HomePod review roundup: Apple's smart speaker sounds incredible, but Siri is lacking

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  • Reply 121 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,816member
    AppleZulu said:
    I would imagine this particular ‘limitation’ is at least in part related to Apple’s approach to security. Do you really want anyone who just happens to be passing through to be able to place or answer calls using to your cell phone number? I don’t think I do.
    Having somehow survived decades of having a telephone on my desk that any passer-by can use to place or answer a call, I don’t really see a security threat here.

    Besides, I can place a call from my Mac without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. Why would the HomePod not offer similar functionality?
    You don’t see a problem with someone else listening to your text messages when you’re not in the room? Your iPhone and Mac can and should be password protected, or Siri can be disabled on the lock screen as mine is; I assume the problem here is there is no locking, so the feature needs to either be on or off. If you live alone, no point in disabling it, but if it’s somewhere where several people have voice access.... I don’t see how that’s not a problem. I’ll just turn it off as I can already message people through the Watch etc.
    My post was part of a discussion about how one cannot initiate a telephone call with HomePod. You're talking about text messages. Two different functions. What's good or bad for one is not automatically equivalent to the other. Initiating or answering a phone call with the HomePod is no different from a security perspective than having a phone on a desk or counter.
    Agreed. What is insecure about placing a call from a smart speaker? It's no less insecure than placing a wifi call on your iPhone is it? As long as you're identifiable by voice-printing before the call can be placed I don't see the security issue. But anyone in or visiting your home being able to send a text using your name and Apple account, or listening to what could be highly private texts sent to you? No, that I would not be comfortable with. Google Home won't allow it, requiring that my voice be recognized for many functions.  There's a lot of interaction Google Home actively limits, specifically anything connected to the personal you unless your identity can be verified. I can't access my wife's calendar, her notifications or alerts no matter how benign, not even control any devices connected to her account and available for Google Home control unless she expressly grants me permission to those devices, nor can she gain access to any of mine or any of my personal information.  

    It's often said here that Google doesn't think things through before pushing stuff out. This is one of those relatively rare instances where it's Apple that seemingly didn't think things through. Accessing any personal info as easily as asking your Homepod is a biggie. I would wager that particular "feature" will disappear quite soon after Apple has time to reconsider, and I believe they will. IMO it's not a very good implementation as is, certainly not in line with what some in this thread are extolling as wonderful security considerations on Apple's part as the reason some things aren't permitted (yet) while other competing voice assistants do. 

    For that matter not including an actual physical switch to turn off the HomePod microphones altogether as reassurance that off is truly off is another not-well-thought-out design choice IMHO. Just like with a light switch I don't have to worry (if I was one to worry) that my Google Home is "listening" if I flip the damn microphone switch to off. Off is off and it's not coming back on in the middle of the night. On the Homepod it's a software setting, much less secure, and leaves open the possibility that off might not be completely off nor impossible to turn back on without me being aware of it whether by court order or by mistake. 

    And what if you suspect your smart-speaker might be hearing things you did not intend for it to? Amazon and Google are perfectly transparent about it and allow you to review everything they've heard, and presumably at your request with your use of the appropriate hotword that activates the feature.  All three major assistants begin recording your requests only after they (think) they hear the activation phrase. Apple is the outlier regarding transparency, not allowing you to review your own voice requests, so how would anyone know if the feature is working as intended? You wouldn't. As I said it seems as though Apple hasn't thought some of this through this go-round.

    It's been said here countless times by AI members that they'd never have one of these always listening devices in their home, who knows what they're recording, yet now that Apple is selling you one seem quite comfortable with the idea and that Apple unlike everyone else has made all the right design decisions to assure your privacy. IMHO there's still some work to do.

    Personally I don't tend to worry about these things myself because, well obviously hey I trust Google :)
    but many, MANY members here have claimed they do worry about it. Vociferously so. And often. If they were being honest when they said it about Echo or Home then a couple of these HomePod design decisions should give you reason to pause and take a breath before yelling "Take my money!" 

