Apple's HomePod isn't about Siri, but rather the future of home audio

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  • Reply 61 of 142
    I am with HomePod side on this. I think 🤔 Apple would market HomePod as high quality home speaker + tech (with siri and homekit are at equal position but below the sound). Apple apparently knows that some people would never be happy with Siri (personally I am happy with it), so they would definitely avoid to feature that part of HomePod heavily.
  • Reply 62 of 142
    Regardless of this hyperbiased article, Siri still needs a lot of work.  There's simply zero excuse for it not being up to the level of Alexa.  It's half-assed in comparison, which I would hope is uncharacteristic of Apple.
  • Reply 63 of 142
    gatorguy said:
    Might be better to wait for actual test reviews as there's a number of assumptions you're using. 
    The Max only having forward facing speakers and Google not mentioning beam-forming in connection to the speakers themselves isn't an assumption. Forward facing = best sound is always going to be directly in front of the unit. Unit is very compact, so no beam-forming = less separation for stereo sound. It's completely obvious that one of the audio issues that Apple is tackling with the circular array + beam-forming is getting wider separation from a small unit. That's a known drawback for these types of speakers as single units...it's stereo, but it's not very wide (similar to the classic boombox). Apple is obviously trying to improve on that in a way that is currently unique to the market.
  • Reply 64 of 142
    I try Siri again for 10 minutes it still pretty stupid compare to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.  Cortana is even better at understand request and my speech.  Siri not long act confuse which is good but Apple has to get more developer working on Siri to make it useful!

    In turns of speaker quality, all these cheap $200 soundbars with subwoofers are totally fabulous!  I return the $999 Bose Soundtouch!
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 65 of 142
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 675member
    Haha - great work DED!

    And imagine playing AR w HomePods in each corner of the room?

    19 Things HomePod will Kill... ;)
  • Reply 66 of 142
    Soli said:
    It's interesting that the argument for Apple's delayed and unreleased product with no current timeframe for devilry is being argued by some here based on an marketing language and buzzwords that one has independently tested. That sounds exactly like the kind of crap we make fun of Android-based vendors for doing.

    Not to mention that we're 2 days away from it being just over 6 month since its announcement. Again, if this was any other company we'd be calling it vaporware.

    So why does none of that apply now? Why is a simplistic mention of "beam forming" mean everything now despite no product when that was also part of the marketing of the original Echo back in 2014 when you said that beam forming was stupid and that voice activation in the home will never work. I've been told countless time on this forum that, paraphrasing, "beam forming is pointless marketing speak," to "six microphones means that Amazon doesn't know what they're doing," to "Apple will never create a voice activated speaker for the home because no one wants this."

    If you fail to see the hypocrisy—and I at least know whom a few of you are—then you're just in denial and if you're that delusional you might as well go to your other forum where you claim that Russia in no way tried to subvert the US democracy.
    On hypocrisy — if Apple makes no early announcements on products people scream about being late to the party or wring their hands with concern. If Apple makes an early announcement they’re accused of putting out vaporware. Just can’t win. 
  • Reply 67 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,322member
    gatorguy said:
    Might be better to wait for actual test reviews as there's a number of assumptions you're using. 
    The Max only having forward facing speakers and Google not mentioning beam-forming in connection to the speakers themselves isn't an assumption. Forward facing = best sound is always going to be directly in front of the unit. Unit is very compact, so no beam-forming = less separation for stereo sound. It's completely obvious that one of the audio issues that Apple is tackling with the circular array + beam-forming is getting wider separation from a small unit. That's a known drawback for these types of speakers as single units...it's stereo, but it's not very wide (similar to the classic boombox). Apple is obviously trying to improve on that in a way that is currently unique to the market.
    FWIW the current Google Home (from last year) has 360 degree sound, and beamforming is used at least for voice recognition purposes. The current Echo also features 360 degree sound.

    TBH the 2016 Google Home doesn't sound bad at all, especially since they recently added an equalizer via the Home app, and voice recognition using just two far-field mic's has been darn impressive even when it's playing music fairly loud.  Better sound than the size might indicate. So yeah 360 degree audio on the Home Pod certainly won't be a negative. Good choice really.

    It will be really interesting to see if Apple's version of Home Pod beamforming makes a noticeable difference, how machine learning and AI improves and adjusts sound quality on the Google Home Max in comparison, and too on the Sonos One (and with Google Assistant coming to it soon). And these are just the early-stage intro products. I expect a number of quite worthy competing "smart speakers" with good sound for the size/price from established audio companies over the next year. 
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 68 of 142
    macguimacgui Posts: 935member
    I tried to read all the posts; really I did. But they became disinteresting so I skimmed then stopped and maybe missed worthwhile stuff. Maybe not.

