Category: HomePod

Additional HomePod Availability

Apple has announced that the HomePod will go on sale in Greater China, including Hong Kong, this Friday, January 18th, 2019.

The HomePod supports AirPlay 2, which allows applications to send music to the HomePod. There are many apps available that can send their audio to the HomePod. Specifically in Greater China there are some apps available including:

  • QQ Music
  • DeDao
  • iHuman Story
  • Dragonfly FM and Penguin FM in mainland China
  • Spotify
  • KKBOX
  • JOOX
  • Podcasts (in Hong Kong)

These are just some of the apps available for use with the HomePod. Besides these audio apps, there are also China specific programs available. One is called the “New Artist of the Week”

The New Artist of the Week”. This program provides new talent with a prominent platform across greater China for their work to be discovered. Since launching in 2015, Apple Music has featured the debut releases of popular new artists coming from all over Asia, with music spanning a wide variety of genres and languages. New artists from mainland China include Corsak, Chace, Lucie Cheung, Gong, Dean Ting and Lu Xianghui. Popular playlists include The A-List International Pop, Today’s Hits, Best of the Week, The A-List Mandopop and Mandopop Replay, containing recent Mandopop hits from the past five years.

The HomePod will be available for HK$2799 or RMB 2799 and is available in both white and space gray. AppleCare+ is available for the HomePod for HK$349 or RMB 329.

HomePod is currently available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain. HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation).

Source Apple

Apple’s “Gather Round” Event Round Up

Today Apple held their September “Gather Round” event. As expected, Apple released unveiled new products. But for only two product lines, the Apple Watch and the iPhone. Let us start with the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch was introduced four years ago in September of 2014 and released in April fo 2015. In the interim releases additional features have been added and they have all fit into the same physical sizes of 38mm and 42mm. The Apple Watch Series 3 added a cellular option. The latest version, the Apple Series 4, offers a whole new look.

Externals

The Apple Watch Series 4 starts with two new screen sizes, 40mm and 44mm. The screens now go edge to edge, and the bezels have been reduced to allow you to see more on the screen at one time. This is because the new screen sizes have over 30% more physical screen. While the screens are bigger, the Apple Watch Series 4 is thinner, by 0.7mm. Your existing Apple Watch bands will still work with the Series 4. Along with the screens, the Digital Crown has been modified to include haptic feedback, which will help you know when an action is taken.

Watch Faces

With the redesign of the screen the Apple Watch faces have also changed. There is a new “Breathe” watch face that comes in three variations that will allow you to simply tap on the watch face and start a “Breathing” session. Besides the new “Breathe” watch face there is another new watch face that will allow you to have up to eight complications on it at once. This allows you to see the information that you want to see, all at a glance. This includes added people’s faces to the watch face which you will be able to contact them with one tap.

The Modular Watch face, which is the one I use most often, is also getting redesigned to allow more information to be shown from stocks, weather, and other sources. The ability to customize the Apple Watch face even more than you could before will help the Apple Watch become an even more personalized device.

Internals

The outsides have been redesigned, but so have the internals. The Apple Watch Series 4 now sports a 64-bit dual-core S4 processor, which is 2x faster than the previous S3. The Apple Watch has been equipped with a heart sensor since its introduction, but there is a second generation heart sensor, which can perform more measurements. This includes when your blood pressure is too low.

The biggest improvement though is the ability to have the Apple Watch Series 4 take an electrocardiogram reading. This is done by starting up the ECG app and placing your finger on the Digital Crown. This will create an electrical loop which will allow the app to gather the necessary data. You can then take the information and send it to your doctor in a PDF format. The ECG app has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, who is in charge of any medical devices and their claims. It should be noted that the ECG app is coming later this year.