    For those that say "what, me worry?" then why post fears about other voice assistants and what they might have heard? At least you can physically turn off the listening on them and see what they heard if you don't. They won't let your kids listen while you're in the shower to what you said about them in a text to your other half either. But that will go bye-bye soon enough anyway IMO.
    edited February 7 fastasleep
  • Reply 122 of 151
    MacProMacPro Posts: 16,941member
    bluefire1 said:
    I have a good idea: Let those of us who receive our HomePods this Friday check it out firsthand, and give our own reviews instead of paying any attention to kvetching critics.
    I'm hoping they start arriving tomorrow, typically Apple start shipping earlier than the official day.  The day I stop being excited like a kid on Christmas morning about a new Apple arriving product just shoot me ;)
  • Reply 123 of 151
    MacProMacPro Posts: 16,941member

    k2kw said:
    I think some of the reviews miss the mark. It isn’t whether one focused on smarts over sound it’s a trade off between sound and price. An Echo or Home don’t sound as good because the top priority was as cheap as possible to get in as many homes as possible. The question that should be asked of Apple is why didn’t they focus on both sound and smarts?  I’m guessing the people working on audio are not the same people working on Siri. Why wasn’t HomePod the product to showcase a much improved Siri so Apple could say Siri is just as smart as the competition but HomePod sounds so much better. I know Siri gets better through software but how many people are going to buy hardware with the promise of better software in the future?
    In 2016 there were a lot of expectations for Apple to release their version of the Echo.    Even DED started off 2017 saying it would be the year of Siri.   I think Apple really didn't want to make a Siri Speaker and the HomePod is Apple's middle finger to all those people.

    It sounds like the audio of the HomePod is great on if your use case fits Apple's view of what you need.   If I knew that HomePod was the start of a family of products including a home theater speaker bar and a HomePod max that came with Bluetooth and an auxiliary line-in port I would be picking two of them up.   Smart audio that comes with ubiquitous computing.   Unfortunately I don't think that Apple will be doing that anytime in the near future.   Maybe in 3 to 5 years.   In the mean time I'll go with SONOS even if its a little bit more expnsive.

    I'm still hoping that Apple announces a major expansion of their Siri work.   Now that they have moved (or started moving) into the new Apple Park HQ they need to set up a new Siri Development center employing thousands more people.  They should be able to do every thing Alexa does and more (except buying products of course).
    I'm actually going in the opposite direction to your thinking.  I already have a very high end HiFi system in my man cave and a top notch surround system with the TV in the great-room.  However I am absolutely looking forward to getting into the next level of technology with Apple HomePod and looking forward to the software updates coming along later and new add-ons if they come along.  I've yet to ride a new Apple wave I didn't enjoy and I've been doing it since upgrading my Apple ][ from 48 to 64K  and adding a 5 MB hard drive:)
    tmay
  • Reply 124 of 151
    macguimacgui Posts: 643member
    Soli said:
    One thing I'd like to see with their Shazam purpose is being able to say to Siri "What song is this?" and then proceed to poorly sing the song, speak the lyrics, or even hum a few notes to have it figure it out. I don't know where Shazam left off, but I know that other services had the ability to pick up songs not sung by the original artist.
    Soundhound claims to be able to use your approximation of singing or whistling to identify a song, but it's never, ever worked for me or any one I know (who can actually sing). 

    Both Shazam and Soundhound have misidentified songs as the original or as a cover, when the opposite was true. But if any app could be made to accurately do what you request, I'd pay money for it. Both mentioned apps have to go on a declutter diet though. The UI and 'features' get in the way, to my thinking.
  • Reply 125 of 151
    Soli said:
    1) All you have to do it add the URL without any markup to this forum and it will auto-expand the video so it's playable on this page.
    That doesn’t seem to work anymore.
  • Reply 126 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,167member
    Soli said:
    1) All you have to do it add the URL without any markup to this forum and it will auto-expand the video so it's playable on this page.
    That doesn’t seem to work anymore.
    I did it a little while ago. I've never had a problem