    I have two Dots. Alexa is ok, but I'm not loving her. I get a lot of 'Sorry, your Echo Dot has lost connection' or something similar, and a pulsing red light. There are a couple of simple things that work OK and that's good enough, until if and when Apple offers a Siri equivalent. I admit Alexa is likely underutilized since I don't know much about expanded Her (pi) horizons.

    But Alexa is much better than Siri in hearing me at a distance, and answering short questions. Alexa easily understands my excellent elocution, as she should, where Siri frequently mishears me. Very annoying. 

    When Siri does hear me correctly, she also understands syntax much better than Alexa. I can ask for the same information in far many more different ways than Alexa. This is more like natural speech. So far I'd say Alexa (with my Dot) is about 90% accurate on first command whereas Siri is closer to 70-75% for me. I like the Dot, I like Siri. I'm not in love with either. Yet. Both are a far cry from Her. LOL!

    As far as high-end goes, maybe it's like art. I can't define an absolute category/limit/demarcation of what is and what isn't. But someone believing $200 speakers are 'high-end' makes it clear that they don't know high-end. Writing high-end off as broadly relative is foolish.

    I remember Steve Jobs touting the Apple HiFi as so good he got rid of all his 'expensive stereo gear'. Or something like that. I listened to the HiFi at length, and while impressive in many respects, it was not high-end high-fidelity material. It sounded nice, but...

    The HomePod greatly interests me. But I'm not prepared to assume it will be an awesome high-end speaker. I don't know what magic Apple may or may not pump into the HP, but I'd never buy one if my need or intent is to add speakers to it. That seems bizarre. That feels to me like getting an i7 quad-core Mac Pro and adding a high-performance (high-end) graphics card to adapt its output to fed a 12" 512x384 monitor.

    Call me an audiophile snob (of which I'm neither) but Bluetooth and 'high-end' are oxymoronic. Not that there aren't fine sounding BT speakers, Audioengine for example. But that's not really high-end audio. Good audio, and better than many can appreciate, but not really HE. I like that the HP uses AirPlay. On paper, there's greater fidelity potential for those who can appreciate it, not to mention the range over BT.

    The HP looks to me to be more about audio than voice assistance, unless Apple is finally going to give Siri some much needed improvement in performance and greater capabilities. I'm interested in having the same easy access to Siri that I do with Alexa. And I hate the 'Hey...' part. It's an unnatural word in my vocabulary. But the biggest attraction so far is the audio.

    I'll not be buying out of the gate, though. Given my experience with the HiFi, I'll be sifting through a lot of reviews before I even visit one at the Apple Store. At $750 for stereo, the HP will really have to impress me. And an HP won't replace the Dot on my night stand.
    jasenj1jasenj1
  • Reply 69 of 142
    foggyhill said:
    I always find the lack of imagination of many so called tech people amazing. They'd never move beyond the current paradygm, just built something that's an extension of what already exists.
    So true
  • Reply 70 of 142

    gatorguy said:
    Google themselves have stated that "(Google's Home's) Assistant uses neural beam forming technology that allows for two microphones plus highly optimized AI and Machine Learning that allows for an even higher accuracy." Since the audio enhancement capabilities of Google Smart Sound include mention of audio improving with use and assisted by "machine learning" and AI it certainly sounds conceivable that Google Home Max does make use of beam-forming to enhance sound and separation even if it's not accomplished as you would expect it to be.

    Anyway, we'll all know a whole lot more sometime next year. 

    Of all people you should know something about how vacuous Google's marketing is.

    And of course, the Max is another product to show other companies how to build Android products (eye roll).
  • Reply 71 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,322member
    foggyhill said:
    I always find the lack of imagination of many so called tech people amazing. They'd never move beyond the current paradygm, just built something that's an extension of what already exists.
    So true
    +1
  • Reply 72 of 142
    gatorguy said:

    FWIW the current Google Home (from last year) has 360 degree sound, and beamforming is used at least for voice recognition purposes. The current Echo also features 360 degree sound.

    TBH the 2016 Google Home doesn't sound bad at all, especially since they recently added an equalizer via the Home app, and voice recognition using just two far-field mic's has been darn impressive even when it's playing music fairly loud.  Better sound than the size might indicate. So yeah 360 degree audio on the Home Pod certainly won't be a negative. Good choice really.

