to the Apple TV is not an issue. This does result in not wanting to watch DVDs or Blu-rays, since my Xbox One, which is my Blu-ray/DVD player, does not connect to the HomePod. This has resulted in either converting my physical media, or buying a digital copy. I do not do this for all titles, but those I really want to watch I do.

The HomePod is capable of being more than just a speaker, it also includes Apple’s Smart assistant Siri. Siri can perform many of the same tasks for you as your iPhone or iPad. You can ask Siri the weather, current news, what song is playing, what movies are playing, or even control you HomeKit enabled devices, and much more. The reduction of the audio when Siri is active is a nice touch. If you have multiple iOS devices, they will communicate and decide who will handle your request, which can be rather annoying after a while. Another option for a trigger phrase would be nice, but it is not likely to occur.

There are many hidden options and features to the HomePod that are exposed through the Home app. These include who can access your HomePod, whether or not to require a password, and an option to setup the HomePod as a Home Hub.

If you are thinking of getting a HomePod, you have to be content with its current capabilities and not what it necessarily could do in the future. When the HomePod was announced, Apple indicated that it would be available by the end of 2017, but this did not occur. It is not due to the hardware, but instead the software. Currently, the HomePod does not support HomePods configured in stereo. The HomePod supports Apple Music, and any other audio that can be transmitted via Apple’s AirPlay protocol. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, and really want a good quality speaker for music, you cannot go wrong with the HomePod.

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Apple Apple TV Apple Watch HomeKit iPad Pro Siri

Apple’s WWDC 2017 Announcements

Yesterday’s Apple World Wide Developer Conference keynote was a long one. It came in at just under two and half hours. This is the longest keynote that they have done, end so it was completely full of announcements. A list of items covered include software, and hardware, including some sneak peeks at hardware coming later. There was so much in this keynote, it is hard to choose where to begin. Let us start with hardware.

iPad Pro

One of the things that Apple announced at this keynote is new iPad Pros. The new iPad Pros have a slew of new features. Both of the iPad Pros now have feature parity, meaning that they have the same hardware inside the case.

  • ProMotion technology
  • P3 Wide Color Gamut
  • True Tone Display
  • A10X Fusion Chip
  • 12-megapixel camera
  • ƒ/1.8 aperture

The physical dimensions of the iPad Pros have changed, at least for the 9.7-inch model. That model is gone. It has been replaced with the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, yet it is almost the same physical size. This is possible because there is now 40% less bezel on the sides. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is only 0.3 inches longer and 0.2 inches wider than the 9.7-inch model. The size difference also means that the weight of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a bit more over the 9.7-inch model. In fact, it is a whole 32 grams, or 0.07 pounds more.

If one is going from the 9.7-inch iPad pro to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro you will see a more modest set of changes one. However, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is seeing a bunch of new features. Again, these are all available on the 10.5-inch. The new features of the 12.9-inch include:

  • Digital zoom up to 5x
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Six‑element lens
  • Quad-LED True Tone flash
  • Panorama (up to 63 megapixels)
  • ProMotion technology
  • Wide color display (P3)
  • True Tone display

As mentioned, these were all available on the 9.7-inch previously, however having them on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be a nice change for those 12.9-inch iPad Pro owners who do upgrade. In fact, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is now lighter by 36 grams, or 0.08 pounds.

The FaceTime camera has also been upgraded in both models. It is now a 7 megapixel camera with a ƒ/2.2 aperture, and 1080p recording. The FaceTime camera includes Wide Color capture as well. The FaceTime camera changes will work not only for FaceTime but also for selfies.

There is one last thing to note. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the only one that comes in Rose Gold. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro does not. The 10.5-inch model starts at $649, while the 12.9-inch model starts at $799. You can choose among three different storage sizes, 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. This is double the previous models. There are also cellular models and these cost $130 more. The new iPad Pros are able to be ordered today, and they ship next week.

Macs

The quick summary is that everything got updated, well except the Mac mini, and the MacBook Air. The iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pros have all gotten an upgrade to the latest Intel Series of chips, codenamed Kaby Lake. The 13-inch MacBook now has the Intel Iris Plus 640 Graphics chip, where as the 13-inch with Touch Bar has the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar now includes an AMD Radeon 555 with 2GB of Video RAM, or Radeon 560 with 4GB of Video RAM. The 13-inch MacBook Pro non-touchbar model is now starting at $1299.

The 12-inch MacBook has also received a slight upgrade as well. It also has the 7th Generation Intel chips. It now has a 1.2 GHz process as its base which includes Intel HD 615 Graphics. Along side this it has Bluetooth 4.2 support.

If you are still in the market for a MacBook Air, they are still around and have recieved a very minor procssor speed increase, but that is the only change for the MacBook Air.