One other area of improvement is the accelerometer. The Accelerometer and gyroscope in the Apple Watch Series 4 has been improved to be able to detect 32 g-forces, which is up from 16 g-forces on the Series 3. This improvement allows for a new motion detection, falling. It is bound to happen to us at one time or another. In a majority of cases the only outcome is the embarrassment when it happens with others around. However, in the event that it is more serious, the Apple Watch Series 4 will be able to do more than just detect the fall. If you do fall and there has not been any movement for over a minute, the Apple Watch Series 4 will automatically contact emergency services. Along with this the emergency contacts will also be notified. It is not a feature that anybody wants to have to use, but in the event it is needed it will be a very welcome change.

Colors, Materials and Pricing

The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two models, a GPS-only model, and a GPS + Cellular. The GPS Model comes in an aluminum finish and can be Silver, Space Gray, or Gold. The GPS + Cellular comes in aluminum or stainless steel. It is also in the same colors, Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. The Gold on the stainless steel model is a slightly different shade of gold. The Nike+ version is only available in Silver and Space Gray and is aluminum only. The Hermes version is in stainless steel only.

The Series 4 starts at $399 for the 40mm GPS only model, the 44mm model is $429. The aluminum GPS + Cellular is $499 and $529 respectively. The Stainless Steel is $699 for the 40mm and $$749 for the 44mm with a sport band. If you go with the Milanese Loop the price goes to $799 and $849 respectively. The Stainless Steel model is GPS + Cellular only. The Nike+ models are also $399 for the GPS only model and $499 for the GPS + Cellular. The Hermes version starts at $1,249 and goes up to $1,499.

The Apple Watch Series 3 remains and is now $279 for the 38mm, and $309 for the 42mm. If you want the GPS + Cellular version, that will cost $379 and $409 respectively. You can buy the Apple Watch Series at the new lower prices right now.

Pre-orders for the Apple Watch Series 4 start on Friday, September 14th at 12:01am Pacific Time. It will be available on September 21st. Now, let us look at the iPhones.

iPhone

Last year Apple showed off a whole new interaction method with the iPhone X. The iPhone X removed the home button which also replaced Touch ID with Face ID. Many speculated that the iPhone X This year Apple is bringing Face ID to even more of the iPhone line up. Instead of the two new phones that were introduced last year, there are now three new phones, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

Displays

Last year when Apple introduced the iPhone X, it was not certain how well it would be received, given the radical redesign. The screen of the iPhone X was larger than the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus, and it was still physically smaller. The screen size on the iPhone X is 5.8 inches. This year there is a replacement for the iPhone X, the iPhone XS, pronounced “Ten S”. It is still sporting a 5.8-inch screen and it is still OLED, which means the colors will be as good as ever. That is not all. The iPhone XS also now has a bigger brother, the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS Max sports a 6.5-inch OLED display.

The all new iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch LCD display. However, it is also

The screen resolutions for the models are 2436 by 1125, at 458 pixels per inch, for the iPhone X, 2688 by 1242 at 458 pixels per inch, for the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XR on the other hand is 1792 by 828 pixels, at 326 pixels per inch.

All of the iPhone have True Tone displays, the Wide Color Gamut (Display P3), and a Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. Now, let us look at the internals.

Internals

All three of the new iPhones have an A12 Bionic chip, which is up to 50% faster than the A11, in CPU tasks and 15x faster with Graphics while being 40% more efficient.

The iPhones also has a new Face ID system, which is faster. This is due to the faster storage and even faster secure enclave. There is also an upgraded Neural Network chip. The iPhone XS Neural Network chip houses 8 processors. Last year it was able to process 600 Billion transactions per second. The A12 version is capable of handling 5 Trillion operations per second. The A12 Neural network is capable of performing real-time machine learning with CoreML and through applications. This ability will also work well within Augmented Reality applications by allowing real-time updating of information.

Cameras

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have an improved camera system. The new camera includes Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Wide-angle with a ƒ/1.8 aperture, a Telephoto lens with a ƒ/2.4 aperture with Dual optical image stabilization. There is a new feature as well, called Smart HDR.

Smart HDR will take more than just the four images that HDR takes. Instead it will take an additional interleaved set of images, and one additional image. These nine images will then be processed to find the best composite image and will provide you even better quality images. To go with Smart HDR, you can also use the new “Advanced bokeh effect”. The advanced bokeh effect will allow you to change the depth information for a portrait photo after the photo is taken to show the just the right amount of background.