    It will be really interesting to see if Apple's version of Home Pod beamforming makes a noticeable difference, how machine learning and AI improves and adjusts sound quality on the Google Home Max in comparison, and too on the Sonos One (and with Google Assistant coming to it soon). And these are just the early-stage intro products. I expect a number of quite worthy competing "smart speakers" with good sound for the size/price from established audio companies over the next year. 
    You've been watching Google trot out hardware for a decade now. Do you really think this current strategy of high price / lower quality attached to ML buzzwords is really going to fly?

  • Reply 73 of 142
    macgui said:
    I tried to read all the posts; really I did. But they became disinteresting so I skimmed then stopped and maybe missed worthwhile stuff. Maybe not.

    I have two Dots. Alexa is ok, but I'm not loving her. 
    Interesting comments. Regarding Steve Jobs and iPod HiFi, recall that in 2006 Apple was building basically commodity Intel PCs (boxy MacBooks and iMacs) running macOS and was assembling third party (hw & sw) components to produce iPods. It had largely gotten rid of what custom VLSI work it had been doing, and was doing little other advanced custom work.

    Ten years later, Apple as advanced processors (like the A8 in this speaker) and silicon components (W1); custom crafts everything from advanced unibody enclosures (MacBook Air first came out in 2008) to precision mobile devices (super thin iPads, water resistant iPhone, super thin Apple Watch); designs its own display controllers, disk controllers, audio support chips  and even has its own GPU design; develops sound frameworks with advanced support for sophisticated audio and video processing, etc.  

    Apple of 2006 is really not even possible to compare to today in terms of the unique, proprietary technology it has developed (including Siri, Home Kit, AirPlay). Apple also has a decade of experience in retail, selling other people's audio products and gaining some clear insights into what people buy and what they will pay. 
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 74 of 142
    VRingVRing Posts: 108member
    @DanielEran ?
    VRing said:
    DanielEran said:

    False. Smart Sound is Google's brand for changing the volume to ambient sounds. It and Sonos TruePlay adapt sound to the room, but are not on the same level as what Apple is doing with its A6 powered HW. But really, if Google could sell hardware it would be, wouldn't it? Or is it just "showing other companies how to do things" again? Really impressive how you run those goalposts around.  
    The Google Home Max includes a new feature dubbed Smart Sound, which taps into Google’s machine learning expertise to tailor the audio experience to your tastes—and even your physical surroundings. Smart Sound will dynamically adjust the Google Home Max’s audio output based on its physical surroundings; if you move it from a crowded corner spot to an open kitchen counter, the speaker will automatically change how it sounds for optimal audio quality. Over time, Google’s AI will learn context about your home and adjust sound based on that, too. Examples given onstage included raising the volume if the Google Home Max detects your dishwasher running in the background, or lowering it during those bleary morning hours. Google claims the voice recognition will discern the different people talking to it, and thus create custom playlists tailored to particular music tastes.

    Do you mind clarifying what Apple is doing different and/or better?

  • Reply 75 of 142
    waverboy said:
    Regardless of this hyperbiased article, Siri still needs a lot of work.  There's simply zero excuse for it not being up to the level of Alexa.  It's half-assed in comparison, which I would hope is uncharacteristic of Apple.
    Say you. I don't think Siri is worse than Alexa, or even that Alexa is better than Siri, because they two is not exactly the same. I have never had any problem with Siri, she can understand me 100% all the time. What I think Siri lack is her ability to store information about you. Alexa is equipped to get as many information about you as possible so that it can cater to your needs even if you don't need it. Siri will not do that for privacy reason obviously. But for day to day use, Siri is more capable to do any of your request. Play music, set up calendar, set up meeting, set up timer, check email, check game scrores, etc. she does it brilliantly. Asking if you need to buy a new underwear? Not so much, that is what Alexa does.
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 76 of 142
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,766member
    macgui said:
    I tried to read all the posts; really I did. But they became disinteresting so I skimmed then stopped and maybe missed worthwhile stuff. Maybe not.

    I have two Dots. Alexa is ok, but I'm not loving her. I get a lot of 'Sorry, your Echo Dot has lost connection' or something similar, and a pulsing red light. There are a couple of simple things that work OK and that's good enough, until if and when Apple offers a Siri equivalent. I admit Alexa is likely underutilized since I don't know much about expanded Her (pi) horizons.

    But Alexa is much better than Siri in hearing me at a distance, and answering short questions. Alexa easily understands my excellent elocution, as she should, where Siri frequently mishears me. Very annoying. 

    When Siri does hear me correctly, she also understands syntax much better than Alexa. I can ask for the same information in far many more different ways than Alexa. This is more like natural speech. So far I'd say Alexa (with my Dot) is about 90% accurate on first command whereas Siri is closer to 70-75% for me. I like the Dot, I like Siri. I'm not in love with either. Yet. Both are a far cry from Her. LOL!