The MacBooks were modest upgrades, unlike the iMacs. These received a more substantial upgrade.

iMacs

The entire Retina iMac line received upgrades to the latest Intel chips, Kaby Lake. The most notable change is in the 27-inch Screen. It now supports the Wide Color Gamut (P3), which brings it to parity with the iPads.

The second biggest change is that the iMac line now supports USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3, with the two USB-C ports available on all models. This is the first time that USB-C has been available on a desktop Mac. Alongside, there is also Bluetooth 4.2 support. One of the most noticeable changes will be in graphics. For all Retina models, Apple is now including AMD Radeon Pro graphics. For the 21.5-inch model this is the 555 with 2GB of RAM or the 560 with 4GB of RAM. The 27-inch models get the Radeon Pro 570, 575, or 580, with 4GB of memory for the 570 and 575, and 8GB video Memory for the 580.

The change that is most likely to be a nice change is that the 21.5-inch 4K Retina iMac now starts at $1299. This is down from $1499 for the previous version.

There were two “Sneak Peeks” at the keynote. These will be covered a bit later. For now, let us look at the software that was announced, starting with tvOS.

tvOS

There was only one announcement, for today, regarding the Apple TV. Even though it was only one announcement, it was a big one; the Amazon Prime Video is coming this fall. This means that anybody who likes to watch Amazon Prime Video will be able to do that directly on the Apple TV. It is possible to use AirPlay to get Amazon Video on your Apple TV today, but this is an inelegant solution.

watchOS

The Apple Watch has become a key aspect to many people’s lives since its initial release in April of 2015. It took a couple of years, but the Apple has honed in on its main focus, health and fitness. watchOS 4 brings a few new features, the first being a new user interface for scrolling applications. Along side this there are a few new watch faces, Siri, Kaleidoscope, as well as coupel of new iconic characters. These characterse areWoody, Jessie, and Buzz from the Toy Story franchise.

Workouts are now easier under watchOS 4. To coincide with this, you are able to get more data to and from the Apple Watch. This is done through the use of NFC. The NFC capability will only available on newer equipment, but if it is available, it will be helpful. In particular, your heart rate will be sent from your Apple Watch to the gym equipment, whereas the incline rate from the gym equipment will be sent to your Apple Watch. This two-way communication allows for more data relating to health. This is likely only the beginning of the two-way communications between the Apple Watch and gym equipment.

The last item with watchOS is that Music can now be automatically synchronized over to your Apple Watch. This feature will allow you to always have music with you, particularly if you do not bring your iPhone with your when you exercise.

There are a bunch of other features for watchOS. For now let us look at some of the new features of iOS.

iOS 11

The most anticipated aspect of the announcement is the operating system for the iPhone, and iPad, iOS. iOS 11 brings a bunch of updates. One of the most used applications on iOS is Messages.

Messages

There are a couple of updates specifically for Messages. These revolve around iMessage apps, syncing, and Payments.

iMessage Apps and Stickers

With iOS 10, Apple added iMessage applications to iOS. One of the downsides to have so many iMessage apps and stickers is the difficulty of finding the specifc iMessage application you wanted to use. With iOS 11 it is now easier to find said application. You simply scroll through your iMessage application drawer and locate the application you are looking for. This was one of the biggest issues with iMessage in iOS 10. The next feature is syncing of messages.

Syncing

iOS 11 will synchronize all of your messages across all of your devices. This is possible because all of your iMessages will being stored in the cloud, securely. When you get a new device, all of your recent messages will be synchronized to the device. This will also reduce the amount of storage needed on your device for messages. The last item to highlight is actually an iMessage app, Payments.

Person to Person Payments

The biggest change to iMessage in iOS 11 will be the ability to send money directly to someone. Once you receive some money, it will be added to your Apple Pay Cash card. You can use this to purchase apps or pay for other services using your iPhone. Alternnatively you can transfer the money to your bank account.

App Store

Since the App Store was released nine years ago, it has remained mostly unchanged. It has changed slightly here and there with the style changes of iOS. However, that is going to change with iOS 11. Under iOS 11, the App Store is now getting a major redesign, similar to the one that Apple Music introduced. There are now two new and distinct tabs at the bottom; Games and Apps. These, as one might guess, are specifically for these two genres. This separation allows those specifically looking for Games to be able to find a game to play. The same goes for the other app categories.

The biggest change within the App Store is the “Today” tab. Similar to how Apple Music will suggest music for you, the App Store can now show you what is new today. This could be popular items, suggestions from the App Store curators, or even in-app purchases for games you are already playing.