  • Reply 127 of 151
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,164member
    Rayz2016 said:
    As usual, folk are trying to shoehorn the product into a category they feel comfortable with, rather like analysts who insist Apple can’t possibly be successful because analysts have a very narrow view of what can make a company successful. Personally, i think it’s better to do a few things well, rather than loads of things badly. This is aimed at folk who like music and the Apple ecosystem. Like every other Apple product, it ain’t designed for everybody. 
    Good point. HomePod is clearly being marketed as an iPod for your home. The voice interaction features are clearly a secondary feature, at least at this point in time. This is a very good example of the minimum viable product (MVP) concept that is so badly misused by too many product/system vendors today. Apple nailed the audio performance, which was their MVP target. Too often vendors ship a bucket full of barely functional features claiming it to be their intentional MVP target when in fact it is simply whatever low-stench crap they could stuff into the box before the imposed ship date showed up. 
  • Reply 128 of 151
    k2kw said:
    I think some of the reviews miss the mark. It isn’t whether one focused on smarts over sound it’s a trade off between sound and price. An Echo or Home don’t sound as good because the top priority was as cheap as possible to get in as many homes as possible. The question that should be asked of Apple is why didn’t they focus on both sound and smarts?  I’m guessing the people working on audio are not the same people working on Siri. Why wasn’t HomePod the product to showcase a much improved Siri so Apple could say Siri is just as smart as the competition but HomePod sounds so much better. I know Siri gets better through software but how many people are going to buy hardware with the promise of better software in the future?
    In 2016 there were a lot of expectations for Apple to release their version of the Echo.    Even DED started off 2017 saying it would be the year of Siri.   I think Apple really didn't want to make a Siri Speaker and the HomePod is Apple's middle finger to all those people.

    It sounds like the audio of the HomePod is great on if your use case fits Apple's view of what you need.   If I knew that HomePod was the start of a family of products including a home theater speaker bar and a HomePod max that came with Bluetooth and an auxiliary line-in port I would be picking two of them up.   Smart audio that comes with ubiquitous computing.   Unfortunately I don't think that Apple will be doing that anytime in the near future.   Maybe in 3 to 5 years.   In the mean time I'll go with SONOS even if its a little bit more expnsive.

    I'm still hoping that Apple announces a major expansion of their Siri work.   Now that they have moved (or started moving) into the new Apple Park HQ they need to set up a new Siri Development center employing thousands more people.  They should be able to do every thing Alexa does and more (except buying products of course).
    Well if Apple doesn’t want to focus on Siri as a platform then yeah use their audio smarts to make a family of speakers. I have an LG sound bar. If Apple made their own high quality sound bar I’d be all over it. I suspect though some would rather Apple focus on voice as the new computing platform than more high margin hardware.
  • Reply 129 of 151
    gatorguy said:
    I wonder if the tech is here (or soon to come ) that would allow the sound of each vocal or instrument (or group of same) to be sent to a different speaker...

    ...So you could separately adjust the volume, etc. of the vocals, woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion...

    If that were possible -- it could revolutionize how we create and listen to audio and video.
    You're referring to something like what is described in this patent?
    https://www.google.com/patents/US20170236531

    Smart guys have been working on that for a few years. I think we're probably really close...
    http://ismir2012.ismir.net/event/papers/559_ISMIR_2012.pdf
    https://books.google.com/books/about/Musical_Instrument_Sound_Separation.html?id=_owJAQAAMAAJ

    I agree with you that when it happens, and it will, it's gonna be a game changer for high-end music. Of course it always filters down to really affordable sound systems/speakers within a relatively short time.

    Based on the Google patent above: Real-time adaptive audio source separation, and anticipation of receiving my homePod, I decided to do a little experimenting...

    In our home we have:
    • an open area containing the kitchen and family room
    • a separate open area containing the dining room and living room
    • the main TV is in the family room along with the IP connection and WiFi gear
    • the good audio stuff is in the living room -- an older B&O with McIntosh speakers
    We seldom eat in the dining room, so I have my main computer gear on a small stand in the corner with my back to the TV in the family room.

    The B&O is normally connected to WiFi with an Airport Express.


    For this experiment I decided to connect a small Bose to the Airport Express in pace of the B&O -- I guessed that Bose would have similar sound capability to the homePod.

    So, I am sitting, approximately, in the center of 3 sound outputs: the TV, the Bose and the iMac.

    Using the latest iTunes, I can stream the same audio simultaneously to the 3 different outputs -- and individually control the volume of each...

    Fiddling around, I was able to balance it so it sounded pretty good!

    I tried a lot of songs -- as expected the Bose performed the best on almost everything.

    Here's where´it gets interesting...

    Let's see what happens when I use the iTunes Equalizer.  Unlike the separate volume controls, there is only one equalizer and it applies its effects to all 3 outputs.

    So, by changing the equalizer presets and alternating turning off the volume off on 2 of the 3 outputs -- I was able to determine what (equalizer preset) sounded best on each output.

    Going further, I started to jack around with the manual equalizer settings -- to some degree you can get audio source separation -- in other words you can approximate sending an instrument to a single output.