By contrast, the iPhone XR has a single camera lens. But it still sports many of the same features. These include a 12MP wide-angle camera with an ƒ/1.8 aperture, Smart HDR, Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh effect, Optical image stabilization, and much more.

The Face ID Camera has also been improved. It is still a 7 megapixel camera, but it can now support 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps.

Dual Sim

One area where the iPhone has not been as advanced as other phones is when it comes to having multiple SIMs. This year, the phones all have Dual-SIM support. Dual-sim support is great if you need to have multiple phone lines, but want to use the same physical phone. This could be having one number for personal and another one for work. Another possibility is when you are traveling. You may want to keep your home phone number but may also want to have one for the local country. The capability for Dual-SIMs is made possible through the use of a physical SIM as well as an eSIM, which has been present in the iPads.

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR will be able to differentiate between the two lines. And you can even label them to your liking so you can easily see who is calling and be able to answer appropriately. There is a special model for China that will have two physical SIMs.

Differences

There are some differences between the iPhone XS/XS Max and the iPhone XR. For instance, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are made out of stainless steel, where the iPhone XR is aluminum. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are rated at IP68, which means that it can be submerged at 2 meters for 30 minutes without causing issues. The iPhone XR on the other hand is rated as IP67, which means it can be submerged at 1 meter for 30 minutes without issue. The last change is that the iPhone XR does not have 3D Touch, which for those users who are used to it may be an issue.

Like last year the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in three colors, Silver and Space Gray. There is also an additional color, Gold. This contrasts with the iPhone XR which has six different colors, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue, and (PRODUCT) Red.

Storage and Pricing

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB models. The pricing for the iPhone XS is $999, $1149, and $1349 respectively, while the iPhone XS Max is $1099, $1249, and $1449, respectively. Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max start at 12:01 am Pacific on September 14th, and they will be available on September 21st.

The iPhone XR comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB Models. The pricing is $749, $799, and $899 respectively. The pre-orders for the iPhone XR start on October 19th, and will be available on October 26th.

Entire iPhone Lineup

With the introduction of new models, some older models have shifted in terms of price. The new lineup is the iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone 8/8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. The iPhone 7 comes in 32GB for $449, and 128GB for $549. The iPhone 8 is $599 for the 64GB and $749 for the 256GB.

AppleCare

Apple’s iPhones have always had an option to add AppleCare to them. This warranty protects you from accidental damage and allows you to get it fixed for two years. This also includes hardware and software support. There is a new option, “AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss”. This is, as one might expect, more expensive. It includes all of the AppleCare+ offerings, but also provides you with protection against theft and loss. There is one additional payment option for AppleCare+, you can pay for it monthly instead of all up front. This may help some people be able to afford the iPhone and pay for the warranty over time. This is available on all iPhones. Here are the AppleCare+ Costs:

Device AppleCare+ Monthly AppleCare+ Full AppleCare+ Theft and Loss Monthly AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Full
iPhone 7/8 $5.99 $129.00 $9.99 $199.00
iPhone 7/8 Plus $7.99 $149.00 $12.99 $249.00
iPhone XR $7.99 $149.00 $12.99 $249.00
iPhone XS/XS Max $9.99 $199.00 $14.99 $299.00

iOS 12 and HomePod

iOS 12 will be released on September 17th and is a free update for all users. On the same day, the HomePod will also get an update which will allow you to do a couple of new things. The first is to make and take phone calls directly on your HomePod. Along wit this you will also be able to start multiple timers on the HomePod, which will be great for some users. The last new feature is the ability to ping your devices from the HomePod to help locate them in the house.