    As far as high-end goes, maybe it's like art. I can't define an absolute category/limit/demarcation of what is and what isn't. But someone believing $200 speakers are 'high-end' makes it clear that they don't know high-end. Writing high-end off as broadly relative is foolish.

    I remember Steve Jobs touting the Apple HiFi as so good he got rid of all his 'expensive stereo gear'. Or something like that. I listened to the HiFi at length, and while impressive in many respects, it was not high-end high-fidelity material. It sounded nice, but...

    The HomePod greatly interests me. But I'm not prepared to assume it will be an awesome high-end speaker. I don't know what magic Apple may or may not pump into the HP, but I'd never buy one if my need or intent is to add speakers to it. That seems bizarre. That feels to me like getting an i7 quad-core Mac Pro and adding a high-performance (high-end) graphics card to adapt its output to fed a 12" 512x384 monitor.

    Call me an audiophile snob (of which I'm neither) but Bluetooth and 'high-end' are oxymoronic. Not that there aren't fine sounding BT speakers, Audioengine for example. But that's not really high-end audio. Good audio, and better than many can appreciate, but not really HE. I like that the HP uses AirPlay. On paper, there's greater fidelity potential for those who can appreciate it, not to mention the range over BT.

    The HP looks to me to be more about audio than voice assistance, unless Apple is finally going to give Siri some much needed improvement in performance and greater capabilities. I'm interested in having the same easy access to Siri that I do with Alexa. And I hate the 'Hey...' part. It's an unnatural word in my vocabulary. But the biggest attraction so far is the audio.

    I'll not be buying out of the gate, though. Given my experience with the HiFi, I'll be sifting through a lot of reviews before I even visit one at the Apple Store. At $750 for stereo, the HP will really have to impress me. And an HP won't replace the Dot on my night stand.
    I think the HomePod would be an awesome sound for people who can't really set up a proper HIFI system correctly (lack of space, lack of knowledge, lack of money, lack of time, usage doesn't match single space setup, etc) that's an amazing amount of people... Those people then revert to using truly terrible speakers like the Amazon ones (yes, they are very bad) or crap level quality airpods.  Considering the stated limitations in setting up those hifi system (or in usage), those crap audio system are the only decent option left for many people. 

    A $350 speaker you could plob in a a space and it would configure itself to the environment, the listener and the music would remove all the pain point in using and setting up those systems. You need a better coverage, add a second on and they'll talk to each other to produce the best sound they can for the room.
    You won't beat $10K systems with that kind of thing, but most people not buying this kind of system anyway (or even $1000 ones) so that's not the target market.

    For those people, those kind of speakers would be spectacularly better than their current offer.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 77 of 142
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,738member
    DanielEran said:
    Ten years later, Apple as advanced processors (like the A8 in this speaker) and silicon components (W1); custom crafts everything from advanced unibody enclosures (MacBook Air first came out in 2008) to precision mobile devices (super thin iPads, water resistant iPhone, super thin Apple Watch); designs its own display controllers, disk controllers, audio support chips  and even has its own GPU design; develops sound frameworks with advanced support for sophisticated audio and video processing, etc.
    Yes, they are far better at hardware than they once were, though they've always been quality (well, aside from a decision here or there like the MBP keyboard, or things like the TouchBar that are technologically advanced, just not implemented well).

    But, they've really fallen down on UI (something they once excelled at), QC (hopefully just a scale issue), and either can't or don't want to do the Mac justice any longer. I'm hoping it's just a phase... but we'll have to wait and see I guess.

    kevin kee said:
    Say you. I don't think Siri is worse than Alexa, or even that Alexa is better than Siri, because they two is not exactly the same. I have never had any problem with Siri, she can understand me 100% all the time. What I think Siri lack is her ability to store information about you.
    What Siri seems bad at, is taking what you say (which it's pretty good at interpreting into text) and searching it against the DB of 'what do I respond with.' It's probably a symptom of them being fairly bad at search in general. This is just another incarnation of that.

    For example, if you say, "Hey Siri, turn off WiFi" Siri doesn't know what to do. If you say, "Hey Siri, turn WiFi off" that apparently gets a hit in the DB. This kind of thing has nothing to do with data stored about you or not.

    Now if I say, "Hey Siri, order my favorite Kool-Aid" and it can't do that... THAT is an example of not having enough data stored about you.

    foggyhill said:
    Considering the stated limitations in setting up those hifi system (or in usage), those crap audio system are the only decent option left for many people.  
    It's also the fault of the poor state of consumer to prosumer audio equipment. You used to be able to spend a couple hundred on a receiver/amp and a few hundred on some speakers and have pretty killer sound. Then they started putting flashy gidgets in place of quality amps... then multi-channel in place of even the little quality left. Now, you can spend $500+ on a 'home theatre' and it will sound like crud. The HomePod doesn't really have to sound all that great to beat what the average consumer probably spent far more money on. The bar is pretty darn low.