    This was kludgey as hell -- but I think I got an idea of what will be possible with multiple smart, sound processing speakers like the homePod.


  • Reply 130 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,816member
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    edited February 7
  • Reply 131 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,167member
    gatorguy said:
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    I'm sure some will find this to be jaw dropping, but it moves towards Apple's goal of making things more streamlined and automatic, and it would probably be more of an effort for them if they had HomePod work to idealize a sound based on content and the environment… and then have to add some odd user preference on top. Maybe in time we'll see some simple, non-adjustable options, like More Bass or Vocal Booster, but I doubt it.
  • Reply 132 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,816member
    Soli said:
    gatorguy said:
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    I'm sure some will find this to be jaw dropping, but it moves towards Apple's goal of making things more streamlined and automatic, and it would probably be more of an effort for them if they had HomePod work to idealize a sound based on content and the environment… and then have to add some odd user preference on top. Maybe in time we'll see some simple, non-adjustable options, like More Bass or Vocal Booster, but I doubt it.
    Some of the "more particular" buyers might be concerned whether Apple's AI inadvertently alters the sound from the way the artist intended for it to sound. Granted that would likely be a small percentage of owners. 
  • Reply 133 of 151
    gatorguy said:
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    If Apple's analytics can do audio source separation similar to that described in the Google patent, then provide an app that automatically (or user-assisted) sends an instrument (or group of instruments) to a single homePod in a multi-homePod setup.

    Apparently, Airplay 2 is active in the betas -- but I can't figure out to access it.
  • Reply 134 of 151
    gatorguy said:
    Soli said:
    gatorguy said:
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    I'm sure some will find this to be jaw dropping, but it moves towards Apple's goal of making things more streamlined and automatic, and it would probably be more of an effort for them if they had HomePod work to idealize a sound based on content and the environment… and then have to add some odd user preference on top. Maybe in time we'll see some simple, non-adjustable options, like More Bass or Vocal Booster, but I doubt it.
    Some of the "more particular" buyers might be concerned whether Apple's AI inadvertently alters the sound from the way the artist intended for it to sound. Granted that would likely be a small percentage of owners. 
    I suspect that Apple's analytics will include metadata provided by the artist for equalizer and environment.
  • Reply 135 of 151
    Quote from Joanna Stern’s review: "It really comes down to what you want your speaker to do," she said. "If you want the smartest smart speaker, this isn't it. But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod isn't a dumb choice."

    Ms. Stern works hard to downgrade and belittle HomePod, especially in the closing sentence of the quote I posted. I believe she has to know exactly what she’s doing. From the reviews I’ve read, there’s consensus HomePod produces outstanding audio, yet Ms. Stern says, “But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod isn’t a dumb choice.” The way our minds work, what she’s really planting in the reader’s mind is her propaganda statement HomePod IS a dumb choice, when if she were being honest, she would be saying, “But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod is an excellent choice.” 

    Ignore everything Ms. Stern says about Apple and its products. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
  • Reply 136 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,167member
    Apparently, Airplay 2 is active in the betas -- but I can't figure out to access it.
    I haven't looked into it, but I'd assume that AirPlay 2 would be accessible the same way you access AirPlay 1 and that your devices will talk to each other and if both are capable to AirPlay 2's protocols will use it, but if not then just use AirPlay 1.
  • Reply 137 of 151
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,167member
    The way our minds work, what she’s really planting in the reader’s mind is her propaganda statement HomePod IS a dumb choice, when if she were being honest, she would be saying, “But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod is an excellent choice.” 

    Ignore everything Ms. Stern says about Apple and its products. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
    I didn't come away with any of that from her review.
  • Reply 138 of 151
    Soli said:
    gatorguy said:
    One other detail revealed today:

    Apple will not offer any equalizer adjustments on the HomePod. Apple themselves, using their own analytics, will determine how the song choice should sound. There will be no user controls for adjusting sound to personal taste.

    Interesting. . .
    I'm sure some will find this to be jaw dropping, but it moves towards Apple's goal of making things more streamlined and automatic, and it would probably be more of an effort for them if they had HomePod work to idealize a sound based on content and the environment… and then have to add some odd user preference on top. Maybe in time we'll see some simple, non-adjustable options, like More Bass or Vocal Booster, but I doubt it.
    Yeah, after thinking about this for a bit, I wonder if this might be more marketing than hubris.