Closing Thoughts

Even though Apple’s September event focused on only two products, the Apple Watch and the iPhone. The Apple Watch has seen its biggest set of improvements to date with the Apple Watch Series 4. This includes as a set of larger screens, redesigned watch faces, and a set of new sensing capabilities. The ability to get an ECG right from the Watch and then being able to send it to your doctor will help many users. What could also help save lives is detecting a low blood pressure situation. The biggest of all though is the new fall detection. In the case that you do fall, if you do not get up within a minute, the Apple Watch will contact emergency services and your emergency contacts, so that you will be able to get the assistance you need.

The new iPhone lineup is one that has something for everyone. All of the new iPhones sport the A12 Bionic processor, edge-to-edge screen, the faster Face ID, faster graphics, processor, and the new Neural Engine and the inclusion of advanced bokeh effect with depth effect control.

While there are differences between the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS models, they are minor differences. These include the iPhone XR being made out of aluminum instead of stainless steel like the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and IP67 for the iPhone XR and IP68 for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Additionally, the iPhone XR coms in six colors, and the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max only comes in three colors.

The inclusion of the iPhon XR shows that all future iPhones will have edge-to-edge bezels and are definitely the future of the iPhone.

Apple September Event Predictions

On August 30th, Apple Announced that they would be holding their September event. This year’s event is titled “Gather Round”. As with the other Apple events, I offer up my predictions. Unlike other events, the September event is somewhat easier to guess what will be announced. Here are my guesses.

iPhone

Ever since 2011, with the release of the iPhone 4s, Apple has been releasing iPhones at their fall event. In 2011, it was October. Since the iPhone 5, it has been September. This year is likely no different. I am thinking there will be three new iPhones released. These will be the replacement for the iPhone X, a larger model, and the oft rumored 6.1-inch LCD model.

I am guessing that all three of these models will have the same general design as the iPhone X. This means that there will be very small bezels as well as Touch ID being replaced with Face ID.

Naming

The one thing that is always difficult to guess is the naming. For a majority of iPhone releases, there have been two cycles for names. iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPhone 4, 4s, iPhone 5, 5s, and iPhone 6, 6s. There was no iPhone 7s, because the iPhone 8 was announced last year instead. I have no idea what they will call these phones, so this is merely a wild guess. I am going to guess that the two OLEd models will be called the iPhone Xs. At the same time, the LCD model will be called the iPhone Xc.

I give the likelihood of the iPhone X replacement and a larger one at 100%, while I give the probability of the 6.1-inch LCD model being released at 90%. I give the probability of the naming at 50% for each name.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch, released in 2015, and unlike the other iOs-based devices, it has remained largely unchanged since its release, at least physically. The Apple Watch Series 3 did get slightly thicker, but only by a millimeter.

I predict that the Apple Watch Series 4 will be released and it will be significantly redesigned. It is my guess that it will have less bezel and have a more edge-to-edge screen, yet it will have the same physical size of the watch.. With less bezel, the screen itself will be larger. The fact that the screen is bigger, means that that there is more area to put the battery. The Apple Watch Series 3 has plenty of battery life to last through an entire day, so it is not my guess that the battery life will increase. Actually, my guess is that at it will remain the same battery life, but the bigger screen will let the battery be thinner. This will result in the watch being thinner, which will be a welcome change for users.

I give the likelihood of a new Apple Watch being announced at 100%, with the screen having less bezel at 85%. My guess is that battery life remains the same at 75%, and the Apple Watch Series 4 being thinner at 90%.

HomePod

The HomePod is Apple’s latest iOs-based accessory, and is less than a year old. The HomePod has been available for just about seven months and it is likely to see an update, to iOS 12. The one feature it will likely include is Siri Shortcut support, in particular for third-party apps.

I give the likelihood of a software update for the HomePod at 95%.

iPads

It would not be unprecedented for Apple to announce the release of new iPads. Apple released the current iPads at last year’s WWDC keynote. It is possible that they will release new ones, however it is also possible that they will not. If Apple does announce new iPads, here is what I think they will have.

My guess is that the iPad Pros are the only ones that will be updated, since the 9.7-inch iPad was updated in March. The new iPad Pros will have reduced bezel, with no Touch ID but instead will have Face ID. I think the screen sizes will remain the same, at 10.5 inches and 12.9-inches. The reduced bezels means the the physical size of the iPad devices will be smaller, which will allow easier handling.