    *If* you know what you're looking for, you can still buy a nice amp and pair of speakers. And, I'll bet if you did so, it would blow a HomePod out of the water for the same amount of money. But, it's probably something like 1% of the population that would even do something like that anymore.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 78 of 142
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,451member
    waverboy said:
    Regardless of this hyperbiased article, Siri still needs a lot of work.  There's simply zero excuse for it not being up to the level of Alexa.  It's half-assed in comparison, which I would hope is uncharacteristic of Apple.
    You have obviously not used both. I have. There’s an Amazon Echo Dot sitting on my desk right next to the dock where I stick my iPhone 6 so I can use both for comparison. Alexa is simply not as great as its fans claim. Both Alexa and Siri can control my smart switches and lights. “Alexa, turn on the sun porch light” sometimes comes back “I’m sorry the sun porch light is not responding.” “Hey Siri, turn on the porch light” and the light comes on. I get emails from Amazon on a regular basis listing new stuff Alexa can do but its all fluff. Alexa is very tightly tied to Amazon sales. “Alexa, what are my notifications?” will usually return information about whether an order has shipped or whether it has been delivered, but that’s it. So I vehemently disagree with your statement that Siri is half-assed in comparison to Alexa. Siri is at least on a par. Have you used both or are you simple parroting the talking points you read somewhere on the Internet? 

    And after reading your previous posts it is now clear you do not own an Echo product nor have you ever used one. You simply blather on about Siri all the time while excoriating Apple again and again. And you dare to call this article “hyper-biased”?
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 79 of 142
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,763member
    After having spent more than a decade and a half working on the development of high powered active sonars it’s quite exciting to see the high level of marketing interest around audio beamforming for a relatively inexpensive audio entertainment product. While receive beamforming has been used quite extensively in far field microphone arrays I’m not currently aware of any other home audio entertainment products that use transmit beamforming (TxBF) to steer the audio output from an audio transmitter array. In this case only the tweeter signals are being beamformed, which makes sense because they are highly directional. 

    My realistic expectation is that Apple will mainly use TxBF to improve the overall listening experience by reducing interference from multipath reflections by steering tweeter transmission beams away from interfering structures in the listening environment. They may also be attenuating the transmit signal strength (volume) on selected tweeter beams to further compensate for structural interference, standing waves, and echos. The beamforming will not improve the fidelity of the speaker system, which is limited by the speakers themselves, but it will provide a more consistent listening experience from different locations in the room and have fewer or no discernible off-axis dead zones. What will be interesting to see is how multiple HomePods work together in the same room. I wonder how the two woofers will be phase locked?

    When the HomePod finally hits the street I predict we'll see a number of raw speaker-to-speaker comparisons that will not be evaluating the in-situ performance of the HomePod. Some will compare its Siri features to similar voice assistant features in other smart speakers. Others will compare HomePod simply as a speaker, i.e., static sound fidelity, frequency response, and reproduction measurements. The issue is that evaluating the HomePod is  highly subjective. Not human subjectivity but environmental/listening room subjectivity. To properly evaluate HomeKit with other products the evaluators will have to setup an instrumented test listening room, something realistic for actual consumers, and evaluate it and competitive products in the same space with the same speaker and test instrument placement in the room. Qualitative assessments are okay as long as the same set of multiple evaluators are used for all products, but some quantitative sound measurements should also be taken. The expectation here is that speakers lacking the HomePod's advanced TxBF features would be lacking total signal strength, spectral content, and amplitude of certain spectral comports at certain test locations. What individuals hear is highly subjective and personal but empirical data should show clear differences.


    cgWerksrandominternetperson
  • Reply 80 of 142
    Soli said:
    Why is a simplistic mention of "beam forming" mean everything now despite no product when that was also part of the marketing of the original Echo back in 2014....

    Beamforming as a generic term can refer to many different applications. On the Echo (and also the HomePod) an array of microphones utilizing beamforming can help to isolate and better pick up sound from a person speaking, especially from a distance or in a room with other noises. If anyone claimed beamforming microphones on the Echo (or any other device) are a gimmick, they are flat out wrong.

    The HomePod also uses beamforming with their multiple tweeters to better direct sound. So the HomePod is utilizing two completely different types of beamforming, whereas the Echo is only utilizing one.
    cgWerks
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