Mark Up

One of the features within Mail on macOS Sierra was the ability to “Mark Up” images and send them to others. This feature is now available on screenshots within iOS 11. “Mark Up” is even better on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, but the feature works across all iOS 11 devices. This means that you will be able to add notes and highlights to any screenshot. This will make collaboration even better.

iPad Changes

The biggest changes for iOS 11 are with the iPad. As was stated, “This is the biggest release of iOS for the iPad”. The focus on the iPad Pro. They were not kidding. iOS 11 is chalk full of features specifically for the iPad. Some of these include:

  • Update for the Dock
  • Improvements to Split View & Drag and Drop
  • Consolidated Files

There is a lot more that has been added, but these are the biggest items and we will focus on these. Let us start with the Dock.

The Dock

Under iOS 10 and previous versions, the dock on the iPad was limited to 5 items, regardless of the size of the iPad. This meant that there was a lot of empty space between applications. This is no longer the case with iOS 11. Instead, you are now able to fill up the dock with as many applications as you would like. Additionally, the dock will house any recent items and will even predict what applications you may want.

Split View

Split View came to the iPad with iOS 9 in 2015. At the time you were able to run more than one application at the same time. This has been the case, but now with iOS 11, you are able to drag and drop all types of data between applications. This means that instead of needing to manually copy and paste, or send a picture to another application. This will make things even quicker for many users.

Alongside Drag and Drop, applications that you pair together will now stay together. This means that if you like to have two applications open side by side, it will now be remembered, which will only increase productivity.

Files.app

The last thing to know about the iPad, and iPhone, is that all of your files will now be viewable into a single application. This means that if you have files stored in iCloud, One Drive, and Dropbox you will be able to see all of them all at once instead of needing to go to different applications to get all of the files that you have. This will make it even easier with Drag and Drop to be able to find items and place them onto applications.

There are definitely many more features, however these are some of the biggest. Now, let us move on to macOS.

macOS

It is not surprising to see a new version of macOS at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. Each year there is a new name to accompany the new operating system. macOS 10.13 is code-named “High Sierra”. This is similar to the naming convention used by Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. This signifies that while there were some user facing features, these updates were aimed at under the hood improvements.

macOS High Sierra does not contain a huge number of new feeatures, except there are a ton of under the hood changes. The lowest level that one interacts with every day, the file system. iOS 10.3 brought the Apple File System (APFS) to iOS devices,

macOS High Sierra brings APFS to the Mac. This will be the default going forward. One of the things that many users use often is Safari. There have been a couple of changes in Safari.

Safari

The biggest change in Safari on macOS High Sierra is that Autoplay videos will no longer play, automatically. They are still able to be played, but they will be muted by default. Having autoplay videos not play automatically will only improve a user’s experience.

One of the downsides of the the modern web is the amount of tracking that is done has become and just how it occurs across all types of websites. This has changed with Safari under macOS High Sierra. Now, Safari will cordon off those sites that attempt to track your data and it will remove the data, so you cannot be tracked all over the web. The ads will still display, so it will not break the internet, but it should become a bit more pleasant.

There are some other technologies that are “under the hood” of macOS High Sierra, but these are not necessary to cover now. Let us look at the two products that Apple previewed.

Sneak Peeks

It is not often that Apple previews hardware, it has occurred before, but it is not often. Today Apple previewed two new products, the iMac Pro and HomePod. Let us start with the iMac Pro.

iMac Pro

The iMac Pro was briefly mentioned a couple months ago, when Apple sat down with a handful of journalists to spell out the future of the professional Mac. At that time there were no details. We now have some more information. First and foremost, the iMac Pro is designed for Professionals. This is particularly apparent with the STARTING price, of $4999. Yes, almost five thousand dollars is the starting price. The iMac Pro has the following specifications:

  • Retina 5k Screen with Wide Color Gamut
  • An 8, 10 or 18-Core Xeon Processor
  • 32, 64, or 128GB of Memory
  • 1TB SSD, configurable to 2TB or even 4TB
  • AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics, with 8GB of memory, configurable to Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of memory
  • 1080p FaceTime Camera
  • Stereo Speakers with Four microphones
  • 4 USB3 port
  • 4 USB-C ports
  • Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology
  • 10Gbps ethernet port

There is only one color for the iMac Pro, Space Gray. The peripherals are also Space Gray, this includes the keyboard, Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse 2. The iMac Pro will be available in December 2017.

Mac Accessories

There is one new accessory for everybody today, a Magic Keyboard with a number pad. This is available today for $129. Let us look at the other sneak peek, the HomePod.

HomePod

One of the more anticipated items is what Apple would do regarding a smart home speaker. Today, they answered the question with the HomePod. The HomePod has a built-in A8 chip, the same one that powers the 4th generation Apple TV. Besides the processing chip, there are six microphones, and seven tweeters, each with their own drivers. The microphones and tweeters work in concert to be able to produce the best sound possible.