It is also possible that the new iPads will remain the same physical size, but the screens will be a bit larger. If this is the case, the current 12.9-inch iPad would end up being approximately 14.5 inches. It would be great to actually have an even larger iPad, but within the same physical form factor.

I give the probability of new iPad Pros at 60%, because there is already a lot of stuff in the keynote. If iPads Pros are announced, I give the likelihood of them having Face ID at 100%, reduced bezels at 95%, and being the same physical size at 50%, and retaining the same screen size at 50%.

Accessories

Apple sells many accessories for their iOS-based devices. One product that was announced but has not been released is the AirPower mat. In case you do not remember, the AirPower Mat is supposed to allow you to charge three devices simultaneously. The ones that Apple showed are an iPhone, the AirPods, with a different case, and the Series 3 Apple Watch. The AirPods were supposed to be usable with a different case, which would be sold separately, but has not yet been made available. The Apple Watch has always had inductive charging, so it

I give the likelihood of Apple announcing that the AirPower Mat being available at 75%, a new set of AirPods at 35%, and a new AirPods case at 95%, provided the AirPower Mat is released.

Macs

It is possible that Apple will announce new Macs, however, the keynote is already a bit full, and it is likely that the new Macs would warrant some additional time than just a few minutes. So it is my guess that the likelihood of new Macs being announced at 5%. I rally do think that thy will need their own event, or at least press releases, or journalist meetings.

Recap

So let us recap my predictions. These are ordered in highest percentage to lowest percentage.

Prediction Likelihood
New 5.8-inch iPhone model 100%
New larger OLED iPhone model 100%
New Apple Watch Model 100%
New iPad Pros having Face ID, if iPads announced 100%
iOS 12 release date being announced 100%
HomePod software update 95%
New AirPods Case, if AirPower mat released 95%
New iPad Pros, having reduced bezels 95%
New 6.1-inch LCD iPhone model 90%
New Apple Watch being thinner 90%
New Apple Watch bezels being smaller 85%
AirPower Mat Released 75%
Apple Watch battery being the same 75%
New iPad Pros Announced 60%
New iPad Pros, being same physical size 50%
New iPad Pros, having same screen size 50%
New AirPods 35%
New Macs 5%

Those are all of my predictions. We will know all about what Apple announces on Wednesday, September 12th at 10:00 am Pacific Time.

And while you wait for the keynote, you can pre-order my iOS 12 e-book for $3.99.

Apple Releases iOS 11.4

Today Apple has released iOS 11.4, watchOS 4.3.1, and tvOS 11.4. Along with this, Apple announced some changes to the availability of the HomePod.

The HomePod will be available in additional countries start June 18th. These countries are Canada, France, and Germany.

The biggest features of iOS 11.4 is AirPlay 2, including on the HomePod. AirPlay 2 was at Apple’s WWDC 2017 event. The biggest feature of AirPlay 2 is that it supports multi-room audio and the HomePod can be used in stereo mode.

I have been using iOS 11.4 since the first beta, but I was not able to test iOS 11.4 on the HomePod. I installed iOS 11.4 on the HomePod, and tried a couple of different configurations. The configuration that I was most interested in using is:

  • Video going to my Apple TV, via AirPlay from my iPad
  • Audio on the HomePod, via AirPlay

Unfortunately, this configuration is not supported. Similarly, you cannot AirPlay to an Apple TV and output via the HomePod. Therefore, I am still stuck watch This Old House and using the audio from my TV. Maybe in iOS 12 this will change.

Besides AirPlay 2, there is an additional feature of iOS 11.4, Message in the Cloud. Messages in the Cloud is designed to have all of your messages available on all of your devices in the same order. Additionally, all of your messages are stored in iCloud, to make all of this possible.

iOS 11.4 does include some security updates, so it is best to update as soon as possible. The details of what security items were fixed are not yet available.

Source: Apple

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.