    This is a new product category for Apple, and there are a lot of eyes and ears on it. If Apple is confident that they've got it sounding really good, they may not want early reviewers polluting the perception pool by accidentally messing it up. Adjusting EQ is like changing the proportions of ingredients in a recipe. An inexperienced operator trying to make it "better" may actually make the finished product less palatable. Maybe Apple just doesn't want anyone screwing up its carefully crafted sound while there's so much attention focussed on it.

    Or maybe there's just some mundane technical obstacle to implementing EQ for the HomePod, and overcoming it prior to launch wasn't a priority.

    If either of those are the case, it might mean EQ control could be added in the future.

    Or not. I don't pretend to have the slightest idea how decisions are made in Cupertino.
  • Reply 139 of 151
    macgui said:
    gatorguy said:
    Those who already cared deeply about buying quality sound are likely to have done so before the HomePod ever came along IMHO.  But their "quality sound systems" probably didn't offer any home control or personal assistant features. THAT'S what separates the HomePod from other very nice sounding audio systems. You're selling short what value Siri should have.
    So there's nobody left to care deeply about music and buy a HomePod?

    'Caring deeply' is a broad and subjective term, as is audio in general. Some people think audio is 'tinny' if it doesn't rattle the license plate frame. Go figure.

    I've bought a ton of various BT speakers to use with my iPads and iPhone, and after a bit they all drain my enthusiasm. Too much bass, weak midrange (lack of presence) and next to no highs. 

    Like many there's very nice stereo audio gear in my living room and bedroom. When I want to kick or lie back, they're my goto choices.

    But I like the convenience of a digital assistant and the Echo dot (in both locations) is very handy. Alway there, always listening and at my beck and call. I can do the same with Siri, if I pick up an iPad or phone, or if I've already plugged them into AC (ok, AC > DC).

    My experience is both Alexa and Siri routinely fail me, but surprisingly, rarely at the same time. So when one doesn't work, the other does. Almost always. Each is better at something the other isn't. So an always-ready Siri would be a good thing for me.

    There are times I don't want to fiddle with my audio gear. I just want to wake up or walk in and listen to music. Not quite as easy with my phone and Homepod as with Alexa, but better sounding. So far, the HP seems like it fits my bill quite well. There will be some improvement in features and function via software and firmware, just like my ˚Watches. I'll be OK with that.

    Yeah, I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of people out there like me. I can appreciate great audio, but I have a few problems: A| I live in a ‘66 3br split level. I only have one closet other than the ones in the bedrooms, let alone a separate room for a $3000 audio setup. B| oh right, I don’t have 3K to blow on “great” audio. C| Time. I have a family, friends (with $3000 audio setups) a full time job, car repairs, home repairs, side projects, and freelance work. I just don’t have time for that shit. However, I do have 4-8 hundo to throw at a pretty sweet sounding speaker setup that will fit on some homemade shelves... after my old LG computer speakers die anyway. I’m already in the Apple ecosystem so it’s an absolute nobrainer. Doubt I’m alone. 
  • Reply 140 of 151
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,032member
    Soli said:
    Soli said:
    What's this obsession with using smart speakers for recipes?  Maybe it's just me, but I like to see recipes not just get verbal instructions.  Therefore, I personally don't care how well Siri does or doesn't do recipes.

    I hope there is a way to turn off features.  That example anyone being able to text or read texts from the linked iPhone is troubling; the opportunities for practical jokes are endless.  "Siri, text [owner's boss] that I quit."
    It's not about "smart speakers" it's about a personal digital assistant. If you're scaling a recipe up or down and it's in American imperial units can you instantly scale every weird unit of measurement? What if you're busy cooking and you don't want to swap out a teaspoon for a tablespoon for a measurement? Can you do the conversions instantly in your head? What about using a mixing bowl on a scale and want to just add, say, lemon juice to the contents without having to measure it out in volume; do you know how many grams are in a cup of water? I couldn't answer any of those but any personal digital assistance should be able to answer these with extreme ease.

    What about the general use of having a personal digital assistant in the kitchen so you can set unlimited timers with a simple voice command, check to see who's at the front door without stopping what you're doing, changing your station, playing Jeopardy, and countless other things while a part of your brain is doing a certain skill but free for something else, or simply because your hands are full?
    Siri can do unit conversion, not sure why you’re implying it doesn’t. 
    I have no idea where you think I made any statement about what Siri can or can’t do.
    Misread — your comment makes sense in context after re-reading, apologies. :)
    Soli
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