It does this through Spatial Awareness. Spatial Awareness will test the room that it is in and adjust the sound to each tweeter individually to produce the best sound possible. All of this is done within a 6.8 inches high cylinder that is surrounded by a wire mesh to allow the sound to flow through.

The HomePod is primarily designed to be a music speaker, however that is not all it can do. It also functions as a conduit to using Siri. You can ask Siri, “Who is the drummer in this song”, “Play some Hip Hop”, or even “Play this specific song” That is not all though, since it integrates with Siri, you can also say things like “Give me the news” or “Turn off the lights”. The HomePod is fully integrated with HomeKit, so it can perform any of the same tasks that Siri can.

The HomePod will be available in December 2017 for $349. It comes in two colors, White and Space Grey. If you have more than one HomePod in the same room, they can both work in concert to produce even better sound. At launch, HomePod will be availble in the U.S., the UK, and Australia, with other countries coming next year.

Final Thoughts

Today’s World Wide Developer Keynote presentation was a long, but feature rich presentation. The refreshed Macs and iPad Pros will provide even more for users. iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra will also provide a slew of new features. Both iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra will be available in the fall as free upgrades.

There was even more in the presentation that I did not cover here. You can watch the entire keynote on Apple’s website.

Categories
Apple HomeKit

HomeKit in iOS 10: Choosing the Right Amount of Light

When Apple introduced HomeKit back it 2014 at its World Wide Development Conference (WWDC), the idea of an internet connected home intrigued me. The idea of a connected home is definitely not a new concept. It is one that has been dreamt of by Sci-fi authors of the 1950’s, and possibly even earlier than that, but is just now emerging as one that might be plausible, should someone truly want to attempt it.

There are many different problems that could arise from creating an internet-connected home. Besides the cost, which would not necessarily be an insignificant amount, the second biggest issues would be the competing standards. Right now, there are three competing standards, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and HomeKit. This article will focus on HomeKit.

There are times that we are looking for a solution and we find one, we tend to want to implement the solution everywhere. While writing my Hue Lights Starter Kit to work with the new Home app in iOS 10. One of the things I contemplated was where to put the lights. I opted to put one in the master bedroom and one in the living room. The reason for choosing these is because these where the only two locations where I could feasibly add connected lights. Let me explain,

After a couple of weeks of using the lights, it crossed my mind to go ahead and replace all of the lights in my house with connected light bulbs. The total number of light bulbs would be 55 bulbs total. Of these, I am sure that I could replace 46 of these with the same type of light bulbs that I have now. The Philips Hue hub would be able to handle all of these bulbs, so that would not be a problem. There is one problem that is not necessarily insurmountable, it would just require time. But, before that, there may be other issues as well.

The first issue is dealing with power. Not necessarily power being removed from the home, however that is an issue for anyone, even if they use non-connected lights. No, the issue that I am referring to is the light switches. The issue with internet connected devices, and in particular light bulbs, is that if power is removed, even through the act of flipping a light switch, the connected light bulbs will not operate.

homekit-bulbs

As you might have guessed, this is the issue that would take some time to overcome. The act of flipping on and off a light is one that has become second nature to almost everyone in modern society. Let us presume that one would take the initiative to replace all of their standard lights, and just go ahead and decide to keep all of their light switches in the “on” position. There is another issue, others.

An alternative solution to this would be install the lights, and remove the light switches entirely. This solution, while doable and for all intents impractical today, would be the solution that Sci-Fi authors predicted in the 1950’s and in all likelihood, may be a solution that is feasible in the not too distant future.

As one might be aware, not everybody is the most technologically savvy. There are some that do not like to use a technological solution for what many might consider a simple process. These individuals may not be willing to embrace the new functions of HomeKit, when their existing solutions suffice for their needs.

The last issue is more of a theoretical one. The Home app allows you to invite anyone to be able to adjust the settings on a home that you have configured. If your family is one that is more willing, technologically speaking, to use their iOS devices to control the home, they will have full control. If you have any tricksters in your family, you may want to limit their ability to have access to the lights, unless you want the lights to be turning on and off whenever they fancy. This could be particularly unnerving if they start messing with the lights remotely.

While iOS 10’s new Home app will make it simple to go ahead and create elaborate setups of internet connected devices, replacing all one’s lights with HomeKit-enabled ones, it may not always be best to do so. While internet-connected lights can make some things convenient, it may not be best to be all gung-ho and replace all of your current lights. However, adding them strategically may be able to make life just a tad bit easier for everyone. Despite all of this, if it makes sense for you to add lights, do so in a manner that makes the most sense for you.